Martha Jones

Of every companion since the momentous relaunch of ‘Doctor Who’ in 2005, Martha Jones is my favourite by a mile. Played with great warmth and twinkle by Freema Agyeman, Martha’s brief tenure as a companion was underrated, but I think there’s one big reason for that. And the moment you set that reason aside, Martha shines as the brightest 'Doctor Who' companion to date.

Spoiler Alert
The Doctor, who’s about a trillion years old, is understandably very precious to his fans. Whether you think he should be a commanding old goof or a cheeky metrosexual or some quirky mix of the two, most agree that he probably shouldn’t be warding off groupies with a sonic screwdriver. If someone wants to fall in love with him, fine, but if it’s two people in a row then maybe it’s already getting old. Martha got schlack for this reason alone; some fans couldn’t see past her longing gaze.

For a start, the audience was still raw from the loss of Rose. Few doubted the Doctor’s feelings for her, and resented him for accidentally seducing Martha so soon after Rose’s emotional departure. (Be careful with those eccentric handsomes, Doctor!) Those who didn’t warm to Martha immediately probably would have done if she’d not been stuffed in the gap Rose had left. It was a reasonable subplot, but some fans didn’t like it. After all, since when does this whimsical series have time for reasonable?

So I’m setting aside her understandable feelings for our hero in order to be left with something better: Martha Jones. Just Martha Jones. Someone we can admire as an independent character rather than in relation to her feelings for the Doctor.

Pre-Doctor Martha is both ordinary and exceptional. At a glance she’s a lot like most people — kind, practical, and rushed off her feet. But at a squint she bravely suffers the constant whims and complaints of her family while simultaneously studying medicine: an amazing combination to pull off without panicking. "I’ve got exams", she points out when invited on an adventure. "I've got things to do. I've got to go into town first thing to pay the rent, I've got my family going mad..."

So while she is relatable, she’s also someone to aspire to. If we knew her in real life she'd be our friend and our rolemodel, right?

In my opinion, Martha is the only ‘Doctor Who’ companion to prove herself extraordinary in a relatable manner before she bumps into the Doctor.

Best of all, she doesn't make a big deal out of being a big deal. "If Martha Jones became a legend then that's wrong", she insist when she saves the world, "because my name isn't important".

It's not that she's naive or oblivious; she is simply humble, or at least a far cry from cocky. Cockiness is something many of the Doctor’s companions have in common, especially since Moffat took over. I’m led to believe that if a female character is arrogant and rude it’s supposed to be perceived as assertive and independent. But arrogance and rudeness is arrogance and rudeness. Confidence is confidence, and Martha is exactly that, while at the same time being polite, gentle and constantly likeable. I love what she is and I love what she isn’t.

But you know, I’m not sure how much I want to talk about Martha after her one series as the Doctor’s companion. Partly because this post is specifically about how I think she’s the best companion, which is specific to series three of the relaunch, but also because I believe she takes a slightly disturbing turn after giving up her full-time perch in the TARDIS.

She regularly returns to 'Doctor Who', always a very welcome presence, but as she comes into her own it transpires that coming into her own involves holding a weapon. And shooting it. Cool though it is to see her as a respected warrior medic in UNIT, Torchwood and beyond (Mickey?!), in this show I think respect is better off going to the pacifists.

Martha's military arc is an interesting twist on her humane character, and of twists I approve. But it’s also rather dark. Perhaps it’s because I couldn't relate to her when she picked up a gun and knew not to wield it like a soggy baguette.

She's at her strongest in series three, an intrepid adventurer through time and space. 'Doctor Who' companions have one purpose in common: for viewers to put themselves in their shoes and become them.

And surely most of us want to become Martha. She’s intelligent, independent, and so darn winsome. She’s special before, during and after she meets the Doctor — she doesn't get bored without him or find herself fading from relevance when she's not at his side. The key is that despite having fallen so hard for the Doctor, she has so much agency beyond him. Martha is inherently important: and isn’t that what we all want for ourselves?
Just stay calm. You saved me, now I return the favor. Just believe in me.
We could all die any minute. But all the same — it’s beautiful.
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Published on 23 July 2015
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