Leave Well Enough Alone? Part 2: Martha Jones
Guest contributor James Kirkland continues looking at companions’ departures and whether their returns after worked.
Martha Jones. The brave and brilliant young woman who was studying to be a doctor joined the Doctor for Series 3. Throughout her travels with the Doctor, she began to fall for him. But the Doctor was still mourning the loss of Rose and didn’t reciprocate her feelings, be it due to obliviousness or active refusal. After being forced to journey across the world on her own, with the Doctor being captured by the Master, Martha managed to help defeat the evil Time Lord. And, with that, came her first exit. While the Doctor wanted Martha to stay with him, Martha decided that her family needed her more than he did. And she finally grew to accept that the Doctor would never be able to get over Rose and notice her the way she had been hoping he would. So she left him for her family, and to continue on her own journey to become a Doctor. She left him with a phone, in case she ever wanted to get in touch with him, and said her farewells.
In the interim between her departure and return, Martha was recruited to work for UNIT and got engaged to Tom Milligan, whom she had met in her journey across the world to defeat the Master. Sometime later UNIT began investigating the ATMOS, Martha called the Doctor to help. When the Doctor questions her working for the military, Martha counters that it is one her terms. Later, she advises Donna that her family suffered terribly because she wasn’t honest with them about her travels with the Doctor. Together Martha, Donna and the Doctor manage to defeat the Sontarans, after which the Doctor offers Martha a chance to be his companion again. She refuses, but is taken on one more adventure through chance. After that, she departs the TARDIS again to reunite with her fiancée.
She is next seen in the Series 4 finale, still working for UNIT. Here, she is entrusted with The Osterhagen Key when the Daleks begin to invade earth. After threatening to destroy the earth rather than see Davros and the Dalek’s plans come to fruition, she is thwarted but sees them defeated anyway. She departed the TARDIS once more, refusing Captain Jack’s offer to work for Torchwood and returned to her life and her fiancée.
She returned one last time in The End of Time, having gotten into a battle with a Sontaran and a marriage with Mickey Smith. She sees the Doctor one last time after he saves them before he departs, leaving her with her new husband.
So, should well enough have been left alone in the case of Martha Jones? Was her departure in Series 3 the superior one? In Martha’s case, I think her returns worked well in service to her character. Her initial exit was a very strong character moment, with her being mature and intelligent enough to know when her time in the TARDIS should draw to a close, and that the Doctor would never love her the way she was growing to love him. But her subsequent returns did nothing to diminish her initial departure, nor her growth as a character. She went from being a med student to journeying across the globe to defeat the Master to a medical officer for UNIT to literally holding the fate of the world in her hands. And, aside from a likely recommendation from the Doctor, she did all of this herself. Her time with the Doctor helped her grow as a person, and she used that growth to become a stronger person in life. Even the Doctor’s return to her life was initiated by her choice.
The only minor “problem” I personally find with her returns is that, in her final appearance in The End of Time, she is given a relationship with Mickey Smith for no other reason than to allow both characters to be connected for that ending scene. Now, life happens off screen and maybe her engagement or marriage to Tom Milligan fell apart for reasons we’ll never know. But this ending to her story seemed to exist more to be a convenient end to Mickey’s story as well. But, that is a very minor quibble in light of the strengths of Martha’s departure and her growth.
Verdict: So in the case of Martha Jones, I don’t think her Last of the Time Lords ending needed to be left as her final appearance. Would it have been a strong ending if it had’ve been? Absolutely. But the growth she continued to see in her return appearances serviced the character well enough that I think they were to her benefit more than her detriment. Well enough could have been left alone for Martha. But in my opinion, it really didn’t need to be.
Join us next time for Donna Noble.