First Broadcast May 26th, 2007 @ 7.10pm (7.74m viewers)
During the wilderness years when Doctor Who was no longer on our television screens, the show continued through its committed fan base. Those fans clamoured for new adventures and literature was the perfect vehicle to tell those tales. Virgin books published the appropriately titled ‘New Adventures’ which continued the journey of the Seventh Doctor and his companion Ace. It was a time of great creativity, with a leaning towards more adult themes and language, which introduced new writers such as Russell T Davies, Mark Gatiss and Gareth Roberts who would all contribute to the revived TV series years. Another of those writers was Paul Cornell who delivered the superb novel ‘Human Nature’, one of the most highly regarded of the range and so far the only published book to be translated to the TV screens. The novel was recently rereleased by BBC books allowing a new generation to enjoy the book too. Of course, a number of changes were made from the original source material, notably the Doctor and companion team and their motivation, plus the approaching alien attackers but the televised episode crucially continues with the concept of the Doctor becoming human.
The mysterious Time Lord although humanoid in appearance is an alien capable of full body regeneration, amongst other tricks, so it is an interesting idea to see him become human. It is clear that John Smith is very different from the Doctor from the scene involving the students being taught how to fire a weapon at tribesman from the dark continent and Smith’s approval for Latimer to receive a beating. Similarly companion Martha is subjected to racial abuse, which dates the adventure to a time period that we can look back on now with our modern sensibilities and wince. Therefore, despite being set on Earth, this adventure feels far more alien to a modern audience than most, with a human Doctor that has left both him and his companion very vulnerable.
Memorable Moment (Spoiler Warning)
Freema Agyeman as Martha Jones is for some reason not as highly regarded a companion as perhaps she should be, particularly given her stellar performance in this story. The scene in which she returns to the TARDIS, replaying the instructional video that the Doctor left is very well played. She seems completely stumped by something that not even the Doctor had considered, what if he was to fall in love? Worse still, she is hurt because it hasn’t been with her. The story of unrequited love didn’t resonate with the audience as strongly as the love story with Rose but in this scene, it is truly heartbreaking.
The cast as a whole is phenomenal with Harry Lloyd, as the incredibly creepy and unnerving Baines, and Jessica Hynes as Joan Redfern notable standouts. As the icing on the cake, this episode also includes an impressive monster in the form of the Scarecrows. Whilst the design is simple there is something truly disturbing about the stitched eyes and mouth, plus the possibility of seeing one jerk into life is no doubt the stuff of nightmares.
All of these elements come together to produce one of the greats of ‘New Who’.
The Doctor/John Smith – David Tennant
Martha Jones – Freema Agyeman
Joan Redfern – Jessica Hynes
Jenny / Mother of Mine – Rebekah Staton
Tim Latimer – Thomas Sangster
Jeremy Baines / Son of Mine – Harry Lloyd
Hutchinson – Tom Palmer
Mr Clark / Father of Mine – Gerard Horan
Lucy Cartwright / Sister of Mine – Lauren Wilson
Rocastle – Pip Torrens
Writer – Paul Cornell
Director – Charles Palmer
Producer – Susie Liggat
Also First Aired On This Day…
- The Green Death : Episode Two
- Doctor Who Confidential : Alter Ego