New Who Openers In Perspective: Smith & Jones

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

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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
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