The Doctor and Martha narrowly escape villains chasing them with stolen Time Agent technology. “They’re never going to stop,” following him. “Unless…” “Do you trust me?” the Doctor asks Martha urgently, adding, “Because it all depends on you.” PRESSURE MUCH? There’s this watch, see, and —
The Doctor wakes in an old-fashioned bedroom. Martha enters in maid’s garb (what?). She apologizes for entering precipitously, calling him John Smith (what what?). No worries: he’s just had another extraordinary dream, in which he’s the “daredevil” “madman”, the Doctor. This time, in 2007, Martha was his companion. What d’ye talk, Martha scoffs: it’s 1913, and he’s as human as they come (what what WHAT?)!
In robe and mortarboard, the Doctor teaches Waterloo (my my!) and greets Martha absently.
A student needles Martha, “With hands like those, how can you tell when something’s clean?” OH MY GOD! Martha grits her teeth at the overt racism, but still manages to feel sympathy for these jerkwads, who will probably die in the Great War. Ms. Martha Jones, ladies and gentlemen: a class act if ever I saw one!
Mr. Smith chats with the school Matron, who persuades him to call her Joan. They make a good team, she hints when she helps him carry some books. “Don’t we just?” he says gamely. Hey, town dance tomorrow, and wouldn’t it be cool if someone with a name like Sohn Jmith asked her? Smith stammers, flustered, and falls down a flight of stairs.
Martha runs to Smith’s study, asking, “Is he hurt?” Joan dresses her down for entering without knocking (love Martha’s “the hell?” face as she runs to the door, knocks, and runs back). Joan dismisses Martha’s medical questions, saying, “I daresay I know a lot more about it than you.” I gesture frantically at this absurdity so Martha doesn’t have to!
Smith mentions they were chatting about his dreams, in which he has two hearts. Joan whips out a stethoscope to prove he has “one heart. Singular” (and also gets to feel up his chest, ahem). And yes, I’m not terribly Joan-friendly, but it steams me how she continues to admonish Martha for being forward during the episode when she’s all, “Hi, let me feel your chest; HI, we make a good team; HI HI HI, NURSES MAKE GOOD WIVES!”
Smith hands Joan his book of dreams, written as fiction (clearly his subconscious working through the Doctor’s experiences and thoughts). “A Journal of Impossible Things,” Joan murmurs at the words and sketches, noting his eye for pretty girls. Oh, that’s Rose, he explains of one drawing; she disappears later. Urk, there’s no record of Martha in that damn dream journal yet is there? Poor Martha!
When Joan leaves with Smith’s book in hand, Martha tells her they’re just silly stories (no reason to think travel in time and space is real, hahahaha)! Joan muses Smith is like a man who has “left the kettle on”, as though he must return to something he’s forgotten.
Martha worked for Smith’s family, she says when Joan asks: “he sort of inherited me.” (Ugh). SO HARD not to despise Joan when she scolds Martha for familiarity! I suppose Joan’s typical of her time, complete with unexamined classist and racist assumptions. Too bad she couldn’t be extraordinary for any time, like a certain Martha Jones. Ahem.
Over at Jerkwad Dormitories, Hutchinson and Baines bully Latimer because he’s clever and a freaky-deaky psychic. Sure, it’s public school hierarchy enforcement, but it also seems part and parcel of training for war. If Latimer can survive blackening their shoes and taking their abuse, just think what a great soldier he’ll make!
Screw you guys, Baines says; he’s off to the woods to find some hidden beer and bring it back for a par-tay! “None for the filth,” Hutchinson says, glaring at Latimer. *shakes fist at Hutchinson* At the pub, Martha tells Jenny, over a pint, how in a month she’ll leave for the stars. Though Jenny dismisses this mad talk, something flashes in the sky. Joan, walking nearby, sees a blinding green light and runs to the pub.
John Smith arrives, offering to escort the ladies back to school. Joan takes his arm, but Martha runs after whatever fell to earth (Jenny’s compelled to follow). Before they reach Cooper’s Field, Baines arrives on his beer hunt, and stumbles into an alien ship’s invisible force field. He makes his way inside; to Martha and Jenny, it seems nothing’s there.
