TV in Review: Doctor Who, “The Family of Blood”
June 26, 2012 2 Comments
When we rejoin the Doctor at the start of “The Family of Blood,” he’s not quite himself. Turned into a human in order to hide, the Doctor is now John Smith. John Smith simply doesn’t know what to do when faced with a family of aliens who have killed some humans, taken over their bodies, and employ scarecrows as soldiers. It’s up to Martha.
MARTHA: Don’t just stand there, move! God, you’re rubbish as a human!
Back at the school where John Smith teaches, Mr. Smith shows a slightly more forceful side, rousing the cadets to defend their territory. I have to say that for me, much of the success of this two-parter stems from the casting of the boys. Thomas Brodie-Sangtser is compelling as the prescient Tim Latimer, while Harry Lloyd does a terrific job as the boy killed and used by Son of Mine, transitioning from blithering idiot to creepazoid. A creepazoid who does manage to blurt out an anti-World War One message.
SON OF MINE: War is coming. In foreign fields, war of the whole wide world, with all your boys falling down in the mud. Do you think they will thank the man who taught them it was glorious?
Like many of the best Doctor Who episodes, this one is about people and relationships. John Smith has a love interest, Joan Redfern. She’s the school nurse who has an easier time believing that the Doctor is an alien than she does in accepting that black women can become medical doctors. In her defense, she wasn’t claiming that black women aren’t capable, and she was quite right that it was against the rules of the time — only Martha hadn’t told Joan about the whole time-travel thing yet.
When confronted with having to switch back to his old self, the-Doctor-as-Smith really struggles, wanting to stay John Smith. There is the allure of normality.
DOCTOR WHO: I’m John Smith. That’s all I want to be. John Smith. With his life, and his job, and his love. Why can’t I be John Smith? Isn’t he a good man?
Just as Tim glimpses the future, the Doctor glimpses the possible future as John Smith, full of all the middle class trappings that seem to draw him to humanity — marriage, kids, and mundanity. He questions Martha as to what her role is and what she’s asking of him.
DOCTOR WHO: What exactly do you do for him? Why does he need you?
MARTHA: Because he’s lonely.
DOCTOR WHO: And that’s what you want me to become?
It’s well-handled. I like it when the high spirits of Doctor Who are smattered with a little bit of sad.
DOCTOR WHO: Falling in love — that didn’t even occur to him?
“The Family Blood” does sad in a way that reminds me of Season One of the reboot and why I liked that so much. Joan calling out the Doctor for the deaths he’s caused (albeit indirectly) gives the David Tennant Doctor an element of the ethical quandaries that seemed to define the Christopher Eccleston Doctor.
Oh, and the wonderfully cruel endings that the Doctor devised to jail the aliens! So exquisite. The girl trapped behind every mirror, the original scarecrow…
SON OF MINE: We all wanted to live forever. So the Doctor made sure that we did.
One of my favorite so far in Season Three, and I’ve been told that I’m in for a treat with the next episode, “Blink.” The Doctor is complaining when he says this…
DOCTOR WHO: I’m just a story.
…but really, that’s what we like about him. The story.
The BBC first aired Season 3, Episode 9 of Doctor Who on June 2, 2007.