Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Dr Who: Rose vs Martha: Some Thoughts

Instead of reviewing the latest Who two parter--which was truly atrocious--I've been thinking about how Martha is shaping up as the new female lead vs the character she replaced.

Rose really was more important than the Doctor--especially in that first series. We meet her -- and *she* meets him. Mulvey would say she has the power of "the gaze," meaning where she looks, the camera--and hence, the narrative--follows. She was our narrator.

Martha doesn't have that power--at least, not yet.

Rose was his equal--perhaps even his superior--in terms of importance to the show. And her significance was growing by the end of the first series as she became formidable on the more mytholgoical end of the show, which had heretofore been the Doctor's sole province: she possessed the heart of the TARDIS, rescued the Doctor, defeated the Daleks, kept hi safe through regeneration, etc.

Martha, by contrast, is clearly a subordinate--She's a wide-eyed, wisecracking guest, and possibly a protege. (Rose was new to the Doctor's world, but he was never her mentor--so that might be a potent area for them to explore with Martha.) But from the first shot of The Runaway Bride, it was clear that The Doctor is now the star of his own show, rather than the costar.

And, I must admit that, even though I really didn't like Billie Piper, I *did* prefer it the other way. I think it makes sense to have the more relatable, human character and her context (family, friends, etc) at the core of the show... and the crazy, godlike alien science ficiton/fantasy stuff off to the side just a bit. In the first series, it really helped to anchor the fantastic elements embodied by the Doctor and *his* context when they could return to Jackie's flat to watch Eastenders and do a pot noodle.

And, at the moment, they really *can't* do that with Martha. (I'm not sure how enjoyable that would be with Martha's yuppie family, anyway, but they need to give it a try.)

What I really want to see is an exploration of how Martha is different from Rose, not how they are alike, and we really haven't seen too much of that.

Rose was a wanderer at heart--quite the bohemian. Her roots at home were not that deep--no career, no property to maintain, no husband. All she had to really tie her to her time and place was her mother and an on again/off again boyfriend.... which is to say: not much. That's why she didn't have too much trouble taking off: she fell in love with the life afforded by the Doctor first, and it's easy to see why: it gave her a life of *meaning* she didn't have at home. And, like a good hippie, she developed feelings for the guy who owns the VW van TARDIS later.

Whereas Martha is a professional, from a firmly middle-class background. She has her internship, her future career--to which she no doubt has been quite dedicated--to consider. I wouldn't be surprised to find out that a life of wandering aimlessly from one time period to another, one planet to another, doesn't actually appeal to her at all. On the other hand, she might sacrifice a lot to visit, and learn from, specific times and places. And she might develop deeper ties to the Doctor for other, more concrete reasons (perhaps in service to a larger purpose or mission -- if one were to materialize.)

What I don't like is the idea that she's the kind of character who can meet someone and spend episode after episode pining away. I want a strong, multi-faceted chaacter--Unrequited love is the domain of the weak, and one-note. Martha is a scientist--She's a doctor, herself. That's the defining idea behind this character, and RTD needs to start exploring that, aggressively. Dramatically speaking, she should more sensible about stuff like this--or at least, she should STRIVE to be more sensible about stuff like this. Her primary motivations for traveling with him should be more compelling than that.

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