Doctor Who/Recap/S29/E08 Human Nature

Everything About Fiction You Never Wanted to Know.
< Doctor Who‎ | Recap‎ | S29

"It's all becoming clear. The Doctor is the man you'd like to be, doing impossible things with cricket balls."
Joan Redfern

"Human Nature" / "The Family of Blood" were adapted for TV by Paul Cornell from his Virgin New Adventures book Human Nature. The two-part episode was nominated for a Hugo award.

The story opens on the TARDIS, where Martha and the Doctor are trying to escape from a family of alien hunters. The Doctor finds himself forced to use a last-ditch Gallifreyan escape method...

And Now for Someone Completely Different.

It's 1913. Mild-mannered Upper Class Twit schoolteacher John Smith (David Tennant) teaches history at a Boarding School. He's having a great time keeping a beautifully illustrated dream journal and chatting with Joan, the school nurse. Lately, his dreams have been about blue boxes in space, strange men who are all the same somehow, frightful aliens, and being a "Doctor". Joan tells him that she'd love to read his tales, and as they grow closer, he ends up asking her out to the school dance.

Then, one November night, some of the monsters from his nightmares turn up in reality. They're looking for "The Doctor", and they've mistaken ordinary Englishman John Smith for their prey. The monsters steal the bodies of people living in the school area, and are on the hunt...

Weirder yet, John's maid Martha also insists that he is the Doctor, and begs him to change back. Obviously, she's gone mad; she believes that his dreams are real, that she can travel among the stars, and even that—with her skin color! -- she can secretly be a medical student. Smith dismisses her ideas as African lunacy. But some of her ramblings spark memories inside him, memories of a life he's sure he never lived. And there was an odd watch in his living room, which Martha desperately wants, but which has been stolen by a young school boy named Timothy Latimer.

It turns out that the Doctor has changed himself into a human to escape the hunters. Completely. Because the aliens will die after three months without food—and the Doctor is food—he's decided to subject himself to the agonising process of reprogramming his own body during that time. He has one heart, one human brain, and one hell of a confused look on his face when he's eventually cornered by the monsters, who demand that he turn himself into the Doctor again. But he, completely bewildered, still has no idea what they're talking about... not even when they take his friends hostage.

Continued in S3 E9 The Family of Blood.


Joan: Where'd you learn to draw?
John: Gallifrey.
Joan: Is that in Ireland?
John: I guess it...must be.

  • Get a Hold of Yourself, Man!: Martha
  • Hilarious Outtakes: You know that part where Martha fast-forwards through most of a message from the Doctor? This is what he said.
    • One of the things he wants Martha to do is keep him from eating pears; he hates pears and doesn't want to come back with that taste in his mouth. Guess what John Smith is eating when he idly picks up the watch on the mantlepiece?
  • Jerkass: Jeremy Baines
  • Large Ham: Son of Mine has his moments.


  • Meido
  • Memory Gambit
  • Ninja Maid: "The maid has spirit!"
  • Psychic Powers: Tim Latimer
  • Rube Goldberg Device: How John Smith saves a baby using only a cricket ball and the power of physics.
  • Running Gag / Call Back: Gallifrey being a place in Ireland, as said in The Hand of Fear, The Invisible Enemy, and the TV Movie.
  • Sadistic Choice: The cliffhanger.
  • Scary Scarecrows
  • Shout-Out: John Smith's parents are named Sydney and Verity, after Sydney Newman and Verity Lambert, the names of the two people most often considered to be the "creators" of Doctor Who (they weren't -- the show was created essentially by committee, but Newman offered the most input of anyone there and Lambert was the show's first producer—but they are the next closest thing).
  • Something He Would Never Say: Forget about the monsters and the scarecrows. The scariest part of this episode is watching the blasé way in which John Smith waltzes around trampling all over the moral code that defines the Tenth Doctor. Sure, go ahead and beat the kid. Of course I'll supervise machine gun class. Hide behind a bunch of terrified teenagers to save my own skin? Sounds like a plan! It REALLY ISN'T HIM.
  • Spanner in the Works: Latimer stealing the Doctor's watch.
  • This Is Sparta: Father of Mine, when crashing the dance.
  • Uncanny Valley: Most of the Family, but Son of Mine in particular... he never blinks...
  • Visible Invisibility: When Baines strikes the ship's invisibility field, it briefly becomes visible.
  • Wistful Amnesia: Joan interprets John's dreams as "the man you want to be", and his absentmindedness is said to be as if he knows there's something he should be doing and wants to go back to, but he can't quite remember what it is.
  • The Woobie: Tim Latimer. The older boys make him shine their shoes and do their homework; one deliberately lies to "John Smith" so that he can beat up the poor guy.
    • He's probably their fag.
  • World War I: Lurks just over the horizon.