Martha Speaks (TV series)

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Martha Speaks
GenreEducational, Comedy
Created bySusan Meddaugh
Based onMartha Speaks (book)
by Susan Meddaugh
Written byKen Scarborough
(head writer)
Directed byDallas Parker
Colleen Holub
Voices ofTabitha St. Germain
Madeleine Peters
Brian Drummond
Alex Ferris (1–4)
Valin Shinyei (5–6)
Cedric Payne
Christina Crivici (seasons 1–3)
Michelle Creber (season 4)
Vanesa Tomasino
Nicole Oliver
Kathleen Barr
French Tickner
Maxine Miller
Matt Hill
Samuel Vincent
Terry Klassen
Narrated byJ.T. Turner
Theme music composerDaniel Ingram
Hal Beckett
Opening theme"Martha Speaks theme", lyrics by Ken Scarborough, performed by Robert Wilson
Ending theme"Martha Speaks theme (instrumental)"
Country of originUnited States
Original language(s)English
No. of seasons6 [1]
No. of episodes96 [1][2] (list of episodes)
Executive producer(s)Carol Greenwald
Chris Bartlerman
Blair Peters
Producer(s)Sarah Wall
Running time28 minutes (approximately 13 minutes per episode)
Production company(s)DHX Media Vancouver
(seasons 1–4)
Oasis Animation
(seasons 5–6)
WGBH Boston
DistributorDHX Media
Original networkPBS
Picture format16:9 HD
Audio formatStereo
Original releaseSeptember 1, 2008 (2008-09-01) –
November 18, 2014 (2014-11-18)
External links
PBS Kids website

Martha Speaks is an American-Canadian children's educational animated television series based on the 1992 children's book of the same name by Susan Meddaugh, and heavily associated (affiliated) with the children's television series Arthur.[3]

The show is produced by WGBH-TV in Boston, along with Vancouver-based animation studio DHX Media Vancouver and the Montreal-based studio Oasis Animation and debuted on September 1, 2008 and ended on November 18, 2014. Some episodes of this TV series were available for limited theatrical release on January 3, 2009.[4] The show focuses on mainly synonyms and vocabulary, with each episode featuring an underlying theme illustrated with (usually informal) keywords, but can occasionally focus on introducing preschoolers to various science and other learning concepts, such as the Spanish language through passing mentions, history, and astronomy.[a]

The second season began airing on September 14, 2009. The third season of Martha Speaks premiered on PBS Kids on October 11, 2010,[5] and the fourth season began airing on February 20, 2012.[6] The fifth season premiered on June 24, 2013. The sixth and final season premiered on March 31, 2014.[7]

Since the series' cancellation, reruns air on PBS Kids.


The series revolves around a talking dog named Martha (voiced by Tabitha St. Germain), who is owned by 10-year-old Helen Lorraine (known in the books as Helen Finney). Whenever Helen feeds Martha alphabet soup, the noodle letters somehow travel to her brain instead of her stomach, giving her the ability to speak human words. The show takes place in the fictional town of Wagstaff City, likely referring to Flagstaff, Arizona[8] or even a fictionalized version of Flagstaff, Maine.[citation needed]


Season Episodes First aired Last aired
1 40 September 1, 2008 July 17, 2009
2 15 September 14, 2009 May 14, 2010
3 15 October 11, 2010 October 3, 2011
4 10 February 20, 2012 April 5, 2013
5 8 June 24, 2013 November 14, 2013
6 8 March 31, 2014 November 18, 2014

Season one of the series ended with a total of 40 episodes; it premiered in September 2008. Thirty episodes were produced for season two and then split in half to be aired over two broadcast seasons with 15 episodes each.[9]

Words defined by characters were not visible on screen during Season 1, but were made visible from Season 2 onward. When first aired, the show was followed by Music Time with SteveSongs and later by Dot's Story Factory. Season two episodes were followed by a segment called Who's That Dog? in which a clip of a dog with special training is shown. The show was available to view on Netflix, with three of the seasons from the show, until July 2015.



