Monday, June 11, 2007

Human Nature/Family of Blood

At the scene where Nurse Joan saw what her life would have been like had she married John Smith, I had tears running down my face. Then when we saw the elderly Tim at the Remembrance Service and the Doctor and Martha waving to him, I was choked up all over again. That's not a thing that happens often to me, but the Human Nature/Family of Blood two-parter was an absolutely exceptional piece of television.

It's tempting to just list all the glorious moments in HN/FoB (not all of which are a cause for tears by any manner of means) but that would would in effect involve writing virtually every scene out in longhand, which somewhat misses the point of a review. Suffice to say it has genuine thematic and emotional depth, beautiful dialogue and believable and consistent characterisation.*

Ditto praising the good performances would inolve copy and pasting the cast list from IMDb. But special praise perhaps belongs to Harry Lloyd as Baines and Thomas Sangster as Lattimer, while Tennant (conclusively proving that he's an excellent actor, just not very good at playing the Doctor) was as good as he's ever been in New Who.

I could go all snarky now and contrast this with the likes of Gridlock which some (deluded) fans have praised to the heavens, but I'm still on a high from watching Cornell's masterclass in 'How to Write' and in any case, I was always told it wasn't nice to mock the obviously afflicted.

And there's a scary Moffat to come next! It's like Rusty's already left and the show's gotten good again...

* Not everything works - the scenes set in No Man's Land during World War I have a real Two Little Boys feel about them, and there's a line in Human Nature (which I can't help but think sounds like a Rusty inclusion) where Martha bemoans the fact that the Doctor has fallen in love with a human and 'it's not me!'. But these are minor complaints.

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11 Comments:

Blogger Ross Douglas said...

The Moffat episode was, imho, off the fucking dial!

Welcome back matey. How was the holibobs?

1:22 pm  
Blogger Stuart Douglas said...

Chickenpox, missed flights, invasion of bugs - the usual holiday fayre :)

Got a couple of pressies for you, by the by...

7:19 pm  
Blogger Scott Liddell said...

I can see it now on Jeremy Kyle:

"It got so bad that they only communicated through blog comments, neither one noticing the desperate cries for help until, sometimes, many days too late."

9:44 pm  
Blogger SAF said...

Not *too* surprised to find our thoughts on HN/FoB very in tune :)

10:30 pm  
Blogger TimeWarden said...

Martha's carelessness through not taking better care of the watch, after specifically being told of its importance by the Doctor in the teaser, directly leads to the Doctor having to choose between his friend and lover at the climax of "Human Nature". Had Martha kept it about her person, Tim wouldn't have picked it up, opened it, and led the Family of Blood to the dancehall.

Paul Cornell should've found another way to reach the same cliff-hanger such as losing the watch. As it stands, it makes Martha look stupid when she must be anything but, considering her medical training! The negligence over something so vital is contradictory to her character and therefore poor writing. The plot collapses because of it, despite the subtext remaining intact. Remember how important it was to retain the time ring in "Genesis"!!

The narrative is also carelessly undermined at the end of "The Family of Blood" when Tim reminds Hutchinson, in the trenches, of the promise he made "all those years ago"! This scene is set in 1914, reaffirmed immediately afterwards by the Producer in "Confidential", while the bulk of the story takes place the previous year!! Now, if Tim had said "all those months ago"… but it just doesn't have the same dramatic punch!!! I'm of the firm opinion that this story is no better or worse than any other this season.

5:49 am  
Blogger Stuart Douglas said...

I don't agree - neither the presence of the watch (left in plain view a la the Purloined Letter) and the timing of the war scene (presumably 1917 or 1918, regardless of what the Producer - why would he know? - says) even need hand-waving explanations imho - they're explained within the episodes themselves.

I didn't think HN/FoB was perfect but it was the closest New WHo has come to that happy state :)

8:58 am  
Blogger TimeWarden said...

Remembering your DiM acronym, and also bearing in mind a certain watch, ever feel you've been FoBbed off?!!

5:26 am  
Blogger SK said...

With regard to Martha's character, the bit which I felt had a little problem was the scene in the dancehall where Martha, despite having a gun turned on the Family, doesn't shoot at least one of them.

After all, in 'Familtof Blood' there are really only roles for three of the four: the Boy outside the school, the Girl as the spy inside, and one Parent (in the event, the Father) to guard the TARDIS. The other Parent coul dhave been disposed of by Martha in the dance hall without any problems to the plot, and giving a little extra spice to proceedings.

In the book, one of the family dies (Aphasia), it's a nice element which deepens the drama and the enemies, it could have been fitted in the running time without trouble (I understand that a lot of the good stuff from the book simply couldn't have been done in the time), and it would have underlined the difference in competence between Martha and Rose.

The other thing I woul dhave liked to have seen was John Smith qua human having to do somethign heroic. In the book, if I remember rightly, they can't find the biodatapaod so Smith has to march up to the baddies and try to bluff them into leaving -- basically putting himself in terrible danger without any of his Time Lord powers to protect him. This is rather more heroic than doing the cheap smell trick to pretend to be human, while actually being InvulnerableDoctor, and I was sad it was lost.

8:40 am  
Blogger Stuart Douglas said...

SK: "it would have underlined the difference in competence between Martha and Rose."

I agree with that, but to be honest I think that the promise of greater competency for Martha vs Rose has quickly gone the way of similar promises in the old series (Sarah Jane, for instance). that is, it's been forgotten about sharpish.

"The other thing I woul dhave liked to have seen was John Smith qua human having to do somethign heroic."

But allowing himself to die to save everyone is genuine heroism, surely?

2:41 pm  
Blogger SK said...

Weeeeeell... he would have had to 'die' eventually anyway, but trying to bluff the aliens seems a bit more... concretely heroic? Opening a watch which will cause his death is a bit abstract (and we never actually see it anyway) and also he knows that he's going to recover his Time Lordy powers and wherefore be able to beat the bad guys, so it's kind of a fair exchange.

Whereas going in as a human would carry actual risk of actually properly dying, not just transmigrating into an alien, and also would have no guarantee of success.

Opening the watch is a bit 'if you do this, your human life will end, but you will become a powerful alien and save everybody'.

But the other would have been 'I have no guarantee of saving anybody, and I might well die in vain, but dammit I can't just stand by and do nothing, I have to give it a shot'.

Do you not think that's a bit more heroic? Especially as it's not an either/or choice -- he'd still have to do the opening-the-watch bit anyway to end the plot, so it's an extra bit of heroism, not just a replacement.

4:44 pm  
Blogger Stuart Douglas said...

SK: "Opening a watch which will cause his death is a bit abstract (and we never actually see it anyway) and also he knows that he's going to recover his Time Lordy powers and wherefore be able to beat the bad guys."

Well, that's the Doctor and not John Smith.

SK: "Whereas going in as a human would carry actual risk of actually properly dying, not just transmigrating into an alien, and also would have no guarantee of success.

Opening the watch is a bit 'if you do this, your human life will end, but you will become a powerful alien and save everybody'.

But the other would have been 'I have no guarantee of saving anybody, and I might well die in vain, but dammit I can't just stand by and do nothing, I have to give it a shot'."

That's a good point. Smith actualyl does something rare for the Doctor - rather than doing something dangerous to try and help others and int he process risk his life, Smith does something which can only have certain results - his own death and eventual success in saving everyone. I hadn't considered that and I'm not sure whether it's a positive or a negative. Hmm...

SK:"Do you not think that's a bit more heroic?"

I do actually. It's a scene in the TV version which could as easily have used the superior book version without any obvious diffculties.

8:57 am  

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