TV Review: Doctor Who Series 3 Overview and Episode 3.01 “Smith & Jones”

[N.B. For Series 3 and 4, I’m switching to an episode-by-episode review format in order to speed up the posting process. The epic and glorious reviews are cool when they go up, but they take too long to finish!]

Series Title: Doctor Who
Season: Series 3
Original Air Date: March 31, 2007 – June 30, 2007
Length: 13 episodes, 45 minutes each
Head Writer: Russell T. Davies
Lead Actors: David Tennant (The Tenth Doctor), Freema Agyeman (Martha Jones)
Content Advisory: Between PG and PG-13 level violence, very little blood, but some very horrific or nightmarish stuff is shown or implied, and some sexual innuendo.
Spoiler-free Synopsis: After the heartbreaking loss of Rose Tyler and the rejection of Companion status by Donna Noble, the Doctor continues his travels, this time with a bright young medical student named Martha Jones, who quickly falls into unrequited love with the dashing Time Lord.
Arc Phrase: “Mr. Saxon”
Reason for Watching: The rousing adventure, sharp humor, spectacular sights, all involving characters that feel real, organic, that change and yet are consistent, that think about their own lives and are worth caring about.
Episode Re-watchability: All Doctor Who episodes of the revived series have high entertainment value. Of this series, the most re-watchable are the “Human Nature”/”Family of Blood” story and “Blink,” which each can stand independent of the show’s continuity as excellent stories in their own rights.
Recommendation: A new viewer could start with this series, as the introduction of a new Companion means that the show’s premise gets re-explained. There are enough references to what happened to Rose that a new viewer would likely get the gist of that, too, despite not knowing the actual story of Series 2. The average quality of the episodes has risen slightly, with the standouts being the abovementioned stories.

Key Thoughts

The Doctor: Crossing into established events is strictly forbidden. Except for cheap tricks.

COMPANION – Martha Jones

Now here’s another surprise: on the surface, I should not have liked Rose, because of her selfishness, unsophistication, and frequent insensitivity; yet I found myself becoming deeply engaged in her character. Then comes Martha Jones, who on paper I should like much more than Rose because of her kindness, intelligence, and professionalism, and yet she left less of an impression on me. That’s not to say I did not like Martha Jones – she is a strong Companion, quite competent and amiable, cool under fire but with a ready smile. She participates in some top-notch stories and performs admirably through all of them. But I think that one season was the right amount for her; at the end, I was ready to bid her a friendly farewell.

The main reason for this, I think, is because she falls too quickly in love with the Doctor and is immediately and continually disappointed when he fails to consider her romantically, as if she is somehow entitled to his love. She knows about Rose – or, at least, she knows that the Doctor loved Rose but has recently lost her – and so should be more sensitive to his emotional condition. There are a few times, which I hope to point out in the episode reviews below, where I don’t think she is very sensitive.

However, I am grateful to the writers for not forcing the Doctor to enter into a new romantic relationship. Despite her emotional turmoil, Martha holds her tongue and doesn’t make too many inappropriate advances on the Doctor. And in a way, she does function as the Doctor’s pick-up after the heartbreak of losing Rose. She is a steady friend, a warm smile, an ardent admirer…and a skilled doctor herself!

Episode 3.01 “Smith and Jones”

Written By: Russell T. Davies

Synopsis: “The Doctor meets his latest companion, Martha Jones, in a hospital that’s abducted by the Judoon who are searching for the evil, blood-sucking Florence Finnegan.” (Wikipedia)

For someone new to Doctor Who, this would be a fine first episode; better than the first episode of Series 2, because the new Companion means a new set of side characters and drama. While Rose’s legacy is very much felt due to the Doctor’s occasional references to her, Martha has her own ambitions, her own dysfunctional family, and her own need to break the mundane rhythm of her life. The episode even begins similarly to “Rose,” with the zooming in on the cityscape from space and the quick establishment of Martha’s daily routines and stresses. Both episodes are also fast-paced and involve plots that are mostly just excuses to get the two leads working together.

