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Elizabeth Sandifer

Elizabeth Sandifer created Eruditorum Press. She’s not really sure why she did that, and she apologizes for the inconvenience. She currently writes Last War in Albion, a history of the magical war between Alan Moore and Grant Morrison. She used to write TARDIS Eruditorum, a history of Britain told through the lens of a ropey sci-fi series. She also wrote Neoreaction a Basilisk, writes comics these days, and has ADHD so will probably just randomly write some other shit sooner or later. Support Elizabeth on Patreon.


  1. T. Hartwell
    September 11, 2013 @ 12:34 am

    "for example, Turlough never really works right after Enlightenment."

    huffs quietly in a corner at being one of the very few people who quite liked him in Frontios.


  2. Carey
    September 11, 2013 @ 1:20 am

    The tragedy of Martha is that Davies was ill during the early part of series three, and the Dalek two parter had less input from him than usual, and that Stephen Greenhorn had the same contract as Matthew Graham and Steven Moffat, in that Davies could not rewrite them, only give notes.

    I believe this is partly why Martha comes across as a "generic" companion in these three episodes (and, to a lesser extent, the Shakespeare Code). It is the same problem the greets new Doctors, in the writers don't really know how the actor will play the part and therefore write a new Doctor as an amalgam of previous character traits, and it's only when stories are either finished or broadcast that the writers cotton on to the actor's tics, limitations and pluses (oddly enough, the one exception to this rule is "The Twin Dilemma, where everyone saw the Doctor so over the top that they exaggerated that in season 22!). It is only in the two Davies scripts (and his rewrites of The Shakespeare Code) that she comes across as a character in her own right.

    It's interesting that after The Lazarus Experiment (by which point there is enough footage that the creative team can see what Freema is good at as an actress) that she starts to excel. In short, she's really good at conveying suffering. There's an argument to be made that, within the context of the Davies' era, the Human Nature two parter could only be written as is with Martha as a companion: there is no way that Rose would have agreed to become a servant for several months (and, of course, it would destabilise John Smith's relationship with Joan), and I would imagine that Donna would similarly told the Doctor where to go if asked. Even in the Smith era, Amy would probably end up as a form of support for the school but not a servant, and I'd imagine that only Clara, who has many of the same problems as Martha as a replacement companion, would consider the position of servant to help the Doctor. As Phil says, Martha is very much the most capable companion of the Davies era: she is the only one of the three companions who saves the universe without super-powers.

    Series three is, despite the disappointment of the Dalek two parter and the Lazarus Experiment, is probably my favourite Tennant series. Series two flounders after The Girl In The Fire Place, and Doomsday is retroactively undermined by Rose's return in series four; and series four, for all that it has probably the best production of all the Davies' series, starts to run out of new ideas and feels like earlier ones are being revisited but with an idea to make them bigger.

    Thematically the series works well, with the first half mirroring the second: up to the Lazarus experiment the series explores what happens in the absence of Rose. The second half explores what happens in the absence of the Doctor himself. From 42 onwards, only Utopia contains an appearance by the Doctor where he isn't in one way or another removed from the narrative or, if you prefer, emasculated: even the Sound of Drums is really an episode of a parallel tv series called The Master where the Doctor is the adversary.

    And Martha is the only new series companion (with the possible exception of Clara) that this would work for.


  3. Prole Hole
    September 11, 2013 @ 2:16 am

    I think he's great in Frontios too, if it helps any. He gets to fly massively over the top but never seem ridiculous or hammy, and that's quite a trick (and one which functions for Doctor Who very well). I even think he does well in Planet Of Fire – that story has many, myriad problems but I never felt that either Turlough or Mark Strickson was one of them.


  4. dm
    September 11, 2013 @ 2:20 am

    I third the praise for him in Frontios and second the praise for him in Planet of Fire. He's underused outside of those, but his presence in something like The Five Doctors, which is obviously both stretched and overstuffed, sketchbook in hand, is still palpable. After Enlightenment he really does settle nicely into his role as The Enlightened Companion.


  5. Wm Keith
    September 11, 2013 @ 2:32 am

    "There is no way that Rose would have agreed to be a servant for several months".

    Clearly, you don't work as a sales assistant in a department store. (Nor do I, but Mrs Keith does).


  6. EclecticDave
    September 11, 2013 @ 3:58 am

    "the Doctor fires a companion. What’s shocking here is that there’s no visible reason for it."

