Recap / Doctor Who S29 E8 "Human Nature"
Technically speaking, the Doctor isn't in this picture...

"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 Doctor Who New Adventures book Human Nature. The novel starred the Seventh Doctor and Bernice Summerfield.

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 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 village 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 — with her skin colour! — that she can be a medical student. Smith dismisses her ideas as 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 "The Family of Blood".


  • Action Prologue: Episode opens and *wham*, the Doctor and Martha are running for their lives with people shooting at them.
  • Absentminded Professor: John Smith
  • Adorkable:
    • John is (apart from 1913 values) even more huggably awkward than Ten, which frankly takes some work.
    • Tim Latimer as well. Doubles as The Woobie due to being picked on repeatedly.
  • Amusing Injuries: Subverted; John Smith falls down some stair while backing away from a romantic invitation to a dance ball, and is getting stitches in the next scene for his head injury.
  • Anachronism Stew:
    • Tubular metal scaffolding (of the kind that John dislodges with a thrown cricket ball in order to save the woman and child from a falling piano) was not in widespread use in the UK until the 1930s. Before that, wooden scaffolding poles were employed, lashed together/into position with rope or something similar.
    • In the opening shot of the scene where the schoolboys at machine gun practice, a large white modern articulated semi truck can be seen moving from right to left in the distance behind the targets.
  • Artistic License Gun Safety: When the boys are doing machine-gun practice, they're using a .303 Vickers machine gun, which had a range of 4,500 yards. An outdoor firing range would always have a slope of earth or sand behind the targets to stop dead all bullets fired down the range. Not only is there no such slope behind the boys targets, but we can see they're firing down into a valley full of buildings, well within the 4.5km (2.8mi) range of the gun, jeopardizing the lives of the villagers!
  • Asshole Victim: Jeremy Baines is a real piece of work, and Son of Mine's choice of host.
  • Baby Carriage
  • Bluff the Impostor: Teatime with Martha and Jenny. Nothing like some nice steak in the pot. It ends with Martha running away as fast as she can.
  • Boarding School of Horrors: And that is before the Family turn up too.
  • Coconut Superpowers: Invisible spaceships are easy on the FX budget.
  • Continuity Nod: The Journal of Impossible Things contains several. Most notably, the Eighth Doctor (Paul McGann) is shown as one of the past incarnations, dispelling any remaining confusion about whether or not he's part of the canon.
  • Creepy Child: Daughter of Mine
  • Deliberate Values Dissonance: Joan Redfern is a product of her time. So's John Smith: he sees nothing wrong with a boy being beaten for not working fast enough during machine-gun practice, and assumes that Martha cannot understand the difference between fiction and reality. The latter earns him one hell of a slap.
    • Martha and Jenny aren't even allowed in the pub just because they're women, having to drink outside in the freezing cold.
    • Jenny herself has a moment of this, when Martha complains about Edwardian values, Jenny remarks (even after Martha has said she's from London) "things must be different in your country".
  • Discriminate and Switch: Martha saying that not everyone would be as kind as John is to someone like her, with her being a Londoner and all.
  • Dreaming the Truth: John
  • The Edwardian Era
  • Ethnic Menial Labor: It's the Edwardian Era, so Martha can only get a job as a maid.
  • Failed a Spot Check: John Smith, in a conversation with the attractive school nurse offering to go to the dance with him, gets increasingly nervous and flustered, as she tries to point out the very important fact that he's walking towards some stairs. He promptly trips and falls down them.
  • Fake Memories: With a couple of holes.
    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 tries to jog the Doctor's memory. It doesn't help.
  • 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. (This was also on the list in the original novel.) Guess what John Smith is eating when he idly picks up the watch on the mantlepiece?
  • Humans Are Bastards: The Doctor asks Martha not to let him hurt anyone. "You know how humans can be."
  • Humans Are Morons: The Family sure think so when they confront John Smith at the dance.
    Mother of Mine: He didn't just make himself human. He made himself stupid.
    Son of Mine: Same thing, isn't it?
  • Jerkass: Jeremy Baines. And due to aforementioned values dissonance, John Smith comes across as one with Martha.
  • Jerk Jock: Hutchinson
  • Large Ham: Son of Mine has his moments. He doesn't need to speak to be hammy; his psychopathic facial expressions outdo even David Tennant's as Barty Crouch Jr., even though Son of Mine's expression doesn't move.
  • Meet Cute: John and Joan run into one another while the later is carrying some books.
  • Memory Gambit
  • The Name Is Bond, James Bond: "Baines. Jeremy Baines."
  • Ninja Maid: "The maid has spirit!"
  • Out-of-Character Alert: 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 Doctor's morals. 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.
  • Painful Transformation: The Doctor's transformation seems to consist of him being electrocuted and screaming in agony. Given the transformation is removing his second heart, and probably a few other things, small wonder.
  • Piano Drop: Fortunately doesn't hit anyone, due to a well-aimed cricket ball.
  • Psychic Powers: Tim Latimer
  • Punctuated! For! Emphasis!: Father of Mine, when crashing the dance.
  • Rube Goldberg Device: How John Smith saves a baby using only a cricket ball and the power of physics.
  • Running Gag: 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: The Family of Blood's Mooks. And they are creepy.
  • Sherlock Scan: John Smith sees half a dozen things about to go wrong which would quickly result in a child being hit by a falling piano.
  • 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).
    • Daughter of Mine's red balloon is said to be one to Rover.
  • Sickly Green Glow: Inside the Family's space ship.
  • Spanner in the Works: Latimer stealing the Doctor's watch.
  • Transformation Sequence: In the novel, Timothy is gradually transformed into a Time Lord. The other boys actually kill him, which triggers much of it, and he develops a Healing Factor as a result. He loves what he becomes. The episode has shades of this, with the watch triggering Timothy's latent psychic powers.
  • Visible Invisibility: When Baines strikes the ship's invisibility field, it briefly becomes visible.
  • Wistful Amnesia: Joan interprets John's dreams as "the man [he] want[s] 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.
  • World War One: Lurks just over the horizon. Joan reading about it in John's dream journal makes her even less keen on kids practising with machine-guns.
  • Would Hurt a Child: Daughter of Mine's choice of host is a little girl.

Alternative Title(s): Doctor Who NSS 3 E 8 Human Nature