Tuesday, June 23, 2009

A Rose by Any Other Name

We've been rewatching the new Doctor Who seasons here in the old bloginhood household, and I have to say I was awfully glad to have finally started on series 3 (with David Tennant in his second season as the 10th Doctor). The main reason: the Companion. Oh wow, am I ever glad to have put Rose Tyler (played by Billie Piper) behind us (for the time being, anyway) and moved on to the wonderful Martha Jones (played by Freema Agyeman).

I can't say I hated Rose. I just got tired of her really quickly. She was whiney - her constant refrain of "It's not fair!!!" was grating and almost needed to be accompanied by a childish stamping of feet. She wasn't particularly bright. Not much to look at either. She treated poor Mickey like garbage. And the constant flirting with The Doctor (often in front of Mickey) grew tiresome. Sure, she kicked some major Dalek ass as the Bad Wolf when she sucked up the time juice or whatever from the heart of the TARDIS, but her annoying traits more than outweighed whatever cool factor she'd earned with that stunt. And the whole kid-from-meagre-means-makes-good/Cinderella story thing fell flat because it's been done time and again - in SF and in mainstream fiction - and done better (Harry Potter, anyone?). Ultimately, Rose behaved like a stereotypical teenager, which some would say was appropriate since she was, in fact a teenager. And yet I've known plenty of teens in real life and read/watched plenty of youth characters in fiction who weren't nearly that annoying. Makes me wonder what would make the Doctor fall so hard for her. Mysteries of the last Timelord, I guess.

But at last we moved on, and in the wake of the Battle of Canary Wharf and the spider infestation of Christmas, we were introduced to a young medical student named Martha Jones. Right from the start, I liked Martha a lot. Her character is smart, sophisticated, adaptable and not easily rattled. She's also a nice person. And oh yeah, she's very easy on the eyes. Her introduction in episode 1 of series 3, "Smith and Jones", set the tone for her entire role in the series. When she finds herself and a hospital full of panicked patients and staff yanked off to the moon by a squad of instellar mercenary rhinos, Martha keeps her cool and figures out that the worry isn't explosive decompression (because, she reasons, if there wasn't something preventing it, it would have already happened and no-one would be around to worry about it) - it's running out of breathable air. Martha's got enough brains to keep up with The Doctor as he tries to figure out the situation (as opposed to Rose, who usually just nodded and tried to look like she understood) and has the guts to take the Judoon to task, and takes an active role in the adventure.

The real pity is that over the course of series 3 Martha ends up falling for The Doctor, even though he's still holding a torch for Rose. Martha would have made for a far more adult, complex and ultimately rewarding love interest than Rose. Where Rose was really the ultimate tag-along, Martha was more of an equal. It was a pity that The Doctor couldn't reciprocate her feelings. The saving grace though is that in spite of her love for him, Martha has enough self respect to know she has to do what's best for herself, and that means having the strength to leave him on her own terms. The only question is whether the Doctor truly appreciates what he's missed-out on. And yet, isn't that so often the case with near-misses in love, even when the other party isn't the last survivor of a dead world?

Rose may have been the first of the Companions of the new era in Doctor Who, but Martha was the best.

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