May 21, 2014
In my thinking over the TV I’ve been watching, I realized I’d stopped watching Doctor Who — I never watched most of last season, and I don’t think I’m going to. It happens sometimes, a favorite show becomes not-so-favorite — I stopped Battlestar Galactica around season 4 because it stopped making sense, The X-Files around season 6-7, because it lost its focus. I was passionate about those shows, and it’s hard letting go, but sometimes there’s a point where a show becomes a chore rather than a pleasure, and then it’s time to stop.
I realized something else: I think over the last three doctors, Martha may be my favorite companion. Rose was the most fun to watch, Donna had a powerful story, but comparing them all together, I think Martha’s the best, because she’s the only one who maintains agency throughout her run. She’s the only one who doesn’t get — and I don’t think this is too strong a word — violated by the Tardis or time vortex. Rose absorbs the vortex, Donna becomes a conduit then gets her mind wipes, Amy gets knocked up, Rory gets killed how many times, Jack loses his mortality. They’re all fundamentally altered, and in their big climactic stories, they’re victims — they become tools, they become weapons, and they become broken by their time with the Doctor. By the end, they’re all taken away — sucked into other dimensions, memories wiped, lost in time. The Doctor loses them, and they are helpless.
But not Martha. All on her own, with no extra powers, with only her wits and a backpack, she goes out to single-handedly foment rebellion against the Master when the Doctor is incapacitated.
And then, she decides to leave. All on her own, she makes the decision, and she just leaves. She doesn’t get yanked through time and space, she doesn’t lose her home, her experience, her past, her place in time and space. All the other companions of the last three doctors are victims. They sacrifice everything, they lose everything up to their lives — more offerings on the altar of the Doctor’s guilt. But not Martha.
When you line up all the other companions, it becomes clear how special Martha really is, because she stays herself.