Human Nature (TV)

Roots: This story is a direct adaptation of the novel Human Nature. We hear the hymn He Who Would Valiant Be. The names of John Smith's parents are a reference to Sydney Newman and Verity Lambert - the most important people in the original creation of Doctor Who

Goofs: The tune being used for He who would valiant be is anacrhronistic.

In addition to the question of why the Doctor and Martha couldn't just keep the TARDIS in the vortex, how is Martha supposed to know when it is safe to change Smith back into the Doctor?

If the family of blood are incorporeal beings (as they appear to be before they absorb human forms) , why do they refer to each other in terms of a human family?

Neither Smith nor Joan recognise the sonic screwdriver, despite the massive picture of it in the journal.

The newspaper has an article about "vitamins", but before 1920, the word was "vitamine" rather than "vitamin"

Dialogue Triumphs: Joan (talking about the journal's description of World War I): All those images of mud and wire. You told of a shadow. A shadow falling across the entire world.

Continuity: The Doctor disguises himself as the human history teacher John Smith in order to escape the family of blood. Smith dreams of his actual history, and writes these dreams down in My Journal of Impossible Things. One of these dreams mentions the start of World War One. He records a message of 23 instructions for Martha while he's human. They include not letting him hurt anyone, not worrying about the TARDIS - he has left it on emergency power so they can't detect it, not letting him get involved in big historical events, not to let him abandon her, and that if anything goes wrong, she should open the fob watch - which contains the Doctor's personality and biology. The watch has a perception filter on it, so that John Smith won't think anything of it. Whilst he is completely human, Smith demonstrates the ability to throw a cricket ball to initiate a mousetrap-style series of events to stop a woman pushing a pram being underneath a falling piano. His father Sydney was a watchmaker from Nottingham, whilst his mother Verity was a nurse. He is content to let the schoolchildren administer a beatng to one of their fellow pupils.

The TARDIS contains a chameleon arch, which the Doctor never thought he'd use, though he has wondered. It can turn the Doctor's biology human, and the TARDIS will choose life story and a setting for him, and integrate him. He has just enough residual awareness to let Martha in.

Martha is posing as a maid in the school. She is upset that John Smith falls in love with a human, and it isn't her.

The family of blood are hunters, who are hunting the Doctor, they have smelt him, and can track that smell anywhere in time and space. They only have three months life supplies. They are able to make their spacecraft invisible.They are able to take over human bodies. They can animate scarecrows who they use as soldiers to kidnap some bodies for them to use.

Joan Redfern is the school nurse. Her husband Oliver, who had been her childhood sweetheart, was shot dead at the battle of Spion Kop. It made her angry at the army.

The Two Human Natures

This boxed section is adapted, with permission, from an unpublished essay by Philip Purser-Hallard

The broadcast of Human Nature/The Family of Blood caused quite a controversy in Doctor Who fandom. Until this point, it had been crystal clear that the TV series and the novels could co-exist within the same universe. The similarities between these two episodes and the novel Human Nature, however caused a lot of fans to claim that the two could not co-exist.

The fundamental question is how far one story needs to diverge from another before they’re considered to be separate events in the history of the Doctor Who universe. There’s a spectrum from virtually identical accounts – the Target novelisations and Titan scriptbooks at their most faithful – to almost completely different versions, such as Rise of the Cybermen/The Age of Steel and Spare Parts (from which the TV two-parter was notionally adapted, but with which it has almost nothing in common other than the ‘genesis of the Cybermen’ concept). Hardly anybody doubts that the latter can coexist separately as happily as, say, Remembrance of the Daleks and Silver Nemesis, two stories from the same season with very similar plots. Virtually everyone will agree that the latter are merely slightly different versions of the same story.

This two-parter, however, is often seen as a completely different case - too similar to be separate events, but too different to be simply a different account of the same events.This adaptation preserves the high-concept premise (the Doctor becoming human), the setting (a boarding-school shortly before World War I) and much of the storyline (aliens want to steal the Doctor’s DNA, and his human avatar has to give up his humanity to stop them). Many of the characters also bear near-identical names: in both stories the Doctor becomes a John Smith, falls in love with a Joan Redfern, works for a headmaster named Rocastle, teaches boys called Tim (though their surnames differ) and Hutchinson, and lives near a village called Farringham.

