In Defense of Female Characters: Martha Jones is a Star

In Defense of Female Characters: Martha Jones is a Star| Positively Smitten

By Lyndsey Fought

“Doctor Who” been in existence since the 60s and is a huge cult favorite. I like both old and new seasons, with my favorite doctors as Nine, Ten, and Four (though I admit I have the softest spot for Ten). The show is about time and space traveling, adventure, and — at its core — the human soul.

The Doctor, an alien, usually has a human companion to join him in his adventures. That human generally exemplifies some of the best and worst attributes of the human experience. While fans of the show often adore companions like Rose Tyler, Donna Noble, and Amy Pond, there seems to be a lot of hate for Martha Jones — a young, black med student who’s thrown into the Doctor’s path directly after his heartbreaking separation from his previous companion, Rose (another favorite of mine). And the hate for her? It’s undeserved.

Here’s why Martha Jones is a star.

Martha Jones: The Good

Martha Jones is decisive and quick thinking. From a young age, she knew she wanted to be in the medical field and she did it. When we are first introduced to her, it’s in the hospital and she’s doing her thing. In the very first episode, she’s shown saving the Doctor’s life.

Martha Jones has a full family life and that works its way into some of the storylines during her time as companion. While many television shows and movies often mistakenly and offensively portray black families as being criminals or drug addicts or abandoning one another, Martha Jones’ family doesn’t fall into that trope. No, Martha Jones isn’t pigeon-holed into stereotypes.

Martha Jones is strong. In one storyline, she’s thrown into the 1910s as a maid, while the Doctor, stripped of his memories, is oblivious to the situation. She deals with everyday racism and lives in fear, knowing she must be careful what she does around the Doctor (because of his memory loss) and any other person (lest she seems too “out of line” for the time).  She deals with outright malice from a woman crushing on the Doctor and, in an act of sheer bravery, Martha declares she has medical knowledge and demonstrates her prowess, bold-faced.

Martha Jones has self-respect. She not only is one of the only companions that bows out of her own accord, but does so most graciously. She isn’t mad, she isn’t very upset (though she does show some emotion); she is honest and puts her well-being (and her families’) first.

Martha Jones is resourceful. Martha walks the earth for a full year to ensure she saves the Doctor (AGAIN), her family, and indeed the world. In doing so, she puts herself at great risk; it’s said she was successful in leaving certain areas. She spread the word of how to save the world, came back to where the big baddie was (the Master) and laughed in his face before completing her task of saving the world.

Martha is ambitious. After leaving the Doctor and saving him multiple times, and the world, she went on to complete med school, worked for UNIT, became a freelancer, worked with Torchwood, and got married. Martha has gotten some of the most complete storylines out of any of the Who (new or old) companions.

Martha Jones: The Bad

Martha Jones shows she’s jealous from time to time. She gets a crush on the Doctor pretty quickly (who wouldn’t?) and she is shown as being envious of this past companion she knows little-to-nothing about. The thing is, though, throughout her time with the Doctor, this is shown as waning, to the point where when Rose is reintroduced Martha actually says with a smile on her face “oh my god, he’s found you.” Martha, despite being jealous in some ways, is shown as understanding others.

She doesn’t show her feelings openly for the most part. She is introverted with her emotions. She’s loyal to those she cares about most but she is uncomfortable with making her feelings known.

I don’t have much to say bad about Martha because even when she’s being smug or lovestruck, she’s still proactive. Even when she needs the Doctor’s instruction, she is intelligent and cunning. Martha Jones has stunning character development and, sure, if you’re only talking about the first three episodes she appears in, you may have something bad to say about her, but taking her story arc as a whole, you’ll see how much she grows.

Martha Jones: The Ugly

People often blame Martha for being lovestruck with the Doctor. I hesitate to say many of these people are probably people that loved Rose being with Nine and then Ten. I am a person that loved Rose being with Nine and Ten and I will admit my first viewing of Martha didn’t include me loving her.

I thought they were trying to fill the Rose-void and I wasn’t happy with it. But that’s exactly part of the story that the writers were telling. They wanted us to see how heartbroken Ten is over losing Rose. In doing this, he treats Martha pretty horribly in many storylines. I think in Ten treating her poorly, some of the fans feel like they are also allowed to treat her poorly. But we’re meant to see the rawness of Ten’s emotion and how he belittles her sometimes in little ways because she’s not Rose. I think most people can relate — we may have experienced this with a crush or even just a friend that’s in a foul mood over a break-up and they explode every now and then at you.

Ten’s reaction, and Rose leaving, doesn’t make Martha’s feelings any less valid. She meets this magic man and he takes her on adventures; she’s justified in crushing on him. When she realizes the feelings won’t be returned she’s quick to realize first, that Ten needs her friendship and then later, that she deserves better. Her last words to Ten are also an announcement to the audience “You know what? I AM good.”

Martha Jones is loving, progressive, a bit nerdy, supportive, and knowledgeable. She deserves your love! Rewatch her season with these thoughts in mind and don’t blame her for Ten’s foul mood. Ten has flaws too, she doesn’t deserve to be blamed for his faults.

Martha Jones put herself first, she’s a knowledgeable woman-of-color that subverts the regular tropes her role would generally use. She IS good.

Photos credit BBC.

About Lyndsey:

I have too many interests and I get easily distracted, so I haven’t completed a single thing in my life. Yay, hyperboles! I have been to culinary school and I like baking cupcakes. I write the beginnings of too many novels. I am driven by ambition and delayed by perfectionism.

I would like to travel the world, learn from others, write some best sellers, and have a restaurant or bakery someday. I am a Slytherin. I like the tenth Doctor best (followed by ninth). I am too obsessed with Downton Abbey and the whole etiquette of that era. I never forget to be awesome!

2 Comments

  1. I am always giddy when I see Martha Jones appreciation. I try not to get too bogged down in fan hatred towards her, though it is definitely significant. I think Freema did a great job considering the material given to her! I love when Martha tells the Doctor, “I do what I like!!!” and her (first) departing line, “You know what? I am good.”

    Doctor Who is sorely missing PoC. So to me, Martha as a companion is a really big deal. I love her so much!!!

  2. I don’t hate Martha, in fact I’ve liked every female companion in the New series so far. Rose is my least favorite, but I still like her overall , a just found her to be a tad bit annoying (especially in series 2). Truthfully, the only companion I’ve hated so far was Adam Mitchell, but he was written to be useless and inept, so we were supposed to hate him

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