Friday, January 28, 2011

"The Family of Blood"

What's wrong with "The Family of Blood"? For a start, it does everything that "Human Nature" already did so many elements of it feel rather redundant. Secondly, it has a lot of nonsense in it that rather diminishes the seriousness of the story.
While it's good to see John Smith bumbling around like an idiot while Martha tries somewhat ineptly to save the day his angst-ridden complaining about how he has to end his own life and resume being the Doctor seems somewhat inconsistent with how foggy he is about his past and his lack of a substantial identity. I don't think I would see it as death so much as the reclamation of a whole lot of knowledge and memory you had been denied for a long time, and the replacement of some rather insubstantial fabricated experiences. Then there's the rather jarring contrast between the character of John Smith and that of the Tenth Doctor and I'm reminded of how irritatingly flippant and frustratingly smug this particular incarnation of the Time Lord can be.
It's a rather effective image to show schoolboys mowing down straw men with machine guns while hymns play solemnly in the background but wasn't this point more or less already made in the previous episode? We've been presented with prior examination of the dehumanising nature of warfare and it seems a little superfluous. Another quibble I have is this: if the Family's natural form is a gas, how come they have a spaceship with physical controls? How do they operate it when they're not possessing people?
The concept of stealing a Time Lord's lives is essentially a meaningless plot contrivance and often the weird hamminess of the Family grates a bit and makes them seem like arbitrary villains but it is kind of satisfying to see Son of Mine barking insults at the stuffy, pompous principal for some reason. I think they probably could have done without the others, especially considering the absurdity of the ending. How does the Doctor grant the Family these unending lives? Through magic? Apparently so. The Doctor's a wizard now. He can just make people immortal somehow. What on Earth does this mean? How does throwing Mother of Mine into a 'collapsing galaxy' cause her to live forever? How does he trap Daughter of Mine in 'every mirror'? It's more magic thinking and its melodramatic ridiculousness substantially spoils the tone of the ending. I feel sorry for Joan and to be honest I can't entirely blame her in considering John Smith to be a better man than the Doctor. At the same time you have to think, did he really have a choice? He would have been killed by the Family anyway if he hadn't opened the watch and resumed his true identity. And while it's nice to see John Smith calling out the Doctor on his mannerisms and his alien nature, such as not considering the possiblity of human romance, at least it does re-establish that the Doctor's not meant to be a lover.
This again makes me quibble over the idea of Martha being in love with the Doctor. I suppose if a handsome stranger turned up and showed you the wonders of time and space which altered your entire perspective of reality you might have a bit of trouble not developing something of an unhealthy affection for and reliance upon him but as much as the unrequited aspect is relatively unexplored it does feel like a bit of a retread of the Doctor/Rose ground.
There's also the issue of Tim Latimer, who hangs around like a bad smell doing absolutely bugger all besides being a bit mysterious and opening the watch a few times to irritate the Family. I'm really not sure what the point of his character was besides to steal the watch so that the story could be dragged out over two episodes. There's an absolutely cringe-inducing moment where he rattles off this incredibly purple obviously-by-RTD-not-Cornell speech about how the Doctor's the heart of this and the centre of that and the alpha and omega and Jesus' slightly better cousin and so on and it pushes things a bit too far. One thing I grow tired of is characters running around praising the Tenth Doctor to the ends of the Earth because it certainly doesn't match the way he often behaves onscreen and it's almost as if RTD knows his Doctor is a bit of a jerk so he needs his supporting characters to dribble out these nauseatingly sycophantic descriptions of him at the drop of a hat so that the idiots in the audience think everything's wonderful in spite of the evidence of their own senses. That's reinforced by Son-of-Mine's waffle about the "fury of a Time Lord" at the end and how he was "being kind". I can't stand this image of the Doctor as some kind of cross between Jehovah and The Incredible Hulk - powerful and benevolent, but you don't want to make him angry. He may be a Time Lord but he's still just some guy who does the right thing when no one else will, he's not god. It's interesting to give the Doctor a Dark Side but not when that makes him some kind of stern parent of all life in the universe administering punishments because he's disappointed. We've already seen how RTD misrepresents the Doctor as this sort of Nietzschean Superman who is the ultimate authority in the universe and it's incredibly damaging to the Doctor as the ultimate anti-authoritarian and liberal.
As an example, instead of all these speeches and further application of RTD's beloved 'tell don't show' philosophy, why not have a story where the Doctor turned up in a place where the legends about his actions had caused people to think of him as a deity and he had to deal with the consequences? It's a pretty rough idea but it could be a good deal more interesting than just have everyone including the Doctor himself bang on about how powerful and amazing and dreadful he was without actually exploring the issue.
That's the problem with "The Family of Blood". What it does well, we've already seen. What it does badly is some of the most arrogant characterisation and unscientific, blatantly magical plotting the revived series has ever depicted. Are we supposed to hold the Tenth Doctor in the same awe, RTD? Because after seeing the way other characters act towards him and the way he treats them I don't feel much more than contempt.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.