The protective mother

It's all a matter of a mother's love for her daughter.

It’s all a matter of a mother’s love for her daughter.

One of the Doctor Who characters I really like is Francine Jones, Martha’s mother. To be clear, I doubt I would like her at all if I met her in real life, but the character was well-drawn. I’ve seen a number of discussions about the character in which people felt that she was unbelievable and too hostile to the Doctor for no reason, and I disagree. Her opinions and actions may seem to be unbelievable, but that’s because her character was developed with a lot more subtlety than most of the other characters on the show.

People who don’t like Francine point to “The Lazarus Experiment”, where she first meets the Doctor and takes an immediate and fervent dislike of him. Granted, he does not make a good impression. While he thinks he blends in well with humans, he really doesn’t, and he outdoes himself in this instance, trying to make small talk and more or less implying that he’s been sleeping with her daughter. Detractors point to this scene, saying that Francine is extremely judgmental here and should not have hated him so much after just one meeting.

However, Francine’s reaction to the Doctor must be considered with her personality and history in total, which we learned of back in “Smith and Jones”. We only see very little of her and her family in that episode, but the scenes were expertly crafted to give you a very good overview of everyone in the family. We first see her when she’s talking to Martha on the phone, telling her daughter to refuse to allow her ex-husband Clive’s girlfriend Annalise to attend Leo’s birthday party. She only gets about five lines before the next phone call, from Clive, cuts her off, but those five lines are very telling. We see that she lives in a nice house and wears fine clothes. She’s obviously upset primarily about the divorce and her husband’s young and vapid trophy girlfriend, but her exact complaint is that the girl’s appearance at the party would make the family “look ridiculous”. Thus, her concern is status. Her family is well-to-do (as is evidenced by Clive’s ability to afford an expensive convertible sports car), and she’s very concerned about how they’re viewed. Later on, we see that she’s very proud of one daughter studying to become a doctor and the other becoming the personal assistant of a prominent scientist.

That night, her fears about the party come true: there’s a huge, embarrassing fight between her and Annalise, ending with almost all of the family chasing Annalise and Clive down the street yelling. This scene and the cell phone montage paints a complete picture of the entire family, with Francine being the one who’s used to being in control, Clive being ineffectual and letting his women walk all over him, and Martha as the level-headed one who usually acts as the peacekeeper. However, there’s one last thing that happens here: Martha disappears from the party, and no one knows where she went. This is obviously something unusual for her: her mother mentions it the next day, and Tish makes a comment about Martha, the ambitious and studious sister, suddenly having a social life.

Doctor + Mother = Slap!

Doctor + Mother = Slap!

Thus, this is the stage that’s set when Martha arrives at Professor Lazarus’ event. Francine is there to celebrate her younger daughter’s success, something that reflects well on her and her family, but her older daughter arrives witth a strange man no one has heard of before, after disappearing the previous night. Rather than tell the approximate truth – that her friend accompanied her because he’s interested in Lazarus’ project – Martha introduces him as a doctor who she’s been working with. However, on speaking with him, Francine finds him to be socially inept and rather idiotic, certainly not someone you’d think was a doctor. He’s unable to come up with anything that he’s done with Martha, and it’s implied that she jumps to the conclusion that they slept together. From a mother’s point of view, this is the worst kind of man her daughter could hook up with: stupid, flippant, distracting her from what’s important. It’s also very possible that he reminds her of the previous stupid, flippant, distracting person who disrupted her family – Annalise – and in that vein, his apparent race does him no favors.

Once the episode’s action starts, the Doctor only makes things worse. As he’s concerned only about Lazarus and the dangers he’s unleashed, he ignores Francine and knocks her drink down her dress, and once the family is safe outside, Martha leaves them to go back into danger to help him. And thus, her hatred of him is cemented: he appears to be everything that’s wrong for her daughter, and her daughter has taken leave of her senses to follow him. It doesn’t matter that he saved the lives of most of the people at the event. Francine’s statement that Martha “abandoned” the family for him is very telling: in her eyes, Martha is giving up all of the things that Francine feels is so important – status, a comfortable life, a good education, a career – for this unworthy man. Any mother would feel the same way.

