Doctor Who: Revisiting SMITH AND JONES - Warped Factor - Words in the Key of Geek.

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Doctor Who: Revisiting SMITH AND JONES

Blo, sho, flo, ro! Moo flees jurisdiction of the space rhino.

The Tenth Doctor’s second season starts with him on his own, miserable at having lost Rose (Spoilers: He never does get over it). This is a good set-up to introduce his next companion, we’ve got a Doctor that doesn’t want one, or rather that isn’t prepared to admit it.

That’s not to say the Tenth Doctor we meet here isn’t the same as before, with his cheeky chappie persona covering that dark edge and desperate need of someone to help him, with David Tennant on fine form having settled nicely into the role.

Smith And Jones opens with the viewer wondering what can possibly get him to move onwards. Enter Martha Jones, played to perfection by Freema Agyeman, in a really solid opening montage. Russell T Davies is on fine form here, jumping between Martha and her overbearing family and her role as their diplomat in a series of quick cuts framed by a number of phone calls. It’s brilliant character writing, in barely under a minute we know more about Martha Jones than we did about Jodie Whittaker’s trio of companions combined over a whole season.

It’s also interesting to watch how capable she clearly is. Within her first few scenes we see her not just handling her family but also juggling that with a medical degree and her demonstrable skill within that world. She identifies the Doctor’s double-heartbeat before ever having a proper conversation with him. Immediately we realise this isn’t Rose Mk. II, Martha is something new. She’s more grown up and more capable. It’s a welcome shift and a fresh new direction after a couple seasons of the same thing.

It’s this framework that allows the story to work. The whole thing has a decent internal consistency to it, but Davies isn’t really concerned with the details. We have an alien Plasmavore who has killed an alien princess and fled jurisdiction to earth only for the space rhino Judoon to track her down to Martha’s hospital. But she’s disguised as a nice old lady played by Anne Reid (of course she is, it’s a Davies script) and the Judoon have no authority on earth. Naturally their response is to teleport the hospital to the moon!

I have mixed thoughts on many of Davies’s creative choices when he was showrunner, but this is nothing short of genius. The reveal that the Judoon in this story are utterly useless at the one job they have to do only sweetens the experience. It’s left up to the Doctor and Martha to track down the alien the Judoon are incapable of finding. Of course the Doctor’s own status as alien throws a spanner in the works too. The purpose of the narrative is to prove Martha is worthy of travelling with the Doctor, and Davies gives her the perfect story to test that.

That’s not to say Smith And Jones is perfect. The resolution does rely on technobabble and some of the dialogue is a tad overblown. The thickness of the Judoon straddles a knife-edge or amusing and infuriating, occasionally on the wrong side of that balance. And the less said about the Doctor kissing Martha the better.

There’s also a very obvious budget issue as only one Judoon ever removes its helmet to reveal their appearance. Luckily the look is so strong that even the one reveal has remained so iconic in the fandom hive mind. A number of guest spots over the years to follow as well as a couple starring roles in The Sarah Jane Adventures have left viewers calling for more ever since. It’s a travesty that we had to wait thirteen years for their proper return in Fugitive Of The Judoon.

Smith & Jones, then, is a solid opener to series three and a strong debut for Martha. It’s our first look at what a post-Rose Tenth Doctor would be. But sadly what that turned out to be was an unrequited love story that Martha was never able to move beyond until her full season was over. For her to reach her potential took until later guest spots in Torchwood and subsequently in series four. We had to wait until the fourth season (Tennant’s last) to see this Doctor allowed to be himself without a romantic element getting in the way.

But none of that stops Smith & Jones, on its own terms, from being a really solid story. Give it another watch today.

“Moo” is the pseudonym used by this Doctor Who fan. He can usually be found procrastinating by thinking about Doctor Who. Follow him on Twitter @z_p_moo for more of his unusual takes, but do so at your own risk.

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