Smith And Jones: New Doctor Who Rewatch, Series Three, Part One

We’re back, with our New Doctor Who rewatch! Last week we looked at the second Christmas special of the series, The Runaway Bride, which gave us the first appearance of future companion Donna Noble. This week, we begin Series Three with three episodes–Smith and Jones, The Shakespeare Code, and Gridlock. Let’s get started!

Spoilers ahead for anyone who has not seen these episodes!

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Martha Jones, a medical student, is en route to work when the Tenth Doctor bumps into her, making a point of showing her his tie. He thinks nothing of it, until, while making student rounds at Royal Hope Hospital, she sees him there as a patient named John Smith—but he doesn’t remember the earlier meeting. What’s more, he appears to have two hearts. Martha also encounters a leather-clad biker entering the hospital, and a salt-deficient patient named Florence Finnegan. Elsewhere, Martha’s family is planning her brother’s birthday party for the evening. While Martha is on the phone with her sister, a sudden rainstorm happens only over the hospital—and suddenly, it vanishes from Earth, and reappears on the moon.

The Doctor reveals himself to Martha, whom he sees as very resourceful and unintimidated by the situation. They learn that a dome of air is shielded around the hospital; but with as many people as are present inside, the air won’t last long enough. They then see ships land, and aliens emerge and invade the hospital. They are Judoon, a form of interplanetary police. Elsewhere in the hospital, Miss Finnegan is joined by the biker and another just like him. Together they hold down the head physician on duty, and kill him—by way of Miss Finnegan drinking his blood (through a straw, no less). The Judoon begin scanning everyone for species, looking for a nonhuman; the Doctor knows they may kill everyone present as accomplices if they find the criminal they are looking for. He tries to help them by checking the records for anomalies, but they have stupidly wiped the records. Martha goes in search of her head physician for help, but catches Finnegan in the act, and has to run, taking the Doctor with her. The Doctor alters an X-ray machine and uses it to kill one of the bikers, which he calls a Slab—not a true life form. The radiation doesn’t harm the Doctor—his physiology can handle this kind. However it destroys his sonic screwdriver.

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He realizes Finnegan is a plasmavore, a blood-feeding creature (though not exactly like a vampire—nothing supernatural, just alien). She is feeding now so that she can assimilate human DNA from the blood and pass the Judoon scan—meaning they are searching for her. He discovers she has gone to the MRI room. He kisses Martha, then leaves her to distract the Judoon—they will detect traces of non-human DNA on her, and be held up assessing her. He goes to find Finnegan. Finnegan is rigging the MRI to blow up, killing everything in a 250,000 mile radius—which includes Earth—except her, as she will shield herself in the controller’s booth. Then she will take a Judoon ship and escape. Knowing she will be scanned again, she “tops up” her DNA by feeding on the Doctor, leaving him almost dead.

Martha leads the Judoon to the MRI lab, where they scan Finnegan again, and find she is alien—she did not know the Doctor was not human, and now she has absorbed his blood. They charge her with the murder of a princess on another planet, and she admits it. They kill first her second Slab, then her—but there’s still the MRI, and the Judoon choose to leave instead of helping. Martha saves the Doctor, doing CPR on both hearts, and he in turn shuts down the MRI. Before leaving, the Judoon return the hospital to Earth.

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At the party, Martha’s family fights due to her father’s girlfriend. Martha slips away and asks the Doctor to explain himself, which he does; he asks her to come with him, and tells her about Rose. To prove he is a time traveler, he momentarily goes back to that morning, and shows Martha his tie, then returns. He agrees to take her on one trip, and she leaves with him.

This story introduces us to new companion Martha Jones, played by Freema Agyeman, who previously appeared as Adeola in Army of Ghosts/Doomsday. That references is accounted for here, as Martha states that Adeola was her cousin. At this point, Martha isn’t particularly different from Rose with regard to her character and behavior, though she is older by a few years (as evidenced by her position as a late-year medical student). She will distinguish herself later, however, by refusing to let her feelings for the Doctor dictate her path as Rose did. Her first few episodes will include some tension with the Doctor as he continues to grieve over Rose, leaving Martha feel shortchanged in comparison. Unlike Donna in the previous episode, Martha remembers various alien incursions, including the Slitheen ship that struck Big Ben in Aliens of London, and the Battle of Canary Wharf. We also get a good scene where the Doctor subtly puts Martha to the test, judging her suitability as a companion; it’s not as clinical as I make it sound, but it’s very obvious.