"A platoon of Judoon on the moon!"

Not to say that the story of the rhino-headed Judoon mercenary police force seeking a vampiric alien criminal masquerading as a harmless old lady isn’t interesting, because it is. It’s not every episode we get to see an entire hospital teleported straight to the moon (“A platoon of Judoon on the moon!”). It’s also not every episode that we get such a glimpse of the political entities, federal laws, and regulations that may or may not govern the universe beyond Earth. The Judoon, we learn, are prohibited by intergalactic law from pursuing the alien criminal onto Earth, so they’ve removed the place she is hiding (the hospital) to “neutral territory” – i.e. the moon. Something about jurisdiction.

Another note: it’s always fun to see a human’s first reaction to the Tardis. “It’s bigger on the inside!” Yes indeed!

Mr. Stoker: There’s a thunderstorm moving in and lightning is a form of static electricity, as was first proven by – anyone?
The Doctor:Benjamin Franklin.
Mr. Stoker: Correct.
The Doctor: My mate Ben. That was a day and a half: I got rope burns off that kite, and then I got soaked…
Mr. Stoker: …Quite.
The Doctor: …and then I got electrocuted!

All screencaps from Killcolor

11 thoughts on “TV Review: Doctor Who Series 3 Overview and Episode 3.01 “Smith & Jones”

    1. It’s excellent entertainment! Start either with Series 1 or Series 3; the beginning of Series 2 relies so much on continuity that you’re likely to be confused if you go there first.

  1. Interesting Review. I do have one contrary point: The only thing Martha knows about Rose was that Rose had moved on, according to the Doctor, and is happy with her family. There was no reason, especially as the Doctor begins their relationship rather flirtateously– a casual kiss, the sexy come-hither and see the stars with meanlean at the end of the Alley– for Martha to believe that he hadn’t moved on. The Doctor (And David Tennant contiually admits he was a bit of a cad towards Martha) on the other hand continued to send mixed signals to Martha — come here, not to close, give me hug, save my life, trust me, come on, one more trip, , thought you liked it, empty my chamber pot– . The only person who behaved with any entitlement is the Doctor.

    1. Thanks for commenting! You’re right that the Doctor isn’t very sensitive to her, and doesn’t give her the recognition she deserves. He does send some confusing signals. But I felt it was pretty clear that he wasn’t over Rose; his constant references to her, his suddenly declaring, in “The Shakespeare Code,” that “Rose would know just what to say right now,” all point to her legacy being quite visible in his life right then. Martha even points it out sometimes, muttering if he’s ever heard of “rebound.” So I think she was reasonably aware of how emotionally hurt and confused he still was. Yet she still would sometimes make snippy remarks about his lack of interest in her. Not too many, but enough that I felt she was trying to push her way into his heart a little too hard.

  2. “But I felt it was pretty clear that he wasn’t over Rose; his constant references to her, his suddenly declaring, in “The Shakespeare Code,” that “Rose would know just what to say right now,” all point to her legacy being quite visible in his life right then.”

    To be fair, examing her postion “right Then” , what exactly was Martha supposed to say or feel but hurt? The Doctor wanted to stay om 1599 and solve the mystery. She couldn’t exactly pull out her mad money and take a cab home. The Doctor’s words were a little more than a romantic rebuff. His attitude is: “You don’t know anything about things, I’d rather be with someone else, but I’m stuck with you, so just shut up and don’t get in my way while I do my thing, and you’ll be off my hands by tommorow.”
    Rather than an invited guest she felt and was treated like a stray dog, or as if she had imposed herself. After a while, even she forgot that he invited her — and this was after she decided not to accept any more “treats”.
    As to Rose:
    After Gridlock, I think Martha thought and should have thought that maybe the loss of his planet and people was a greater part of the Doctor’s sadness than losing his girlfriend.

