(Editors note: the regular rotation of writing on the 50 for 50 Countdown allowed two #1 stories, Fury from the Deep from Alan, and the overall #1 Midnight by Steve, to be opined upon. In the spirit of fairness, not to mention completeness, all of the #1 stories in the overall list will be highlighted by their respective 50 for 50 participants. Here’s Andy’s…)
So finally we’re here, the wait is over. To choose one story out of the 200 plus now that there are, seems an impossibility really. As I mentioned before, different stories appeal in different ways on different days…that’s what makes this series so special. It can be so many things, comedy, gothic drama, sci-fi spectacular, action, love story. The story that is at my #1 Doctor Who story of all time…(well, this week it is, ahem) is all of those descriptions and more, a wonderfully written and acted story, with so many facets to it, that really make it a top-notch piece of Who, and a damn good piece of television drama to boot….It’s Human Nature / The Family of Blood.
Paul Cornell’s popular Virgin New Adventure novel laid the roots for this two-parter, with many tweaks and changes but essentially the same story underneath. The Doctor and Martha, on the run from unseen assailants and desperate to find sanctuary, hide in 1913 pre-First World War Britain, and using some strange Time Lord device, the previously unheard of ‘chameleon arch’, the Doctor turns himself human so that his enemies cannot trace him. Blimey! What a great plot device if that had always been in the TARDIS, eh?! Well, overlooking that, it sets up a superb backstory that brings some wonderful performances from David Tennant, as the ‘human’ persona, John Smith, teacher at a boys’ school, and his affections for Joan Redfern, beautifully played by Jessica Hynes. The sad realization that things will never be the same for both of them becomes the climax of this adventure and speaks volumes for how well this is played out. Heartbreaking doesn’t really cover it. Doctor Who never really did ’emotional’ particularly well, or at all, til the 2005 comeback, but here, all that is swept aside for a true ‘love story’.
The unsettling villains of the piece, the Family Of Blood, are a wonderfully creepy bunch, taking over residents of the surroundings, with all four actors playing two subtle and not so subtle characters. Particularly noteworthy is Harry Lloyd as Baines, who ends up as the loathsome ‘Son Of Mine’, and Rebekah Staton as Jenny, who later becomes the possessed ‘Mother Of Mine’…both their performances are superb, very subtle, not over the top, and damn scary with it….As along with the iconic Scarecrow army, another iconic Who monster, their place is well and truly secured for future fans and past. Freema Agyeman’s Martha also comes into her own here too, left to try and look after a man who looks like the Doctor, but no longer has any of that man’s traits, and decidedly looks down his nose at her. Her pain and confusion is all too evident, as she sees the ‘ex’ Time Lord woo another woman when her own feelings for him are there for us all to see, even if he can’t.
Settings are so important to Doctor Who. Good stories have been ruined by not having a decent believable setting, lesser ones vindicated by their iconic ones. Human Nature gives us a top level one, with it’s pre-Great War setting. It’s so perfect for these episodes, and of course, the Beeb do a very good believable historical England! To this day, every time I view these episodes, the deeper parts of it hit home every time. Tim Latimer, is now an old soldier, life now mostly behind him. At the Remembrance Day ceremony he glances across, to see the Doctor and Martha, wearing poppies, looking no different to how he last saw them…the tears come to me every time, as they do to him….the mark of a superb piece of TV…
Now, this is all conjecture, ask me next year what my top stories are, my answers may be different!! Roll on 2014, let the clock strike twelve! — Thank you Andy!
One last #1 to be revealed. Then 50 for 50 is done and dusted.