A platoon of Judoon, on the moon. This is the episode where an entire hospital is whisked away by intergalactic rent-a-cops searching for a shape-shifting Plasmavore. It also introduces the brand new companion for this season, Martha Jones.
A medical student with a dysfunctional family straight out of Eastenders, Martha meets the Doctor by chance while he’s investigating the strange electrical activity surrounding the hospital (and posing as a patient, John Smith). It’s interesting that the Doctor claims he wants to travel alone, but when he picks a ‘new recruit’, we get a sense of how his selection process works. Martha’s instincts impress the Doctor. While everyone else is running around like headless chickens, Martha asks intelligent questions and sees things that others miss. She keeps a level head, even in the face of ridiculous events, and clicks with the Doctor straight away. In this sense, she’s not unlike Rose, although the Doctor makes it clear she is not her replacement.
Smith and Jones depicts the planet Earth as just another insignificant orb in a vast universe of alien politics. I like the way it’s outside of Judoon jurisdiction, so they have to teleport a chunk of it to the neutral territory of the moon in order to conduct their search. The Judoon aren’t good or evil, they’re just soldiers for hire, logical but mindless, similar to the Sontarans (although less obsessed with the mechanics of war). Rhino-like in appearance, their commander is a striking presence (with fully animated features), but confirms a lack of originality in Doctor Who’s alien designs. We’ve had trees, pigs, spiders and now space-rhinos. It’s a zoo out there, apparently.
Despite everything going on in this episode, it does a lot with very little. It’s all set in a hospital (with the odd bit of green screen showing the moon’s surface), most of the Judoon are helmeted, the Plasmavore’s leathery henchman don leather jackets and motorcycle helmets, and the Plasmavore herself is in the form of an elderly woman who uses a plastic straw to drain her victims’ blood. This works on the basis that ordinary things are more scary than exotic ones – monsters hidden in plain sight.
I enjoyed Smith and Jones; as an introduction to the new season and new companion, it ticks all the right boxes, whisks along at an exciting pace, and has a fun time-travel party trick to catch on a repeat viewing. I have a few issues with it, though: firstly, any possibility of humans being ignorant of alien life is well and truly up the spout now, surely, and yet life seems to go on as normal anyway. Secondly, I find it hard to believe that even an alien would be able to create a such a ridiculously deadly magnetic weapon capable of killing half the life on Earth… using an MRI machine. Did we really need that extra peril? (And where is the hospital’s power coming from, anyway?) Finally, and this is something that will manifest gradually, but the romantic tension has already been set up between Martha and the Doctor, and they only met each other earlier that day. Give it a rest; the Doctor should be a grumpy weirdo, not a sex object! Finally, at one point, the Doctor breaks his sonic screwdriver. “What a great excuse to finally get rid of it”, I thought – until ten minutes later when he’s made himself a new one.