    He didn’t sit and talk with Martha about his pain in losing Rose AT ALL, or I think Martha would have been able to put their relationship in better perspective. He told her about losing everything BUT Rose. As far as Martha knew– Rose went home with her family and was moving on. He could move on, and really — He should move on.

    By Human Nature it was clear that Rose wasn’t the reason the Doctor took Martha’s service, obedience, and assistance for granted– a suspicion Jack cheerfully plays on with his “Not if you’re blonde” remark. That had to hurt after his behavior at Farringham.

    But just before this, Martha finds herself, –after everything she and the Doctor have gone through,–excluded and ignored while Jack and the Doctor bond over Rose. The Doctor doesn’t even bother to introduce Martha and Jack to Yana, and it stands out that Yana intruduces Chantho to them.

    Martha was fortunate that Jack was much more sensitive, and according to JB, truly attracted to Martha, and well, Human and made her feel a part of things. :)) I have so much admiration for Tennant’s talents, but I don’t have a lot of affection for the Tenth Doctor. I was sad to see David go, but not really sad to see the Brooding, Lonely God period over.

  3. Told you you’d love Blink and Human Nature! Can I pick ’em or what!

    For season 4, I predict you will particularly like: Silence in the Library/Forest of the Dead, Midnight, and Turn Left.

    1. Holy cow, you’re good! I’ve already seen all of Series 4, just not the Tennant specials yet. But actually, “Midnight” was pretty depressing. I admire the skill of it, and find it very interesting, but I can’t say I love it. Anyhoo, more on Series 4 later.

      1. Well, Midnight’s not good in a “oh, that’s so amusing and lovable” kind of way, but in a “how can such a simple, one-scene story be so compelling and tense?” kind of way. There’s an Alfred Hitchcock brilliance to it. I wouldn’t call it a favorite episode, necessarily, but certainly one of the best.

        Season 5 predictions – I don’t have a list of all the episodes in front of me, but you’re sure to love “Vincent and the Doctor.” That one made me cry.

        1. I thought Midnight was the best of Season Four, with Silence in the Library coming in a close second only because the introduction of River Song.

          But Midnight we see David at his best range — from the manic, arrogant, somewhat Professor Higgenish, but not as likable mad man outside of the box at the beginning, to the desperate alien trying to prove to a group of threatened people that he is not the danger, to his quiet despair at the end that he can’t recall the name of the hostess who save his life. We don’t get good thoughtful scripts like that until Water of Mars, and then Vincent And the Doctor. The latter script with Eleventh Doctor shows the Doctor with more heart than personal regret, and had a comfortable sweetness.

          And I liked how the passengers somehow reflected the Doctor’s relationship with past companions in a way, and his different personas. It was very well written.

          1. Interesting observation, I hadn’t noticed the passengers reflecting the Doctor’s relationships with past companions. When I get to my review of “Midnight,” I’ll keep your observations in mind.

            Mostly I loved “The Silence in the Library” story, but as I think I have much to say about it, my thoughts had best wait until that review. River Song had me wary at first, but she won me over by the end. I’m excited to see her return later.

        2. “Midnight”‘s strength is that it is pure writing and acting. There are a few special effects shots right at the beginning to set up the resort setting where Donna stays, but the rest is all up to the script and the actors. And they all perform admirably.

          And I’m not even really perturbed by the fact that the Doctor doesn’t save the day that time. There are times when he’s going up against a villain and he needs to be heroic, and if the show tries to criticize him at those points, then I’m annoyed. But with “Midnight,” it felt appropriate to show that the Doctor can’t always solve everything. He doesn’t understand every alien thing, nor can he talk his way out of every dangerous situation, and sometimes he’s the one who needs saving. It was a very interesting story. But at the end you just feel kind of sad for the Doctor. You want to give him a hug, like Donna does, and just move on and forget the whole upsetting episode.

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