  • Martha Lorraine:[10] Voiced by Tabitha St. Germain, Martha is the titular protagonist. Martha is a talking Labrador mix that was born an energetic stray and was put in the dog pound as a puppy. She gained the ability to talk after Helen gave her a bowl of alphabet soup; the letters in the soup went to her brain instead of her stomach. In order to retain this ability, Martha has to continue to eat the soup.[11] The phenomenon could not be repeated with another dog. She was based on a dog owned by Susan Meddaugh, which in turn could be named after the dog in subject of the Paul McCartney song Martha My Dear. Martha can understand most animal languages except for a few exotic animals such as monkeys and giraffes. These languages are simple, as slight elongation or slightly higher pitch will mean something entirely different. In the episode "Itchy Martha", Martha teaches T.D.'s father to speak a word in dog, coaching him to say it exactly right. Almost all animals are able to understand some sort of human language but are unable to speak it. In a newer episode, it is revealed that Martha understands a wide range of animal languages, possibly because they have the same grammar system. She has had three superhero alter egos.
  • Skits Lorraine: Voiced by Brian Drummond, Skits is Helen's other canine, who tried the same alphabet soup, but did not gain the same talking ability. He was found by T.D. who could not keep Skits because his dad is allergic to dogs. Skits was first introduced in the episode "Martha and Skits".


  • Helen Lorraine: Voiced by Madeleine Peters, Helen is Martha's and Skits' owner who has short red hair and is usually the voice of reason of the group. Helen is closest to Martha and thinks of Martha as her best friend. Out of the six main kids, Helen is sensible. Despite this, she can be a bit overbearing and even show her mean side (as in "Martha Runs Away", where she scolded Martha for things she did not do). She always hangs around this group of friends, but T.D is said to be her best human friend. She is around 10 to 11 years old. Her superhero alter ego from Verb Dog, When Action Calls! is very huge and can hypnotize dogs simply by calling their names.
  • T.D. Kennelly: Originally voiced by Alex Ferris, but replaced by Valin Shinyei in season 5 due to Ferris' voice maturing. T.D. is Helen's best friend. His father, O.G., is an inventor, while his mother is the vice-principal at his school. He has a grandfather named C.K., who works as a farmhand, and also a younger cousin named C.D. T.D. also mentioned having an unnamed older sister, who has not made an appearance in the series because of her studies. T.D. has unruly blond hair. He lives a Bohemian lifestyle that revolves around the surreal. His robot alter ego from Verb Dog, When Action Calls! uses robot tentacles that sprout from his back.
  • Alice Boxwood: Originally voiced by Christina Crivici but replaced by Michelle Creber in season 4 and by Ashlyn Drummond in season 5, Alice is another one of Helen's best friends. She is pale-skinned, has blonde hair curled up in a ponytail, wears glasses, brown shorts, red-and-white shoes, and a green shirt with a blue stripe running across the center. She has an older brother named Ronald who mocks her, and a pet cat named Nelson, with whom Martha is mortal enemies. Her superhero alter ego possesses ice powers; her only weakness is anyone making her laugh, which causes her to lose control of her powers and freeze herself.
  • Carolina Lorraine: Voiced by Vanesa Tomasino, Carolina is Helen's cousin. She is very fashion-conscious of others and sings off-key. She is portrayed as a know-it-all and sometimes shallow girl. She often uses Spanish words and phrases, giving the translation shortly afterwards. Her father is named Jorge.
  • Truman Oatley: Voiced by Cedric Payne, Truman is Helen's friend who enjoys reading classical works of literature and is prone to seasickness. He has a dark complexion and brown hair. He is often a pessimist who focuses on the negative and lacks confidence and is reluctant to try new things because he is frequently convinced that the activity is pointless; additionally he is afraid of insects. Truman is younger than Helen, T.D., and Alice. Oddly, the sign on his sweater closely resembles the logo of the Santiago Metro.
  • James "Jake" Lorraine: Voiced by Tabitha St. Germain, Jake is Helen's two-year-old toddler brother whom Martha enjoys teaching on how to talk, with unsuccessful attempts. His birth is emphasized in the episode The Jakey Express. In the Spanish dub, he is named Pedrito.


  • Daniel "Danny" Lorraine: Daniel is Helen's father from Winnipeg, Canada,[citation needed] who works as a bus driver and actor in the community theater. He is usually a serious and stern character, though half of the time, he has a somewhat immature personality, such as singing around the house. Also voiced by Brian Drummond.
  • Mariella Lorraine: Mariella is Helen's Hispanic mother from Veracruz, Mexico, who works as a florist and actor in the community theater. Like Carolina, she often uses Spanish words and phrases, giving the translation shortly afterwards. Her parents and maiden surname are unknown, but her brother Jorge (Carolina's father) is seen in the series. She is voiced by Tabitha St. Germain.
  • Lucille and Bernard Lorraine: Daniel's parents. Like him, they are Canadian, enjoy living immature lifestyles (such as selling a chair to a bear) and are allergic to certain things, such as flowers and bacon.
  • Mrs. Clusky: Voiced by Nicole Oliver; she is Helen's teacher from Montreal. She was originally shocked when she found out that Martha could speak, though has since gotten used to it. She has three nieces, and a white poodle, François, who is very spoiled and demanding.


