Doctor Who: Jo Martin's Doctor Was Missed Opportunity Deserving Better

There are so many things to be written about Chris Chibnall's run on Doctor Who, what he did right and what he did wrong. That autopsy will be performed for a long time, especially when we wait for the new Russell T. Davies era to begin, which will be a while after Chibnall's final special airs later this year. The most significant thing Chibnall did was introduce Jo Martin as a surprise incarnation of the Doctor. Martin's Doctor was introduced in "Fugitive of the Judoon" as a previously unknown incarnation of the Doctor that the current doctor (Jodie Whittaker) can't remember being. This led to the reveal of the Doctor as The Timeless Child as a retcon to their origin story as well as Gallifrey's history.

Doctor Who: Jo Martin Shoulda Been a Contender with Her Own Series
Image: Big Finish

Martin has been active on British television since 1988, most recently as a regular cast member on the BBC hospital drama Holby City. She arrived on Doctor Who fully formed with a strikingly stylish costume and already distinctive personality that set her apart. Her natural charisma and commanding presence made you believe immediately that she was the Doctor. This Doctor was direct, ruthless, and suffered no fools. She had no problem getting into fights and ending them decisively. She worked for a black ops division of Gallifrey in an unspecified part of their history before becoming a fugitive hunted by the Gallifreyans for a while. Chibnall has not – and probably will not – reveal which part of the Doctor's history she fits in. She deserves an entire series to herself. We wanted to see more of her. Instead, she just showed up as a telepathic projection to give the current Doctor a pep talk in that season finale, and then in a blink-and-you-miss-her cameo in a flashback during the unspeakably mediocre Flux. She's supposedly going to be in Chibnall and Whittaker's final special to perhaps tie off her time on the show. That's all we're going to get of her on the show.

It's a shame that Chibnall only used the Fugitive Doctor as a gimmick: to shock fans and get attention for the show, to shake up the Doctor in that "everything you thought you knew is WRONG!" trope that Alan Moore mastered in comics that has now become horribly overused by many writers of long-running genre series.

Chibnall allegedly didn't have any real plan when he became showrunner. He just made up surprises and moments on the fly to intrigue the viewers without any real answers or payoffs in mind. Creating the Fugitive Doctor was one of those "surprises". He robbed Jo Martin and the show of the fanfare of the first woman of colour to play The Doctor, reducing it to a throwaway gag. Throughout his tenure as showrunner, he would get many things right – the casting of the first female Doctor, highlighting slightly lesser-known but significant historical figures (often women) and events, encouraging diverse representation, casting the first female of colour Doctor – and perhaps even more things wrong – unpolished scripts, over-reliance on on-the-nose dialogue and speeches, mediocre story arcs and ignoring character development and regurgitating tired tropes. He failed to capitalize on the diverse casting of Doctors after doing it as if that was enough without good scripts.

Jo Martin will be back in some new Big Finish audios, which suggests that her time on the proper TV version of Doctor Who is over. That's a shame. Hearing her in new stories not written by Chibnall is a consolation from getting to see her in her own stories. She is possibly the biggest wasted opportunity in Doctor Who.

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About Adi Tantimedh

Adi Tantimedh is a filmmaker, screenwriter and novelist. He wrote radio plays for the BBC Radio, “JLA: Age of Wonder” for DC Comics, “Blackshirt” for Moonstone Books, and “La Muse” for Big Head Press. Most recently, he wrote “Her Nightly Embrace”, “Her Beautiful Monster” and “Her Fugitive Heart”, a trilogy of novels featuring a British-Indian private eye published by Atria Books, a division Simon & Schuster.
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