When I started watching Doctor Who, I received many well wishes from good-intentioned Whovians and a few warnings. Most extolled David Tennant’s amazing hair, chided the campy special effects, and let me know just how much I would hate Martha Jones. Now, I am not one to do what I’m told. That’s why I’m a Wholigan, friends. So, when people tell me I will definitely, without a doubt LOVE or HATE anything, I am disinclined to believe it. You know me, I didn’t start at series 1 or even Classic Doctor Who. I jumped around the time vortex, watching episodes that friends rec’d to me, enjoying one-shot stories of the Doctor and his companions. I didn’t understand the explicit dislike many Whovians have for Martha, probably because I didn’t meet Rose first and I held no loyalties to any specific companion.
I actually met the Weeping Angels first, before even the Doctor. And Sally Sparrow, the companion that never was. I watched “Blink” and then proceeded to skip around series 3 and 4, meeting Martha and Donna well before I knew anything about this famed romance between Rose and Ten. So, I didn’t hate Martha just because she was Martha. Yes, she obviously fell into unrequited love with Ten, but what girl hasn’t been in love with someone who just couldn’t get over an ex? I didn’t hold her feelings for the Doctor against her, especially because Martha remained an intelligent, brave and useful companion to the very end–when she ends the relationship with Ten on her own terms and walks away from the Time Lord who strung her along.
Yes, I said it. Ten uses Martha–as we know the Doctor sometimes does–to make himself feel better after Rose becomes trapped in the alternate universe. The first time they meet, in the hospital of “Smith and Jones” S03E02, he kisses Martha, and which one of you wouldn’t fall hard for Ten if he grabbed you by the face and landed one right on the lips? As we know, the Doctor needs someone to show off to, someone to “ooh and aah” as he runs around being clever. Eleven admitted it, why would Ten be so different? Martha was the unlucky girl who never quite claimed the title of “rebound,” yet stayed by the Doctor’s side and eventually, saved his life by sharing with the world the faith she had in him.
What I appreciate about Martha, besides her intelligence and strong will, is that she never gives up on the Doctor and she only wants the best for him. It is only after she realizes that she is not what he needs or wants, that Martha decides to walk away and have a life outside of the TARDIS. For Martha, that life consists of a family that loves her, a medical degree, a job with UNIT and an engagement ring. Everything she didn’t realize she wanted until she spent all that time on the TARDIS, pining for the Doctor. Martha Jones is also the only woman of color to be a consistent companion to the Doctor. For me, that turned this obscure, British show into one I could relate to. I’ve always enjoyed the fact that in the Whoniverse, aliens, women and people of color are not defined by their differences but by character and deeds. Still, to have Martha Jones, a smart, fierce, brave black woman running around the universe saving species and saving the world, well, it inspires me. Martha inspires me. She saves the Doctor! She meets Shakespeare! And so I legitimately wonder why there is so much intense dislike of her character. Oh, I remember. She’s not Rose Tyler.
But, is she trying to be? Is that a burden she places on herself, to fill Rose’s pleather jacket? Or is this an expectation Whovian viewers place on the character as soon as she steps foot in the TARDIS? Could it be that, by the Doctor sending Martha mixed signals (the kiss, sleeping in the same bed, never explicitly rejecting her or telling her the truth), he inadvertently poisons the well for audiences?
Honestly fellow nerds, I have no clue. I am new to Who, and I can’t help but love each unique aspect of the Whoniverse, especially strong, female characters that help to represent myself and other women who watch Doctor Who. What I do know is that I have found a show that focuses on love and doing right and changing the universe one person at a time, and it makes me feel all wibbley-wobbley inside. I also know that, while audiences are still waiting for a black Doctor, or a female Doctor for that matter, we have had some really kick-ass, diverse companions, and Martha Jones is definitely one of them.
The Collectiva Diva aka Your Friendly Neighborhood Wholigan
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