The Inhuman(e) Doctor

(Spoilers for The Family of Blood should be expected.)

The Family of Blood made a fitting finale to Human Nature, and I enjoyed it immensely. Paul Cornell is totally my daddy. I also give props to David Tennant for really making John Smith a different character from the Doctor. Not to say I'd watch John Smith every week, you understand, but it was important to the story to show how the Doctor is different from us ordinary joes, sniveling and all.Most of us would simply not be equipped to lead the Doctor's life, and in a sense, that says something about Martha's character (and companions' before her). The human John Smith can't cope, but the Doctor's human companions were specifically chosen (by him or by the TARDIS) because of their resilience. But the (complete) Doctor is more than just resilient, which denotes a kind of endurance or passivity. He's an active element.

The religious allegory comes to the fore again. God becomes Man and is asked to sacrifice his life to deliver humanity from evil. That's Human Nature/The Family of Blood/The New Testament in a nutshell, isn't it? I don't think we should neglect the hommage to The Last Temptation of Christ, in which Time Lord magic allows the Doctor and Joan to experience a human lifetime together. The dramatic strength of this idea (perceived heresy aside) is that it allows you to understand the scope of the saviour's sacrifice. It answers the pertinent question: "What did he give up?"

By extention, it makes an ordinary human life something of value. The Doctor's had many moments where he's talked about the "adventure he can never have" (in Cornell's Father's Day, and School Reunion to name the best remembered instances), but we finally see him have that adventure (after a fashion), and put his money where his mouth is, so to speak. Once you understand his sacrifice - because on the surface, you might not, as being an immortal genius time traveller doesn't sound half-bad - you can be properly wrenched emotionally.

John Smith becomes a god again, and with that godhood returns some Old Testament wrath! John Smith wasn't a saint by modern day standards, but with the Doctor's confidence and experience comes an alien morality. From his first appearance in The Christmas Invasion, we've known what kind of man this Doctor is. "No second chances. I'm that sort of a man." He tempers the Doctor's usual compassion with a no-nonsense impatience for those unwilling to reform or repent. The Sycorax, the Krillitane, the Racnoss, etc., they were all warned that he was dangerous, they were all given a chance, they chose to ignore the opportunity, and they paid the price. And so it is with the Family of Blood.
The creative punishments devised for the Family has Paul Cornell channel UK comics writers like Grant Morrison, Neil Gaiman and Alan Moore, whose works are full of those one-panel images that hold more imagination, more terror and more poetry than most comics have in their alloted 22 pages. It's wonderful stuff, magical in execution, and I for one can't wait to work the concepts into my card game. Don't know what I'll do with the little girl in the mirror concept (how Victorian!), but I'm sure it'll be fun.
Other thoughts on The Family of Blood:
-You've got three endings to choose from, don't you? The crazy-poetic ending of the Family's fates, the story closure of the Doctor's farewell to Joan, and the beautiful, lyrical ending with an aged Tim on Memorial Day. I'd be hard-pressed to name a favourite.
-That's some excellent ageing make-up on David Tennant!
-Element I could have done without: I don't like the rayguns. I understand the design concept, but they just didn't look good when held and fired.
-Favourite line: "I'm just a story." You know, I'm crazy for postmodern touches like this. Could have spawned a whole other essay.


Bill D. said...

Wait, Joan was Daisy from Spaced? Awesome! Yet another reason I can't wait for these episodes to show up on Sci-Fi!

(And hey, BBC, where are our Region 1 Spaced DVDs, hmm?)

Anonymous said...

Definitly, the Memorial... just too much emotions when he held the watch


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