“In England in 1913, school teacher John Smith experiences amazing dreams of living an incredible life as a mysterious adventurer called “the Doctor”, fighting monsters and seeing far away worlds.”
For me, Human Nature is an absolutely stellar piece of storytelling. Even though originally the story was not intended for the Tenth Doctor, played by David Tennant. Originally this story was a book featuring the Seventh Doctor, as portrayed by Sylvester McCoy. However after seeing the episode, I find it a better fit to Tennant’s portrayal of the Time Lord than McCoy’s.
One thing that is absolutely spot on in this episode is the casting. Joan Redfern played by Jessica Hynes, John Smith’s love interest and school matron is played with such humanity and compassion in this episode. Joan is sincere and kind, even to Martha who’s having a rough time with some of the other characters in the story due to her skin colour. Thomas Sangster who plays Tim Latimer is absolutely brilliant for an actor so young, he plays a haunted young man extremely believably. For me though, the stars of the episodes have to be Rebekah Staton, Harry Lloyd, Gerald Horan and Lauren Wilson who play Mother of Mine, Brother of Mine, Father of Mine and Sister of Mine, the Family of Blood. Their characterisations of these alien beings are so spooky and sinister that, even to this day, their acting makes me uncomfortable.
In my opinion, Human Nature contains some of the most traumatic, distressing scenes in Doctor Who history; the scene when the Doctor uses the Chameleon Arch to become human. Seeing the Doctor in such physical pain, with Martha stood watching in horror, unable to do anything. As an eleven year old watching this episode for the first time, I remember being more scared of Doctor Who than I ever was before.
Luckily for the newly humanised John Smith, he can keep some of his memories in the form of dreams which he writes down the accounts of in The Journal of Impossible Things, a product I would love to be properly released as a book. (I’m aware it came with the fob watch as a toy once, but I would like a full book filled with the scrawlings of a Time Lord in hiding.)
For the Whovians among us, this episode is an homage to everything we’ve seen previously. Whether it be John Smith saving a baby with a cricket ball (a massive shout out to the Fifth Doctor), saying that John Smith’s parents are called Sydney and Verity (a shout out to Sydney Newman and Verity Lambert, the two people who are responsible for creating Doctor Who in the 1960’s) or that John Smith learned to draw in Gallifrey, which must be in Ireland.
One thing that I don’t particularly like in this story has to be Martha. Even though I appreciate the fact that in this story she basically has to become the Doctor whilst he’s away, the way she handles situations are for from Doctorly. The second that John Smith and Nurse Redfern become romantically involved with one another, Martha becomes like a stroppy teenager who’s found out that her crush is dating someone else. Some may argue that the reason she’s acting this way and trying to dissuade Joan from getting too attached to John Smith is because she knows what heartbreak can feel like, and she doesn’t wish it upon the schools matron. However I don’t feel like Martha’s character in this particular story has that much depth.
As this is the first story in a two parter, there isn’t much action as it seems to be setting up characters, situations and dilemmas that part two, The Family of Blood has to rectify. The perk of being the first part in a two part story though, is that you get to end on a cliffhanger; and what a cliffhanger it is. John and Joan are at the dance, Martha rushes in to try and convince John that he’s the Doctor then, all of a sudden, the Family of Blood are there, demanding that John Smith goes back to being his old Time Lord self. As John pleads ignorance to what’s going on, the Family give him a choice. He can either save Martha or Joan, both of whom are held at gunpoint. This is how a cliffhanger should be done. Being left a week with an impossible choice.
The rating system on the Gallifrey Archive is achieved with on a scale of 1-10.
For Human Nature, I will give a rating of: