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New Who Openers In Perspective: Smith & Jones

Guest contributor Tomas Edwards continues the series looking at past openers this time with Series 3′s.

smith-and-jones-tennant-gen

As Series 8 fast approaches, headed up by the intriguingly titled “Deep Breath”, it’s time for us to take a look at Series 3’s often forgotten opener. Compared to the series openers which: brought the series back, formed Matt Smith’s first full episode and killed the main character in the first ten minutes, it’s not hard to see why this one isn’t so frequently talked about, but then again, it does do many things worthy of discussion. The introduction of Martha, one of my favourite companions, and the creation of the Judoon, who have made several further appearances in the show and its spin-off media, are both good talking points, as is the strong plot, top performance from Tennant and electrifying score.

“Bare foot on the moon.”

I’d first like to apologise for not including that noise Tennant makes with his teeth after that line, I don’t really know how to describe it outside of hilariously awesome. Anyway, to the point, Tennant, as ever, delivers a stellar performance as our favourite Time Lord, and he gets a lot of fun, hilarious lines, such as his first scene with Martha and Mr Stoker (“And then, I got electrocuted!”) and his confrontation with the Plasmavore (“Did I mention the bunions?”). He is still clearly hurting from the loss of Rose and the events of Doomsday, but is trying to move on as best he can, having a laugh and doing what he does best: saving the world and picking up strays.

“We’re on the bloody moon.”

martha-jones-doctor-whoMartha Jones. How often do I see her voted the worst companion of New Who? How often is she forgotten as people pour either love or hate over Rose and River, shower Amy and Donna with praise and speculate over whether Clara is going to improve in Series 8? Well, I think Martha is better than most of those companions (although I do like each of them in their own way), and she really shows this in Smith and Jones. From the off we see that she isn’t like Rose, she has a good life at home and all the potential for a happy future in a good job. She doesn’t need the Doctor to escape, and she is clearly perfectly capable of living her life to the full without him. She displays courage, intuition, wit and still manages to feel human in her reaction to the various alien events, as the above quote shows.

“Judoon platoon upon the Moon.”

Impressive prosthetics, a memorable design and a fantastic presence throughout the episode makes the Judoon very strong monsters, who’ve secured several small returns throughout the years. They kill one person, helping show that they are dangerous and brutal, but by not killing too many we can buy the fact that they’re simply overzealous law enforcers, not downright nasty murderers. A return of these stomping rhino-headed policemen would be most welcome.

“What’s wrong with Annalise?”

A lot, frankly. And that’s what makes me love Martha’s family. They’re all flawed, constantly arguing, with their own agenda and opinions about each other, with Martha caught in the middle, trying to please everyone. The opening few minutes successfully introduces each member in a suitably amusing fashion, immediately letting us know what these people are like, and what to expect from them later in the episode and series. The scene outside the party is similarly hilarious.

“I even brought a straw.”

smith-and-jones-plasmavore-Florence-Finnegan-Anne-ReidOnce you get past wondering how the hell she got a straw to puncture a man’s throat, Florence Finnegan is actually a very good villain. Played with just the right balance of sinister and pantomime by the great Anne Reid, and with some killer lines, the Plasmavore works successfully as the central villain of the piece, especially in her final confrontation with the Doctor. I love how gleeful she is about the evil things she does, and how arrogant she is in the face of the Judoon. A brilliant, and underrated, villain.

“It’s raining on the moon.”

The idea of the H2O scoop, whilst a small part of the episode, is certainly a clever one. The rain falling upwards is a powerful and memorable image, and the CGI used for it is done very well. I love the scene when everyone realised what’s happening except Martha, and then when she sees it her expression just perfectly sums up how someone would react in that situation. I also love the scene with the Doctor holding Martha’s body and realising the Judoon have saved them.

“Standing in the Earthlight.”

This is my personal favourite scene from the episode, and one of the best from Series 3 overall (and there’s a lot of tough competition). This is when Martha and the Doctor properly talk. Taking a moment to examine the situation from both a practical and a personal perspective. The way Martha’s voice breaks as she talks about her mother is beautiful, as is the Doctor’s quiet contemplation about his part in the battle of Canary Warf. I love the rapport between the Doctor and Martha from this moment onwards, and my favourite example from this scene is Martha “In my opinion you’ve got to earn that title”. Suddenly we have a companion who’s on more of an equal footing with the Doctor, and my word is it brilliant.

