I promised a Martha Jones salute in my intro post, and people seemed enthusiastic about it, so here it is! (warning: Rose gets compared mildly unfavorably a few times, for those who would be bothered by that)
I’ve recently been watching New Who with a friend (her first time through), and I’ve been struck even more strongly with how Martha has the best companion character arc in the entire series so far. The best. And this despite the show constantly and inexplicably treating her as second-class to Rose! But one of the greatest things about Martha is that in the final tally, how the Doctor treats her isn’t the most important part of her life, because unlike a lot of the other companions, Martha is so much more than her period of traveling with the Doctor. She’s not defined by him. After traveling with him—even before traveling with him—she’s got kick-ass narratives all of her own, and she’s going to live her life on her own terms (now alas, if only we could have seen more of her story on the show, but we see enough to know it is there).
I give you:
10 Reasons Martha Jones is Awesome,
in Roughly Chronological Order
1) She’s already living her dream before the Doctor enters her life.
It’s a common story arc for the Doctor to “rescue” his companions, not only from danger during individual episodes, but from the mundane of their own lives. Well, not so for Martha. Unlike many of the other companions, Martha isn’t in an at-loose-ends, stuck-in-a-rut place—she’s following her dream to do what SHE wants, and is doing a damn good job at it. And as frustrating as her family can be for her sometimes, she’s close to all of them and has good relationships with coworkers and friends. If she never met the Doctor? Martha would still be awesome. She’d be one of those people you met at a party and thought, “Holy crap, this woman is impressive.”
2) She’s brilliant—and not just in the book-smart way.
Sure, she’s got to be academically gifted—they don’t let just anyone into med school, and we see her take to extraterrestrial science later like a Ood to singing. But she’s also logical under pressure (“It’s not exactly airtight”), quick-thinking (“Expelliarmuus!”), resourceful (“Lucky I’ve just collected a DNA sample then, isn’t it?”) and street smart (“Now I’ve got a job in a shop, I’ve got to support him!”). If I had to choose one of the Doctor’s companions to go into an unknown adventure with, it would be Martha Jones hands down, even before she walked the entire world or got all her UNIT training.
3) She goes with the Doctor because she wants to have an adventure, and she is utterly gleeful about it.
Martha’s sense of wonder at seeing new worlds and distant eras is brilliant. It’s true that all of the companions have this to some degree, but it’s still worth mentioning.
4) She maintains her relationships with her family throughout her travels with the Doctor, and never sidelines them in favor of him.
This is primarily in contrast to Rose, who time after time ignores or abandons her mother or Mickey in favor of adoring the Doctor. Martha, on the other hand, puts her family first without exception. On the eve of the apocalypse, a teleport machine even takes her to see her mother because it’s the one place in the world she’d want to be above anywhere else.
5) She’s in love with the Doctor, knows he doesn’t love her, and even angsts about it—but it never enters her mind to think less of herself because of it.
We see more insecurity in canon love interest Rose (when she meets Sarah Jane) than we ever see in Martha. Martha knows the Doctor doesn’t see her that way—but that doesn’t stop her from knowing that she deserves to be seen that way by whoever does become her significant other, or that she’s awesome enough to be wicked attractive, or that she’s amazing in her own right. And that’s why she eventually walks.
6) She leaves the Doctor on her own terms.
And she’s the only one in the New Who who does. Rose gets stuck in a parallel world; Amy follows her husband into dying in the past; Donna . . . well, we know what happened to Donna; Jack gets left for dead on Satellite 5—heck, even the one-off companions usually don’t have great parting scenes; they die (Astrid) or the Doctor pushes them away (Lady Christina). Martha, on the other hand—Martha decides. The chapter of her life adventuring with the Doctor is over, and she needs to move on, and she needs to do so for herself.
7) She uses and builds on the experiences she had traveling the stars (and saving the world) in her own career and life.
Go back to everything she was doing before? Not a chance—not after seeing and learning so much! It seems like a natural progression for a former companion of the Doctor to end up on the fast track in UNIT, but Martha’s the only new companion (other than Jack, who was already a space/time traveler before he met the Doctor) to parlay her life-changing experiences into a career for herself that deals with the extraterrestrial. She works for Torchwood briefly as well before striking out freelance. I so want a show starring Martha and following all her adventures post-TARDIS.
8) In post-Season 3 episodes, Martha interacts with the Doctor as (almost) an equal.
It’s the Doctor’s show, of course. But in Martha’s later appearances, her role in the story is much less companion and much more equal ally. Particularly salient is “Journey’s End,” when Martha’s contribution and storyline is on par with Jack’s and Sarah Jane’s—the two characters who are the heroes on their own shows and therefore necessarily need to be proactive and useful in their crossover appearances.
9) She never regrets not being the Doctor’s companion anymore.
Rose makes her entire life about seeing the Doctor again. Amy and Rory live in a holding pattern waiting for him and drop everything every time he pops back in. Martha? She has several later opportunities to rejoin the Doctor, and never does. She’s building her own life now, one in which she’s the protagonist and not the sidekick, and that life is clearly rich with goals and loves and relationships that have nothing to do with the Doctor. She loved traveling with him, but she’s got her own trajectory for her life and career now.
10) And she ends up making her own rules.
Her first exposure to exploring space and time was with the Doctor. Her second was with UNIT. And, of course, she’s worked with and for Torchwood. But in the end, she winds up living by her rules and hers alone. In her final scene she’s toting a really big gun (she had expressly pointed out to the Doctor when she was working for UNIT that she didn’t carry, as a way of reassuring him she was still living according to “his” rules), and has officially broken from UNIT, Torchwood, or any other organization to go freelance. She’s her own woman and is carving her own place in space and time.
You know, like a lot of fans, I was angry at the sudden revelation during Martha’s last scene that she and Mickey had gotten married offscreen—not only did it seem like it was cheating her storyline, but it smacked of “Let’s Pair Off the Two Characters of Color for No Reason.” But my friend’s comment upon watching that scene was an admiring, “Wow, he really leveled up there” in a “fist bump for Mickey, he landed the awesome chick” tone of voice. And you know what, it made me like that scene just a bit more. Because, damn. He did land the awesome chick.
Martha Jones. The one Who companion who walked away voluntarily, and who made her travels with the Doctor only one chapter in a life stuffed full of other adventures. I mentioned before that I would watch the hell out of a show starring Martha—sadly I don’t think we’ll ever get one, but I do think it says something magnificent about her that she’s one of the only companions to have a post-TARDIS life that could support one.