Doctor Who Blog

The Companion Departures - #21 - Martha Jones

The last in our “middle of the pack” run of companion departures which are not especially gratifying but not terribly disappointing either because the character turns up again just a few episodes after he or she leaves. Even as Martha leaves in The Last of the Time Lords, she pretty much tells the Doctor and the audience that she’s coming back next season for a few episodes. So it was tough to feel too upset that he was leaving even if you really loved the character, because you knew this wasn’t the last we were going to see of her and on this occasion the series wasn’t pretending otherwise. Martha’s actual departure is fairly satisfying - logical from a character motivation point of view (to look after her psychologically-damaged family) and also from a character development point of view (the unrequited love story reached a natural ending point as many people do in fact move on when they are shown that amount of blatant disinterest from someone they are pining for, especially someone they are traveling with).

Subsequent episodes that Martha features in just a few episodes later do not undermine the impact of her decision to leave because she realized she wasn’t going to be loved in that way by the Doctor, but what they prevent the character from leaving the series on a high note from the point of view of her character. Had The Last of the Time Lords been her final episode, we would have seen her leaving after having saved the world (or at least being largely instrumental in the Doctor ultimately having done so), and working harder than anyone (on her own, for a full year) to do it. From the character’s perspective, she had a year off from traveling in the TARDIS, so the decision to leave is moreso a decision not to re-join. The idea to bring her back as a new regular member of UNIT even makes sense and seemed like a great idea at the time. Its unfortunate then that Martha is largely superfluous in the five episodes she features in the following season, except for the Sontarans to make an evil clone version of her - making it feel like she was in many of those episodes as a contractual obligation rather than because the narrative demanded it. (Its even more unfortunate when the character seemingly chucks away her career with UNIT, her relationship with Tom Milligan and looking after her family to go running off as a freelance monster fighter with her sudden new husband Mickey, but that’s sufficiently far enough away from her actual departure that we won’t hold that bit of writing insanity against her departure in The Last of the Time Lords). Because these episodes occur so soon after she leaves and her departure story makes the point of telling us these return appearances are coming, it’s difficult to disassociate these less-satisfying return appearances from her time as a regular companion. As such, while her departure ranks higher than many others of her ilk, it isn’t as high up as it could have been had they ended her story at The Last of the Time Lords.

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