Human Nature (the New Adventure)
Human Nature (the TV story)
Human Nature/The Family of Blood
The Family of Blood

Story No. 196 The war is over... and about to begin
Production Code Series Three Episode Nine
Dates June 2 2007

With David Tennant,
Freema Agyeman
Written by Paul Cornell Directed by Charles Palmer
Executive Producers: Russell T Davies, Julie Gardner.

Synopsis: War is coming, on more fronts than one. Only the Doctor can stop the Family... but the Doctor no longer exists.


A Review by Graham Pilato 10/3/08

The only thing wrong with this episode is how underhanded the last part was as a message about the act of survival in war. The poppies worn by those folks is a very politically correct thing for World War I veteran recognition in Britain, but the white poppy would be so much more appropriate for the Doctor Who version of this flower-wearing support. The Doctor Who version should say something so much more peaceful and pacifist, I believe, and so did Paul Cornell back in 1995 when he first wrote this story. And now I'm repeating a lot of what Mike Morris has already said in his review.

But, dammit, he was right.

The adaptation here shows some serious pussyfooting when it comes to a willingness to actually say something not critical of the British government in a less than allegorical sort of way. This historical commentary stuff is a lot more likely to hit on the nose than the easily missed political commentary about mistrust of politicians in the series' first season -- particularly in World War Three. The episode we see here isn't quite ruined by the epilogue, though. It's just a little bit disappointing. Unlike the removal of the anti-Christian stuff in the film of The Golden Compass; that's just stupid, ripping almost all of the notoriety out of the literature like that.

Human Nature/The Family of Blood is still all about exactly that (the former part of the title, that is), war commentary or not. We're still looking at the single most beautiful, poetic moment of the novels, if you ask me, in the illusion of romance and humanity in John Smith and his realization of the sacrifice of that and what it means. The novel gets that part better, too, than this TV version, but only by a bit. It works so well in Paul Cornell's prose, but also in the dark and epic, mature seventh Doctor's being John Smith instead of the rather dashing and frenetic and youthful 10th Doctor being a rather twitchy, teary git. Well. That is to say that I liked his performance very well, but I so much wish it could have been played for the depths it deserved based on the power of Cornell's novel.

Though, I don't think I'd ever have trusted Sylvester McCoy to perform it this well. David Tennant was magnificent here, and so was Jessica Hynes as Joan. The failure to meet the standard set so high by my imagination from reading a novel means that it might be better to start adapting NewWho from some lesser materials. Rip from the greats, but don't do it so directly that we all end up forced to compare.

Otherwise, I'd say this is pretty much exactly what I wanted from this episode, based on what came before in the previous episode and its disappointing cliffhanger. The last part of the episode is only a very wet wave goodbye, instead of a kiss. That's mostly figurative, what I said there. It does rain a lot at the end, on the hillside and in the trenches. And that's part of what I mean to say: that wet, nasty atmosphere in this two-parter, particularly in the goodbye scenes, is palpably moody and apt as can be. I dig the rain. And I dig almost everything about this part of Cornell's adaptation from his own novel.

If only the first episode were more... Just more... a three parter here would have been nice instead of having to fret over the awfulness of The Lazarus Experiment. Call it: "Human Nature (I)" (ending with the arrival of the aliens, well built up as a horror in itself over the course of a quiet, dark episode featuring the Doctor and Martha discovering the family and then running away to 1913 and all the chameleon arch bit), "The Family of Blood (II)" (greatly resembling the second half of the real part I -- with much added charming Joan and John development), and "Wartime (III)" (basically a more pacifist finale a lot like what we see here otherwise).

But, that's just what I would have done. There was a three parter this season, and this one would have been so much better than the one we did get, should the show have had the balls to try this out and make the best adaptation of the novel possible.