“We are the Family,” voices inside the ship tell Baines. Why can’t he see them? Soon they’ll look familiar, the voices promise; Baines screams in fright. When he returns to the dorm, he distantly remarks there was no beer. Hutchinson’s disappointed and asks if Baines’ caught cold as Baines sniffs the air like a creeper.
Martha rides a bicycle to a secluded shed hiding the TARDIS. Unlocking it with her key, “Hello,” she says fondly before scolding herself for talking to the TARDIS. Awww, I wish Martha knew how sentient the TARDIS is! It would be such a comfort in her terrible lonely situation.
The watch “is me,” the Doctor explains in Martha’s memory, will hide/hold his Time Lord nature to fool his pursuers (who might literally sniff him out otherwise). When they die (they’re a short-lived species), he and Martha will be safe. Meanwhile, he’ll become human via the “Chameleon Arch”. The TARDIS will provide the Doctor with back story and memories of a human self; Martha will have to improvise her own explanations.
And. Just. WHAT? That’s a huge thing to ask! Though Martha’s incredibly clever, I doubt either knows if she’s good at under-cover work. As it turns out, she’s amazing at it (even chafing at orders feels authentic; obviously not every servant agreed with their treatment). But what if she hadn’t been? Also, she had to act the part right after witnessing the Doctor’s torture versus the Chameleon Arch. Yikes!
Back in the (1913) present, Martha watches the Doctor’s recorded message, made to guide her.
Fourth on the list of rules (after “don’t let me hurt anyone”, don’t worry about the TARDIS, and don’t change major historical events) is “Don’t let me abandon you.” But he already has, really. It’s “all down to you, Martha,” he tells her. He hasn’t comprehended how utterly alone she’ll be with this plan. And let’s not forget: how brave and amazing is Martha, adapting to a society/time that’s so classist and racist?
Doctor’s orders: should the Family find them, Martha must open the watch, although doing so will put the Family on the Doctor’s scent immediately. “Your choice,” the Doctor says. Argh, it’s an immense responsibility! “Oh, and thank you,” he says, smiling at the recording’s close. “I wish you’d come back,” Martha says forlornly. MY HEART! She’s doing so much for him, and he’s given her so little (instruction-wise, and emotionally) to go on!
Meanwhile, Smith attends to his teaching duties, giving Latimer a pep-talk. He shouldn’t hide how clever he is: “No man should hide himself” (oh, the irony). Latimer discovers the Watch of Doctor Essence while Smith fetches him a book.
“You’re clever,” Smith calls. “Use it.” This foreshadowing/subconscious urging to take the watch bugs me tons; if the burden’s placed on Martha’s shoulders, it’s terrible to imperil her mission.
Latimer opens the watch; a coil of mist curls out. Outside, Crazy Eyes Baines sniiffffs (oh hey, it’s Viserys Targaryen! I knew I had prior creeper associations with him!). The watch whispers about the Doctor “kept inside the cogs”, “in the dark waiting.” Latimer sees flashes of Smith as the Doctor; frightened, he hurries off with the watch.
“You are not alone,” the watch murmurs in the Doctor’s voice, and I find this HEART-WRENCHING when Martha’s utterly alone. Yes, Latimer’s psychic and could use a friend, but the images of Daleks, Ood, and Cybermen only serve to overwhelm him with the Doctor’s “infinite fire”. For Martha, they would have been welcome reassurance.
Baines snoots up Time Lord smell (ew), but it’s “somehow scattered” (and confusing that opening the watch doesn’t summon the Doctor). Creepy!Baines mentally calls for his soldiers, the HORRIFYING scarecrow men!
While I shriek, they nab an older gent and a little girl with a balloon to hold more Family members.
Just hit every creepy horror trope out there, why don’t you, aliens?
The Headmaster praises Smith on his military drill crew’s fine form: they’re rat-a-tat-ing at targets representing “tribesmen from the Dark Continent” (ugh, this ep’s BRILLIANT at exposing the horrific racist impetus of colonization). Pfftt, Latimer’s too wimpy to machine-gun guys who only have spears! What a bad play-soldier he is. Here’s hoping Latimer ends up in a real war one day, the Headmaster sniffs; that’ll larn him! Nice.
