Human Nature / The Family of Blood

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This topic contains 12 replies, has 7 voices, and was last updated by  janetteB 4 months, 2 weeks ago.

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    Craig @craig

    We’ve never covered this great story by Paul Cornell, based on his book. But there’s a watch along tonight as we’re all in quarantine , so hopefully you will have some comments afterwards about the story of one “John Smith”.

    It’s 1913, A schoolteacher called John Smith dreams of adventures in time and space … and war comes to England early as the terrifying Family hunt for the Doctor.

    Craig @craig

    ‘Shadow of a Doubt’ was specially created as a prologue to ‘Human Nature’ and ‘The Family of Blood’, released as part of #DoctorOfMine, the worldwide tweetalong of this two-parter during the quarantine.

    Written by Paul Cornell and starring Lisa Bowerman as Bernice Summerfield, from many Big Finish audios, ‘Shadow of a Doubt’ was home-produced remotely during the ‘lockdown’ period of the COVID-19 outbreak in April 2020.

    Craig @craig

    And this is the new epilogue written by Paul Cornell and narrated by Lauren Wilson, who played the scary little girl with the balloon who eventually got trapped in all our mirrors.

    blenkinsopthebrave @blenkinsopthebrave


    Thanks for posting those. I am looking forward to re-watching both parts of what I think was one of the best 2-parters in AG Who.

    Having just finished watching Mackenzie Crook’s take on “Worzel Gummidge” my recent TV viewing seems to be strangely full of scarecrows…

    janetteB @janetteb

    I did not realise we had not done a forum watch of this two parter which has become one of my favourite of favourites. I have watched it many, many times but am delighted to have an excuse to watch it again. tonight is now sorted.



    blenkinsopthebrave @blenkinsopthebrave

    Watched them both last night. I have been trying to isolate what it was about these two episodes that made them so special. I think it was how deeply emotional everything was–John Smith’s torment as he slowly realises he is not who he thinks he is; the relationship between him and the school matron; the relationship between the two boys that shall survive into the war; the scene of the Doctor and Martha at the remembrance service. It was a story that almost completely lacked humour, and yet it worked. In fact, in a way, perhaps it worked precisely because it almost completely lacked humour. It has (for me, anyway) a sort of emotional resonance that lingers long after it is over.

    winston @winston

    @blenkinsopthebrave and @janetteb   I watched last night again and they really are very good episodes. Poor John Smith when he realizes he isn’t who he thinks he is and doesn’t want to be anyone else. He wants to be a regular person and stay with the women he loves but she tells him he must do his duty.The war is coming and so many of these boys will die doing their duty.

    There are so many elements to this story , the boys and the bullies, the scary Family, Martha being the Doctors carer,love and loss and duty. The punishments are chilling.I can watch these episodes many times and still see something new.

    blenkinsopthebrave @blenkinsopthebrave

    Have been thinking more about the 2-part story. While I thought it worked really well in all sorts of interesting ways, it was not perfect. For me, there was one thing that did not work: David Tennant. I felt his interpretation of a School master c.1913 just did not ring true. (Whereas Pip Torrens as the headmaster worked really very well, I thought). Also, I felt that when Smith realized he was not Smith and had to give up that life, it was…well, just too whiny–in an over the top way—which was very Tennant.  In fact, to be honest, I felt exactly the same about his interpretation of the Doctor during his whole tenure as the Doctor. Everything was, I felt, always over the top. And, for me, in  a very distracting way.

    And yet, this 2-part story was wonderful.


    Bluesqueakpip @bluesqueakpip


    I think this two-parter would have a much higher reputation if it hadn’t come immediately before Blink. Three really excellent episodes in a row.

    I’d agree that most of the humour in this episode comes from the villains – because this is a classic tragedy for everyone. Latimer (and Hutchinson) at least have their tragedy diverted by Latimer’s foreknowledge, but everyone else (except The Doctor) ends up either dead or emotionally wrecked.

    To be fair to David Tennant: firstly, I don’t think you’d ever really cast him as an ordinary schoolmaster in 1913, secondly ‘John Smith’ is not from 1913. As is made clear from the script, he’s been dumped down with a bunch of facts, not any real emotional memories. Tennant did try to play ‘John Smith’ (apparently he introduced himself in the read-through as playing John Smith), but he was trying to play a character who thought he was real, not a character like Pip Torrens’ Headmaster, who was.

    If you notice, the Headmaster has real, emotional memories to play in that excellent script, whereas John Smith only has a geographical description of where his supposed home was located.

    The Chameleon Arch for the Martin Doctor seemingly works much better – but that might represent a difference between the Tennant Doctor (who seems oblivious to the emotional impact he has on other people) and the Martin Doctor (who seems incredibly tough, but who’s programmed in emotional memories that explain why she doesn’t want to talk about or think about her past).

    The Martin Doctor presumably remembers her real childhood, of course, so we can guess that those feelings of isolation represented by the remote lighthouse could be real childhood feelings.

    Yes, the Tennant Doctor is simultaneously very self-absorbed and very self-pitying. But it might not be Tennant who picked that over-emotional performance. I remember in his final episode he gave the director about five readings of ‘I don’t want to go’, ranging from very muted to completely OTT. The director made the final choice, not the actor and it could easily be the same here.

    Ysaig @ysaig

    I love this story.  I just hope they somehow go back like in 1914 or 1915 and find the Son of Mine character and somehow get him out of the time whatever he’s in and bring him back.  Think the Master would be a good cohort in that.  I mean he is just inside a scarecrow and is easy to find.

    HEYoli @heyoli

    Love this story and the doctor experienced a different life as a human. Deep in his mind I think he ‘s eager for a life that he can age and have a happy family just like normal people. But in reality he got the resposibity to save the world. And is there anybody can explain where does the family of blood come from? Really curious about their origin lol.

    winston @winston

    @heyoli  Hello and welcome to the site. I hope you like it here, there is so much to read and discuss. I love this story too and I feel so bad for him because he wants to be John Smith but he is the Doctor. I don’t remember the back story except that the Family are after him and he must hide. I will have to watch it again.

    The real hero of this story is Martha Jones who not only has to protect the Doctor and keep his secret but also has to put up with the racism, sexism  and class prejudice directed towards her. The fact that she didn’t smack someone is amazing.

    Stay safe.

    janetteB @janetteb

    @heyoli Hi Welcome. We watched this story just over a week ago, it being one of my favourites I have watching it many many times. there is no explanation of who the family are or their origins. They are just another of those random Dr Who “monsters”. If  I have one complaint about Dr Who is it the total absence of any attempt at “world building.”

    @winston is right. Martha Jones is the real hero of this story. Having worked in hospitality back in student days I really relate to her. “Private school” boys, (in Aus we refer to them a private schools) are the most offensive. I refused to work on those events after a while. “Public Schools”, (which in Aus’ are no fee, government schools) were never a problem.




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