Conclusion

So, I hope I’ve reminded or convinced some of you of how fun and brilliant this episode is, and maybe even we’ll see this episode receive the recognition it deserves. Undoubtedly Deep Breath will be another opening episode talked about more often than this story, but let’s all try and remember Smith and Jones too, because it sure does deserve it.

Rating

Throughout this series of In Perspective articles we are going to provide a rating for the episode to allow for some comparisons and to see what elements are actually important to making a good opener. The following ratings were produced by taking the individual ratings of five contributors (David Selby, Jack Hudson, Lewis Hurst, Simon Mitchell and Tomas Edwards). These ratings were then averaged to provide a number which should be relatively free of individual bias. The results are as follows:

  • Episode Rating: 8.4/10
  • Effectiveness as an Opener: 9.2/10
  • Monster Rating: 8.6/10
  • Character Rating: 8.7/10

This gives the episode a total score of 34.9/40 So far this leaves the Episode One ‘Leader-board’ looking like this:

  1. Smith and Jones 34.9/40
  2. Rose: 34/40
  3. New Earth: 28.4/40
Step back in time...

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122 comments
The Finn
The Finn

On recent watch I gave the episode an 10/10.

11th's Sonic
11th's Sonic

What opener killed the main character in ten mins?

Stradiwhovius
Stradiwhovius

Martha is in theory one of my favourite companions. She's clever, resourceful, independent and just lovely, but I feel like she's let down by a series which largely doesn't utilise her very effectively. That's beside the point, however, as she's brilliant here. I disagree on her family though; I find them quite superfluous and a tiny bit annoying. But again, that's less the fault of this episode and more to do with their (lack of!) use in future stories and Mrs Jones attitude in Lazarus. 

I suppose that epitomises my feelings towards Smith and Jones, actually. It's not too bad, but I struggle to enjoy it as much as I feel I should because of other things. I don't like the "just one trip" The Doctor strings Martha along with. I don't like the influence Rose and her loss has on this series. I don't like the direction and execution of the series arc. None of these things affect the episode that much, but they build towards a feeling where I just don't want to watch it very much. 

I still give Smith and Jones a fair 6/10 (58th), but that's based more on how I want to like it rather than actually liking it.

pyroclasticflow
pyroclasticflow

I love the point you made about Martha. I have to say that while Martha is by no means my favorite companion, I still feel that she was one of the most important ones. She rocked it in the series 3 finale. The sheer amount of dedication she showed toward the Doctor makes me tear up every time I watch those episodes. I mean she walked the Earth for a year navigating through all the destruction in order to save him. How many other companions express their loyalty over such a long period of time having no contact with him? I think the reason some people may not like her is because of the whole unrequited love aspect of her episodes. Her disdain for Rose because the Doctor loved her leaves a bad taste in the mouths of many diehard Rose fans.  I think her character would've fared much better if it weren't for these undertones throughout the season.

Zakk Williams
Zakk Williams

I only watched this episode once, but I remember I really liked it. My favourite opener of the RTD era by far :)


sontaran17
sontaran17

My  results are as follows:


  • Episode Rating10/10 
  • Effectiveness as an Opener: 8/10 
  • Monster Rating: 7/10 
  • Character Rating: 8//10 

This gives the episode a total score of 33/40 So far this leaves the Episode One ‘Leader-board’ looking like this:

  1. Smith and Jones 33/40
  2. New Earth31.5/40
  3. Rose31/40

WhoLocked
WhoLocked

Thank you Tomas for writing this article, especially about Martha. While I adore all the other companions, with the exception of Rose (Piper was brilliant as the Moment), I feel that Martha is wrongly, almost cruelly over looked. So it's cheered me up to know that there are other Whovians who sing the praises of the wonderful Martha :)  It was nice to see for once an intelligent, black, female character, from a normal, stable (ish) family background, who could think for herself. I only wish the excellent start to Martha's character was allowed to continue to develop with the same gusto. 