Things only get worse from here. Remember, from Francine’s point of view, all of the events of Series 3 happen over the course of a couple of weeks at most. “Smith and Jones” occurs only a few days before the election of Harold Saxon as Prime Minister, and in the UK, the new Prime Minister takes office as soon as the old one resigns and the new one is appointed by the monarch. The Doctor and Martha go off to have their adventures, and all Francine knows is that Martha is suddenly never home and not answering her frequent calls, except for a couple of strange emergency calls which imply that Martha has started to cheat on her exams. Of course, Francine is also being swayed by Harold Saxon’s people, who are feeding her exactly what she wants to hear: how dangerous the Doctor is and that she has to get Martha away from  him. It isn’t until she’s taken prisoner does she start to realize that the people she’s been listening to are lying and maybe the Doctor isn’t so bad.

Taken as a whole, Francine is an understandable character: a rather imperious but otherwise protective mother who is attempting to prevent her daughter from falling in with who she perceives as the wrong man. The thing is, her history, personality, and values are established in about ten lines of dialogue five episodes before she makes her judgment about the Doctor, and if you didn’t remember them or didn’t pay attention because they didn’t seem important, her reaction to him would seem rash and overly harsh. It’s important to examine recurring characters in this show very carefully, because you might miss something otherwise. The show focuses on the Doctor and his companion, but anyone that it feels deserves enough attention to be brought back is usually beautifully drawn and characterized and often has their own story to tell.

The best series

If you were to ask me which series of the modern Doctor Who I like the best, I’d answer “Series 4” without hesitation. The Doctor has the best companion, Donna Noble, as well as the best overall quality of episodes. The series follows the Doctor’s development when he has a companion who can stand with him on an equal footing with strong morals and perception without being subservient or love-blinded, and with the subsequent specials, shows how lost he gets when he does travel alone, exploring his struggle with his inner darkness.

However, if you change the question and ask me which series I think is the best, that award goes to Series 3. What’s the difference? Series 3 is a beautifully constructed story, from beginning to end. Almost every episode in the run contributes to a long tale of revenge and domination set up over a year and a half behind the Doctor’s back, while in the TARDIS, the Doctor and his companion are both discovering things about themselves and growing, both together and individually. Here’s a list of  the episodes and how they were worked into the plot.

“The Runaway Bride”: This might seem to be a throwaway Christmas special (besides setting up the brilliant Series 4, but that was unintentional, as Donna was not intended to become a permanent companion), but it actually serves a very important purpose. At the very end of the episode, as the webstar is attacking, the tank commander says, “Mr. Saxon says fire!” This is the first mention of Mr. Saxon, the defense minister, showing that the Master was already starting his schemes during Series 2 (you don’t become defense minister overnight).

1“Smith and Jones” – This episode introduces Martha, showing that she’s level-headed, perceptive, determined, and smart. Some people, me included, are upset that she falls head-over-heels in love with the Doctor within thirty minutes of meeting him, and I do wish they had postponed this character development until later, but it actually has a narrative reason; see the next episode. Mr. Saxon is also mentioned here, and demonstrates that he has a belief in aliens. This is the first episode where we see the “Vote Saxon” posters.

“The Shakespeare Code” – While this episode doesn’t have anything overt to do with Mr. Saxon, it establishes both Martha’s and the Doctor’s low points. In the bed scene, the Doctor is pining for Rose, lamenting that he doesn’t know what to do because she isn’t there, and this demonstrates what happens when the Doctor allows an obsessive, immature companion to lead him by the nose: he loses his purpose, his confidence, and his independence. Martha, meanwhile, responds with disappointment and anger, and she’s lost a lot of the traits she had in the previous episode, because she’s more concerned with developing a romance with the Doctor. From here, both of them develop positively.

2“Gridlock” – This episode, of course, seeds the Doctor with the idea that there might be another Time Lord out there, with the Face of Boe’s “You are not alone.” There’s more to this episode, though, both addressing the idea of faith. Martha, trapped in a car in the fast lane, realizes that she’s put a lot of faith and love into a man she doesn’t know at all, and though she can’t act on that faith, being trapped, she continues to believe in him. The Doctor, on the other side, hears the hymn that the drivers are singing and realizes that while they sustain themselves with their faith, it’s also keeping them from trying to change things and improve their situation, and this spurs him to action, both to save the drivers and to heal himself from the loss of Rose, the one he was trying to rely on in the previous episode; his faith was also holding him back. He also realizes that he’s been stunting Martha by making her rely on faith in him, treating her more like a pet instead of actually relating to her on a personal level, and he begins to open up to her, as much as the Doctor ever can.

“Daleks in Manhattan”/”Evolution of the Daleks” – This is the only episode of the season in which I can’t find anything that contributes to the overall story arc, other than a brief discussion of Martha’s feelings for the Doctor between her and Tallulah.

