top of page
  • Writer's pictureFogo

Doctor Who Series 3 Review

Updated: Dec 2, 2022

This week we dissect Series 3 of the modern regeneration of Doctor Who. Over the last two weeks we looked at Series 1 and 2, in great length, and naturally it’s time to move on to the third, in what is David Tennant’s second season as the titular character.

Series 3 gives us something of a fresh start. Rose Tyler is, supposedly, forever lost to a parallel Earth following the events of ‘Doomsday’ with the rest of the Tyler clan. The Daleks and Cybermen have also been defeated indefinitely, so the Doctor is left to himself to travel once again and go on new adventures. For those adventures, he of course needs a new companion, from a new location, with a different background and perspective, so that opens up new possibilities and offers a chance to reset, to a degree anyway.

Moving into the third series, that is exactly what the show needs. Everybody loves Rose and the end of Series 2 was an emotional rollercoaster, but without her a change in dynamic was needed and with that the possibilities should be endless. Thankfully, the show achieves this, eventually. It does feel different, there is a shift of focus onto other characters beyond the Doctor and companion, and while the series is certainly inconsistent and takes time to find its rhythm, it just about manages to refresh the show by its end, and is a big improvement overall on Series 2.

Before we get into the episodes, for those of you reading these reviews for the first time, they are being written in light of our upcoming Doctor Who walking tour of Cardiff. The Welsh capital has served as the backdrop to most of the new episodes filmed this century, be it in studios or around the city’s streets and buildings, and a tour of those locations will become a reality later this year (hopefully). In the meantime, consider these reviews a light introduction into what may or may not feature on those tours in the future.

The biggest addition to the show at this stage is Freema Agyeman as the primary companion, Martha Jones. She is a welcome change in personality to Rose Tyler but not exactly totally different either. She is essentially a convenient half-way-house between Rose and the next companion, who we may not have been ready for yet by this time. Martha is strong-willed, independent, intelligent but also a romantic, and while she starts slowly, she eventually proves her worth as a character. We have seen her before, of course, but not as Martha Jones. Agyeman appeared in the series 2 finale as a brainwashed Torchwood operative. The casting directors must have liked her because she came back as Martha Jones from the first regular series 3 episode, and her presence in series 2 was explained away as being her, coincidentally identical, cousin.

Continuing on the Welsh theme, Swansea’s Russell T. Davies is still the head script writer and executive producer, albeit for the final time. Additionally, Wales arguably plays a visibly bigger role this year than ever before, with the city of Cardiff and its buildings and central streets used extensively and obviously in ‘Smith & Jones’ (Queen St), ‘The Lazarus Experiment’ (The Senedd and National Museum), ‘Blink’ (Mount Stuart Square) and ‘The Sound of Drums’ (The Friary), and they’re just the obvious ones.

The Stories

Let’s quickly touch upon the Christmas special, ‘The Runaway Bride’, where we meet Catherine Tate for the first time. Thankfully, Donna Noble does get better after this. Very much a bland, generic Christmas episode, it just didn’t really offer anything to the episodes directly before or after, and the villain was lacking any real substance to even care. However, Harold Saxon does get a mention, giving the order to shoot down the Empresses ship, with what was only the second reference to Saxon. The first came, quite early too, in ‘Love & Monsters’.

‘Smith & Jones’ is where the series really gets going properly, as we meet Martha for the first time. Again, the villain is disappointing but we do meet the Jadoon at least, and it sets up the partnership of the Doctor and Martha as the name suggests. A slow start but the manner in which they met was fun.

‘The Shakespeare Code’ promised a lot, especially following Charles Dickens’ characterisation in Series 1, but it just never really feels like the real Shakespeare. His accent, and dialogue, just don’t fit with our perceptions of the man unfortunately. However, the setting looks good, it’s cool how the real Globe Theatre in London was used, and we start to get to know Martha a bit.