Doctor Who S3.8 review

The Doctor's in hiding and Martha's supposedly getting fired. It's not a happy Tardis on this trip to the country

In an interesting confluence of events, this week saw Martha having to charge of events in Doctor Who proper, just as it was vaguely rumoured – and denied – that she was off the programme by the end of the series. Now, we are talking about the Sun here, so it’s not exactly from a beacon of truth-telling respectability. But there still may be something in the rumours.

Given the paper’s previous priority access to many big Who stories, like Cybermen and Dalek pics, it could conceivably be the programme-makers floating the idea and seeing what people would think of ditching her. And mercifully, the reaction seems to have been a stern ‘she’s quite good, actually, leave your hands off.’ The idea from the quoted BBC source that the falling ratings are Freema Agyeman’s fault would be more believable if they weren’t entirely, unerringly 100% attributable to unimaginative writing.

Human Nature neatly demonstrates why Martha’s a good thing. With the Doctor tied up in human form and falling in love (incidentally, FAR too quickly to be believably played out, even by the wonderful Jessica Not Stevenson), she rolled her sleeves up, scrubbed floors and gamely took racist comments. Her declaration of love for the Doctor seems unlikely to end up anywhere interesting, but it can quietly burble away in the background. A hands-on ballsy lieutenant is what the Doctor needs and what she’s provided, looking after him in human hiding.

The Doctor, meanwhile, having become human, seemed to act remarkably like the Doctor. He always did cut quite an Edwardian schoolteacher figure, so it’s not an overwhelming surprise. That he was so well-anchored in convincing Edwardian times, without the need of explaining and dissecting every piece of class division or social staidness as normally happens with new surroundings in Who, would suggest that splitting the Doctor and Martha up was a good idea. Well, that, and there’s a decent writer in charge for once.

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Still, you can understanding why there’s the need to hide from the actually-quite-scary Family of Blood. This is largely thanks to Baines’ face, a spiteful sneer of joyful malice that plays out like a young Mr Burns. The scarecrows were nicely Jeepers Creepers scary, although how sinister they’ll be without some fancy straw tricks up their tatty sleeves for next week is yet to be seen.

Still, it’s good acting a-plenty in the countryside. Jessica Not Stevenson (yes, I’m going to make that stick) always does play bumbling lovely folk so nicely, and both war prophet Tim and the girl with a red balloon managed to be child actors who can actually, well, act.

All in all, a good episode that shows that Martha should be kept aboard the Tardis. Now they just have to work out how they’re getting rid of the current Tennant, and there will be a full complement of crew who can act properly.