Tuesday, June 19, 2007


Since Saturday night, Jolly Olde has been abuzz in fan forums and bulletin boards with the latest episode of 'Doctor Who', "Utopia", with its return of a classic character, a crossover with its own spinoff ('Torchwood'), and lauded performances from guests Derek Jacobi and John Simm.

And here I am about to discuss an episode from a month ago - "Human Nature" (with its second part, "Family of Blood").

I caught up with that two-parter as well as with "Blink" in a marathon session late Wednesday night/Thursday morning. But that's okay; it's not like I do reviews here very much. I'm all about O'Bservations - analyzing the impact TV shows and their episodes have on the TV Universe in general.

So anyway, let's take a look at "Human Nature"/Family Of Blood".

The Doctor compared the Family of Blood to mayflies, in that they would have a short life span without some sort of host body. (I'm assuming they would prefer sentient ones.) Apparently their use of a human shell burns it out too quickly, which only makes me wonder how Blon Slitheen was able to keep the skin suit of Margaret Blaine so fresh for over six months. Ewwwwww.

The Family of Blood was some kind of group mind, of which there only seemed to be four members left. Perhaps the nature of their accelerated lifespan brought such a quick finish to the race. (They may not have even been in existence for very long either.)

It looks as though they not only stole their host bodies, but the technology of their victims as well. The spaceship they used may have been a TARDIS discarded after the Time War - it had a similar organic design as the Doctor's, plus it could travel through time and space as well. And their choice of firearms was reminiscent of those used by the Red Lectroids of "Buckaroo Banzai" (which has the most tenuous of Toobworld connections).

It's never splained in the televised story how the Doctor is able to imprison the Daughter of the Family in the mirror's universe. (It may have been in the original novel, however.) I imagine the technology must be similar to the 'Lost In Space' episode "The Magic Mirror".

In order to escape that world, one had to shoot their reflection in a stream. Perhaps that's why we didn't see the Daughter of the Family in that dimension nearly a century later - she had already escaped.

The Boy, who lived alone in that mirror world save for the hairy monster, may even have been the son of the Family's Daughter. That is, if she was allowed to age in that mirror dimension - and if there were any other humanoids living in that world... besides the hairy monster.

On a personal level, I liked seeing Gerard Horan as Mr. Clarke, the Father of the Family. He reminded me of my own great-grandfather as he looked around that same time. (Click here to see the comparison between Mr. Clarke and Grandpa Rowley.)

If Tim Latimer is the same age as Thomas Sangster, the young actor who played him, then he was sixteen in 1913. (The kid looked like he was twelve!) So I think his "reunion" with the Doctor and Martha probably took place at the latest in 1975, when Mr. Latimer was about 78 years old or so.

If only Harry Lloyd, who played Jeremy Baines, could be cast as an android or some kind of alien in human form again, because his performance as the Family's Son was brilliance!

It's now official by Toobworld "standards" (Ha!): Christopher Eccleston's incarnation of the Doctor regenerated from Paul McGann's version, as seen in the 1996 FOX TV movie. The journal of "John Smith" confirms that with his sketches of all of his past "lives", from the First Doctor played by William Hartnell to the current version as portrayed by David Tennant. And there in the center of it all is McGann's Ninth Doctor.

Some other TV shows from that same general time period: 'Blackadder Goes Forth', 'Upstairs, Downstairs', 'Captains And The Kings', 'Beacon Hill', and 'Q.E.D.'. A teacher at the Rock Spring School for Boys in Rock Spring, Vermont, by the name of Ellis Fowler, may have gone to the school depicted in this 'Doctor Who' two-parter before moving to America to be a teacher for 51 years. (As seen in "Changing Of The Guard", an episode of 'The Twilight Zone'.)

The Doctor must have some kind of temporal GPS intalled in the TARDIS, a device which can plot the future for a specific area. How else would he know that the field in which he imprisoned the Family's Son would forever remain a field? Sooner or later that field could have fallen to the encroachment of urbanization.

The Doctor probably also made arrangements with the people of the village to keep watch over that scarecrow; made them guarantee that their descendants down through the generations would do the same.

Thinking about such details can undercut the power of such a scene as that image of the Doctor abandoning "Jeremy Baines" as the scarecrow, while we hear Baines' voiceover in which he realizes that the Doctor's decision to flee was not an act of fear but an act of mercy. But such is the curse of the televisiologist.

That, and spoilers.

Did anybody else watch that scene and think of a certain field in Royston Vesey?

The story was based upon a 'Doctor Who' novel by the same author, Paul Cornell. However, the novel was written with the Seventh Incarnation of the Doctor as the protagonist. And his actions throughout bear out the more ruthless personality quirks of that particular regeneration. This is as good an example as any that the "canon" of 'Doctor Who' must be partitioned into the different universes of Mankind's creative spark.

The Doctor of the TV series must be considered a different creation from that to be found in the novels. The Doctor from the books is not the same as the various incarnations to be found in the comic strips and graphic novels. The movie version, the Doctor played by Peter Cushing in the "Cineverse", definitely can't be reconciled with the Doctors from other creative endeavors.

And within the TV Universe, there is a separation yet again, from the live-action version of the two installments of the TV series as well as the 1996 TV movie, as opposed to the cartoon versions seen in cameo on 'The Simpsons' as well as in the currently unspooling adventure of 'The Infinite Quest'. Those versions of the Doctor belong in the alternate dimension of "The Tooniverse".

It's tempting to want to reconcile the tie-in novels and other franchise venues into one single "universal canon" for the Doctor, as it must be for the fans of 'Star Trek'. I must have read over fifty or so tie-in novels connected to the world of Roddenberry's creation, but there's no way you could squeeze them and the hundreds (?) more books out there into that original five year exploratory mission. Better for a tele-purist (a contradiction in terms, I suppose) to just abandon them to their own niche in the fictional multiverse and be done with it; leave it for some other type of scholar to wrangle with them.

(It's a shame, too. Up until I finally had to make this decision for myself because of "Human Nature", I really wanted to include Barbara Hambly's 'Trek' novel "Ishmael" in the TV Universe, as it also contains characters from 'Here Come The Brides', 'Bonanza', 'Maverick', and 'Have Gun Will Travel'. But in a way, this decision is for the best. Keeping it in a universe for the printed word helps establish those characters in that world as well.)

Characters from other media venues can cross over into the TV Universe. For instance, comic book characters have become live-action characters, as seen in the TV show 'Once A Hero' and in the A-Ha video for "Take Me On". But the comic art world they came from remains separate from Toobworld. The same has to hold true for the characters from tie-in novels. The Doctor from Paul Cornell's book "Human Nature" can not be reconciled with the Doctor from the two-part episode 'Human Nature'/'Family of Blood'. But the Family of Blood, as well as other characters like Nurse Redfern and Tim Latimer, have doppelgangers in both worlds. (At least I'm making that assumption about those two in particular; I never read the novel.)

The novelization of "Human Nature" should remain in the literary universe along with all other printed word stories about the Gallifreyan Time Lord - unless they are also adapted for Television as well (as will be the case with the next episode, "Blink").

Well, that should just about do it for any O'Bservations about "Human Nature" and "Family In Blood". Next I'll turn my attentions to "Blink", not that there's any rush. I've promised the father of one of my god-daughters that I won't rush off to his brother's place to watch "Utopia" and the last two episodes, but instead wait until I can see them all in a viewing marathon with him and his family.

From what I've been reading, that'll be three weeks of Agony!

Toby OB

"Everyone's a character.
Some of us just haven't met the right writer yet
Dash Goff
'Designing Women'

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