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On-the-rebound relationships are always hard, aren’t they? Especially if you’re not the one who is suffering separation pangs. It doesn’t matter what you do, how hard you work – and let’s be clear on this, Martha works HARD – you’ll never quite match up to the perfect angel who came and went before you.
So, when trainee doctor Martha Jones – played by Freema Agyeman – takes up the offer of a berth on the TARDIS with the handsome stranger who has already kissed her and winked suggestively when she took his pulse, you have to feel a little sorry for her. For all that he’s a garrulous flirt, the Tenth Doctor is not about to risk his feelings like he did with Rose.
At first, she sees this as a challenge, trusting that her natural charm and personality will eventually rub off on him. Her basic mistake is to confuse his desperate loneliness with a need for a physical relationship, and because he shared such an intimate bond with Rose, he’s not about to drop his guard and explain why that can’t happen. So there’s a prolongued period of awkwardness between the two of them, where her feelings bubble and percolate, while he’s still brooding.
And of course it all ends up getting a bit serious, when she finally realises nothing is going to happen. Her emotions have run away with her and he pretends he doesn’t even know. It’s too complicated, too raw.
The thing to remember about Martha, who sometimes gets a bad rap from Whovians for simply failing to be either Rose or Donna, is that a lot of the Doctor’s most fondly remembered adventures (of recent years) have happened on her watch. The return of the Master, the Family of Blood, even the Weeping Angels, she saw it all.
And to reiterate that point at the beginning, she works harder than any other companion. When the Master takes over the world, ages the Doctor and locks him in a cage, she spends a year walking all over the planet Earth, urging everyone she meets to focus on the Doctor’s name at just the right time. A YEAR. WALKING. And BIGGING UP THE MAN SHE HAS AN UNREQUITED CRUSH ON.
When the Doctor hides his true Time Lord identity in the human form of John Smith, it’s Martha who has to bring him back, even though at first he treats her like the hired help, and later, like he’s persecuting him.
She works so hard she winds up abandoning her medical career in order to retrain as a solder for UNIT. She’s an unstoppable force, and it’s still never quite good enough. Hell, even when she realizes this is the case, Martha has to work harder than anyone else at saying goodbye. Here’s her first go at it:
And her second:
And her third:
And her last. Chasing Sontarans, carrying a huge gun and married to Mickey, someone else who was left out of the Doctor’s relationship with Rose.
A happy ending? Hard to say, but whatever happiness does come Martha’s way, you can’t say she hasn’t earned it.