Friday, May 24, 2013

Smith and Jones - "I think perhaps a visit from psychiatric."

Smith and Jones (Doctor Who) - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Series 3, Story 1 (Overall Series Story # 179)

Undercover as a patient. Apparently suffering
from some kind of acute hair crisis.
New companion time!  We meet Martha Jones in familiar fashion. Much like how we met Rose, we're dropped into a quick cut day-in-the-life of Martha, rapidly introduced to her family through a series of phone calls she takes on her way to work at the hospital. We get the the story of the soap opera drama around her brother's 21st birthday party, where fireworks are assured based on her dopey father's intention to bring his young girlfriend, much to her mother's displeasure. The Doctor, whom she hasn't met yet, rushes by her and takes off his tie, which will make sense only later in the episode. Crossing your timeline is very bad, unless it's for a cheap trick.

At the hospital, we get basically all the information we need, again in rapid succession. Our villain is introduced and explained, though it appears to be just part of the process of showing Martha doing her rounds with the other interns. She again meets the Doctor in a great little scene where she is flummoxed by his two hearts while checking him out in his hospital bed. Tennant plays undercover-as-a-patient like he's the second coming of Tom Baker and it's brilliant.

Salt-deficient patient? Nope, Plasmavore!
This story moves fast. The hospital is whipped up to the moon, we're shown how brave, bright, and adaptable Martha is, and shown how the Doctor recognizes those qualities in her all while the science-fiction-y pseudo-explaining of the how the hospital came to be on the Moon with a platoon of Judoon. There's no mucking about here, the pace never lets up. Before you know it we've got the salt vampire tricked, Martha saving the Doctor, the hospital sent back to Earth, and Martha to her brother's party -- where the inevitable dramarama breaks out.

star trek salt vampire
Salt vampire sound familiar? Star Trek had one, too.
The dynamic of crushing (on Martha's part) and indifference to that crushing (on the Doctor's part) is firmly established for the season here. And it's a shame that Martha's character was basically set up from the beginning to leave as an unrequited lover. Not that we needed another romance after the Rose affair, but by making her character love a man who didn't love her back, she was basically written to be disliked by the audience -- despite having basically the same qualities as Rose, even just a little bit more so. She's on her way to becoming a doctor, where Rose was a shop girl on her way to ... being a shop girl married to Mickey (before Mickey came into his own). She's gorgeous, like Rose, but more so. She's perceptive and able to think on her feet, like Rose, and she saves the Doctor in their first adventure, again, like Rose. She's got a colorful family, like Rose. The Doctor just doesn't want another Rose in his life.

In short, this was very slick introduction to a new companion -- not to mention a race of space rhinos! -- with all the quirky charm of the Tennant era. The Doctor actively saves the day (with an assist) by being clever and luring the baddie into a trap. The menace of the MRI machine magnet bomb that would kill half the Earth felt tacked on and was resolved, essentially, by simply disconnecting a cable. (Shades of Mickey pulling the plug on the Krillitane's kiddie-computer matrix in "School Reunion.") The only real problem I have with this episode is that Martha was offered up like a sacrificial lamb to be disliked in a way that never seemed necessary. That character deserved better.

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