Human NatureBookmark and Share

Sunday, 27 May 2007 - Reviewed by Angus Gulliver

Last week I mentioned the series perhaps being stuck in fourth gear. This week, maybe, we shifted into top. If next week's "Family Of Blood" worthily wraps up this two-parter then we will have the most successful adventure of 2007 for the good Doctor.

As we all know, this story is based upon the 1995 novel by Paul Cornell. I was generously lent a copy of this by the friend we watched "Smith & Jones" with (Hi Chris!). Only after reading this did I seek out reviews, and I generally agree with those who feel there's a good story in there but the book concentrates too much on the Aubertides without making them particularly interesting characters.

Thankfully the premise seems to have been changed somewhat for the TV version. The Doctor must change physically and mentally into a human because he's being chased, and as a Time Lord could easily be tracked.

So we have John Smith, English public schoolteacher in 1913, as the clouds of war are forming. Cornell and director Charles Palmer skillfully get us into the story quickly, indeed I felt this episode established a lot of essential facts and packed in a lot of action quickly but without leaving the viewer feeling rushed. The marks, I believe, of a good writer and director.

The Doctor has "hidden" his real persona inside a pocket watch, which is found and briefly opened by one of his pupils, leading the alien Family of Blood (no mention of Aubertides) to locate him, The Family posess an (excellent CGI) mostly invisible spaceship complete with forcefield that is activated when anybody touches the ship. And they use spooky scarecrows as soldiers, these deserve a special mention for their design is truly un-nerving!

The Doctor (or should I say John Smith) begins to fall for Joan, and eventually invites her to a local dance where the aliens finally locate him...cue "scream" and the cliffhanger.

Regular readers will know I was not overly impressed with Cornell's "Father's Day" from 2005. I felt it was great dramatic television but had nothing much to do with Doctor Who. However, despite the main character being effectively absent "Human Nature" works much better. Like "Father's Day" it gives us a chance to focus on the companion, but with the Doctor still very much being the central character and crucial to the plot.

As the first of a two-parter, this does its job in an excellent manner. It was entertaining, I didn't catch myself clockwatching. It was scary in places, it was well written with observations on racism and sexism gently woven into a script that was correctly more concerned with telling a story. Roll on next week!


FILTER: - Series 3/29 - Tenth Doctor - Television