DVD Extras (box sets only) include:
The season kicks off with one of its better offerings, and "Smith and Jones" turns out to be on par with last year's opener "New Earth" (story no. 172), if not slightly ahead.
Clean BreakMost refreshing is the clean break this story makes from what has gone before - you don't need to have seen any Doctor Who before in order to dive right in, start viewing here and now, and understand everything that's going on. New companion Martha Jones joins the series, and smartly, the whole of the first episode is structured from her perspective. Not only does this make the introduction of all the important characters and series essentials work tremendously well, but we also get a really solid, full story as well, much better than what was managed in the 2005 opener "Rose" (story no. 161).
Did I just say all the important characters are well introduced? Well, a slight exception might be Martha's family. Their fast-lane cell-phone circus during the opening montage flips by a bit too quickly to allow the audience to get much of a handle on any of them individually, but this still works because we only need to know them as a collective mass of crazy people in Martha's life for the purposes of this story, and the style used to introduce them makes an important point and drives it home.
Those already accustomed to the show may not be able to predict where this particular story is headed at first, with lots of bizarre events, including the actions of the main character, presenting themselves as mysteries. Nicely refreshing. Well done.
Off-PlanetAlthough one might easily expect and accept that the story to introduce a new companion will be an Earth-based one, it isn't too long before we find ourselves off-planet, and on the surface of another celestial body - a very cool and welcome surprise. Thank you! But not to get too elated, we are still technically within Earth orbit, so Russell T. Davies still hasn't quite stretched his imagination for settings as far as one should expect.
It is also of note that this trip is not facilitated by the TARDIS, and as such does not demonstrate its travel ability, or the inadequacy of the current interior design in attempting to deal with airless environments now that the airlock has been dispensed with.
Judoon DeliveryI entered this season secretly hoping that the Sontarans would return to make an appearance in it. Thus, I found myself thoroughly pleased with the Judoon and all the numerous similarities they share with the Sontarans. The Judoon are probably the best new race that Russell Davies has come up with for the new series so far. I always prefer a large contingent of a race instead of a small party of deviant alien criminals, and I do prefer to see such races display some form of culture and concerns other than just wiping out good guys and innocents. The Judoon deliver on both in tremendous style, as costume design, sound & visual effects, and voice and physical performances all combine to put a large thrust of power into some very otherworldly ways of dealing with things which all make their own brand of sense in the end.
Less interesting is Anne Reid's villain character Florence, which still works well enough, but just can't compete with the Judoon on the popularity meter. She really needs to lose that damn silly straw though, and get something more practical, believable, and befitting.
Honestly, I thought at first that an ordinary Earth hospital would be a dull place to set a story, but Davies does a great job of reminding us how many powerful pieces of technology the modern hospital now has at its disposal that still seem like science fiction to most of the rest of us. In the end, the hospital manages to achieve more of a sci-fi feel to it than many of the other settings this season that were intended to feel other-worldly. Very clever.
John & MarthaThe Martha Jones character is a good improvement over both Rose and Donna, and, if romance is going to enter into it, much closer to my idea of what the Doctor's "type" might be. Gone is the bland blue-collar TV-watching french-fry-gobbling ordinariness that made Rose such a bore. Martha demonstrates intelligent skills, and the kind of quick-thinking resourcefulness that make her useful in a crisis - and not just in the adventures at hand. She's demonstrated that she's already used those good traits to build a promising career for herself and hold her splitting family together. Good job. It's hard to think of her struggling to discover something worth living life for, as Rose and company always seemed to be doing.
There's also a nice moment when Martha lists all the strange events in society that we saw over the previous two years of the show, the very same list of events that Donna had neither noticed nor taken any interest in. Very nice contrast, pointing out why Martha ends up traveling with the Doctor where Donna doesn't.
Martha's family, however, never does prove as interesting or charismatic as Rose's. Bottom line: you can't top Mickey for best "extended" companion. He is sorely missed.
David Tennant is back on form as the Doctor in this one, full of energy and enjoying life to the full. Excellent! He and Martha gel quite quickly in this tale, and Tennant has great chemistry with Freema Agyeman playing Martha.
Action Run"Smith and Jones" turns out to be quite a satisfying action piece before it is over. This season in particular seems to be very big on a high volume of very frenetic running, chasing and scrambling sequences, and the season opener certainly indulges heavily here.
The Doctor gets many satisfying, productive story beats all through the adventure, and many heroic things to do during the conclusion. His highly entertaining confrontation with the lead villain is but the tip of the iceberg in that department.
This story has become available on DVD:
Note: The full season sets contain commentaries, behind-the-scenes featurettes, and other extras. The smaller volumes only feature the plain episodes.
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