Regression Through Time

While we have been on the topic of Martha in class, I wanted to take a moment to compare how Martha is treated in “The Shakespeare Code” and in “Human Nature.” After watching both episodes, I was shocked at the differences I saw. From what I know of history, 1599 was around the time when white Europeans were of the opinion that native peoples were an inferior species, and their sole purpose was to be enlightened and civilized. Yet, in “The Shakespeare Code,” Martha’s color serves as a point of interest for Shakespeare, making her more attractive rather than an inferior being to be scoffed at.


Although I applaud the decision to make Martha the object of affection, I then had higher hopes for “Human Nature.” Surely a show that upends racial stereotypes that far in the past would do so in 1913 also, but I was disappointed and shocked at her treatment. For example, the boys in the school make racial slurs at Martha, claiming that they do not know how she can tell when anything is clean with hands that color. John Smith also thinks less of Martha, especially when she is trying to convince him that he is really the Doctor. He chalks her ranting up to cultural differences and proceeds to treat Martha like her brain is incapable of understanding rational conversation.


The difference in Martha’s treatment might come from the points each episode is trying to make. “The Shakespeare Code” emphasizes what an extraordinary man Shakespeare was, and portraying him as having positive feelings towards people of color is the perfect example. On the other hand, “Human Nature” emphasizes how human the Doctor truly has become. He cares for Martha as a Time Lord, but seeing him as a human and treating Martha as inferior is used to show how complete the transformation was. In any case, I was disappointed that the writers chose to display such racial distinctions when they had previously been so progressive. I already feel bad for Martha as the rebound companion, and I feel she deserved better.



7 thoughts on “Regression Through Time”

  1. I completely agree with your statement. I noticed how poorly Martha was treated, and honestly, I think it takes away from the show. I am too distracted by the interactions between the Doctor and Martha to pay attention to the rest of the show. The companion is a large part of the series, and to have one that is not respected the way she should be by the Doctor himself is disappointing.


  2. I agree that it was hard to watch Martha be treated like that, but I thought it was more realistic for the time period. I think it is problematic to ignore that race was, and still is, a big issue.


  3. Personally I think the episode would have been harder to watch if they did not address her race because she obviously stuck out more than any other person in the episode.


    1. Harder to watch in what way? Harder to see the episode as credible, or more emotional? I saw this episode as a blow to the heart, specifically because the Doctor is treating Martha this way, and she knows he is capable of so much more. It’s also hard to watch because she is attracted to him, and he is treating her this way.


  4. I also feel bad for Martha. I understand that this is a hard episode to watch, but then again I believe that this episode can teach a lesson that we do not have to treat people of color that way. I also do agree that it does go along with the time period, but you can put this into our time and change the way people of color are treated.


  5. Personally I thought that having Shakespeare treating Martha as a Goddess in was a historical inaccuracy. While I love to see the writers try to break down racial barriers, I also realize that in 1599 it is unlikely any man (especially one portrayed as a vulgar jerk) would have treated Martha in such a way. I think that brings an important issue to hand: is it better to be politically correct in modern Television or is it better to be historically accurate. I think the answer to that question depends largely on what the writer is trying to accomplish for a particular episode.


  6. I agree with you argument for the most part. However, I believe that there still should’ve been more explanation in “The Shakespeare Code.” I feel like they didn’t dig deep enough into the race issue. A person who doesn’t know much about history, perhaps children, might think that all people during that time viewed blacks as attractive like Shakespeare does to Martha. It may be implied that we know the truth of that time period, but in reality not everyone has that prior knowledge.


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