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artisanal film reviews | by maryann johanson

‘Doctor Who’ blogging: “Smith & Jones”

(Don’t miss the introduction to my Doctor Who drooling…)

(previous: Episode 0: “The Runaway Bride”)

I was totally prepared to hate Martha Jones. I wanted to hate Martha, for Rose’s sake. But I can’t hate her. She’s too cool.

Martha is, unlike Donna, more than worthy of the privilege of traveling with the Doctor. She’s ripped from the planet Earth without so much as a by-your-leave, facing what looks like certain death from suffocation if not execution by space rhinos, but does she panic? She does not. She’s scared, but she’s able to think logically. She doesn’t hesitate to yank a space-rhino-alien-detector thingie from one of the rhinos and use it — appropriately, which means she’s been rational enough to actually observe how the detector thingie is operated — when the moment calls for it.
And she’s still able, amidst all this, to appreciate the desolate beauty of the moon.

This, surely, is a woman after the Doctor’s own hearts.

But oh, how distressing must it be, then, to be her and hear that same intriguing, handsome alien tell her it means, honestly, absolutely nothing when he kisses her?

I’ll say it again, and I will, I promise you, be saying it yet more in the future: Damn you, Russell Davies. Damn you and the TARDIS you rode in on.

Davies is gonna continue to torment us this whole season: this much is obvious. Not only will the Doctor’s pining for Rose gonna be ongoing and hearts-rending, but Martha will be pining for the Doctor and, I’m sure, seeing her affection going completely unrequited. This whole season is gonna be torture. Sweet, exquisite torture, but torture nonetheless.

I think it’s a kind of self-abasement on Davies’ part, actually, because he’s as big as Doctor Who geek as we all are, and I have no doubt whatsoever that he’s as much in love with the Doctor as I am, as lots of us are. But of course the Doctor is as much fictional to Davies as he is to us, and could be Davies is completely able to acknowledge how pitiable it is to be a reasonable adult in love with a figment of our collective imaginations.

Not that I don’t put it past him to indulge in a little wishful thinking, however. I mean, come on: sucking off the Doctor? Sure, it involves a granny space vampire with a straw here, but still, the metaphor is too delicious for my dirty mind to deny. Tee-hee. I love Russell Davies.

And not just because he manages to get the Doctor to joke about leather fetishes — though again: tee-hee! — but because he jams so many layers of drama and subterfuge and consequence into every single episode of this show without making them feel overloaded. The old show never really felt like it was much a part of the real world, but Davies has been developing the idea of “alien presence on Earth” as a metaphor for urban terrorism in the 21st century since the show’s inception, and here it suddenly snaps into overt focus. When the Doctor asks Martha what she thinks about how her hospital got to the moon, she is able to accept the obvious explanation: aliens, right? “A few years ago that would’ve sounded mad,” she admits, but what with all the alien spaceships over the skies of London lately, not to mention incursions by Daleks and Cybermen, well, this is the new normal, isn’t it? Better get used to car bombs– er, killer extraterrestial robots. The Doctor and Martha talk about the battle of Canary Wharf like New Yorkers talk about 9/11, and like how I’m sure Londoners talk about the 7/7 bombings.

The growing acceptance on Earth of the reality that Earthlings are not alone in the universe may be why the Doctor seems so remarkably unconcerned with the TARDIS being seen as anything other than a police call box, which was rarely the case in the old show. That high-speed TARDIS/car chase in “Runaway Bride”? Whoa: I’m not sure the Time Lords would have stood for something so blatant as that. But the Time Lords are gone, aren’t they? It’s only the Doctor left — even his brother is gone. Brother? (Damn you again, Davies.) I’m tempted to say that if the Doctor isn’t careful, he’s gonna turn into a real companion slut, asking every girl he meets to come travel with him — watching “Bride” and this episode back to back really makes the Doctor look pathetic. But he really is dreadfully alone, isn’t he?

Mostly, though, what I love the most about this episode — except for the sucking-off-the-Doctor bit; I’m never gonna fail to find that highly amusing — is how Davies again refuses to give in to black-and-white. The Judoon really aren’t so bad, even if their adherence to “procedure” makes them seem so at first, and the granny alien bloodsucker really is quite a menace. Perhaps hunting her down did put many more sentient beings at risk than might have been strictly necessary — and perhaps the Judoon fail to understand the civilized concept of “you break it, you bought it” — but hey, they did put the hospital back in the end, didn’t they? There probably would have been a helluva lot of paperwork to do afterward if they hadn’t.

Random thoughts on “Smith & Jones”:

• Is that Russell Davies outside the hospital talking on his cell phone as Martha goes in early in the episode?

• Hey, there’s that coat rack from the old TARDIS, tucked in a corner… which the Doctor doesn’t use, he just throws his coat anywhere.

• Emmeline Pankhurst, suffragette, stole the Doctor’s laser spanner? Hee.

• I love how Martha refuses to buy this nonsense of the Doctor’s name, or lack thereof. Of course, she doesn’t get the answer she wants, but at least she called him on it.

What I said about Tennant being a wonderfully physical actor: Expelling the radiation through his sneaker was great. But the Doctor always was good at playing the buffoon when it was convenient for him to do so.

• High-tech Judoon scanner thingie + low-tech Sharpie to the hand = Russell Davies continues to be delightfully clever

• The granny alien vampire keeps her straw in a little granny purse. Hilarious.

