“Smith and Jones” – Review: Redux

Doctor “Crossing into established events is strictly forbidden. Except for cheap tricks.”

Smith and Jones

There was not a single person on screen in “Smith and Jones” who had also appeared during 2005’s Series One. It is testament to the Doctor Who’s inherent longevity that this fact was of almost no concern to anyone watching. At its core it’s a programme about change, so no biggie. However, you can bet that the production team was under pressure to deliver something special that would ensure that the massive fanbase stayed loyal to the show following Billie Piper’s departure, in the same way that it had done following the end of Eccleston’s tenure.  The overnight ratings of an impressive 8.2million viewers representing a sliver under 40% audience share who had tuned in to find out.  Structurally, there were many similarities to Rose inasmuch as we had no pre-title tease, we began with the a domestic perspective of the new companion’s life, this was then turned upside down in a breakneck-paced adventure where she helped the mysterious stranger to defeat the aliens, then the companion reverted to her family life before ultimately being tempted away in a dark alleyway with promises of travels in space and time for a journey of a lifetime.

There was certainly a huge build-up to this Series Three debut. There were (as far as I counted) seven different trailers, a series guest interviews on Richard and JudyBBC BreakfastEntertainment TodayThe Charlotte Church ShowGraham NortonWales TodayThis Morning, Newsround and Blue Peter, even more spots on almost every BBC radio station, column inches in the printed media wherever you cared to look and a glittering press launch that wouldn’t have been out of place for a Hollywood blockbuster.  Throughout all this, the first question on almost everyone lips was: “Is Freema any good?”. On 31st March 2007, we all got the chance to make our first judgements as, in its established home of 7pm Saturday night on BBC1, Doctor Who‘s third series (of the new stuff) got underway with fiendishly clever first story.

The introduction of Martha and her eventual decision to travel with the Doctor meant that the action was squeezed into the middle 35 minutes during which the pace was relentless and starting with the whole hospital being transported to the moon for the Judoon to undertake their investigations. It never ceases to amaze me how so much action can actually be played out in such a short space of time.  The revelation that Anne Reid was the main antagonist was kind of given away in the various previews that we saw but her two henchmen, the Slabs, were a nice touch.  Additionally, the Judoon were a great addition to the gallery of Who monsters as the militaristic police force who dish out execution and compensation with equal measure and it is no surprise that they are regularly marched out in more minor roles and even at the plethora of live Doctor Who events that we’ve seen over the last eight years.

“Smith and Jones” was a much more confident and more accomplished tale than “Rose”, which was illustrated by a lovely little demonstration of time travel as the Doctor popped back to the start of the episode to prove the TARDIS’s time travelling capabilities. Rose had not needed such an immediate demonstration to be convinced of this, highlighting a difference between the two companions in their respective early days: Rose being wide-eyed and eager to jump at the chance to escape the mundane life, while Martha was more skeptical and had a life with which she was already happy. Freema Agyeman approached the role with vigour and enthusiasm and probably had already won over many of Rose’s biggest fans by the time the credits’ rolled.  Some little asides and quips were delivered naturally and effortlessly. For instance, the look in her eyes after she told the Doctor that she “only went for humans” spoke volumes about her inner feelings that were at odds with the words.  As David Tennant said on Doctor Who Confidential afterwards, Russell T Davies has been extremely clever in  looking at the hole that Rose’s departure has left in the Doctor’s life and creating a character who is a completely different shape to come along and try to fill it.  I am thoroughly looking forward to the next two weeks as I revisit Martha’s season.

Highlight: A new companion

Lowlight: Some of Martha’s family seemed a little unnecessary for the story (even with the whole series in hindsight)

Talking Point: Comparing the three series openers, “Rose”, “New Earth” and “Smith and Jones”, are we seeing a progression in quality? 

Demon’s Run Rating: 14 out of 20

Original BBC1 Broadcast: 31st March 2007

Marathon Status: Series Three, baby!

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  1. September 14th, 2013

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