Doctor Who Companion Retrospective Part Four
“Ever heard the word rebound?”: Martha Jones, the in-the-middle companion
From what I understand, some people love Martha and some hate her. I’d love her if she found even one different tone of voice.
Martha was Rose’s successor, her replacement, someone who was there to make the Doctor less lonely. She knew this, the entire time. She hated it, and she kept going with the doctor anyway because she instantly fell in love with him.
But Martha’s peripheral position goes beyond her filling Rose’s empty shoes, making the Doctor feel better. Martha was a companion without imagination, without a strong role to play in the story she and the Doctor were living in. With the exception of the season finale, she was never a driving force in the story. Anytime she was playing a strong role, it was on the strict instructions of the Doctor.
Martha had no ability to be independent of the Doctor. She couldn’t wing it like Rose when the Doctor disappeared, or blunder her way to victory like Donna. Her most important job was for the Doctor to save her, to push the story forward. When faced with the 1911 Doctor, she had no idea what to do when he deviated from instructions. She spent an entire year on her own and did nothing but follow his instructions.
Martha suffered for this, for her own lack of initiative. Her family suffered, she and she was left always feeling second best.
Martha was a reduced character, one without the feminine power of Rose or the masculine power of Jack. She was just there for the Doctor to have someone to talk to. Even when she left him, her only strong choice in her whole story, her life was dominated by her connection to the Doctor. That connection got her a job at UNIT, it got her a medical liscense, and eventually it got her a husband.
When Martha breaks away from the Doctor, using a teleporter and a nuclear bomb, it is presented as a betrayal of all that is good. To destroy the planet was obviously madness, but Martha threatened it anyway. Martha Jones could have single-handedly been responsible for the destruction of the earth: the only important decision she ever made that had nothing to do with the Doctor.
In both narrative and character, Martha was a failure as a companion, a shell. She was objectified in the worst way possible, the only way that is really dangerous no matter what anyone says: she was a person around which things happened, a person who followed directions or followed the flow, a person who needed to be acted upon, not an actor in her own right.