TARDIS File 03-01: Smith and Jones

TARDIS File 03-01: Smith and Jones

The Big Idea: Medical student Martha Jones is having an ordinary day at work—until the hospital where she works is transported to the moon and is invaded by the alien Judoon. Good thing there’s a Doctor on hand to help out…

What’s So Great…

  • The opening three minutes which establish everything we need to know about Martha and her relationship to her family, and even throws the Doctor in for good measure.
  • The Judoon are so fearsome looking and scary—and then they mark people’s hands with a magic marker. That’s so cool.
  • The scene where the Doctor tries to convince Florence that he’s actually a patient in to have a foot operation is laugh-out-loud funny. David Tennant is a scream as he delivers the Doctor’s make-it-up-as-he-goes-along dialogue letter perfect: “you’ll have to excuse me, I’m a bit out of my depth, I’ve spent the past fifteen years working as a postman, hence the bunion.”
  • But that’s nothing compared to the final five minutes which takes every ounce of romance in Russell Davies’ script and puts it on screen. Murray Gold provides the gorgeous music, Charles Palmer gives us lush and beautiful pictures, and Freema Agyeman and David Tennant do the rest. Breathtaking, and lovely.

Quick Bits of Trivia: Roy Marsden (Mr Stoker) is best known for playing Adam Dalgliesh in the television adaptations of P.D. James’ popular mysteries. Freema Agyeman’s first scene in Doctor Who involved, appropriately, running down a corridor.

Things to Geek Out About…

  • The Doctor’s back to using his long established alias of John Smith, which he has used since 1969 in The War Games (and Jon Pertwee’s Doctor used it all the time as his name in the 1970s).
  • The Judoon look an awful lot like the Sontarans from the original TV series, and the vampire shapeshifters have a passing resemblance to their enemies the Rutans—one wonders, were they in the script in an earlier draft?
  • Surprise! Adeola, the Torchwood employee who was taken over by the Cybermen in Army of Ghosts (also played by Freema Agyeman)—and was subsequently killed—turns out to be Martha’s cousin. Who’d have thought?
  • Morgenstern mentions Mr. Saxon in his TV interview after the crisis is over.

Not to Complain But… Given that it has been detached from its foundation, how can the hospital not only stay up structurally but have power for not only all the lights and computers but turning X-Rays and MRI machines into deadly weapons?

All Things Considered… Three seasons into its latest incarnation as a television show, Doctor Who proves that it still has the capacity to surprise and to move its audience and to, when the need arises, completely reinvent itself. Smith and Jones shows the new series at its most confident, which is an astonishing feat when you consider it was starting from what is by every other measure a position of weakness: Rose is gone—a departure which sees the series not only lose a fantastic actress in Billie Piper, but the central character around whom the new series was based. The task before Russell T Davies was not just to replace Rose but to replace the backstory and a whole supporting cast as well as the companion’s relationship with the Doctor and… Never mind all that. Smith and Jones adroitly reinvents the show with a whole new companion and makes it all seem effortless.

Russell T Davies knows the audience has to fall in love with Martha and he’s written a showcase for her that does just that. And Freema Agyeman nails it absolutely and totally. She sparkles. There’s no other word for it. She’s absolutely delightful—charming, charismatic and confident, but completely grounded. And she works really well with David Tennant’s Doctor, providing a foil to his quirkiness in a way that Rose never could. She starts out regarding the Doctor as a relative equal intellectually and then falls for him the more she realizes she’s not. The chemistry is totally fissionable as a result.

Which is great because the plot, such as it is, is more designed to service the needs of introducing the character of Martha to the audience and to the Doctor. Which is absolutely fine because the story is big and colourful and fun and grandly entertaining on a scale you’ve come to expect for new Who. The Judoon are officious and imposing and awesomely designed, while the real threat turns out to hide behind the most banal disguise of all. Clearly Russell T Davies and Robert Holmes share the same warped sense of humour and I for one am glad to see that.

And David Tennant, quite simply, rocks. His mile-a-minute delivery makes everything barmy, funny and brilliant all at the same time. But he also excels at the quieter moments too, such as the final scene of the episode with Martha. Tennant and Agyeman are pitch-perfect here, both conveying mutual attraction but with entirely different agendas. It’s the perfect end to a really entertaining story and the perfect start to a new season of Doctor Who.

Line of the Week: “Bo! Sco! Fo! Do! No! Kro! Blo! Co! Sho! Ro!”

Index of TARDIS Files

TARDIS File prepared by Graeme Burk

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