    To be fair, he's not so much firing her as choosing not to hire her.

    In Smith and Jones he agrees to take her on "one trip", which he stretches to "one trip to the past, one to the future" for Gridlock. He did the same with Rose for End Of The World and Unquiet Dead, seemingly only taking her on full time after Aliens Of London/World War III.

    So, except for the unexplained diversion to 1920's New York, the Doctor is simply concluding his agreement here and dropping Martha off at home after her "one trip". He is still pining for Rose and just isn't ready to commit to Martha just yet. Even after this episode he's initially only prepared to offer her "one more trip" and it's up to Martha to press for the same "terms" as he gave Rose, before finally being "hired" as the replacement companion.


  7. Adam Riggio
    September 11, 2013 @ 4:23 am

    Technically true, but watching the scene, it does reach an odd level of awkwardness that only really happens in rejection conversations. The unrequited love arc rears its head pretty clearly in this scene, thanks to Martha's body language. Have a look at Carey's point in the comments above: it's a spot-on assessment of what Freema Agyeman is good at, conveying suffering. In this episode's first scene, it isn't literally suffering, but it is that terrible awkwardness when a guy you really like has taken you on a few commitment-free dates, had a reasonable time with you, but still isn't interested enough in you to have a genuine shot at it.

    It's almost a running gag in the series how particular Doctor/Martha scenes are shot to convey the language of the awkward are-we/aren't-we relationship.


  8. Seeing_I
    September 11, 2013 @ 4:57 am



  9. landru
    September 11, 2013 @ 5:40 am

    I must admit, this episode didn't bother me, but it clearly didn't shine. And you really nailed it with "giving Mark Gatiss a 40th birthday present." That very obvious in the end sequence, which is a bit weird and old-fashioned … the plot seems to just stop for a little Gatiss "bad guy" moment. It's an oddity in the RTD series, which contains mostly unsatisfying and/or rushed endings, to have the plot stop 10 minutes (or whatever) before the end of the program.

    I'm not sure I agree with you about Martha, though most of your points are valid in general, I didn't feel she was being treated poorly … I felt, as a Doctor herself, she'd probably want to get back to that.


  10. Lewis Christian
    September 11, 2013 @ 5:43 am

    Nothing against Freema, but she was hired after the production team were impressed by her in the Series 2 finale.

    I'd love to know what they saw in her. If I recall, she was a bit wooden and then got Cyber-ised. Woo.


  11. encyclops
    September 11, 2013 @ 6:32 am

    He’s particularly good at “I am turning into a monster” spasms and that ever-important Doctor Who standard, the “I have just eaten somebody” face.


    What saves this episode for me and makes it watchable is the fact that both of Martha's siblings are heartbreakingly gorgeous. For me they perform the same function as Ross the soldier in "The Sontaran Casserole" in giving me just a few moments during the episodes to sigh with admiration rather than exasperation.

    Also, is it just me or does the Lazarus monster's appearance combined with its method of defeat (the cathedral and its sound vibrations) seem influenced by the Soul Reaver series of video games?


    • Harry
      May 2, 2024 @ 12:35 pm

      I forgot that the Lazarus creature was defeated by sonic vibrations at the cathedral. Today, I heard that this was originally to have featured an alien skin, but that was shelved due to similarities to the then upcoming Spider-Man 3, and the whole symbiote/Venom bit. If this is true, then perhaps the means by which the Doctor wins out survived from an earlier draft…


  12. Ross
    September 11, 2013 @ 6:36 am

    It reminds me most, possibly because it's been twenty years since I last saw it, of the creature Mark Hamil turns into at the end of Guyver.


  13. encyclops
    September 11, 2013 @ 7:40 am

    For reference, this is the creature (and even the pose) I was thinking of:

    Zephon's not defeated by sound himself (at least one of his vampire brothers is) but he does live in the "Silenced Cathedral."


  14. encyclops
    September 11, 2013 @ 7:49 am

    Also, Soul Reaver and its sequels are pretty much the most timey-wimey video games I've ever played. The convolutions of plot through time and the revelations and paradoxes surrounding the title character's nature remind me an awful lot of Moffat's Who. Playing through all three would be a pretty time-consuming activity if you're not a big gamer, but this timeline might give you a little sense of how complicated it gets (and it doesn't even include the final game in the series!):


  15. elvwood
    September 11, 2013 @ 7:57 am

    "the Lazarus monster is an impressive feat too"

    Really? Blimey. It skitters well, I'll grant you that; but the CGI critter here, along with it being the fourth episode in a row in which I was going "no no no no no, genetics does not work like that!", contributed to my disappointment. I very briefly considered stopping watching. Well, not in a more than idle way, but I was starting to think some of the magic had gone (to nick a phrase from Gareth Roberts).

