Why I like Francine Jones (aka Martha’s Mom)
Francine Jones is Martha’s mother, and you can see immediately where Martha gets her strength of character. But Francine is more than just strong, she’s made of steel, tempered with the bitterness of experience. She cannot be charmed or dazzled, and she has no time for any of this nonsense. She may be the only member of Martha’s family we can really take seriously, rather than being played primarily for laughs and/or dysfunctional family style drama. Because she steps up and demands it.
Francine comes under a lot of criticism because she (a) distrusts the Doctor and (b) ends up being instrumental in the Master’s plans. By and large, though, these things make me like her more. Honestly, more people should be suspicious of the Doctor. And Francine goes toe-to-toe with him, refusing to be charmed or assuaged. By all evidence, Martha’s family is very close, and communicate extremely well with one another. Francine doesn’t find anything odd about Martha randomly calling her to ask pub quiz questions, for instance. She does find something odd about her suddenly appearing with a man she’s never heard of - and more importantly, whom Tish has never heard of either. A man she clings to and follows into danger, despite having just met him, and who can’t answer any of her questions. Especially as a recent divorcee, Francine knows well the dangers in getting starry-eyed over some fellow, and Martha is really obviously starry-eyed. It would be woefully irresponsible not to be a bit suspicious.
And then someone comes from the government and confirms all your unspoken fears, and tells you that yes, Mystery Man is a wanted criminal and your daughter is in deadly danger - information that is confirmed by all available evidence. What would you do?
What Francine does is fall back on what the family is already good at. Communication. She phones up and says “call me back, we need to talk.” She doesn’t tell Martha what to do - she tries to make sure she has the relevant information. She’s learned thing and is trying to pass them on. She is, in a word, behaving entirely reasonably. And when legitimate government organizations, which she in fact voted for, ask for her help in trapping this dangerous criminal, she continues to behave reasonably. It’s all the more insidious because most of what Francine is being told is in fact true. And her continued conversations with Martha - who can’t tell her where she is or what she’s doing, but indicates strongly that she’s in mortal danger - reinforce the information she’s getting. She is being used, but she is not being stupid - and she figures it out just a moment too late.
Also she slaps the Doctor. I feel like I need to point that out, because anyone who slaps the Doctor is okay in my book. She slaps the Doctor and pulls a gun on the Master - and that after having spent a year being humiliated and tortured. The Master manages to break her mind, but he never breaks that strength out of her. Francine Jones is proud. She is proud of her family and proud in herself. Whether it’s defending Martha against her ex-husband’s new squeeze, or fighting the Master in whatever ways she can (while being tortured and humiliated). She’s able to admit when she’s wrong - but stands firm until proven otherwise. And again, trying to shoot the Master requires a ton of guts and gumption. And the only reason she doesn’t is because the Doctor asks her not to, not because her nerve fails or whatever. Francine’s nerve is not the sort of thing that fails. Ever.
Something that I think often gets overlooked is that Francine and Martha actually have an extremely good relationship. They call each other all the time, Francine sticks up for her and is proud of her, and they continue to be very close after Martha leaves the show. They don’t fight, although they do disagree, and Francine’s admonitions are in the form of warning, not nagging - and warning from experience. They are by and large extremely good to one another, which is very nice to see (especially by contrast, to say, Donna and her mother, who by and large aren’t). And her joy and gratitude at Martha’s return is almost heartbreaking: “you came back. At the end of the world, you came back to me.” Acknowledging that it was always Martha’s choice to make, and thanking her for how she made it.
I may be in the minority here, but I really like Francine Jones. She’s strong and she’s proud…and she’s good. And coupled with excellent acting and amazing eyebrows, really, how can you go wrong?