I traveled across the world. From the ruins of New York, to the fusion mills of China, right across the radiation pits of Europe. And everywhere I went I saw people just like you, living as slaves! But if Martha Jones became a legend then that’s wrong, because my name isn’t important. There’s someone else. The man who sent me out there, the man who told me to walk the Earth. And his name is the Doctor. He has saved your lives so many times and you never even knew he was there. He never stops. He never stays. He never asks to be thanked. But I’ve seen him, I know him… I love him… And I know what he can do.
– “Last of the Time Lords”
I miss Martha Jones.
In Doctor Who, she was Ten’s second major companion, traveling with him for one series. That was far too short a time, something I confirmed when I watched Torchwood (a spinoff show where she had guest appearances) and had a sad because SHE IS SO COOL. Why oh why couldn’t she have stayed longer?
In addition to being to the cutest companion – seriously, just look at her! – Martha is one of my fictional role models. (Yes, I know I’m a geek.) I think she was one of the best companions. Although Donna is actually my favorite, her character arc is basically built around the idea that she thinks she’s worthless so while I adore her, I don’t aspire to be her. But Martha? She’s awesome.
Even if a huge chunk of the fandom hates her… but I’m getting ahead of myself.
Spoilers ahead for series three!
Martha Jones was studying to become a doctor when she met the Doctor. They worked together to save her hospital, which had been transported to the moon by aliens. As a thank-you Ten took her for a spin in the TARDIS, never intending to have her full-time, but one adventure led to another, and then another and another.
And Martha was spectacular. I don’t know what I’d expected – another Rose Tyler, perhaps – but she certainly wasn’t it.
Martha’s primary characteristic is her intelligence. (I was so excited for River Song because I thought she’d be another Martha. Alas, alas, I was disappointed.) As Doctor Who is about a guy who travels through space and time to save the day, there were loads of opportunities for Martha to use her mind. She solved problems by figuring out what the most logical course of action was – even if it hurt her. (More on that later.)
But she was never cold. She wasn’t a walking mass of logic with no feelings. She was very kind, caring for the Doctor time and time again. When the Weeping Angels in “Blink” sent them back to 1969, she got a job to support Ten while he worked out a way to fix things. When the Doctor lost all his Time Lord memories to avoid detection by aliens in “Human Nature” and “Family of Blood,” Martha guarded the watch that held those memories . She helped him save the crew of a spaceship headed straight for a star in “42” and in the finale of series three, she walked the earth for a year to tell people how Ten would save them from the Master (“Last of the Time Lords”).
That’s another reason I love and admire Martha – she took initiative. Rose always did a thing after the Doctor said, “Rose, don’t do the thing! It’s dangerous and you’ll screw up time!” Donna’s strategy was to either yell at something or grow hopelessly attached to it. But Martha? Quite frankly, she didn’t need the Doctor much. They were great friends, but she was perfectly capable of doing her own thing. Can you see why I want to be her?
And that brings me to my final point. Part of Martha’s character arc was her romance with the Doctor – or rather, the feelings she had for him while he didn’t notice because he’d been in love with Rose and still missed her. He didn’t love Martha as anything more than a friend. When she realized it was never going to work out between them she took initiative and did the most kind, logical thing. She left.
It seems a bit mean to like a character for leaving, and yet this is my favorite part of Martha’s story. It just fits her. Anything else wouldn’t have made sense.
Imagination is wonderful, but it causes people to do all sorts of stupid things because they dream their life will be different someday. Martha was different. She looked at her situation logically. Right before she left, she told Ten about one of her friends who was also pining after someone else: “I always said to her, time and time again… ‘Get out.’ So this is me, getting out.”
Martha left the Doctor in the kindest way possible. Yes, he was sad afterwards, but she didn’t scream or throw space things at him. She calmly but firmly said she’d still be friends with him but she wouldn’t travel with him all the time anymore. It was too hard for her.
And the choice to leave was hers alone! Other companions died, lost their memories, were trapped in alternate universes, got sent back in time. Some were simply ignored. (Insert anger about Eleven evidently forgetting Wilf. He freaking saved that companion’s life in a previous regeneration, and then never spoke to him again? That’s low.) Martha left when she wanted to – and at probably just the right time, because A) the companions tend not to have happy endings and B) she would’ve been hurt all for a guy who didn’t really notice her.
As you can see, Martha’s departure is so very her. Anything else would have been out of character. Additionally, I think Martha was incredibly brave. I think it takes a lot of courage to walk away from someone – a crush, a friend, whoever – who’s doing you no favors relationship-wise. Go, Martha.
And this is why I can’t understand the Martha haters. She had all those great qualities, yet they still dislike her because she came after Rose Tyler. Too many people see her as “not-Rose” despite the fact that any companion who is not Rose is, well, “not-Rose.” Too many people are mad at her for daring to love the Doctor after Rose, despite his being loved by many other women and Captain Jack Harkness over the years. Like, if you’re going to hate Martha, at least have valid reasons.
Other companions have certainly been characters in their own right, so I guess I’ll sum up my thoughts on Martha this way: She is the companion least defined by the Doctor. On one side of the scale you have Rose Tyler and River Song, characters whose stories revolve almost entirely around Nine, Ten, and Eleven. (I mean, I interpreted River’s actions in “Silence in the Library” / “Forest of the Dead” as something done partially out of grief that she hadn’t found the right regeneration.) On the other side, you’ve got Martha. Martha, who walked the earth for a year. Martha, who was a doctor in her own right.
Martha, who was perfectly capable of having her own life and her own adventures after leaving that blue box that travels through space and time.