Martha Jones's mundane existence as a medical student suddenly
gets a lot more exciting as she makes the acquaintance of
the mysterious Dr John Smith. Before she knows it, the hospital
in which she works is on the moon and is besieged by a platoon
of alien law-enforcers, the rhino-like Judoon...
The third series of the reinvented Doctor Who sees
the introduction of a new companion, Martha Jones, played
by Freema Agyeman. Accordingly, the structure of this series'
opening episodes mirrors that of Series 1, which introduced
her predecessor, Rose Tyler.
with the 2005 episode Rose, Smith and Jones
has no pre-titles teaser, and the story is conveyed from the
perspective of the companion-to-be, as she encounters the
Doctor (David Tennant), aliens and the TARDIS for the first
time. The plot structure is a little flawed, though. Rose
was introduced to the ship, its interior and its capabilities
gradually over the course of an entire episode. Smith and
Jones (by the same writer, Russell T Davies) has five
minutes of "boarding the TARDIS" stuff tacked on rather clumsily
at the end of the programme.
Otherwise, though, this is a good, solid, exciting instalment,
despite some slight disappointment that the aliens are not
Sontarans. The Judoon's uniforms closely resemble those of
the Sontarans, and for a moment, while viewing a trailer,
I thought that was who they were. Like those recurring cloned
foes, the Judoon help to keep the prosthetics budget down
to a reasonable level by keeping their helmets on most of
And talking of monstrous similarities, what is it with Anne
Reid and vampires? The last time she appeared in Who,
it was in The
Curse of Fenric, which featured the Haemovores.
Now she's playing a bloodsucking Plasmavore. Not to be confused,
of course, with the Plasmatons from Time-Flight.
The Doctor makes a tantalising reference to a brother he once
had. Justin Richards (who created Braxiatel and hinted that
he might be the Doctor's brother) will be pleased. However,
could the brother be another Time Lord we used to know...?
Could there be a connection with the mysterious Mr Saxon,
who is also mentioned in this episode...?
Tennant is extra-eccentric here, clacking his teeth, making
rhymes ("Judoon platoon upon the moon"), removing his tie
in a mysterious manner, and jumping, sniffing and snorting
as he purges his body of some absorbed radiation - though
I was worried for a minute that he might be about to spit
out a disgusting loogie!
Meanwhile, Agyeman immediately stands out as a confident successor
to Billie Piper. She comes across as being just as self-sufficient
as Rose, but better educated. This is borne out in the next
episode, The Shakespeare Code...
For her first ever journey aboard the TARDIS, the Doctor
takes Martha back in time to Elizabethan London. They quickly
discover that the world is under threat from the evil Carrionites
as history's most celebrated playwright, William Shakespeare,
is under the control of the sinister witch-like creatures...
Roberts has been writing Who for years, mostly in the
form of books, such as the brilliant Missing Adventures
novel The English Way of Death, but also comic strips,
the interactive Attack of the Graske and the Series
2 TARDISODES. It's about time he got to pen a television episode,
and this is it.
you might expect, there's plenty of humour here. Numerous
nods to the series' previous "celebrity historical", Tooth
and Claw, include the Queen (Angela Pleasence)
declaring the Doctor to be her sworn enemy and the Time Lord
telling his companion, "No, no, don't do that", when she attempts
to mimic Shakespearean language. There are countless instances
of the Doctor providing inspiration for lines the Bard (Dean
Lennox Kelly) will subsequently write, with Will declaring
each time, "I'll have that!"
However, my favourite bit of dialogue has to be when the Doctor
needs to explain why he must save the Earth. As Martha points
out, "The world didn't end in 1599. It just didn't. I'm living
proof." The exasperated Time Lord replies, "Oh, how to explain
the mechanics of the infinite temporal flux... I know: Back
to the Future! It's like Back to the Future." "The
film?" asks Martha, to which the Doctor responds, "No, the
novelisation! Yes, the film!" Not only is this a hilarious
cultural reference (to one of my favourite series of movies,
by the way) but it's also an inventive narrative shortcut
through the fact that a new companion should ask just such
a question, even though the Doctor explained it to Rose and
the audience just a couple of years earlier.
The Time Lord has met Shakespeare several times before, as
referenced in television serials such as City
of Death and depicted in the Missing Adventures
novel The Empire of Glass, the comic strip A Groatsworth
of Wit (also written by Roberts) and the audio drama The
Kingmaker. The writer takes care to neither
confirm nor deny any of these stories, even those set at earlier
points in history than this episode. Indeed, Dean Lennox Kelly's
accent ties in rather well with the events of The Kingmaker.
The fact that the Doctor is surprised when the Bard figures
out he's a time traveller, despite the fact that they've met
before, could simply indicate that the Time Lord hadn't thought
Will would recognise him in his latest incarnation (as Johnny
Fanboy explains here).
Shakespearean nit-pickers may also point out that the lost
play Love's Labour's Won was actually written before
1599 - before 1598, in fact, as its title is cited in Francis
Meres's Palladis Tamia, Wits Treasury. However, I would
theorise that Will began the play before 1598 but was stuck
for an ending until the events of The Shakespeare Code.
marvellous episode is a labour of love that certainly wins
For their next trip, the Doctor shows Martha the far future.
However, no sooner have they arrived on New Earth than Martha
is kidnapped by two "car jackers", who need an extra passenger
in order to get on the fast lane of a motorway - a motorway
from which no traveller has ever returned...
Series 1, the opening three episodes of Series 3 feature one
of each of the three temporal settings, past, present and
future, as the Doctor shows his new companion what his TARDIS
can do. As was the case two years earlier, these opening instalments
also occur in immediate succession of one another. At the
beginning of The Shakespeare Code, the Doctor and Martha
continue a conversation from the end of Smith and Jones,
and when the Time Lord exits the TARDIS at the start of Gridlock,
he pulls out an arrow that had been fired into the ship's
door at the end of the Shakespeare episode.
In my review of New
Earth, I guessed - entirely incorrectly - that
both New Earth and the Face of Boe (voiced by Struan Rodger)
would return at the end of Series 2. Instead, this episode
marks the programme's third visit to the year Five Billion
and thereafter, and features the third prominent appearance
by the Face of Boe. It's nice to see that "big old face" (as
the Doctor calls him) again. Before he departs, he imparts
some words of wisdom, which the Doctor denies, but which nevertheless
feed into both of the main plot arcs of this season: the Mr
Saxon arc, and the Doctor getting over the loss of Rose and
accepting Martha in her place.
Perhaps The Shakespeare Code has brought Back to
the Future to the forefront of my mind, but the dystopian
depiction of New Earth reminds me of that trilogy of movies,
especially the second one. The flying cars are the most obvious
connection - though both the film and this episode were probably
inspired by an earlier source, Blade Runner. The TARDIS's
arrival in a rain-lashed back alley also brings to mind Marty
and Doc Brown's landing in Back to the Future - Part II.
Gridlock is my least favourite of the episodes on this
DVD. It contains little that is truly innovative and makes
scant use of Martha - until the end, that is, when she manages
to coax some honesty out of the Doctor about the nature of
Writer Russell T Davies throws in some lovely references to
the past, including a description of Gallifrey that is very
similar to the one given by Susan in the 1964 serial The
Sensorites. There's a bigger blast from the
past than that, but I wouldn't want to spoil it for you, just
in case you don't already know...!
in all, this is a very respectable start to the new season.