Ladies Who Need More Love: Martha Jones (Doctor Who)

Martha Jones [Freema Agyeman] appears in the third season of the rebooted version of Doctor Who, as a companion to the Tenth Doctor [David Tennant]. While many fans consider Martha to be the first black companion on the show, others dispute this fact, claiming that title belongs to Mickey Smith [Noel Clarke] who appeared in first and second season, traveling with the Doctor temporarily. Either way, Martha’s introduction should have been a Doctor Who milestone, as she was the first person of colour to travel with the Doctor on a permanent basis, but instead her time as the Doctor’s companion has been fraught with criticism and even hate, and, aside from a few guest appearances in the fourth season and spin-off Torchwood, her run on the show ended after just one season.

One of the biggest issues that affected Martha Jones’ time on the show was the fact that she is the Doctor’s second permanent companion, a replacement for the show’s first and one of its most popular companions Rose Tyler [Billie Piper]. The relationship between Rose and The Doctor was intense, with an obvious romantic love developing between the two of them. When Martha arrived on the show, fans were still grieving over Rose’s departure and many seemed to resent Martha’s obvious crush on the Doctor, claiming that she wanted too much from him so soon after he lost the person he was closest to.

Much of the fan criticism of Martha seems to be along the same theme: that she’s too clingy or too needy, that she can’t do anything without the Doctor’s instruction, and that she’s useless, particularly when compared to the Doctor’s other companions.

The constant comparisons between Martha and Rose, as well as the tenth Doctor’s third companion Donna Noble [Catherine Tate] seem to have an element of racism running through them, particularly when you consider that many of the things the fans criticise Martha over are the same things that Rose and Donna (who are both white) are praised for. For example challenging the Doctor’s decisions or opinions, when Rose or Donna do it it’s a sign that they are the Doctor’s equal but when Martha does she whiny or bitchy. While Rose and Donna are two of the most beloved companions, with their achievements and their developments acknowledged by the fans, Martha’s achievements are dismissed or even downright ignored.

There also seems to be sexism present in the criticisms as well, with the use of gendered slurs such as bitch or slut and violent imagery around the suggestion that Martha should have been killed off. Qualities which earn praise and fan appreciation if present in a male character are instead treated like negatives for Martha, for example her intellect rather than being admired results in her being referred to as a know-it-all.

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