    Maybe I was just missing Rose, but I don't remember being that keen on her. Though having said that, Freema's accent rubbed me up the wrong way in much the same way that Sophie Aldred's did later – I thought it was bad line delivery until I spotted (in each case) that they talked just the same in interview and realised it was just my prejudices.

    Fortunately Chris Chibnall was just around the corner to restore my faith. And that's not a phrase many fans would have used before series 7!


  16. Assad K
    September 11, 2013 @ 8:34 am

    Spittle like that probably wasn't seen again until Tim Dalton's Rassilon..


  17. coebabalifeandlove
    September 11, 2013 @ 8:44 am

    Oh, yes, I really liked his character and the actor, too, but unfortunately, they didn't really develop Turlough beyond the Black Guardian triology, or at least not until his final episodes. Though they did give him something extra in the end.


  18. Assad K
    September 11, 2013 @ 8:46 am

    If there's criticism of Freema going on here, is that to suggest Billie Piper was brilliant? Not a sentiment I would agree with. I'm not saying, just to clarify, that Billie was bad, she was.. fine. All my antipathy is reserved for Rose.

    And as my own 40th is coming up soon, where can I sign up to appear in an episode..???


  19. coebabalifeandlove
    September 11, 2013 @ 8:53 am

    Well, she did that horror movie type scene, where she sneaked off for an office romance and then walked right into a Cyberman trap. Not exactly top-notch acting, but it was sort of like a classic Doctor Who companion, (I just recently watched Seeds of Doom and Sarah Jane/Elizabeth definitely did that a couple of times) and maybe it did inspire Davies to think of Freema in that light as he started to develop next series's companion character.


  20. Daibhid C
    September 11, 2013 @ 8:56 am

    I think that would give more impetus to Rose's refusal, really. (Can you imagine if the Doctor wanted Donna to work in an office for several months? "That's what I came with you to get away from, sunshine!")


  21. Bennett
    September 11, 2013 @ 9:39 am

    To further this line of thought…after agreeing to be a servant for several months Martha decries about having to "get a job in a shop" in the very next episode.


  22. Bennett
    September 11, 2013 @ 9:53 am

    Adam:"Technically true, but watching the scene, it does reach an odd level of awkwardness that only really happens in rejection conversations

    This is really not helped by the fact that during this scene the Doctor picks up a piece of Martha's underwear.

    (My vote for worst Tennant performance choice is the look he gives Martha as he holds the item up for her to see. I find it absolutely repugnant.)


  23. Matthew Blanchette
    September 11, 2013 @ 1:13 pm

    …to be fair, I don't think Moffat and Cornell knew what the other was writing, exactly.


  24. coebabalifeandlove
    September 11, 2013 @ 1:18 pm

    However, as pointed out in yesterday's Moffat post, the two of them are friends and have been for a long time. I think they do talk about some things.


  25. Galadriel
    September 11, 2013 @ 1:51 pm

    I was thinking along the same lines as Bennett here. Is there any other companion who's had to deal with the Doctor sans TARDIS for an extended period of time? I think the only other time the Doctor is "kicked out" is The Lodger, in which Amy is trapped inside.


  26. mengu
    September 11, 2013 @ 4:08 pm

    " after her departure, the character becomes quite a problem character. Because the series has given the Doctor’s endorsement to not really liking Martha. It really becomes difficult to get that invested in her after that. Not impossible, but you’re actively reading against the grain of the series at that point."

    What? There is definitely a sizable fraction who say she was better in series 4 'when she'd got over the Doctor' than series 3, and you're the first person I've ever heard say the reverse. Once she's gone off and been successful at UNIT and the Doctor is nice to her, it becomes harder to be invested in her?


  27. Elizabeth Sandifer
    September 11, 2013 @ 4:11 pm

    In that the damage has already been done, yes. Though as I said, the fact that her three episode run in Series Four consists of the rubbish monster two-parter and a Stephen Greenhorn script, there may be other problems in play as well.