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We have two villains here, in a manner of speaking. The Plasmavore is the main villain, and a creepy one at that; vampires are one thing, but drinking blood through a straw is one step too far. We also get the first appearance of the Judoon, who, while not evil, are villains by negligence here. The Doctor says they are police for hire, but the next time we see them, they will be working solely for the Shadow Proclamation. In a possible nod to Star Trek, they have a form of universal translator; meanwhile, their own single-vowel, mono-syllabic language becomes a sort of running joke. Another running joke, which we’ve already seen once, is the Doctor’s obsession with the “little shops” in hospitals, previously seen in New Earth. We also get the groundwork for an unintentional tertiary villain, in the form of Martha’s family; while they aren’t evil either, their dysfunctionality is going to cause problems down the road. It’s almost enough to make you miss Jackie Tyler. Almost.

While the Doctor can absorb Roentgen radiation without lasting harm, the Sonic Screwdriver isn’t so lucky; it’s destroyed, but he replaces it at the end. (Behind the scenes, the prop was upgraded at some point, and though I couldn’t confirm, I suspect that that switch occurs here. It’s a subtle change, though, and not easily noticed onscreen.)

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References are thin on the ground here, except for the obvious references to Rose’s departure. Slabs will reappear in The Sarah Jane Adventures. The Sonic Screwdriver has been destroyed before, onscreen in The Visitation and in the comic story The Flood. Martha’s first scene in the TARDIS is a mirror of Peri’s in Planet of Fire, a possible deliberate nod; it won’t be the last time there are parallels between the Fifth and Tenth Doctors, and in fact the next major one will happen immediately after Martha’s exit scene (Time Crash). In fact, it was also the Fifth Doctor whose screwdriver was destroyed in The Visitation, and he too mourned its loss. With regard to the series arc, there are background references to the Saxon campaign for Prime Minister, but nothing stated aloud. Overall, a decent episode, but nothing to write home about; mostly it lays the groundwork for the series ahead. Moving on!

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The Shakespeare Code opens with a girl named Lilith, who is serenaded on her balcony by a lute-player. When she invites him in, he discovers that she is really an ancient hag, and two more like her are there—and they kill him. They discuss their impending freedom, and the death of Earth.

The Doctor takes Martha to 1599, where—to her delight—they attend a showing of Love’s Labour’s Lost by William Shakespeare at the Globe theatre. He announces a sequel for the next night, called Love’s Labour’s Won; the Doctor knows it from a list of works, but in Martha’s time, it’s nonexistent. Intrigued, he takes Martha to meet Shakespeare and talk about it; the meeting goes well, and Shakespeare is enamoured with Martha. They are interrupted by Lynley, the Master of the Revels, who furiously refuses to let the new play be performed. However, Lilith is nearby, and overhears this; she steals a strand of Lynley’s hair and uses it in a voodoo doll of sorts, and with the other witches, she uses the doll to cause Lynley to die in the street. The Doctor is alarmed to see that he dies while drowning, but without any water source. He secretly tells Martha that it is, in fact, witchcraft that killed Lynley.

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They take a room in the inn where Shakespeare lives, and he bids them goodnight, and goes to finish the ending of the new play. In their room, the Doctor appears to flirt with Martha, but then switches to talking about Rose, whom he is clearly not over. Elsewhere, Lilith uses another doll to control Shakespeare, ensuring that the ending of the play uses words of her choosing. She unintentionally kills the landlady, allowing Martha to see her fly away, visibly as a witch.

In the morning, talk with Shakespeare leads them to Peter Streete, the architect of the Globe, who is now mad in an asylum. They deliver the new play to the actors, and then visit Streete. He explains that he was forced to build the 14-sided theatre to “their” satisfaction. One of the witches realizes this is happening, and goes to stop them; the Doctor deduces their identity and names them: Carrionites! Using the name causes her to disappear, but not before she kills Streete. The Doctor explains about the Carrionites; they are ancient creatures that vanished long ago, but clearly these three survived. Their magic is actually a technology based on words. They have manipulated the play so that it will bring back the rest of their species, who will then destroy humanity and build an empire from Earth. The Doctor sends Shakespeare to stop the play, which is just beginning, and he takes Martha to confront the witches.

