Follow TV Tropes


Recap / Doctor Who New Adventures Human Nature

Go To

In an attempt to understand Benny's sadness following Guy de Carnac's death, the Doctor turns himself into a human history teacher in the year 1914 by locking away his Time Lordyness in a pod. Unfortunately, there is a family of aliens who are trying to steal his Time Lordyness.

Human Nature was adapted for television by its author, Paul Cornell, into the episodes "Human Nature" and "The Family of Blood".


  • Actual Pacifist: Tim Latimer, which gets him a lot of grief from the teachers and his fellow students because it's seen as inconsistent with standing up for King and Country. He goes on to serve with distinction in the Great War — as a medic.
  • Adults Are Useless: Rocastle encourages bullying, since it builds character. John Smith doesn't like it, but forces himself to repeat Rocastle's views when Tim tells him about how he is treated. He later admits that he only said those things to fit in.
  • Always Need What You Gave Up: The Doctor turns himself into a human schoolteacher, with none of his usual abilities, to experience what life is like for his companions, and is promptly embroiled in an alien plot. Justified by the revelation that the character who gave him the idea in the first place was one of the aliens, deliberately so that they could take advantage of his reduced state.
  • Attempted Rape: Greeneye tries this on Bernice, but she escapes.
  • Bad Future: Tim shows a possible future where the Aubertides get Time Lord biodata and conquer Gallifrey.
  • Balancing Death's Books: Following on from the Doctor offering one of his lives to Death for Ace in Love and War, here Death takes John Smith.
  • Balloon of Doom: Aphasia, one of the Aubertides, has the form of a little girl with a balloon - a balloon which can chase and suffocate people at her command.
  • Chaste Hero: Benny says the Doctor has never seemed that interested in the trouser department.
  • Closet Gay: Bernice's landlord, Alexander Shuttleworth, cultivates a slightly scandalous reputation as a ladies' man who women should be wary around in case he attempts to seduce them. It's all a blind, since he's actually gay and in a loving monogamous relationship with another male character. Justified in that it's 1914, and to be an out homosexual man would likely result in prosecution and possible imprisonment.
  • Corporal Punishment: Is a standard method of discipline at the school. John Smith isn't a fan, and at one point when he's called on to give a student 'the slipper', he uses a fluffy slipper instead of the hard-soled variety he's supposed to use.
  • Deliberate Values Dissonance:
    • Joan is an entirely sympathetic and likeable character, but during one scene, while John Smith is humming a song by the Isley Brothers Joan speculates that it was probably written by "some n***r band". Bernice later refers to Joan as "a wrinkly racist", although Joan's attitude would be the norm for Britain in 1914.
    • Tim's friend Anand, despite being Indian royalty, is treated with contempt by most of his classmates. During the Kangaroo Court he is called to appear as a witness by the name "Darkie Unpronouncable" instead of by his real name. Tim saves Anand's embarrassment but hastens his own hanging by saying that the "witness" cannot be called as "there is noone here with that name".
  • Ethical Slut: Alexander claims to be this. Seeing as it's 1913, it makes him come across as a shockingly liberal person. As it turns out, he's actually in a monogamous relationship with a man, and overcompensates by pretending to be dating multiple women.
  • Even Evil Has Loved Ones: The Aubertides seem genuinely upset when Aphasia is killed.
  • Fakin' MacGuffin: A variation of the trope is used against the Aubertides at the end when they demand that John Smith hand over the pod containing the Doctor's Time Lord biodata. They'll detect a fake pod, but what they don't expect is for Smith to use the pod himself first, so that what they actually get is the Doctor handing over a real pod containing John Smith's human biodata.
  • Fun with Acronyms: It's revealed to the audience at the end (but not to the Doctor and Benny) that one of the people in 1914 was an agent of the Time Lords' Celestial Intervention Agency, who set the whole thing up so the Doctor would deal with the Aubertides before they threatened Gallifrey. The pseudonym of his human cover identity has the initials C.I.A.
  • Heroic Sacrifice:
    • John Smith, when August accidentally becomes him, does this for Joan.
    • Subverted with Rocastle's death. Hutchinson wants to see it as this, but Bernice shuts him up and tells him there were alternatives.
  • Hurt/Comfort Fic: Parts of the story, to the point that the fifth chapter is actually titled "Hurt/Comfort".
  • Inter Species Romance: Greeneye is attracted to other species. However in a darker turn on this, he doesn't care about their consent.
  • Kangaroo Court: Hutchinson holds one for Tim, and sentences him to be hung.
  • Kids Are Cruel: The bullying in Farrar house takes this to new levels.
  • Kill and Replace: Greeneye uses this strategy to pose as a friend of Benny's. When Benny finds out, she asks if she ever actually met the original of the person he impersonated. Only once, the first time they meet.
  • No Equal-Opportunity Time Travel: Bernice is supposed to be keeping a low profile during an extended sojourn in the 1910s. She ditches her skirts about twenty minutes into the adventure in favour of her regular trousers. This gets her into a lot of trouble.
  • No Hugging, No Kissing: Lampshaded and averted. The Doctor's celibacy becomes a major plot point when he's Not Himself and becomes attracted to a woman.
  • Ominous Owl: Subverted. Joan is able to save John from an Aubertide due to an owl.
  • Orphaned Etymology: In-universe. John Smith uses the expression "shot himself in the foot". Since this is before the First World War, no-one's heard it before.
  • Rule #1: The Doctor leaves Benny with a numbered list of rules to keep him on the straight and narrow while he's not himself. They range from the serious (the actual rule #1 is "Don't let me commit suicide, if for some reason I want to") to the ... less so (rule #4 is "Don't let me eat pears"). Another way this can be interpreted: the rules are to keep John from doing things the Doctor wouldn't do. Hence, some are redundant (there's no reason John would want to commit suicide, hurt someone or abandon Benny, who's posing as his niece), while the others, like the one about pears, Benny ignores, since John is his own person and why not let him eat pears if he wants to? Especially that she's a little bit angry with the Doctor for putting her in the situation in the first place.
  • Shout-Out: Included among John Smith's false memories are memories of a girlfriend named Verity.
  • The Slow Path: Tim Dean lives to a local ceremony in 1995 while the Doctor and Benny just travel there.
  • Tuckerization:
    • The school's bursar is "a young Scotsman with curly hair and permanently perplexed eyes" named Moffat.
    • Jill and Jenny, the perpetually bickering neighbours, are named after two regulars on rec.arts.drwho who seemed to be locked in a permanent Flame War.
  • Two of Your Earth Minutes: Lampshaded. August uses it in his ultimatum to the humans, and then tells the other Aubertides that he always wanted to say that.
  • Would Hurt a Child: The Aubertides kill a lot of children while attacking the school.
  • You Are Who You Eat: Greeneye is a shape-shifter who can imitate any animal he's eaten part of, including humans. If he does it while they're alive, he can also gain their memories.
  • Your Head Asplode: One of the children who are defending the school from the Aubertides turns to say something to John Smith and gets hit in the back of the head with a dart from one of the aliens' weapons. A moment passes then this trope splatters blood and brain matter all over the room, leading to a Heroic BSoD from John Smith.