And it begins. The Martha Jones series. Back in my teen years, this was where I hit the height of my RTD era Who obsession. I don’t like Doctor Jesus in Last of the Time Lords, but otherwise, I think this was RTD’s strongest run of episodes and strongest over-arching story arc. Freema Agyeman wasn’t the strongest companion in my memory, but a lot of that was the writing, rather than the actress herself, and I found her humour quite refreshing and her Series Three exit awesome. Onwards to Martha’s pilot …
The pre-title sequence
Ben: LOL. In a shocking twist, there was no pre-title scene this episode!
Maureen: I wonder if Rose was the same? I can’t remember. If not, how random!
Ben: From the get-go Martha demonstrates herself to be an intelligent, capable woman. She deftly navigates family drama (what a tosser her dad is) while weaving her way through crowds of commuters.
Maureen: I’d forgotten about the whole Jones family dynamic with Martha stuck in the middle. It made a nice breakaway from Rose’s family, even if Martha’s mum upholds the whole RTD has mummy issues thing. Also, the second wife thing was a bit much with, “she’s spending all our inheritance on fake tan.”
Ben: Also, she doesn’t immediately go blabbing on about two hearts when she tries to listen for the Doctor’s pulse!
Maureen: I found this scene eerily relevant. I’ve read about three articles in as many weeks about Doctors bullying junior Doctors in the workplace.
Ben: I love that Martha takes her sudden transportation to the moon in her stride while everyone else breaks down in a panic. It’s easy to see how The Doctor is intrigued with her. And we get an explanation for Freema Agyeman’s first appearance in the Cyberman arc of the finale.
Maureen: I lol’d at the Freema explain away line (I had a cousin). But more seriously, as a teen, I didn’t give Martha enough credit for being a smart companion. I think I was too bitter about Rose leaving, but Martha certainly holds her own in this pilot. I loved that both Martha and The Doctor are, well, doctors and I loved that Martha put Ten in his place when she needed to do so.
The Doctor: Very clever. Brilliant in fact. Fancy going out?
The Doctor: We might die.
Martha: We might not.
Martha: As far as I’m concerned, you’ve got to earn the title (of Doctor).
The Doctor: I’m a Time Lord.
Martha: Right. Not pompous at all.
Ben: Things start to get really exciting when Martha discovers Mrs Finnigan standing over the body of the dead douchey doctor and has to literally run for her life. In amongst all of this, it’s clear Martha is having a blast, running more on adrenaline than oxygen. She ends up playing a critical part in getting Mrs Finnigan apprehended too, actually taking one of the scanners off of a Judoon. And she successfully revives The Doctor after he’s had who knows how much blood sucked out of him.
Maureen: I don’t know if it’s the script or Freema’s unadulterated excitement at being cast in New Who, but her joyous love for everything she’s doing is infectious. I love the shot towards the end of Martha looking out on the moon, followed by this exchange:
Martha: Blimey, it’s a bit bumpy.
Ten: Hold on, Ms Jones.
Martha: With pleasure, Mr Smith.
I’m less keen on the Martha crushing on The Doctor sub-plot, but it plays a minor part in this episode thank God. Final thoughts on Martha: God, I identify with her so much more now … passing medical exams, paying rent, dealing with family crap. She’s so much more adult than Rose in many ways.
Ben: We come across one John Smith (ie. The Doctor) at the hospital Martha works at. He immediately has a good banter going with Martha, which leads to them having a proper introductory conversation on a balcony overlooking the Earth. The discovery that the Judoon are hunting for an alien entity really gives the Doctor the motivation to get Doctoring, and his hair seems to be trying to engineer it’s own escape for parts of this episode too. The silliness continues with the Doctor expelling a whole lot of radiation into a shoe using a rather silly jig. And then throwing the other shoe away ‘caus wearing just one shoe is silly. So much silliness, which continues when the Doctor gives Martha a big sloppy kiss to distract the Judoon with alien residue on a human. Like, you couldn’t pull out a tuft of hair or something?