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Two of them are already at the play. When Shakespeare bursts in, they use their power to render him unconscious, and the play continues. The Doctor confronts the third Carrionite, but she escapes, stopping the Doctor’s heart—not knowing he has two. Martha restarts his second heart, and they return to the theatre. It’s too late; the play is just ending, and the portal is opening. Only Shakespeare can stop it; the Doctor gets him to improvise a new ending, ruining the spell, which he does, with Martha’s help. The three Carrionites—and all copies of the play—are sucked into their own crystal ball, where they are trapped. The Doctor takes it to store in the TARDIS.

The next morning, Shakespeare flirts with Martha; but they are interrupted by guards escorting Queen Elizabeth I, who wants to see the play from last night…until, that is, she sees the Doctor. She declares him her sworn enemy, and wants him dead, forcing him to flee with Martha back to the TARDIS. The trouble is, he has no idea why she wants him dead!

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It seems strange in hindsight, but this is actually Shakespeare’s first real onscreen appearance (except for a cameo on the viewer in The Chase, and a comic appearance written by the same writer as this episode, Gareth Roberts; the Fourth Doctor also stated in Planet of Evil that he had met Shakespeare). It follows in the footsteps of Charles Dickens’ appearance in The Unquiet Dead; and thematically, it’s very similar to that episode, with displaced, supernatural, and ill-intentioned aliens trying to break through from another place and take over the world. This isn’t a good thing, in my opinion; personally I don’t care for stories that mix historicals with supernatural monsters, for reasons I can’t really explain. (I’d also include Tooth and Claw and next season’s Vampires of Venice in that category, with Tooth and Claw being the best of the bunch.) still, this is a clever and well-done episode, I have to admit. It’s Martha’s first trip in the TARDIS, and her reactions are great; there’s a subtle reference to a possibility of racism toward her, history not being kind to people of color, but the Doctor successfully brushes it off, and it works out for her here. (She won’t be quite as lucky later in the season, with Human Nature.)

There’s a lot of playing with cause and effect here. The Doctor several times drops lines and phrases from Shakespeare’s work, which Shakespeare boldly says he will appropriate; but then, the Doctor got them from Shakespeare, so where did they originate? It’s a bootstrap paradox, but we’ll let it slide, because the episode does. In particular, the Doctor mentions the Sycorax, referring to the aliens; Shakespeare will later use that word in The Tempest. Martha also argues that the world didn’t end in 1599, mirroring Sarah Jane’s comments in Pyramids of Mars; the Doctor explains that time can be changed. There are a number of references to Harry Potter, with the Doctor commenting about reading book seven (which was only released two months after this episode’s air date), and Martha supplying the word “Expelliarmus” to Shakespeare for his altered ending. There’s a reference to the Eternals having trapped the Carrionites in the distant past; the Eternals last appeared in Enlightenment.

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Most interesting is the appearance of Elizabeth I at the end, where she tries to have the Doctor killed. He had met her as far back as his second incarnation; the Third Doctor mentions having met her in The Mind of Evil, but he had not been able to travel in that incarnation, so it must be an earlier Doctor that met her. However, future episodes will reveal that it’s the Tenth Doctor she knows and hates. It will be a very long time before we learn the full story, however.

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In Gridlock, the Doctor takes Martha to the year 5,000,000,053 and the city of New New York, last seen in New Earth, which was thirty years prior in local time. He had promised her one trip, but now he stretches it—one to the past, one to the future. He describes Gallifrey, and then admits to having brought Rose to New Earth, prompting Martha to chide him for being on the rebound. In the city, the Face of Boe waits with Novice Hame, formerly of the Sisters of Plenitude; he realizes the Doctor has arrived, and sends her to find him. The Doctor is intrigued by a reference to the Motorway, where most people are gone; he is shocked when a girl buys a memory-loss patch from a street pharmacist, and promises to shut down all the pharmacists.