3“The Lazarus Experiment” – This is the episode where we really start to see that something is going on. Mr. Saxon is attempting to attract the attention of and trap the Doctor by funding Dr. Lazarus’ work, knowing it’s something that the Doctor will want to stop. Tish is hired by Dr. Lazarus as another bait for the Doctor, and his operatives use this to get close to Martha’s mother Francine and start to seed her with distrust and hatred for the Doctor.

“42” – While the Doctor and Martha are traveling in the future, it’s election day in Britain, the day that Mr. Saxon gets elected Prime Minister. Meanwhile, his operatives are now tracking Martha through her mother. At this point, Martha is now working on a more equal footing with the Doctor, taking on tasks and doing her best to keep up the morale of the crew members. She becomes the Doctor-analogue in a mini-relationship with Riley; while he has the technical skills, she is the leader and the one who gives hope.

4“Human Nature”/”The Family of Blood” – This episode might seem like it has nothing to do with the overall story arc, but it provides two important things. First, the concepts of the chameleon arch/fob watch and the perception filter are introduced here, so that they aren’t foreign concepts to the audience just cooked up for the season ender two episodes later. Second, Martha enters into the first of three huge sacrifices she makes for the Doctor: she spends two months doing menial work and enduring racial and social discrimination to keep him hidden and protected.

“Blink” – In this episode, Martha makes her second major sacrifice, going to work in a shop to support herself and the Doctor while they’re stuck in 1969 (because you know he certainly wouldn’t do such a thing himself). We don’t know how long they were stuck there, but it must have been long enough for her to realize she needed to get a job and then for her to complain about it in the video.

The other thing that “Blink” does is deal with time travel’s effects. In most stories, if a time traveler goes into the past and changes something, that affects the future. For example, in “The Shakespeare Code”, it’s made very clear in the discussion between the Doctor and Martha that if the Carrionites succeed, the future that Martha comes from will never happen. This is the same in the Dalek episode, and in “Human Nature.” The conflicts in all of these episodes are about preventing these changes. “Blink”, however, primes the audience with a different concept of time travel: that the Doctor’s actions in the past (or the future!) can establish the normal series of events: everything that he does sets up the things that happen to Sally Sparrow. This is the concept that is used in season ender, that someone can go back and set up a chain of events to happen now.

“Utopia”/”The Sound of Drums”/”Last of the Time Lords” – And now we come to what the entire season has been building up for: the reveal that the Master has been hiding using a fob watch, and that after he returns, he’s gone back to modern-day Earth to set a big plan in motion to trap the Doctor and take over the planet to build a war machine to wage war with the universe. Even Martha’s been trapped by this plan: she’s favored Saxon due to his Archangel network of satellites. And the Master uses his manipulation of her family to force the Doctor and Martha to come to him.

6Once the Doctor is rendered powerless, Martha escapes and walks the Earth for a year to save her family and gather support for him, eluding the Master’s soldiers and spies and assassins (see the novel “The Story of Martha”). And this brings Martha full circle: while she still loves the Doctor, she realizes how much of herself she’s given up for him – how much she’s allowed him to shape who she is, even if it was unintentional – and how much her family has suffered, too, and she realizes she deserves more than that and leaves the Doctor. In this way, I believe that Martha is the strongest person the Doctor has ever had as a companion, because she establishes and maintains herself separate from him.

And this is why I think Series 3 is the best series of the modern show. The story is woven expertly through the entire season, even in episodes that don’t seem to have anything to do with it: the show maintains its episodic, random-adventure feel while there is something sinister going on behind the scenes. In addition, the Doctor and Martha’s characters change and grow all the way through, and this development is incorporated into the stories of the episodes, a natural progression in response to the experiences of the characters. It’s a beautiful story and season, and a wonderful example of what Doctor Who can really be.

Ready, set, run!

This is how I was with my computer today. Including the hair.

This is how I was with my computer today. Including the hair.

Ever had one of those days in which everything is going wrong? Office move today, and a new computer. Wi-fi is spotty, some of the access points aren’t set up yet, my desk isn’t set up yet so I’m sitting in a conference room. Then I try to install a utility and it says it’s going to install other things, too, so I decline, which to them means, “Ok, I won’t install what you wanted, but I’ll still install all those other things.” 1.5 hours later and I’ve finally got all of that adware off the once-pristine computer, after running removal programs and traipsing through the registry. Happily, I’m not the only one who fell into that trap, so I don’t feel like the only doofus in the office. Then it turns out that the wireless network card in the computer is not working. Oh, and we’re not sure where we can park tomorrow.

