BY SAJIDA AYYUP
“Who are you, where am I, what the hell is this place?”
Every time the Doctor meets somebody on Earth, the Solar System, the sheer amount of animosity he receives is priceless. Screaming at the top of her lungs is the runaway bride Donna, who accidentally lands up inside the T.A.R.D.I.S on her wedding day.
It’s also the same day when the planet was to witness a Racnoss invasion! Doctor Who (Series 3) featuring David Tennant begins with the tenth incarnation of the Time Lord just about to begin his journey without a companion. But the little voice inside my head goes, “You’re the Doctor. Trust yourself!”
The 2006 Christmas Special, “The Runaway Bride,” is a light-hearted bridge between the departure of his companion Rose Tyler (Billie Piper) and the Doctor’s next adventure. It’s hard to describe the magnitude of emotions he’s feeling at the moment: a generous mix of withdrawal symptoms, plus guilt and anger over having to say goodbye to his Rose just after “Doomsday” must be overwhelming. Just as he’s recovering, a bride in her wedding dress ‘magically’ appears inside the T.A.R.D.I.S, evidently lacks exposure to wibbly wobbly, timey wimey stuff and starts freaking out.
Neither the Doctor nor the bride (played by Catherine Tate) know what happened! The series of events that unfold in this exciting special involve references to the Big Bang theory, the cosmic threat to humankind that looms in perpetuity, and of course, old friends. They later discover that Huon particles are the cause of Donna’s attraction into the Police Box, as she carries them inside her body and the T.A.R.D.I.S is known to carry remnants of the same. Go science [fiction]!
Eventually they prevent a Racnoss awakening, but Donna has no intention of joining the Doctor on his journey. Her parting words: “Find someone,” to which he replies, “I don’t need anyone.” That’s so profound, he doesn’t need anyone except her. Am I reading too much into my ninth rerun of Series 3? Probably.
For a Whovian, what the Doctor wears is symbolic of their personality. The Tenth Doctor dons a simple suit over Converse sneakers and occasionally wears glasses. In the first episode of Series 3, titled “Smith and Jones,” the Judoons are after a murderer/plasmavore who has been hiding on Earth, specifically in the same hospital where Martha Jones (Freema Agyeman) is training. They teleport the entire hospital to the moon in an effort to isolate the plasmavore but it’s in human form, well under the radar. New companion Martha calls him ‘Doctor’ for the first time after denying to do so during their first interaction. That one line, “You called me Doctor!” has to be the perfect definition of who he is — well, what David Tennant made of him.
After successfully returning to base planet Earth, the Doctor finds himself explaining to Martha how the T.A.R.D.I.S works. She can’t help but be critical of everything he has to say and blatantly spurts out the ‘spaceship’ is made of wood! You have to give her this: she’s smart, too smart. She doesn’t flip like Donna but analyzes the Police Box like you would analyze an overpriced dinner. “It’s bigger on the inside!” she says as the Doctor lip-syncs with her. And this, my friends, is the beginning of a magnificent friendship, cough, love.
Welcome aboard Ms. Jones!
Martha’s first stop is 1599’s London which houses Shakespeare and to great odds, witches. It’s safe to presume the team watches a play at the crowded Globe Theatre where people speak ‘normally,’ very much to Martha’s surprise. The Doctor definitely worships this playwright. “That’s very clever, that proves it — absolute genius,” the Doctor says with beaming eyes after Shakespeare’s interaction with psychic paper.
It doesn’t take a genius to figure out the Doctor reads a lot; he even mentions Harry Potter: Deathly Hallows and how it made him weep! The only thing that doesn’t seem to add up are the three witches (‘scientifically’ called Carrionites). Turns out their entire species, a bunch of linguistic fanatics who use the power of words as weapons, is being imprisoned. “The Shakespeare Code” is in fact a set of instructions to open a portal for these Carrionites disguised as a play called Love’s Labour’s Won, a play that never saw the light because of the right reasons, a play that Martha jokingly said she wants to mint money off of after returning to her timeline.
Despite unbelievable scenarios of flying witches, Shakespeare’s epiphanies and atomic physics, the references just keep coming in: “Oh, how to explain the mechanics of the infinite temporal flux? I know! Back to the Future. It’s like Back to the Future!” the Doctor briefs Martha about messing with time.
The promise of only one trip in time is broken as they travel about five billion years into the future: the New Earth is back! With it comes the grim reality of humanity that makes Martha weep, she actually cries during their communal hymn. A quick recap from when the Doctor travelled to the same time-stamp with Rose: “New Earth” is primarily focused on a group of cat nuns who are trying to find a cure for all diseases until things went south. The lab rats (a.k.a artificial humans a.k.a zombies) let an airborne virus wipe out the entire population on the surface of the earth except everyone in the underground driveway. So whoever was driving had no idea of ‘New Earth,’ and are now waiting to reach an unknown destination.
