Steve Goble

Choose life. (Deuteronomy 30:19)

***** contains spoilers *****
I don't go in much for romantic films.

Which is unfortunate given how there is hardly a single TV series now that doesn't feature love in some form. Turn the TV on now. Go on. Try to find a show that you can watch for just ten minutes before it becomes about relationships.

I guess I particularly resent the way in which that leaves me with no shows that I can escape into. Even so-called 'science-fiction' programmes - my favourite genre - now have to keep stopping for relationship issues.

My favourite TV show is Doctor Who, which for the original 26-year run never featured the Doctor falling for anybody even once. And, in over 600 episodes, that never once noticed.

In the first two-and-a-half years of the new run though, he's fallen in love twice, been propositioned, been the subject of infatuation, retconned a friendship from the original series, spouted innuendo, had his body taken over by a woman, and even got to kiss another man. To say nothing of all his flirty companions and guest-characters.

Is there a science-fiction show being made today that I can watch which is just about 'science-fiction'? No? No.

Human Nature / The Family Of Blood starts off well. The Doctor and Martha are being chased into the TARDIS by aliens, presumably off in space somewhere. (!) Dematerialising, they realise that they're being followed. However the aliens in question have very short lifespans, and will die of old age within just a few months. So the Doctor and Martha decide to hide-out somewhere until their hunters simply die of natural causes.

Guess which planet they pick?

To avoid being detected, the TARDIS painfully transforms the Doctor's body into that of a human, and temporarily rewrites his memories and knowledge for the duration, to deter the aliens from detecting either his body or his mind. He's name is now John Smith, and he's a teacher on Earth in the year 1913, with Martha as his maid. (unidentified by the aliens, her faculties and DNA remain intact)

That's a great science-fictioney start.

And while he's there, working as a teacher, he falls in love with Matron.


The truly shocking thing about this development, is that I really enjoyed this story. The Doctor's a nice guy. Joan is a nice girl. They don't spoil that.

(not until someone unwisely retcons this story, anyway)

As the aliens close-in, and a small-scale war breaks out in the village, John Smith's slow realisation that his identity is only a fabrication is an absolute tradgedy. And since he is the Doctor, in all but memory and knowledge, he's every bit as determined not to give in.

But to defeat the aliens and save everyone's lives, he knows he needs the Doctor's memories and knowledge. He has to change back, and give up his entire future life with Joan, in order to defeat the aliens and stop the killing.

He has to lose.

It's a fascinating window into the Doctor's inner loneliness. There are hints of this in other episodes, but as John Smith it's all out there in full view, as Smith doesn't have the Doctor's emotional wall.

Of course, by the end, he does the right thing and gives up what he wants to save everyone. He does the right thing, no matter what the cost. Of course he does - that's who the Doctor is.

The other angle on all this is Martha's. She's been interested in the Doctor from day one, but has always known that he didn't return the feeling. So far in the series, this has just proved to be a really annoying distraction, but in the choices that she's forced to confront here, she obviously reaches some sort of peace with this too.

Praise must also go to the excellent cast. Everyone turns in a good performance here, but particular note must go to Jessica Hynes as Joan, Pip Torrens as Headmaster Rocastle and Harry Lloyd as Baines, who exudes depth in both of his identities.

There are many good scenes in here, but not without a few jarring plot-thuds too, particularly Martha's abandonment of the watch containing all the Doctor's memories, and, would you believe...

Zombies & zombies TEAM-UP!
... the inclusion of two sets of zombies!

In fact, given that both the aliens and the Doctor change their physical bodies in this, you have to wonder if there was an earlier draft in which he'd stolen his body-change machine from them. That would be consistent with the fact they were chasing him...

However on the whole the material was so well thought-about that I was enthralled.

Perhaps I bought-into this one because it was more about loss than love.

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