So, it’s been a full day of hurry up and wait. On days like these, I like to remind myself that things could be so much worse, that other people’s lives are far more hectic than mine. For example:

  1. Martha heads to the hospital in the morning and is accosted by a strange man in the street who takes off his tie at her.
  2. She is then drilled by a contemptuous instructor.
  3. The hospital is transported to the moon.
  4. She spends the day being chased by hostile aliens.
  5. That evening, she goes to a very difficult family party.
  6. She flies off with the Doctor and lands in the middle of Carrionites taking over London.
  7. She gets a not-so-peaceful night’s sleep.
  8. She helps defeat the Carrionites the next evening.
  9. The Doctor tells her, “One trip to the past, one trip to the future.” BANG! She gets kidnapped into a 25-year traffic jam and is nearly eaten by giant crabs.

Of course I was going to make this relevant to Doctor Who in some way. All of that happened within about 48 hours. So, when I’m sitting here smacking my computer around, I think I can put my difficulties in a little perspective.

Story arcs

the_tenth_doctor_by_dv8r71-d4osjwxIf you read this blog, it’s really no secret that I prefer Russell T. Davies’ showrunning over Steven Moffat’s. As I’ve said before, Moffat writes fantastic single episodes, but his arcs – both single-season and the Eleventh Doctor’s full run – seem to be overly complicated and confused, with a healthy dose of “let’s tie this thread up with this point, even though it contradicts a whole bunch of other points.”  RTD’s arcs were shorter – there never seemed to be a story arc that spanned the entire Tenth Doctor’s run – and his stories developed very subtly over the season, in opposition to Moffat’s preference of introducing the main conflict in the first episode of the season, then running a number of unrelated episodes with injections of “oh, no, a crack” / “Kovarian’s eyes again” / “I really need to figure out what’s up with Clara” just to remind the viewer that yes, there’s something else going on, so that we didn’t get bored waiting for the season finale.

I was reading an article on a website yesterday about Billie Piper, at some convention, answering “yes” to a fan question that asked if she’d return to do a spinoff based on Rose and the Metacrisis Tenth Doctor (No, it’s not a thing anyone is seriously considering. It was a fan question. Thank the powers that be. Bleah.) and I saw the following in the comments.

“Personally, the progression of their [Rose and the Doctor’s] relationship intrigues me, because I see it as a tragedy, but for different reasons than most. The way I interpret it, their relationship is supposed to hurt Ten to the point of him finding security in his colder Time Lord persona so that he doesn’t have to deal with the pain that his particularly human personality is susceptible to, and it’s supposed to show how Rose’s obsession with the Doctor warps her outlook and crushes any hope for positive growth that she could have had. I’m not saying that to just blindly insult the story or anything; that’s legitimately how I see it play out, and I think it’s actually quite interesting. But the point was made in “Journey’s End”, and I have no desire to it stretched out any further.”

I hadn’t honestly thought of it this way. I’ve always considered series 2 to be the weakest of the Ninth and Tenth Doctor’s run, as the relationship between Rose and the Doctor was poorly handled, portrayed as the two traipsing through the universe, happy-go-lucky. There was no development, just random depictions of something deeper that might exist between them whenever the writer needed an emotional moment or an excuse for the Doctor to get really angry (by having the villain threaten or hurt Rose), and then suddenly, when Rose was sucked into Pete’s World, we’re shown that yes, he was in love with her.

If, instead, you look at it like the commenter does, it all makes a lot more sense. It’s a story of how the companion, if the Doctor isn’t very careful, becomes weaker and less independent. This story is repeated in series 3: Martha, because of her unrequited love for the Doctor and the Doctor’s inability to recognize it, also devolves, though she has the personal strength to recognize it, overcome it in the series finale, and leave at the end. Donna goes in the opposite direction because this time the Doctor is paying attention; of course, she loses it all due to circumstances beyond her and the Doctor’s control, but the Doctor blames himself for it. Looking at it this way, Davros’ words, about the Doctor taking his companions and transforming them into worse people, has even more weight.

The Doctor, on the other hand, has this “particularly human personality” and each companion hits him right where it hurts. Rose’s departure is particularly painful because of his love for her. Then Martha demonstrates that he’s hurting her even when he doesn’t mean to, simply because he’s still hurting from Rose, and also because while he has a tender human side, he’s still a Time Lord and can’t relate to her like she wants him to. And then there’s Donna, the shining example, to him, of a person whose life he’s ruined. His experience with all three companions drive him towards that “colder Time Lord persona,” into believing that he should be alone: he can’t afford to fall in love, he’s hurting his companions even when he thinks everything is okay, and he ruins the lives of those he touches. In other words, it was all pushing him towards “The Waters of Mars,” towards the Time Lord Victorious, and then his redemption in The End of Time.