Maureen: I quite liked Ten this episode. Perhaps it’s that David Tennant feels more comfortable in the role or he isn’t saddled with the true love sub-plot of him and Rose, but I enjoyed his humour and found Ten less douchey than I normally do. I liked the shoe scene, though I agree the kiss was a bit of an un-necessary ship-tease.
Ben: I did rather enjoy the Doctor playing dumb with Mrs Finnigan. Stupid dumb self-sacrificing Doctor ends up as a blood thickshake for Mrs Finnigan, who played right into his little plan! I don’t know how much he expected her to drink, but I’m kinda suspicious that after straight up dying from blood loss he could be revived with a little poorly done CPR? Ahh well, who knows how Time Lord anatomy works. Anywho, the Doctor saves the day at the last second, everyone (mostly) lives, and the Doctor gets a new companion! And gets to show off the TARDIS with a cheap trick involving a tie (linking back to the first time we saw The Doctor this episode).
Maureen: Re that TARDIS scene, my only note is ‘re The Doctor mouthing “bigger on the inside?” Wanker.’ Otherwise, there were so many great Ten exchanges, like the one below, to love.
Martha: What else do you have? A sonic spanner?
Ten: I did, but Emily Pankhurst took it.
Ten: A platoon of Judoon on the moon!
Also, I thought Ten’s plan was genuinely clever for once.
The Alien of the Week
Ben: We get two aliens this week! What a treat. In one corner we have the Judoon, come to apprehend the alien in the opposing corner, one Mrs Finnigan! And the Mrs Finnigan actress is quite the powerhouse, turning a little old lady into quite the terrifying bloodsucking alien. One who supplies her own straw too! The Judoon seem to have good intentions, even if they lack bedside manner, and also any sense of moderation. They go, for example, from 1-100 when hit over the head with a vase. And they can only operate within the jurisdiction they’ve been assigned, hence bringing the hospital to the moon before they can invade.
Maureen: I saw a lot of The Eleventh Hour in terms of the alien plot in this episode (got to love all those Moff call-backs). Prisoner Zero is similar to Mrs Finnigan with The Judoon the prison ship aliens. I too, found Mrs Finnigan every bit as creepy as say Olivia Coleman in TEH. What a brilliant actress clearly having the time of her life!
Ben: It turns out Mrs Finnigan is an internal shapechanger assimilating human blood to pass through the Judoon’s scans. Clever, but not clever enough to assume there’s another alien who can pass as human in the hospital. Interesting that her last line is that she’ll see the Judoon burn in hell with her. I guess she spent enough time around humans to pick up some concepts. That or hell is the English translation of whatever concept of eternal punishment plasmavores have. She did successfully engineer her final revenge in the MRI going critical, which of course The Doctor was able to thwart in about 15 seconds. All in all, a successful mission for the Judoon, with only two casualties (that we know of) during the operation. But it might not hurt to splash out on some more intelligent militia next time.
Maureen: I quite liked that the alien of the week wasn’t straight bad (The Judoon) and that RTD explored the concept of a space police force and how morality and justice for an alien race might work. I also understood Mrs Finnigan’s motivations even if I disagreed with her actions. I thought the aliens here were more nuanced than most RTD ones are. It’s a nice break from the hundredth earth invasion plan.
Ben: On the whole I enjoyed this episode. It’s definitely a better companion introduction episode than Rose’s. But to be fair, Martha didn’t have a Mickey to contend with. Martha and the Doctor immediately had good banter going, and some sparks flying too! It wasn’t a perfect episode of Who, but it was a fun, silly (if over silly at times) romp. I’m giving it 7/10
Maureen: I agree with Ben. Because there was no Mickey, this episode felt more consistent than Rose. It also was funnier and I’m not sure if that’s down to Freema, a more comfortable Tennant, better writing or all of the above. I’m giving this 7/10 inky stars.