Who Returns: Doctor Who 3: Smith and Jones AKA Rhinos in Spaaaaace


Doctor Who: Series Three, Episode 1: Smith and Jones

Rose Tyler, the tenth Doctor’s first companion, has been banished to a parallel universe after the 2006 invasion of the Cybermen and Daleks. After a brief detour to help the Runaway Bride at Christmas, the 3rd series of new Doctor Who has to re-establish the Doctor (David Tennant) and introduce a brand new Who assistant.

Anyone hoping for the variety of assistants in the old series will be disappointed. The new Who team have played it very safe by making the next assistant another young, feisty girl from London, with an Eastenders-style family who can only be there to draw in people who think it’s all a bit too sci-fi. I’m pleased that, apart from her already-irritating family, Martha Jones (Freema Agyeman) is a pretty decent character.

In a less-manic introduction than Rose had, we’re simply shown Martha walking to work through crowded streets, whilst keeping the family peace via mobile phone. She gets to work at a huge hospital next to the London Eye (of course it’s there really…) and it’s established that she’s training as a doctor. On her way there, she bumps into the Doctor, who removes his tie and strides off.

She runs into the Doctor again, uncovers the two-hearts secret, and for some reason keeps this fact very quiet. Possibly it’s because the top consultant is such a pompous git, in that way perfected by characters in Casualty. She also notices there’s a lot of static electricity, and that there are two black-clad couriers hanging around the wards, wearing cycle-helmets and an attitude. They will go on to be the cheapest alien effect ever used! Mind you, the leather biker jackets probably weren’t cheap…

After a throwaway line about the Doctor having a brother (which I have a horrible feeling will never be touched on again), Martha is once again on her mobile phone with her sister. Her sister notices the weird weather centring around the hospital, and then shouts that the rain is going upwards! Martha totally failed to notice this, despite the doctor constantly praising her brains later on. It takes her mate, whom the doctor cruelly says to leave behind, to point this out.

Anyway, the short version here is that the hospital ends up on the moon, which looks okay – most new Who Special Effects (SFX) look slightly plastic, and this is no exception. Everyone in the hospital just freaks out – some more convincingly than others. ‘Others’ being the mooks who are just giggling. Good actors are expensive! David Tennant damn well isn’t cheap! Not since Harry Potter!

And enter the Doctor. The doctor seems to be hot on the trail of what’s caused it. He’s obviously quite taken with Martha’s fearless approach to finding out how they have air on the moon. Then the alien ships land outside – quite impressively, for the Doctor Who SFX guys, as the ships have texture and size, even if the little aliens who march out from them resemble LEGO men. They march through the force-field, and quickly enter the hospital. One removes his helmet and – despite the Sontaran helmet, is very obviously a rhino. A rubbery rhino in a space suit. With a Judge Dredd complex. He and his space-sop pals are here looking for a alien criminal posing as a human, and they set about scanning all the humans looking for the odd-one out.

There are other problems at hand, though, as smarmy consultant bloke is drained of blood by the very thing Judge Rhino is after. Posing as a little old lady, the ‘plasmavore’ (yes, a vampire. Where’s Buffy when you need her?) hides her inhumanity by absorbing the consultant’s blood. The space rhino’s scan and move on.

Martha barges in on the plasmavore’s snack whilst looking for the consultant. Chased by the Bike Couriers of Death, she runs for it, joined by the Doctor, they leg it to the X-Ray department where the Doctor successfully zaps one of the leather-clad-killers with a massive dose of radiation. He also busts his sonic screwdriver. I guess he won’t be having any more granddaughters. The Doc then shakes the radiation out of his body and into his shoe, and Martha asks who the monsters from the ‘Planet Zovirax’ are. I’m still in two minds about whether that’s a good reference. It’s a little obscure – especially when they actually look like The Stig from Top Gear.