Now, I really don’t know if RTD designed the Tenth Doctor’s run to have this epic storyline, but it certainly looks like he at least knew where he wanted the Doctor to start and to end up. And that’s really why I prefer RTD. His stories were about the characters, not the circumstances or the complex time mechanics. Maybe I prefer more of the classic show feel, in which you got to watch the Doctor grow and change through his close friendship with Jamie or Sarah Jane or Ace, his attempts to educate Leela, and the conflict with and death of Adric. And that’s why I like Paul Cornell so much as an episode writer. I’m not saying Moffat is bad in any way. I just prefer RTD.

Eleven at eleven

11 in 11th Hour at 11

11 in 11th Hour at 11

Gotta head out soon today: going to Carl and Sandy’s house to watch “The Eleventh Hour” at eleven. We had a nice geeky discussion over dinner last night. They’re rewatching the Ninth Doctor at the moment so that Carl can catch up there, but we wanted to introduce them to the Eleventh Doctor. Sandy is the type of person who likes to digest shows before moving onto the next one, so she’s really not keen on diving into the Eleventh Doctor right now, but Carl is excited, so she’s been overruled.

Interestingly, the four of us have differing opinions on the companions. Our preferences in order are

  • Me: Donna, Martha, Rose
  • My husband and Sandy: Donna, Rose, Martha
  • Carl: Rose, Martha, Donna

Clearly, we need to recondition Carl. How can he not love Donna? Actually, the problem stems from his hatred of Catherine Tate’s character in The Office, but he’s starting to warm up to her. My husband and Sandy hate Martha because of her fawning love for the Doctor that started in her very first episode; Carl and I simply ignore those scenes and otherwise think she’s great. Carl has only seen a couple of Rose episodes, so his opinion of her might change after he’s seen all of them.

One other interesting thing that Carl said was that he didn’t like “Midnight” because the final part of it, when Sky pretended to be free of the Midnight Entity and started urging the humans to kill the Doctor, was unbelievable. To him, she was so different from the way she had been before the attack, the humans should have immediately realized that she was still possessed. The rest of us thought that the point of the show was that the humans were so panicked that they couldn’t recognize that she was acting strangely, and so the fact that they didn’t made the episode even more powerful.

Anyway, gotta get going. It is so much fun getting to talk about the show with friends.

“The Story of Martha”

Story_of_MarthaOne of the perks of the trip that I took last week was the large amount of time I spent on some mode of transportation (at least a good 24 hours on bus, train, and ferry), giving me the opportunity to read books and listen to audios that I normally don’t have. I listened to The Light at the End again, and it was as good as the first time: I highly recommend it, especially if it’s your first audio experience. I also read Doctor Who: The Story of Martha, and here’s what I thought about it.

Spoilers ahead. Only minor ones, but still. Well, big spoilers if you haven’t seen “The Sound of Drums”/”The Last of the Time Lords.”

The novel covers Martha’s journey during the Year That Never Was, when she traveled the earth to spread word of the Doctor so that he could gather enough psychic energy to defeat the Master. It starts immediately after her teleport from the Valiant and covers not only everything she did while being hunted by the Master’s soldiers, but also the stories that she told about the Doctor. The basic structure of the novel is a chapter or two about what situation she’s gotten herself into now, with some reason why she’s telling someone a story, then a chapter of the story itself. A few of the chapters are about the soldiers who are hunting her down, especially the leader of the group, a man named Griffin.

I think the best word to describe this novel is “disappointing.” As an adventure novel, it wasn’t bad, but as a story of how Martha managed to get the entire world to work together for one important moment, it was woefully inadequate. In my mind, to get people to continue hoping for the future and support the Doctor, she needed to share stories that either painted the Doctor as the savior of the world, the one person who could fight the Master and who needed everyone’s help to do so, or directly inspired people to go on fighting even when everything seemed lost. Unfortunately, the stories she told to her audiences were just adventures she had shared with the Doctor – nothing particularly special. Yes, the Doctor saved the day in each of the stories, but he wasn’t any more heroic than usual. The stories from “Smith and Jones” (how he sacrificed himself to get the plasmavore captured) and “Gridlock” (how he saved the entire undercity) would have been more inspirational. Of course, they wouldn’t be appropriate for the novel since the reader is expecting new stories, not old ones, but there could easily have been a scene where Martha tells her audience about them in a “once, he saved us like this” style. (A scene like this also ties the book directly into the TV series for the reader.)

