Sunday, August 24, 2014

Doctor Who--"Human Nature"

Paul Cornell, author of the first season’s tear jerking “Father’s Day,” adapts his novel Human Nature, for the small screen. I have never read Human Nature, but it is my understanding the story involves the Seventh Doctor abandoning his Time Lord attributes and becoming human so he can learn empathy. The Seventh Doctor was famous for being even more ambivalent about the wellbeing of others in his travels than most Doctors. As the story goes, a future Doctor returns to convince him to resume his Time Lord ways. The only two elements I see from the novel remaining in the episode appears to be the Doctor assuming a occupation of teacher in 1913 and falling in love. I am not complaining, however. This was one of the best episodes yet with echoes of classic Who.

When we begin, the doctor and Martha are being pursued by the Family of Blood. They need a Time Lord and can track the Doctor through time and space by hisscent alone. In order to escape, the Doctor uses adevice to alter his DNA and memories. He puts his essence in a stopwatch and gives Martha charge over him. When the time comes, she is to have him open the watch and resume being a Time Lord. The pair have to assume roles as ateacher and maid at a boarding school in 1913 England for at least a month in order to escape.

But the Family arrives regardless and assumes the bodies of several ancillary people from the school and nearby village. They still have hints of the Doctor’s scent even though he has changed form. But the Doctor has settled into his new persona. He is happy teaching, shaping his boys up for what he considers a dark future. All the while he is having strange dreams about an adventurer through time and space, encountering strange aliens, and a bleach blonde girl named Rose. He writes the dreams all down in a journal. Martha becomes wary of the changes in him, particularly when he starts to fall in love with a woman.

Things get really complicated when a student who has some powers of clairvoyance begins suspects is teacher is not all he seems to be. He steals the stopwatch. The Family finally tracks down the Doctor after apparently discovering Martha’s identity. They hold her and his love interest hostage at a school dance, demanding he return to his old self. He has absolutely no idea what they are talking about. There is nothing Martha can do without the stopwatch. To be continued..

There is generally a drawback to two part episodes og Who in that the first is almost always pure set up that is rarely engrossing in itself. Not so here. It is certainly not a standalone piece, it has its own merit outside of part two Watching the Doctor take on a whole new personality, somewhat bumbling, somewhat dark, was interesting. In one scene, he is training his students to fire a gun in preparation for what he considers a “proper war” to prove their manhood in the future. Ionic, considering the ultimate pointlessness of the coming Great War he is referring to. When a young boy ails at it, he has another boy beat the child. Something that normally would go against the Doctor’s sense of fairness is second nature to him now. I am also impressed with the racial issues addressed. Martha is a black woman in 1913 England with alll the prejudices that go with it. Even I cringed at some of the condescension the Doctor exhibits towards her. It was an eye opening touch well handled. The scarecrow henchmen the Family use were also a nice, creepy touch. Good episodes all around. I cannot wait for next week.

Rating: **** (out of 5)

No comments:

Post a Comment