1995: Doctor Who - Looking Back At HUMAN NATURE

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Christopher Morley compares the original 1995 novel of Human Nature with the TV adaptation from 2007.


It seems, looking back over the long battle to get Doctor Who restored to its rightful place at the heart of Saturday teatime, that we owe a great deal to Virgin Publishing's New Adventures novel range, which proved itself fertile ground for several writers who would go on to contribute to that first post-revival series in 2005.

Alongside show-runner Russell T Davies, who had penned Damaged Goods for the post-Survival Seventh Doctor, were Mark Gatiss (Nightshade & St Anthony's Fire) tackling The Unquiet Dead and Paul Cornell, who had previously written Timewyrm-Revelation, Love And War, No Future, Human Nature (which we'll come to soon enough) & Happy Endings for the first of the dark Scottish Doctors before his Father's Day made the cut for Series One.

Fast forward almost exactly two years on from quite a reboot for the programme and we can then take a wander back to 1995. For it's there that we find the roots of Cornell's Series Three two-parter Human Nature/The Family Of Blood...



...adapted for television and indeed the Tenth Doctor after Davies raved over the original novel. And while the TV adaptation is mostly faithful to the source material, Russell T did insist on a number of rewrites.


But perhaps we can start with the glaring similarities. Both versions feature the Doctor becoming human by way of hiding his true Time Lord personality inside a handy biodata storage vessel - the novel presents it as a cricket ball while the later small-screen version swaps that for a fob watch. The companions of both Doctors - Bernice Summerfield & Martha Jones - are forced to pose as someone close to the "John Smith" personalities they create for themselves, Summerfield as his niece, Jones as his maid. Why go to all the trouble of posing as an ordinary schoolteacher?
"I have to stop being a Time Lord. I'm going to become human."
For the earlier incarnation, it's a chance to get away from himself, a sort of perceptional holiday. For the later man it's out of necessity, having to hide from the Family Of Blood, aliens who seek to acquire the regenerative abilities of the Time Lords for their own ends after tracking him while also posing as mere mortals.



He'd earlier had to do similar from the Aubertides, the basis for the Family. The first person to find the aforementioned storage vessel in both versions is schoolboy Timothy, who as a result develops a binary vascular system of his own, and in so doing begins to experience what it must be like to be the Doctor while thinking thoughts that aren't his own, seeing visions of things he hasn't experienced from times he's never visited.
DOCTOR: You are not alone. Keep me hidden.
VOICES : And infinite fire. Burn with light. Burn in time.
Who in turn gets to dabble in having just the one heart and giving it to a lady! Joan Redfern, who in the novel is a Science teacher at Norfolk's own Hulton College just prior to the outbreak of World War One, is that lucky member of the fairer sex.


By the time we've watched her fall in love with the younger-looking sideburned Smith, though, she's the matron of Farringham School.
JOAN: Truth be told, when it's just you and me, I'd much rather you call me Nurse Redfern. Matron sounds rather well, matronly.
DOCTOR: Ah. Nurse Redfern it is then.
JOAN: Though we've known each other all of two months, you could even say Joan.
DOCTOR: Joan?
JOAN: That's my name.
DOCTOR: Well, obviously.
JOAN: And it's John, isn't it?
DOCTOR: Yes, yes, it is, yes.
In turning to matters of the heart, we find the major difference between the two sides of Human Nature. A sign that times have changed for Doctor Who itself? Where the Tenth Doctor later admits to his beloved matron that he could have happily settled down with her and lived a normal life as the human he'd made himself, the Seventh is forced to concede that he couldn't. In which sense Human Nature unsurprisingly proved itself ripe fodder for Davies to plunder, the original novel well worth a visit as a retrospective stopping-off point if you're a fan.
"I know it sounds mad, but when the Doctor became human, he took the alien part of himself and he stored it inside the watch. It's not really a watch, it just looks like a watch. The man you call John Smith, he was born on another world."
Both will initially consider simply giving in to the Aubertides/Family Of Blood in order to renounce their temporal burden and enjoy simpler lives.
"I should have thought of it before. I can give them this. Just the watch. Then they can leave and I can stay as I am."
At least they have the excuse that they're literally not themselves at the time........
"The Time Lord has such adventures, but he could never have a life like that."

However you read into that, isn't it just ever so slightly heartbreaking? Conformity rejecting him just as he himself rejects conformity, you might say.
"We could start again. I'd like that. You and me. We could try, at least. Because everything that John Smith is and was, I'm capable of that, too."
Quite the sea change from his earlier self. But it boils down to the simple fact that "John Smith is dead, and you look like him", after Time Lord biodata asserts itself once more.

But to the woman who loved him, the quote from Laurence Binyon's For The Fallen as used in the final scenes of The Family Of Blood must have resonated all the more.
They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old.
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We will remember them.
Rest in peace, John Smith. "But he's here, inside, if you look in my eyes"..............

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