Even so, there are extensive enough differences between the narratives to suggest that these are coincidences – albeit substantial ones. They feature the Doctor at different points in his life (his seventh and tenth incarnations), travelling with different companions (Bernice and Martha), fighting different sets of aggressive aliens (the Aubertides and the Family of Blood), becoming human for different reasons (curiosity and an urgent need for concealment), taking on different personal histories (he’s from Aberdeen and Reading) and relationships (Bernice is supposedly his niece, Martha his maid), working at schools with different names (Hutton and Farringham) in different years (1914 and 1913) and falling for different women (a teacher and a school matron). Moreover, the storylines are very different in detail. There’s no real sense in which the events of the later story can be read as ‘overwriting’ those of the first (as with the eighth Doctor’s version of Shada, which closely follows the script of the incomplete fourth Doctor original) – there’s simply too little overlap between them.

Unless we declare that one medium or other ‘doesn’t count’ – which is definitely not the philosophy of this site – then we must accept that the Doctor experienced the events of the novel Human Nature, and some time later (in his personal timeline) those of the TV story. After all, it makes more sense, if he’s done this before, that he apparently has a human ‘pattern’ waiting and ready for use aboard the TARDIS. As for the coincidence of names… it’s not unknown to come across two people with the same name working in the same industry, and English villages with duplicated names are practically ubiquitous. More pertinently, we’ve already seen (in Bad Wolf/The Parting of the Ways) that the TARDIS – or the power residing within it – can restructure history on a cultural-linguistic level, changing words and names across substantial distances in time and space.

In the TV Human Nature it’s the TARDIS which chooses where in time and space to place its newly-human pilot. We can assume that it remembers the events of the first Human Nature, and recalls that on that occasion things turned out successfully. We might imagine, therefore, that it tries to duplicate that setup as closely as possible, altering what it can to suit the scenario and fudging the rest.

All of which justifies – so I maintain, at least – treating the two Human Natures as separate events in the Doctor's life.

Links: The family of blood have stolen a time agent's vortex manipulator (like the one Captain Jack has).

My Journal of Impossible Things includes pictures of the TARDIS console, the sonic screwdriver, gas-mask people (The Empty Child/The Doctor Dances), a Dalek, the Moxx of Balhoon (The End of the World), Autons (specifically the version from Rose), the fob watch we saw earlier in the episode, clockwork people (The Girl in the Fireplace), Rose Tyler, Cybermen, the TARDIS exterior, a Slitheen (Aliens of London/World War Three, Boom Town), and pictures of the first, fifth, sixth, seventh, and eighth Doctors.

When Timothy opens the watch he receives a number of images of the Doctor's life. They include the phrase You Are Not Alone (Gridlock), Time War era Daleks (including the one seen in Dalek), Cybus Cybermen (Rise of the Cybermen/The Age of Steel/Army of Ghosts/Doomsday), Ood (The Impossible Planet/The Satan Pit), the werewold (Tooth and Claw), the Racnoss (The Runaway Bride) and a Sycorax (The Christmas Invasion. He later has a flashback to Martha running past him.

John Smith says that he learnt to draw in Gallifrey.

Extras: This story has an episode of Doctor Who Confidential. The BBC website had an online commentary and a behind the scenes video podcast.

Location: The first scene takes place in an unknown time and place. Monday, November 10th 1913 to Tuesday November 11th 1913.

Q.v. Why the book is better, Human Nature (novel)

The Bottom Line: This isn't as good as the book, but it's a solid start. Martha's unrequited love for the Doctor plays very well against the budding romance between John Smith and Nurse Redfern, and the Family of Blood are suitably creepy.

Discontinuity Guide by Stephen Gray

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The 1996 movie is not the only reference to this. The Doctor, through the perception filter, says he's from Gallifrey, that his father was a watch maker (i.e. Time Lord) and his mother was a nurse (human). While many have thought this is a tribute to Sydney Newman and Verity Lambert, I think it's also an acknowlegment that the revelation in the Paul McGann film is part of the Doctor's mythology.

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