The other disappointing thing about the novel was the way Griffin’s story ended. He was created as completely mercenary, willing to hunt Martha down for the Master just so that he could rise in the ranks of the army and not caring about how the humans and the earth were being destroyed, and a lot of the story was devoted to the different things he did to try to find her and the tricks the resistance had pull to get Martha out. I had hoped either for Griffin to be redeemed and come to aid Martha at the end, or have her finally outwit and defeat him, with some kind of “the Doctor taught me violence is never the answer” speech, but neither happened, and his conclusion was completely unfulfilling. I get the distinct impression that the author was given some kind of limit, maybe 50,000 words, and he ended up having to cut out or abridge a lot of what he wanted to do.

In conclusion, if you want to read a few of the Doctor’s adventures, this is an adequate novel. If you want a good story about how Martha inspired the entire world to follow the Doctor, you’ll need to look elsewhere; I bet there are a few fanfiction treatments of this concept.

Poor Martha

The Doctor and Martha Jones

The Doctor and Martha Jones

It’s kind of sad: I really like Martha Jones as a companion, but upon rewatching series 3 from start to finish, I really see why she’s unpopular. She was a great companion: very intelligent, strong-willed, faithful. She was willing to get right into the heart of the situation and do whatever she needed to do. She was also called on to sacrifice far more than Rose or Donna: She spent two months as a maid in 1913, ridiculed for her station and race; she worked as a shop girl for an unspecified (but implied long) time in 1969 to support that deadbeat Doctor; and she traveled the world for a full year, on foot, while the Toclafane were hunting her, to spread the legend of the Doctor.

The thing that really ruined her character was that she fell in love with the Doctor. And it wasn’t just that she fell in love, because a storyline about a companion who loves a Doctor who doesn’t love her back could be interesting. It was that she fell in love immediately. The Doctor kissed her in “Smith and Jones,” and she was already moony-eyed in the next episode, “THe Shakespeare Code.” The first two episodes are tightly tied together – the Doctor insisted on “one trip only,” making it impossible to insert novel or comic book adventures between them – so she really did fall in love as soon as she met him. She knew him for about 8 hours in “Smith and Jones” (she enters the TARDIS after Leo’s party), then, then they land in London, watch “Love’s Labours Lost,” meet Shakespeare, and then they’re lying in the bed and she’s upset he’s talking about Rose – perhaps 6 hours. That’s a total of 14 hours and she’s already sighing about how she loves him and he isn’t seeing her.

This was the writers’ fault. After the reciprocated romantic involvement between the Doctor and Rose, they wanted a story of unrequited love, and I’m sure they also saw the opportunity to use Martha’s love to motivate her (to give her a reason for making the sacrifices she did in “Human Nature”/”The Family of Blood” and “The Sound of Drums”/”The Last of the Time Lords,” though I would argue that Martha’s walking of the earth is far more heroic if she’s doing it to save the world from the Master and not out of love for the Doctor). They just started Martha too early. As it was, she fell in love with the Doctor way too fast, which wasn’t realistic, and then her occasional expressions of that love weren’t worked into the episodes well, and therefore came off as her just mooning stupidly for him. It didn’t help that the Doctor’s mourning the loss of Rose was also poorly handled sometimes, such as the bed scene in “The Shakespeare Code,” making Martha look even worse.

Martha does return as a much better character later, in “The Sontaran Strategem”/”The Poison Sky” and “The Stolen Earth”/”Journey’s End,” but by then, either we were more interested in Donna or we’d already formed a poor opinion of Martha and didn’t care to see her again. In my “if they could do it all over again” world, after “one more series of the Tenth Doctor and Donna,” I’d ask for Martha’s series to be redone with her romantic feelings starting somewhere around “The Lazarus Experiment.” In fact, that’s the best place for it: up until then, she’s just a loyal companion, but when her mother starts to question the Doctor, Martha starts realizing she’s in love. It’s actually still too early in her real timeline – it’s only been a couple of days since she met the Doctor – but to the audience, five episodes into the series is enough time.

When I watch her episodes now, the romantic storyline bugs me, so I just sort of ignore it, and I still prefer Martha over second-series Rose (Donna ftw!). I find her to be a lot better in the novels, which tend to not address that aspect of her, and that’s the Martha that I picture to myself.