Much like our (hopefully not for 100 years) quarantine? Jokes apart, the virus finished its business and left Novice Hame (Anna Hope) from the feline nuns’ fraternity to team up with the Face of Boe (Sruaun Rodger) in keeping the underground humans alive. “You are not alone,” the Face of Boe tells the Doctor after giving his last jolt of energy to free everyone from the driveway. This is a sign planet Gallifrey wasn’t completely destroyed! With this unexplained farewell message, the Doctor and Martha head off.
We can presume the Doctor forgot about the number of trips in time because now he’s in 1930’s New York City with Martha trying to solve another mystery. And this time a Dalek makes its first appearance at the then-unfinished Empire State Building! The Great Depression has hit the City, unemployment is on the rise, and evicted New Yorkers are doing anything to survive; one of them is being turned into Pig Slaves for “Daleks in Manhattan.”
When Martha is taken prisoner by the pig slaves (pun intended), the Doctor volunteers himself to find what the Daleks are up to but Martha was simply happy to see him again. “Yeah you can kiss me later,” he tells her with a straight face. In “Evolution of the Daleks,” both of them witness Daleks killing their own leader, a human-Dalek, owing to his emotional intelligence.
Extermi– Emergency temporal shift!
The last surviving Dalek escapes after killing an entire population of human Daleks and has nothing to bank upon for survival. “One day,” the Doctor assures Martha, it will return with vengeance, and until then New York will continue being New York with its tired, poor, and huddled masses.
He brings Martha back to her room a day after they left to travel time and calls it ‘the end of the line,’ which we all know isn’t. “The Lazarus Experiment” takes them both on another adventure. “It’s not a trick, I wish it were,” says the Doctor as he tries to understand how Prof. Richard Lazarus ages himself backward using a machine. Lazarus doesn’t look like an ally of science; his wife and him are planning to commercialize this machine. To be blunt, the idea is fascinating but one can wonder what a resonating machine like this can do to a brain. When the Doctor finally confronts Lazarus about what being human is, he says, “There’s no such thing as an ordinary human.”
The duo departs after handling the mysterious gene-mutating Lazarus to answer a distress signal sent from about million million light years away. Sent by a cargo ship that’s about to impact the Sun of a different solar system, the Doctor finds the crew had essentially stolen ‘Sun particles’ to fuel their ship; the Sun is also a living organism seeking its particles back. We are left with “42″ (let me think why this number is so familiar) minutes before the impact — we are answering a pub quiz about the Beatles and solving number theory equations when the crew could have just emptied their fuel tank. If I may, in the words of the Judoon leader from episode one: “Justice is swift.”
The following episode, “Human Nature,” presents a threat to the Doctor’s life: to save their existence, the Family of Blood is after the last living Time Lord. So he turns himself into a human being down to the last cell in his body so the Family can’t trace him. Though completely human, the Doctor has vague memories of time travel and starts documenting his visions in ‘A Journal of Impossible Things’ where we get a glimpse of his previous incarnations! But Martha is still herself and remembers everything, things get harder by the day as she sees the Doctor falling in love with someone.
“You had to, didn’t you? You had to go and fall in love with a human. And it isn’t me,” she speaks to a screen that’s playing the Doctor’s hiding instructions for 1913, the year they are stranded in. As the family — father, mother, son and daughter — wreak havoc around town in “The Family of Blood,” the doctor is struggling to remain sane. He ends up screaming at Martha, “You’re this Doctor’s companion. Can’t you help? What exactly do you do for him? Why does he need you?”
As heartbreaking it can get, Martha’s love for the Doctor still remains in debt. This reminds me of Sally from “Blink,” which happens to be the next episode. When her then-MIA friend Kate asks what is good about sadness, she says, “It’s happy for deep people.” The Doctor has been leaving clues for Sally in DVDs about the Weeping Angels, but all this is a lot of information, so naturally she takes this to the Police Station.
We finally get the biggest clue: the T.A.R.D.I.S is at the station! That means the Doctor must have lost contact but Sally doesn’t know anything yet. In all the easter eggs that Sally manages to discover lie the reason for her being chosen to save the Doctor, and wibbly wobbly does it again. All the clues she collects along the way, one year after she finds herself in the heat of the angels, turns out to become an escape kit for him and Martha. Who knew DVD easter eggs could be used to turn time?
Not for Captain Jack Harkness (John Borrowman), who claims he got abandoned by the Doctor. Martha joins his jovial rivalry against the Doctor in “Utopia,” which takes us forward in time to the end of the universe. “We’re at the end of the Universe. Right at the edge of knowledge itself. And you’re busy blogging!”