A great episode too, one of my favourites from the Tennant-era. Loads of humour and a good plot  - all the performances were top notch.  Rating 9/10 :)


stargazer0118
stargazer0118

Love it, and Martha is instantly likable and relatable (are you listening Clara?!). I just HATE David Tennant's hair style in this one, looks so weird! :P  




Rating: 9/10.

Huknar
Huknar

It really goes to show that there is not a bad New Who opener out there. They are all great watchable stories on a scale of 7-10 rather than 1-10. A lot of the show is like that, which is why I love it so much.

Master Michael Moon
Master Michael Moon

The thing that makes Smith and Jones the best series opener for me is the amount of originality. A simple but extremely effective story. And no random feeling to the episode like we get with most of the episodes these days. I guess the show doesn't feel as fresh as years gone by. I think perhaps it's time for a slight regular series break and another 'specials' route like in 2009. But anyway, series openers are so important, not only for continuing viewers to assure that their beloved show is still in safe hands, but also for new viewers tuning in for the first time. I think after the 50th, more and more people are inclined to start watching it as it's appeal has grown through increasing international publicity and the likes of it being shown in cinemas. Deep Breath should be a good opener- the start of a completely brand new era...


9101112
9101112

Martha is my favorite companion as well, Beautifully written article about this season opener...I watch this series often for Martha. Even though she doesn't get the attention and recognition from the Doctor as the other companions she held her own and helped the Doctor figure out and get out of quite a lot of situations....I love her for being the only Companion in New Who thus far to "Get Out" as she put it...Martha is really under rated and worth another look

Sephora.IWishIWasScottish
Sephora.IWishIWasScottish

I could write an essay about how much I love this episode. Which is probably what I'm going to do now. With Utopia and Midnight, this is my favorite script by Russel T Davies. It is truly brilliant and feels so simple which I think is one of the strongest qualities of Russel T Davies. When I watched series 1, I loved it but I hadn't a clue why. Walking plastic men, farting aliens, monsters with a plunger for an arm... Utter nonsense and yet, I just loved it. Smith and Jones is everything I loved about Russel's Era. It achieves so much in 45 minutes, it should be rushed and hard to follow and yet it feels so simple, so easy. Not because it is unoriginal or lazy, but because the script makes it easy for you.


Think about everything that happens in this episode. You meet Martha and her whole family and in one phone call, you just know everything about them. Her family has quite a lot in common with mine and I identified instantly. Then you get to know Martha: unlike Rose she has a bright future ahead of her. She's smart and hardworking. Then come the moon and the Judoons! In every companion/Doctor introduction, the monsters are criminally underused (Autons, Sycorax, Whatever the threat was in Partners in Crime, Prisoner Zero) but here they are truly brilliant! The Judoons are the personification of "Police Everywhere, Justice Nowhere". What a powerful monster! People know how brilliant the Angels and the Silents are but I feel that The Minautor and the Judoons deserve the same amount of praise. Just like Martha, criminally underrated.

The episode is called "Smith and Jones" for a reason. You get to know Martha but it also introduces you to the Doctor if you are a new viewer. And again: perfection! A lonely man with a magic box who just can't resist a mystery. A man ready to sacrifice himself for justice. Yet just a silly guy who survives radiations thanks to his trainers and uses the best ship in the universe for cheap tricks. Isn't it basically everything the Doctor is? 

When I want to introduce people to Doctor Who, I don't make them watch "Rose", "Blink" or "Eleventh Hour" but this one. Strong monsters, strong characterization, wonderful dialogues and humour. It just is Doctor Who. 

Episode Rating: 9.5/10

Effectiveness as an Opener: 10/10

Monster Rating: 9.5/10

Character Rating: 10/10

Total Score : 39/40

Ranking :


  1. Smith and Jones

  2. Rose

  3. New Earth 

KristiStoneman
KristiStoneman

"Smith and Jones" is my favorite season opener for Doctor Who.

MrRazza, General Rogue Timelord Identifier
MrRazza, General Rogue Timelord Identifier

I enjoy this opener greatly, it has less to setup than its nearest rival in my books, Rose, and so has more time to build up a more significant threat and plot. You're about to meet the exception to your comments about fan reactions to the companions though, I shower praise on Martha but very rarely do so for Amy. All in all, while in my opinion Rose is the best episode in the history of the revival in terms of simply setting up, Smith & Jones is ultimately a superior episode - and what I particularly enjoy is the setting of a very real place full of real-looking people reacting in a very real way.

