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rare female film critic | by maryann johanson

‘Doctor Who’ blogging: “Human Nature”

(intro to my Who blogging, please read before commenting / previous: Episode 7: “42”)

Why is my Doctor Who blogging so late this week? Because I can’t stop watching ‘Doctor Who’. I mean, apart from all the other stupid weekend stuff that always has to be done and takes up way too much time, like cleaning the birdcage or putting away the laundry and all that other nonsense that — it must be said — never has to be done on the TARDIS, apparently. I’d do some boring chore and then tell myself, “Well, I think I’ve earned a quick peek at another episode, maybe one I’ve only seen three or four times so far,” and that would turn into two episodes, and then there’d be more stupid life-maintenance work to be done, and then I’d have earned another episode or two, and, well, it’s all research for my Doctor Who blogging anyway, so it’s not like watching is not work too…

It’s a sickness, I tell ya. A sickness. I hate you, Russell Davies. And I hate you, David Tennant. Hate. Please just go away and take the Doctor out of my head when you leave. I’m begging you.
Is “Human Nature” — along with its conclusion, “The Family of Blood,” and oh, do I pity those of you who have to wait two whole weeks to find out what happens — the best Doctor Who ever? Is Doctor Who the finest television series in the history of television? Could it be the pinnacle of human civilization? If the sun went nova tomorrow, should we be satisfied to know that episodes of Doctor Who are streaming through space riding electromagnetic waves? (Oh my god, has anyone thought to make sure that this new Doctor Who is actually broadcast, so that it does get out into space, as well as cablecast?)

I’m only wondering, is all.

I mentioned a few episodes back that this new incarnation of the show is about the Doctor in a way that the old show never was, and this episode (and its conclusion) is the best example of that. It’s such an intimate look at the Doctor, more than we’ve ever seen before, maybe. And I don’t mean the whole falling-in-love thing: I mean all the stuff behind that. Like how it doesn’t occur to him that he might fall in love and so he leaves Martha no instructions on what to do in that case… and yet he falls in love so quickly and easily. Not that that’s any kind of diss on Joan — she seems perfectly lovely; it’s an indication, again, of how lonely the Doctor is, and how desperate he is to reach out and connect with other people. And how, by inference, he is unable to as himself, as the last Time Lord.

It’s all terribly sad and poignant and moving — and it gets more so in “The Family of Blood.” What’s worth throwing away in exchange for happiness? Is it worth pretending to be something you’re not? Will the Doctor, when he becomes himself again (as you know he has to) dream about his life as John Smith in the same way that Smith dreamt of the Doctor’s life? (Smith writes down the fanciful stories he sees in his imagination — the Doctor is writing his own fan fiction!) Whipping up tales about these kinds of things — the Doctor’s deepest hopes and fears, for instance — were what the fan fiction writers of the old series were doing, and we always thought we were the only ones who saw the “real” Doctor. It’s still so startling to see the new show doing the same thing, and that Davies and the other writers clearly share many of the same ideas about who the Doctor really is. That’s part of why the new series is so particularly touching for many fans: it’s showing us a Doctor we secretly knew but didn’t realize so many other people secretly knew as well.

Speaking of fan fiction: scriptwriter Paul Cornell based these episodes on his novel of the same name, which was published in the mid-90s and featured the Sylvester McCoy Doctor. (Buy a copy at Amazon, or read it online for free.) Those novels are close to fan fiction as “official” Doctor Who gets.

Speaking of dreams and fan fiction: A while ago, before I saw Tennant’s second season, I actually dreamt about a scenario for an entire season of the show with another actor as the Doctor (part of the dream was prompted, I know, by a rumor I’d heard about a possible 11th Doctor). It wasn’t like a dream: it wasn’t weird and surreal like dreams usually are. It was like watching TV: it was lucid and coherent. No: it wasn’t like watching TV: it was like being in the action myself, not as myself, but as a player in the action who wasn’t me. Which was really cool. So — heh — what does that mean, that I dreamt about the Doctor as if he were real? Beyond, of course, the obvious explanation, which is that I’m demented. And I keep living with this big, sprawling story in my head, and will probably have to write it down in my copious spare time.

It’s a sickness, I tell ya. A sickness.

Oh, and what were the Doctor and Martha up to when they met the Family in the first place? There’s more fanfic I need to write… *sigh*

I love Thomas Sangster: he plays the kid who’s a little bit psychic (he’s also very good in the very bad The Last Legion). And I love love love Harry Lloyd, who plays Baines, the older student who gets taken over by the aliens. “Shut up stop talking cease and desist there’s a good girl!” (Lloyd is even more memorably creepy in the next episode.) So I looked him up on the IMDB, wondering where else I could see him, and that’s where I discovered, to my stunned shock, that he’s also in the BBC series Robin Hood, as Will Scarlett. That he made so little impression on me there I put down to the much poorer writing of that other show; Will just isn’t a juicy part like Baines/alien Baines is.

Random thoughts on “Human Nature”:

• How chilling for the Doctor to casually grant permission for the older student to beat Latimer!

• When Smith kisses Joan, he starts to say, “I’ve never…” Never what?

• And oh, would I love for the Doctor to look at me the way Smith looks at Joan. Poor Martha: she feels the same way. “You had to go and fall in love with a human, and it wasn’t me…” *sniff*

• Who are all those other voices in the watch? The Doctor’s memories? Is it the Face of Bo who talks of “the last of the Time Lords”?

• Creepy scarecrows!

• Martha says hello to the TARDIS: even she senses it’s alive…

• “Sardines and jam”? Yum!

(next: Episode 9: “The Family of Blood”)


MPAA: not rated

viewed at home on a small screen

official site | IMDb
posted in:
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