While Martha and the Captain are busy trying to keep the savages a.k.a. Futurekind off the premises, we encounter another being similar to the Doctor called the Master. Funnily, in “The Sound of Drums,” he’s in the 21st century disguised as the prime minister of Britain, Harold Saxon, who is trying to establish friendly alien contact.
On the timeline, it’s been four days since Martha met the Doctor. Unbeknownst to her, Martha’s mother has been, or rather has been forced to have been, tracking her whereabouts for Saxon! We heard his name in “42,” right after Martha relays her safety over the phone call but it was still out of place.
In fact he used a communications network called the Archangel, the same one Martha had been using in her phone, to garner illegal votes during the British elections. While the duo was travelling back and forth in time, Saxon was actually laying traps. While onboard an aircraft carrier Valiant, he tries to explain what he’s been up to with his new ‘friends’ who appear out of thin air — metallic talking spheres constituting an alien race Toclafane. “What, did you think little Tish got that job merely by coincidence? I’ve been laying traps for you all this time. And if I can concentrate all that Lazarus technology into one little screwdriver,” says Saxon with a childish attitude.
I didn’t think an alien invasion could be done with fun music like Voodoo Child by Rogue Traders, but the Master is funky like that. Billions of spheres cut through a time rift enabled by the T.A.R.D.I.S. Toclafane, the alien spheres, are child-like. The entire race considers the Master something of a father figure so when he tells them his whimsical dream of wiping exactly 1/10th the population on Earth, they don’t question him.
Meanwhile on the Valiant, he reveals the Lazarus experiment was his orchestration and ages the Doctor so far ahead in time that he can barely move. An overwhelmed Martha is forced to escape the Valiant, leaving her family and the man who won’t return her love as Toclafane attacks the planet like it’s the end of the world— with an asserted confidence by the Master.
In “Last of the Time Lords,” Martha is cast under the spotlight once again. An entire year had passed since the Master had taken over the planet but she remains under the radar. She became a legend to many, probably the last prayer humanity took to holy places. The lone soldier walked across the planet to build a weapon that could destroy a Time Lord (and this sends a chill down my spine): there are only two left, leaving a 50% chance of being used against the Doctor himself. But apparently the Doctor knew about this weapon and instructed Martha to find four chemicals that would make it, and so she does. In her quest across the Earth, she tracks down Professor Docherty, who she believes is an essential part of the plan.
Together, they capture a Toclafane sphere to find a strange creature murmuring something. “The skies are made of diamonds,” it speaks as we see flashes of the kid she encountered during “Utopia” before the rocket launched. “No! You can’t be him!” Martha panics and realizes the fate of project Utopia she helped launch. The revelation is not as exciting as it seems, at least not until Docherty barters Martha’s location for information about her lost son with the Master.
Cut to a flashback when the Doctor forces Martha to escape the Valiant with due return: he whispers something to her. And the Master is trying to scoop this juice out of the 100-year-old Doctor whom he’s imprisoned along with Martha’s family. Docherty’s information served him well, though: he locates Martha and brings her back to the Valiant to kill her before familiar witnesses soon after destroying the Time Lord-killing gun.
To his surprise, she starts laughing during his magnificent monologue of a well-fabricated plan of converting the T.A.R.D.I.S into a Paradox Machine to alter timelines without disrupting the space-time continuum (the ‘grandfather paradox,’ to be precise). His ultimate intention is to have the Toclafane wage war against humans who are, in reality, their ancestors.
Martha continues laughing at his imbecile plan, revealing the Time Lord-killing gun was just a facade to get onboard the Valiant. She was spreading stories about the Doctor across countries and ingrained in them an idea to think of the Doctor collectively. The Archangel network gets overridden by the Doctor and everyone on Earth by a brief force, the power of words as he calls it, which is another reference to “The Shakespeare Code”!
The Master’s defeat was somewhat poetic in the sense he died a human death. He gets shot by his own wife, a.k.a. companion, while still being human. No matter how much the Doctor pleaded, he refused to regenerate. “We’re the only two left. I’ve no one else,” he cries to him but all in vain. Time reverses to a moment before the Toclafane’s attack, thanks to Captain Jack’s accurate gun aim towards the T.A.R.D.I.S., so the past year never took place (except for those on board the Valiant).
On Earth, the time travelling trio bids farewell to each other with the strangest of revelations. Jack expresses his fear of aging despite working for the Time Agency, telling them how he got signed up. “I was the first one ever to be signed up for the Time Agency. They were so proud of me,” he says. “The Face of Boe, they called me.”
It was the Face of Boe who told the Doctor he wasn’t alone (“Gridlock”) and sacrificed himself to save New New York! The Doctor and Martha jump at this mind-boggling information but soon lose their enthusiasm; her refusal to continue as the companion is something he expected. “I spent a lot of time with you thinking I was second best, but you know what? I am good. You gonna be alright?” she asks him.
“Always,” says the Doctor.