Martha is kidnapped by a young man and woman, who drag her into their hovercar—they are going to the Motorway, and need three people for the carpooling fast lane. The Doctor chases after her, making his way on foot to the Motorway—a deep track under the city, full of hovercars and smog on many levels. He makes his way to a car owned by a cat-man named Brannigan and his human wife, Valerie, and learns that people have been in the Motorway for years, trying to escape to a better life. In twelve years, Brannigan has only traveled five gridlocked miles. Meanwhile, Martha’s kidnappers head down to the bottom level, the fast lane; cars have allegedly disappeared from there, but they go anyway.

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At the bottom, they are attacked by massive crablike creatures that can hardly be seen for the smog. They flee, but are nearly killed. Martha realizes the creatures hunt via vibrations and light, and has the car shut off. It works, but affords them only eight minutes of air without the recirculation system. Meanwhile the Doctor goes car to car until he gets to the last level above the fast lane. He activates enough ventilation to clear the smog and look down, and sees the crabs. They are Macra, once-intelligent and telepathic creatures, but billions of years have made them beastly and brutal. Novice Hame catches up to him, and teleports him up into the city, where he meets the Face of Boe again. She explains that she was assigned to the Face’s care as punishment, and has since repented of her past crimes. She further says that years ago, the street pharmacists accidentally unleashed a virus that killed the entire planet in a matter of minutes; the Face of Boe managed to seal the underlevels and the motorway, saving everyone there. He then arranged for them to be sent gradually into the motorway so they would survive; there is in truth no goal, it just circles, though no one knows it. How the Macra got there, no one knows; but there is no power left to bring everyone back, even though the virus is long gone. The Face asks the Doctor to save them all.

Martha’s car has to power up, but that puts them back in the claws of the Macra. The Doctor tries to power up the city, but can’t; the Face sacrifices the last of its own life energy to provide power. The Doctor then unseals the motorway, giving everyone a way out, and summons them to the city. Clearing the way allows Martha’s car to escape as well. As the people begin to reoccupy the city—where they will be able to repair and rebuild—the Face of Boe is dying. As promised once before, it gives the Doctor its final message: “You are not alone.”

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Back at the underlevels, the pharmacists are gone. Martha refuses to leave until the Doctor explains what the Face said. He tells her about the Time War and the death of his people—but even he doesn’t know what the Face meant.

This is the final story in the very loose New Earth trilogy, which began with Cassandra O’Brian’s appearance in The End of the World. It brings back the cat people and the Face of Boe, and we get the promised last meeting between the Face and the Doctor. (I personally still favor the theory that the Face is an evolved Jack Harkness, but what do I know?) The Face’s last words, You are not alone, provide the second thread in the series arc, and won’t be explained until the end. More interesting to me are the pure humans that are abundantly present here. The preceding episodes firmly established that Cassandra was the last pure human, and this is only thirty years later; so where did they come from? While I believe that humans still exist elsewhere in the universe, I suspect that these humans are the Flesh clones liberated by the Doctor in New Earth, and also their descendants (many of them are younger than thirty). Mostly, however, the show seems to be simply distancing itself from its past statements about the lack of humans; which is fair enough, as that creates a difficult situation for the writers.

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The Macra are an interesting villain. The first time I watched this episode, I hadn’t seen The Macra Terror; since then I have, and it’s almost sad to see them so devolved. As yet we haven’t seen them in any other episodes. Interestingly, with the Macra reduced to the status of a force of nature, there really is no villain here; the Doctor makes a gesture at considering the pharmacists the villains, but it’s not really carried through.

Some references: The Doctor describes Gallifrey twice here, and refers back to the Time War; his description is very similar to Susan’s in The Sensorites. The episode is clearly immediately after the previous story; in addition to the Doctor’s statements to that effect, the arrow that stuck in the TARDIS in that episode is removed here. There’s a subtle Bad Wolf reference; it appears on a poster, but written in Japanese kanji.

Overall, this is not a bad start. I consider Series Three to be one of the most consistently strong seasons, and it’s hard to find a flaw. My least favorite episode is The Shakespeare Code; it’s all moving upward from here.

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Next time: This entry ran long, but next time we’ll look at just two episodes: the two-parter Daleks in Manhattan and Evolution of the Daleks! See you there.

All episodes may be viewed on Dailymotion; links are below.

Smith and Jones

The Shakespeare Code

Gridlock

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