The show's executive producer was Carol Greenwald, and it was developed for television by Emmy Award-winning writer Kenneth "Ken" Scarborough, the show's head writer who is also notable for other works such as Arthur and Saturday Night Live. Other writers and screenwriters include Joe Fallon, Peter Hirsch, Raye Lankford, Pippin Parker, Ron Holsey, Joey Largo, and Dietrich Smith. The music for the series and the theme song are by Canadian composers Daniel Ingram and Hal Foxton Beckett. Lyrics for the theme song are by Ken Scarborough and performed by Robert Wilson.[12]

The show was animated in Vancouver by DHX Media Vancouver (formerly Studio B Productions) using Adobe Flash.[13] Meddaugh, the author of the book, was involved in the show and oversaw the production.[14] Despite some concerns over the way word definitions would be incorporated into a television show, she was satisfied that they do not interrupt the flow of the story.[15] Producer Carol Greenwald first contacted Meddaugh when she was involved in the TV series Arthur.[1][15]

Each episode features short animated segments related to the main parts in three occasions: one between the opening theme and the first part, another one between two parts, and the other between the second part and the closing credits. However, those short segments are not included in the version distributed outside the United States.[citation needed]


PBS Kids reported that episodes of the series would be available as downloads in 2008. Episodes are also available for purchase via downloading.[14]

In January 2010, Martha Speaks launched its first list of official tie-in books, which include 24-page readers, chapter books, and a picture book.[14] On March 9, 2010, a DVD set of the series featuring 8 episodes from the first season was released.


The show debuted on PBS Kids and PBS Kids Go! in the United States and on TVOntario in Canada. Outside of both countries, the show aired on Disney Junior in the Netherlands, CBBC in the United Kingdom, and on Nick Jr. in Australia and New Zealand.[16]


  1. ^ a b Carolina and Mariella Lorraine are fluent Spanish speakers. Additionally, Truman Oatley references the works of William Shakespeare in a few episodes, such as Oh, nooo! where he mentions Hamlet, while season 2 episodes Dogs in Space and Dogs from Space focus on vocabulary such as solar system, orbit, planet, star, the moons of Jupiter and constellation.


  1. ^ a b c Weiss, Joanna (August 17, 2008). "PBS set to unleash a new tutor". The Boston Globe.
  2. ^ "Publishers Weekly". Archived from the original on October 31, 2014. Retrieved January 23, 2009.
  3. ^
  4. ^ Kidtoon Films. "Kidtoon Films". Kidtoon Films. Archived from the original on 2012-02-19. Retrieved 2012-08-16.
  5. ^ "Oregon Public Broadcasting". Retrieved 2012-08-16.
  6. ^ "OASIS ANIMATION to Produce a New Season of Martha Speaks for WGBH to Air on PBS KIDS", BusinessWire, December 12, 2012.
  7. ^ "Martha Speaks #501". Archived from the original on 2014-01-12. Retrieved 2013-04-13.
  8. ^ "Martha Speaks TV Show". Retrieved 2014-08-20.
  9. ^ "Martha Speaks Episode Descriptions". Pbs Kids!. Retrieved 2012-08-16.
  10. ^ "Martha Goes to School". 2 minutes in. Missing or empty |series= (help)
    Mrs. Clusky: "Is this Martha Lorraine?"
    Martha: "That's right."
  11. ^ "Martha Speaks . FAQ". PBS KIDS!. WGBH. Retrieved 2009-08-04.
  12. ^ "Martha Speaks TV Credits". PBS Parents. Retrieved 2012-08-16.
  13. ^ "2008: The year that was". Top Draw Animation. Archived from the original on 2006-11-03. Retrieved 2009-07-26.
  14. ^ a b c "Martha Speaks. FAQ". PBS Kids. WGBH. Retrieved 2009-08-04.
  15. ^ a b Nesi, Ted (2009-05-12). "Good dog". Wheaton Quarterly. Wheaton College. Archived from the original on May 28, 2010. Retrieved 2009-07-31.
  16. ^

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