Smith grants permission for Hutchinson to beat up Latimer (ah, the good old days of public school beatings!). Joan and Smith walk through town, discussing how her husband’s death in battle makes her unhappy about teaching children military discipline. Smith defends the practice but muses “everyday life can provide honor and valor.”
Smith then proves his claim – and confirms the Doctor within! – as he intercedes in a Rube Goldberg-ish imminent disaster, saving a child in a pram from getting crushed by a piano by careful application of cricket ball. Emboldened, he invites Joan to the dance.
Walking back, Smith fixes a scarecrow, mentioning he learned to draw in “Gallifrey”. “Is that in Ireland?” “It must be, yes,” he answers. Uh oh, Doctor-Smith slippage! What about his parents? Sydney and Verity, he answers (paying tribute to the creator and original producer of Doctor Who, aww). Hearing Verity was a nurse, Joan enthuses, “Oh, we make such good wives” (HI HI HI!). The scarecrow watches them go, urgh!
Smith sketches Joan; moved by the intimate moment, they kiss.
When Martha interrupts, Smith admonishes her for entering unannounced. “That wasn’t on the list,” Martha frets in the corridor. She rushes to review the Doctor’s instructions, frustrated he hadn’t thought of emotional contingencies (so like the Doctor). But the discovery also cuts her to the quick other ways: “You had to go and fall in love with a human, and it wasn’t me.”
Do we think Martha’s been abandoned enough? Because the episode doesn’t think Martha’s been abandoned enough! Her one friend in this damn place, Jenny, is next to get scarecrow-nabbed to hold another Family member. When Martha takes the fixings for a rejected tea to share with Jenny, she figures out the switch but quick (go Martha!). There’s no time to mourn the loss of her friend; she has to bring back the Doctor.
Martha bursts in on Smith and Joan. She’s frantic when she sees the watch has gone missing (Latimer! *shakes tiny fist*), and tries to slap the Doctor back into John Smith. Outraged, Smith dismisses her. *hops about in frustration* When Smith complains Martha’s more a “fantasist” than he, Joan reminds him he did have such a watch.
Creepy!Baines and Creepy!Jenny search Smith’s quarters; they find nothing, but they’re convinced Smith is the Time Lord based on Martha’s reactions and their own snootfuls of Doctor Essence. Creepy!Gent finds a flier for the dance: psychically informed by Creepy!Balloon Girl Smith’s there, they all head for town.
“She’s infatuated,” Joan murmurs about maid!Martha outside the dance hall. “You’re a dangerous man.” I know it’s for flirting’s sake that Joan coyly raises the topic of Martha’s seeming/actual crush (and burnishes Smith’s ego by comparing him to the “dangerous” Doctor of his dreams). But for freak’s sake, Joan, he just fired Martha!
“Staff entrance,” a veteran says when Martha arrives. “Think again, mate,” she snaps. Yay! She finds Joan and urges her to realize how different Smith is. Joan haughtily denies the point. No matter: Martha only wanted to apologize, because Joan’s “nice” and “lucky”. Sonic Screwdriver in hand, Martha gets ready to Doctor up Smith.
While Smith stares in confusion at the Sonic Screwdriver, Martha pleads, “You’re not John Smith. You’re called the Doctor. The man in your journal, he’s real. He’s you.” Creepy!Ballon Girl smiles: confirmation at last!
The rest of the Family bursts in, vaporizing pesky questions away!
When Smith, utterly bemused, can’t “Change back!” as they order, they point guns on Martha and Joan respectively. Baines mocks the Doctor’s living/loving/learning stint as a human and orders him to choose. “Which one of them do you want us to kill? Maid or matron? Your friend or your lover? Your choice.”
Whoo aaaaaeeeee phoooo athoooo! *wrings hands* ARGH, THIS EPISODE, SO GOOD! Sorry about the delay, but I’m on a roll now; I’ll have the “Family of Blood” recap for you soon! Meanwhile, talk to me about Martha and John Smith and Joan and CREEPY BAINES!!!