Suddenly Human

DW3 Human Nature c

Mr & Mrs
If part two of “Human Nature” lives up to the standards of this week’s part one, then I have a feeling that this may go down as one of the best Doctor Who stories of all time. Paul Cornell (read his blog, for it is good) is returning as a writer for the first time since “Father’s Day” way back in 2005 and he is in fine form. Adapted from his New Adventures novel of the same name, Human Nature starts with the Doctor and Martha seemingly in the middle of an escape from an unseen adversary.  However, realising that they have the ability to chase him anywhere in time and space, the Doctor knows that somewhat extraordinary measures are called for. He turns himself into a 100% human being and allows the TARDIS to implant him into a society with his own personal history and, crucially, no memory of his Time Lord existence. Thus, John Smith, for years nowt but a handy pseudonym, becomes a real person.

David Tennant plays it perfectly, with John Smith having a very different persona to the Doctor replete with mannerisms and traits that are far from what we are used to. Martha (played with growing assuredness by the wonderful Freema Agyeman) remembers everything that has happened and needs to keep the whole situation under control. The “situation” in question takes place in and around a pre-World War One boarding school where John Smith is a teacher and Martha is a maid but innocently coming between the two of them is Matron, Jean, played by Jessica Hynes (nee Stevenson) whose earthy charms result in a blossoming romance.  While the Doctor Who we all know and love is clearly bubbling under the surface, it is the smaller details that proved very rewarding here in a story that had a lightness of touch as well as great emotional depth and maturity.  The life that the TARDIS constructed for John Smith even included a mother and father, knowingly named Verity and Sydney as a gentle wink to the fans.
John Smith dreams of another life where he is “an adventurer… a madman” and he has recorded his dreams in a notebook that provide a tantalising glimpse into his “real life” (how much would that prop fetch on eBay?).  Soon though, we have strange lights in the sky, aliens taking over human form and a band of scarecrow soldiers to scare the wits out of any watching pre-teen.  The lovely touch is that it is Martha who has to cope with and unravel the mystery, all the while John Smith is oblivious to the threat until the very end that delivers a suitable cliffhanger.  If the reaction on the web is anything to go (e.g. here, and here) by this will have reached “classic” status in no time at all. Its pace and plot is snappy enough to fit wonderfully into the new series but there is a wider, deeper appeal.  One that encompasses people who don’t normally watch this kind of thing…. apparently there are some.  They really don’t know what they’re missing.

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