Smith and Jones - 8.5/10

Rose - 8/10

New Earth - 6/10 


dragonsfyre
dragonsfyre

This is my favourite RTD opener too!  And Martha is bloody fantastic.  She's smart and beautiful and can hold her own.

Martha can't be blamed for "falling for the Doctor" because of that genetic transfer.  Any one of you (who like blokes) would have had the same reaction if a tall good-looking guy suddenly came up and gave you a good snog. 

Yes, it's frustrating that she went through the whole unrequited love thing but then so was having Donna's memory wiped. 

With that one exception, Martha proved to be a blast of fresh air and the angles of racism that were brought into the stories proved to be an interesting narrative point for Doctor Who.

MaddyKika
MaddyKika

Very solid opening and a good introduction of a companion. As much as I like Rose I don't understand why people hate Martha. So what, she fell in love with the wrong man! Yet her journey in this series was excellent and I loved how it was her decision to leave. 

Polyphase
Polyphase

It's a pretty good opener but I remember agreeing with Martha about the Doctor being human. He just never gave me that alien vibe that nearly every other Doctor has

Episode Rating: 6/10

Effectiveness as an Opener: 8/10

Monster Rating: 2/10

Character Rating: 6/10

Mikeyboss182
Mikeyboss182

Love Smith and Jones, it's a great inroduction to Martha and my favourite RTD series opener.


MeglosProductions
MeglosProductions

Fantastic article! You just literally summed up every single reason why I love both this episode and Martha.

Liana21
Liana21

Wow, it's been ages I haven't watched it, I left watch episodes in Spanish and I still don't having Series 3 dvd box.

It's a funny one, the plasmavore is not really scary, but it's a good introduction for Martha and the Judoon.

Whovian_Brownoat
Whovian_Brownoat

Great article once again. I absolutely love Smith and Jones.

TardisBoy
TardisBoy

Fantastic article, Bi! I absolutely adore this episode for all the reasons you state here. The story is brilliant and fun and yet really dark all at the same time. Martha is introduced wonderfully, she's not a carbon copy of Rose, she's her own person: someone highly intelligent and not afraid to keep the Doctor on his toes "As far as I'm concerned you've gotta earn that title", I bloody love her! Freema and Tennant are sensational, the Judoon are fantastic, the villain is great. The whole thing is just brilliant and achieved everything it set out to do. 



Amy says Peter Davison is the Thirteenth Doctor!
Amy says Peter Davison is the Thirteenth Doctor!

Fun fact: Steven Moffat has given this episode immense praise, defending it once in a forum post: "Anyone who's interested in writing should study that script - it's one of the most technically brilliant scripts you'll ever get your hands on. The construction of it is dazzling, and yet - and this is the REALLY dazzling part - it's designed to feel light and airy and simple. And for that dim-witted reason, people think it IS simple. It's not, it's incredible. Look, what's folded away in all that gorgeous froth. A new main character, whole and complete - an old friend within minutes. Her entire background and family, all there for us, perfectly clear. And while all that’s going on, AT THE SAME TIME, a hospital gets stolen and taken to the (bloody) moon. All this in under ten minutes! And never mind all that, the entire format of the entire show is explained and sold to a brand new audience. Stunning. But - and this what makes your blood boil - because it's made to LOOK easy, idiots and critics think it IS easy. Try it! Go on, get yer pen, TRY it. 

Thing is, I get a lot of praise for the complexity of Blink, and quite bloody right too. But because I know what I'm talking about, I can tell you as a matter of FACT, that Smith and Jones is WAY more complex. But because Blink wears its complexity on its sleeve, cos that was kind of the point, Smith and Jones conceals it, cos it's a means to an end."