  28. encyclops
    September 11, 2013 @ 4:25 pm

    I love Martha but I have to agree: in the Sontaran two-parter, the "original" Martha is even absent for a large chunk of the action. She does a little better in "The Doctor's Daughter-Wife," getting to actually, you know, care for a patient, but I had trouble buying her anguish at the death of that patient — not because it was badly acted (au contraire) but because, like everything in that script, it felt forced rather than earned. It's as if Freema agreed to come back only if she could do some "interesting" things, like play her own evil clone, fix an alien's arm, and have a big crying scene. More power to her, but I'm with Phil, it came a little too late for me.


  29. ferret
    September 11, 2013 @ 4:29 pm

    It's all lies. The Doctor is making her pay her way in the TARDIS by taking a few holidays at her expense.

    Human Nature, Blink, even in "Last of the Timelords" he gets a year off glamping on the deck of the Valiant while Martha works as a Guerrilla PR agent on Earth.

    If not for Captain Jack the Doc would probably have had Martha wrangling Futurekind for a few months while he kicked back in Yana's laboratory pretending to build a time vortex manipulator he'd already knocked up in the first day.


  30. Jenda
    September 11, 2013 @ 11:43 pm

    "Is there any other companion who's had to deal with the Doctor sans TARDIS for an extended period of time?"

    Does Jo Grant count?



  31. EclecticDave
    September 12, 2013 @ 5:10 am

    Absolutely, I didn't mean to suggest that this scene was entirely unproblematic. Just that it wasn't true that was "no visible reason for it". Diegetically it's clear there was a reason and if we're talking extra-diagetically, Phil has already made it clear that replacing Billy Piper needed to be handled carefully, so it seems likely that RTD felt it necessary to project a certain reluctance on the part of Doctor about the need to replace Rose.


  32. Scott
    September 12, 2013 @ 6:40 am

    I can imagine Rose and Donna as the maid, actually. In-context, the whole 'servant' situation is pretty needs-must; the Doctor needs to hide, needs to lose his identity and needs the companion close by to keep him out of trouble and given the time period a domestic servant is probably the best bet from a practical standpoint. It's a pretty urgent situation all round, so while I can imagine Rose and Donna griping to high heaven about the situation, given the stakes I can imagine the Doctor browbeating them into it eventually if necessary, albeit with much reluctance and chafing on their part.

    "However, as pointed out in yesterday's Moffat post, the two of them are friends and have been for a long time. I think they do talk about some things."

    I'd imagine the substance of the conversation would be more likely to be "Oh, you're adapting your novel? Awesome! Mine has killer statues," than the two going through it line-by-line to make sure that Martha's stances on servitude are consistent. In any case, this explanation's easy; having just spent two episodes as a domestic servant in 1913, Martha is understandably not exactly thrilled with having to wait on the Doctor hand and foot yet again not very long after. Hence her more vocal annoyance this time.


  33. Galadriel
    September 12, 2013 @ 8:20 am

    Jenda–true, Jo and Liz do have to deal with an earthbound Doctor, but that's the daily business, not an interruption of time-space travel.


  34. Scott
    October 28, 2013 @ 11:11 pm

    Worth remembering, in "School Reunion" Rose goes undercover as a school lunchlady. Which, admittedly, is not exactly Edwardian servitude, and she does plenty of moaning about it, but she does it regardless. I don't really see how the idea of her taking the role of the maid is somehow beneath her.


  35. John
    December 30, 2013 @ 9:41 pm

    It seems to me that "Replacing Billie Piper had to be done carefully" turned out to be a totally self-fulfilling prophecy. Rose was fine up to Doomsday. Having the Doctor be sad in "Runaway Bride" was perfectly fine. But moping about it for all of series 3 didn't slowly wean people off Rose. It made the Rose people double down on how Rose was irreplaceable while irritating the people who didn't really care for Rose.

    Davies could just as easily have decided that replacing Eccleston "needed to be handled carefully," and spent all of Season 2 with Rose moping about how Ten just wasn't the same as Nine. If that had happened, probably a lot of fans would have decided they agreed with her, and refused to accept Tennant too. Instead, Davies let Rose quickly accept this new version of the Doctor, and the audience consequently accepted him as well. What Davies did with replacing Rose was the exact opposite, and for no particularly good reason.

    To a very large extent, Davies's reluctance to allow the Doctor to accept a replacement for Rose was the cause for the audience's reluctance to accept her replacement. I'm not sure any show has moped around about a cast change the way Doctor Who did about Rose, and I don't see how that was a healthy decision at all.


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