Meanwhile, everyone else still has the characterisation of a piece of chipboard, and our two heroes realise that they’re going to run out of oxygen very soon. But there’s no time to waste – the space-Rhino are heading their way again. The Doctor runs off to stop the evil space vampire (from Victoria Wood’s Dinnerladies), after snogging Martha to leave a ‘residue of alien matter’ on her. I’m paraphrasing, but basincally he left a trace of his, er, DNA on her mouth so that the Rhino Judges would stop and interrogate her. I’m still curious what the compensation was that they hand to her later?

The Doctor has used his snog-detour to barge in on the plasma-sucker, pretending to be the world’s most annoying postman to find out her plan. Space-vamp intends to use an MRI machine to zap the Judges, the people in the hospital and, oh, half of Earth, in order to nick one of the Judge’s ships and escape. (Okay, the space rhino’s species are called Judoon. Is that quicker to type?) The Doc’s grabbed by the remaining Stig and fools her into drinking his blood. She drops him, apparently dead, as the Judoon(s) arrive.

Now, the plan would still have backfired if Martha didn’t figure it out and zap the space vampire with the scanner that proves she’s the monster they’re after. In fact, she’s such a monster that she sucked the blood of an innocent little space-princess, whom she hated for her blonde curls and rosy cheeks. The Judoon zap her into oblivion and we’re actually quite pleased about that. Case closed.

Sadly, space-vamp’s ‘kill everything else’ plan is still operating, and if that doesn’t get everyone, the lack of oxygen will. The Judoon Space-rhino judges wisely decide to run away in their big pepper-grinder spaceships. Suffocating Martha desperately attempts to revive the Doctor with CPR, while the audience tries to figure out why the Doctor hasn’t had to regenerate while being, to all intents, very very dead. No, really, it needed at least some explanation. It totally confused a kid on the CBBC reviews page! If a little kid can figure this out, I think there needed to be a line somewhere to clear it up. Also, how does CPR bring you back when you’ve got no blood? Anyone?

But, back to the finale. The Doctor revives after 10 seconds of CPR to both hearts, and handily saves everyone from being zapped by a bazillion bolts of electricity. Earth is saved, but the hospital is still in trouble. The Doctor decides to help everyone suffocate that bit quicker by carrying Martha’s suffocating corpse to the hallway FOR NO REASON AT ALL. Luckily the Judoon reverse their hospital-napping, and the hospital returns to its position near a major London landmark. Just in time. No one’s lungs burst at the repressurisation. Hoorah!

Martha sees the Doctor leave, and tries to go back to her soap-opera family. The party she was helping to organise that evening is the disaster they all expected. A brassy blonde gold-digger is only the tip of an atrocious-acting iceberg. Outside the Queen Vic (or whatever) Martha sees the Doctor lurking in a nearby alley. Instead of calling the police, she goes over to him. He tells her he’s a Timelord, and waggles his brand new sonic screwdriver at her.

His first appearance to her that morning, where he removed his tie, apparently proves to her that his ship not only travels in space, but time as well. She’s happy because this means she can get back in time to pay her rent and take her exams. Weirdo. Once he’s seduced her inside the TARDIS, he makes it very clear that SHE’S NOT REPLACING ROSE. You hear that, Who-Fans? SHE WON’T BE REPLACING ROSE!!

This sorted out, he whisks her off on a very very bumpy ride in his spaceship…

Overall: Not a terrible introduction to the new assistant, and it benefits from Freema’s likeable acting style. I’m worried that there’ll be lots of annoying ‘famerlee’ moments though, because frankly they suck, their acting’s awful, and I want to see somewhere other than London!

I think the special effects are inching towards respectability. I wish they’d use some decent model shots, though. Red Dwarf looked better than this most of the time (til the CGI’d that, too)!

A nice introduction with a lot of similarities to Rose and a typical reliance on blind luck, but I’m glad that Martha’s got her head screwed on. Wonder how long that’ll last – I bet plenty of things in the galaxy like tearing necks off….

Next week: The Shakespeare Code.

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