• Didja notice the several references to “Mr. Saxon” in this episode? Pay attention to those…

(next: Episode 2: “The Shakespeare Code”)


MPAA: not rated

viewed at home on a small screen

official site | IMDb
posted in:
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  • Poly

    In a recent interview, Russell T Davies said that he hates cameos from writers / directors so I doubt it was himself on the mobile phone outside the hospital.
    And you are so wrong, it’s definitely mature and grown up to be in love with fictional characters, provided they deserve it. Surely, the worth of a person (or alien as in this case) is more important than whether they are fictional or not.

  • MaryAnn

    You should take it with a grain of salt when I talk about how pathetic it is to be in love with a fictional character: of course there’s nothing wrong with it.

    Unless it really is pathetic. Then you should totally take me at my word.

  • PaulW

    I was wondering, whatever happened to any reviews of the second season of the revamped series? I still haven’t seen your take on “School Reunion”…

  • MaryAnn

    PaulW: I guess you didn’t read the intro I directed you to at this top of this page. I never got around to the second season, but I will eventually, hopefully soon. But if I waited to do this new season till I did the old ones, I’d *never* get around to them.

  • You miss Rose?

    You really have not seen season 2, have you?

  • I just finished watching this season last Friday night (if you don’t want major spoilers, stay away from my blog) so I feel like a bit of a time traveler myself.

    In that spirit, I will say that I was bored to tears by Martha for a long, long time until mid-season, when the writers actually gave her something to do and she rose to the occasion for the most part.

    There are several irritants this series, but I won’t go into them and let people who haven’t seen it either be irritated by the same plot point I refer to or just shrug it off. In the end, I just shrugged it off, but mostly due to the power of the second half of the series. There are a couple of rough moments there in the middle – indeed, I would say slap in the center is the worst episode of the new series – but it’s all made up for in the end, since while some of the parts are weak, the whole is far better conceptualized than the second series and Tennant is far more comfortable in the role – I think he only does the overacting/screamy thing once the entire season!

    So, big picture is, I loved this season more than the previous but not as much as the first.

  • Cthulhu

    See, with the exception of three episodes I thought series three was marginally better than series two – but I do find Martha’s character annoyingly transparent on an emotional level, but hopefully the fourth series may iron this out.

    I wasn’t impressed with the two episodes featuring the Daleks though – they are the weakest of the series in execution in my humble opinion.

    Role on Christmas and Kylie Minogue!!

  • Cthulhu

    Oh yeah, almost forgot…

    Vote Saxon!

  • The only episode I hated this season was “42” – scientific inaccuracy I can take, in-your-face, stupid scientific inaccuracy is distracting – especially when matched with derivative writing – it was a total rip-off of that two-parter last season – and dull performances.

    The Dalek episodes weren’t as good as they could have been, but I admit to enjoying them.

    In contrast, “The Lazarus Effect” was silly and tedious, I thought – and too much of Martha’s family, who are rather irritating and not very interesting – but it all turns out to be important later one, so I can deal with it.

  • MaryAnn

    You miss Rose?

    You really have not seen season 2, have you?

    I HAVE seen season 2. Who says I haven’t?

  • >>but I do find Martha’s character annoyingly transparent on an emotional level…

  • Cthulhu

    There’s nothing wrong with a character being emotionally transparent, it’s the manner in which she is that’s frustrating – she instantly falls in love with the Doctor and makes it clear to everyone what her feelings are…

    Which just makes the later parts of the series so much more interesting – especially the two parter with the Family of Blood.

    Oh, and her mother is the Whovian equivalent of Jar Jar Binks in my opinion.

    :-)

  • I sort of picture that the Doctor has been sort of “recruiting” for a new companion since the events of Runaway Bride. Donna puts the idea in his head, and he’s been keeping an eye out for the right kind of girl (well, of COURSE she’d be a girl!) ever since. Martha interviewed well.

    Who knows how many applicants didn’t make the cut?

  • “There’s nothing wrong with a character being emotionally transparent, it’s the manner in which she is that’s frustrating – she instantly falls in love with the Doctor and makes it clear to everyone what her feelings are…”

    you’ve never fallen in love instantly? i have. as for emotional transparency — what’s wrong with that? maybe that’s what we need a little more of — or is it only that it’s a woman character who is being so upfront about her feelings that disturbs you? and if her mother’s character annoys you, what about the dad with his little blonde bimbo… no ringing any stereotype bells for you there?

  • Wow. I just watched this one for the first time after reading your review and I was looking forward to the “amusing” scene with the doctor getting “sucked off” by a little old lady vampire.

    Here’s what I saw instead.

    The Doctor is so damn depressed after losing Rose and getting turned down by Donna that he’s suicidal. He wouldn’t do himself in, no, but–give his life to save a thousand humans and earn himself some peace in the process? That’s suicide by plasmavore in my book.

    He was dead and showing no signs of regenerating. He was dead for a long time actually. And he wasn’t faking it. The Judoon scanners confirmed–“Deceased”. And when Martha brought him back, he didn’t pop up all fine the way he often does (thinking The Shakespeare Code here where the witch stopped his heart), he’s a wreck, barely able to crawl to the control panel & stop the MRI from frying the brain stems of billions of people, et al.

    So, since he was dead (really truly dead) and not regenerating, I can only think of two possiblities. One–whatever it is that makes regeneration possible is in the blood, so death by exsanguination means no regeneration. He would know that. Two–he refused to regenerate, which we now know (thanks to the Master) that Time Lords can do. Either way–he wanted to die.

    Damn. And David looked so heart-stoppingly vulnerable in the scene where his life’s blood was being leeched away. That one’s going to haunt me.

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