Spinky
Spinky

Not really a permanent death, but The Impossible Astronaut.

supermoff
supermoff

I thought they were both instantly likeable and relatable, Clara especially :) 1

sontaran17
sontaran17

@stargazer0118 Woah no need for that surely- Its an in perspective on A Series 3 Episode - Hardly the place to swing round hate for a totally unrelated character

 Notsosmartguy  the dalek of Jersey
Notsosmartguy the dalek of Jersey

@MaddyKika I agree I liked Martha she easily one of my favorite companions ( 2nd to Clara). I can't help but feel she got treated badly by the Doctor though, yes I get that was the point that rtd was trying to get across was that 10 missed Rose but it still bugged me that such a great character was treated second rate by the Doctor. Thank goodness this wasn't the case with Donna.

RoastNewt
RoastNewt

@Amy says Peter Davison is the Thirteenth Doctor! Interesting. Andrew Cartmel has also said in a recent interview (I forget where) that this is his favourite episode of the revived show.  Whether popular among fans or not, it does seem to have attracted quite a bit of praise from other writers (but then it can be hard to tell with Moffat, since he's always so respectful of the others working with him!).

LGwalchmai95
LGwalchmai95

@Amy says Peter Davison is the Thirteenth Doctor! "I get a lot of praise for the complexity of Blink, and quite bloody right too." How can people not love Moffat? The guy's just so cool and hilarious. It's nice to see his take on it, and defending Russell's work. Top man, and I agree with every word he says!



TardisBoy
TardisBoy

I have an urge to kiss Moffat all of a sudden...a strange experience... 


MaddyKika
MaddyKika

@ Notsosmartguy the dalek of Jersey @MaddyKikaSometimes Ten was really cold with her. I'll always remember that scene in Utopia when Martha tells him that the Professor has the same watch he has and he yells at her. Even though it was a big deal, the way he acted with her really bothered me.

Ottoman14
Ottoman14

@ Notsosmartguy the dalek of Jersey @MaddyKika Although 10's treatment of Martha was irritating for me and the average viewer, RTD was trying to accurately portray a character who was going through what could be described as post traumatic stress, meeting someone who helped him mentally heal and then lose them. In such a situation, one would be quite unnecessarily angry and disappointed at the successor

Amy says Peter Davison is the Thirteenth Doctor!
Amy says Peter Davison is the Thirteenth Doctor!

Maybe I'm being pedantic here, but he said "way more complex," not "better," and more importantly, I'm not sure why you felt the need to turn this into a Moffat vs RTD/"which one is better" argument. I thought we'd been avoiding that mess quite well in the previous responses.


RoastNewt
RoastNewt

@supermoff  @Amy says Peter Davison is the Thirteenth Doctor! While I've not exactly been on the Moffat bandwagon of late (in terms of episode enjoyment), I have to agree with you here. One of the things I respect most about him is how highly he speaks of other writers - so many people try to paint an image of him as being horrible and arrogant, when to me he always comes across as such a kind, humble man. 


Honestly, I don't know how he - or RTD - manage it. I know I'd cripple after one day under the pressure that they face in that job!

AlessandroArsuffi
AlessandroArsuffi

Maybe you're looking for a genetic transfer to become a member of the Moffrace?

Amy says Peter Davison is the Thirteenth Doctor!
Amy says Peter Davison is the Thirteenth Doctor!

That's generally the sense that I get from him as well. I will readily admit that he has said some things in the past that he probably shouldn't have, but so has RTD, so has nearly everybody else on the planet, I'm sure. That's why I don't ever see the point in getting caught up in any "who has said worse" arguments about them. With enough effort, you can make just about anyone look bad - neither Moffat nor RTD is a perfect person, but I fully believe that they both are genuinely good people at heart. And they've both said lots of good things too!


supermoff
supermoff

Indeed, they must be superhuman to handle such pressure! They both get a lot of hate from parts of the fanbase, but I wonder how much hate they'd get if some people could truly appreciate the difficulty and arduous nature of the job.

supermoff
supermoff

He is indeed :) He's a lovely man, but lies and misunderstandings can corrupt the truth :/

TheNightmareChild is LISTENing!
TheNightmareChild is LISTENing!

@supermoff RTD gets, I feel, unduly criticized a lot for decisions he made for the show.  But Moffat indisputably gets heaps of unfair personal criticism.  Whatever I might personally think of decisions he's made for the show, I have immense respect for the man, and am right there with his strongest defenders. :)