In England, 1913, an ordinary schoolteacher called John Smith
dreams about adventures in time and space, and an enigmatic
blue box. But when lights in the sky herald the arrival of
something strange and terrible, Smith's maid, Martha, has
to convince him that he alone can save the world...
Both of the stories on this DVD are based on previously published
works of prose fiction. The two-part Human Nature / The
Family of Blood is adapted by Paul Cornell from his 1995
New Adventures novel Human Nature. The Tenth Doctor
(David Tennant) and Martha (Freema Agyeman) assume the roles
played by the Seventh Doctor and Bernice in the book.
The main difference between the book and the television story
is that in the novel the Doctor seeks human form in order
to better understand the human condition, whereas on television
he is hiding from the Family of Blood. The villains of the
book are a family of Aubertide shape-shifters, who also provide
the device that transforms the Doctor into a human (as opposed
to the TARDIS's chameleon arch, used in the television story).
However, the Family's plan is similar to that of the Aubertides:
they want to gain the Time Lord's abilities by obtaining his
bio-data module (which takes the form of a cricket ball in
the book, rather than the pocket watch seen on television).
Though the two-parter is set in 1913, while the novel takes
place a year later in 1914, the setting in both cases is a
boys' school. And although Joan Redfern is a science teacher
in the novel but a school matron (played by Spaced's
Jessica Hynes) in the television episodes, in both stories
she is widowed, becomes Smith's love interest and disapproves
of teaching the boys to fight. Pupil Timothy Dean is renamed
Latimer (Thomas Sangster) for television but his role and
character remain essentially the same.
does pose a problem for fans such as me, who like as much
of Who as possible, be it on television, in print or
on audio, to take place within the same universe. However,
our own Johnny Fanboy has crafted a
cunning explanation for all the coincidences (which
is far too complex to go into here).
It's a small price to pay for the pleasure of seeing this
magnificent tale brought to life on the screen. The romance
that develops between Smith and Joan is both touching and
comical in a Back to the Future - Part III kind of
way. Meanwhile, the Family of Blood and their scarecrow slaves
are superbly sinister, particularly Harry Lloyd as the sneering
The chameleon arch reminded me of the transformation arch
used by the Navarinos in Delta
and the Bannermen. If it hurts as much as the
chameleon arch hurts the Doctor in Human Nature, I
can understand why Murray was reluctant to use it! In a far
more overt tie-in with the original series, we see classic
Doctors depicted in the context of the new show for the very
first time, as sketches in Smith's notebook.
War has broken out a year early as the terrifying Family
hunt for the Doctor. But John Smith refuses to accept his
destiny as a Time Lord - to do so would mean the end of Smith's
existence. For the sake of the entire planet, the women in
his life, Martha and Joan, must help him to choose...
The second part of the story, The Family of Blood,
doesn't quite live up to the magnificence of the preceding
one. Ten minutes from the end of the episode, Cornell seems
to run out of plot, and the rest of the show is taken up tying
up loose ends and saying goodbye to people. In the case of
one particular character (and in case you haven't seen the
episode, I won't say which one), there are actually two goodbyes.
At least it doesn't drag as much as the ending of the series
finale, The Last of the Time Lords.
The pay-off on the trailer at the end of the previous episode,
showing Smith and Joan (hmmm... possible alternative title
there!) apparently getting married and having children, is
a bit of a swizz. It did remind me of The Last Temptation
of Christ, though, backing up an overall Christ-like notion
of the Doctor as a god-like being who takes on human form.
The Last Temptation of Smith, anyone? Further (and
less subtle) Christian symbolism is to come in The Last
of the Time Lords...
When he finally reappears, the Doctor comes across as a little
too dark and wrathful for my liking. This aspect of the show
is more in keeping with the Machiavellian Seventh Doctor than
However, this is still a thrilling and moving instalment,
especially when it comes to Tennant's performance as Smith.
Throughout the story, he is a very different character to
the Doctor, but with little flashes of the Time Lord showing
through from time to time (such as when he uses the cricket
ball to save a baby's life). When he realises that he must
sacrifice his own existence in order for the Doctor to return,
Tennant acts his socks off, exuding both terror and a passionate
desire to live.
On first viewing, this two-parter does not appear to be connected
with the season's ongoing Mr Saxon arc. However, the Doctor's
transformation sets up future episodes in a surprising way...
its flaws, The Family of Blood is still bloody good.
In an old abandoned house in 2007, the Weeping Angels wait.
When people start disappearing, a young woman called Sally
Sparrow finds cryptic messages sent from 1969 by a mysterious
stranger known as the Doctor. Can Sally unravel their meaning
before the Angels claim their prize...?
Blink is this year's "Doctor-lite" episode, featuring
the main cast only briefly as a necessity of the hectic production
schedule. Despite his lack of actual screen time, the Time
Lord's presence suffuses the episode through writer Stephen
Moffat's clever use of cryptic messages, including writing
beneath wallpaper and a recording preserved as a DVD "Easter
The plot is a complex wobbly-wobbly, timey-wimey affair (as
the Doctor puts it). This keeps the viewer suitably interested
and/or baffled, depending on how familiar you are with the
time-travel genre in general. For instance, the letter Sally
(Carey Mulligan) receives from the past will be instantly
familiar to fans of the Back to the Future trilogy.
(I know I keep mentioning these films in my Series 3 reviews,
but this trilogy is a favourite of mine!) The cyclical nature
of the story ensures that the episode stands up well to repeated
Even if the plot confuses you the first time around, Moffat
crafts some attractive and sympathetic characters to keep
us engaged and entertained throughout. Mulligan successfully
carries the show as Sally, and she is ably supported by light
relief from Finlay Robertson as the geeky Larry Nightingale.
There's more than a hint of Moffat's relationship comedy Coupling
as the half-asleep Larry realises he is naked in front of
Sally, as Sally makes a fool of herself in front of a man
she fancies, Billy Shipton (Michael Obiora), and when Larry
is aghast at the fact that Sally owns only 17 DVDs.
And then there are the creepy Weeping Angels. Even more so
than the scarecrows in Human Nature / The Family of Blood,
these creatures, in the grand tradition of the Nestenes, take
a familiar, everyday object and make it scary. You may never
look at a statue in quite the same way again!
episode is loosely adapted from Moffat's short story "What
I did on my Christmas Holidays by Sally Sparrow". Originally
published in the 2005 Doctor Who Annual, the short
story doesn't have any Weeping Angels in it, but it does feature
trans-temporal messages from the Doctor to a girl called Sally
Sparrow. It cannot be the same Sally, however, as the child
in the short story would be only about 14 years old in Blink,
while the adult Sally does not recognise the name of the Doctor
or his TARDIS. Perhaps, rather like the words of power used
by the Carrionites in The
Shakespeare Code, the name Sally Sparrow contains
wobbly-wobbly, timey-wimey properties of its own, which attract
such temporal complexities. On the other hand, to coin a phrase
used by Doc Brown in Back to the Future - Part II,
it could just be an amazing coincidence. (There I go again
with the Back to the Future references!)
if you only ever own 17 DVDs, make sure this is one of them.
Don't blinking miss it!