Friday, January 28, 2011

"Human Nature"

If this episode reveals anything to me, it's these two things: Firstly, David Tennant is a great actor. Just watch him in this and you'll see that his performance as John Smith is very, very watchable. Secondly, the Tenth Doctor is crap. This story was adapted by its author Paul Cornell from his Seventh Doctor novel of the same name and it's interesting to see how a more mature literary outlook effects the composition. Now the Seventh Doctor gets a lot of stick from some people for one reason or another but unless you're stupid you know he's actually pretty bad ass. I think if he went on the run and turned himself into a human you'd miss him. The Tenth Doctor, on the other hand, turns himself into a human and I couldn't be happier. He's so much more restrained. His quirkiness is so much more subtle. He comes across as intellectual, and curious, if a little absent-minded. It's just as unbelievably refreshing a change of pace as it is when Rose was put on a bus to Reverse World and we got Martha instead.
Martha's a bit different. There's some good stuff with her abiding the casual racism and class discrimination which was still rife in the Edwardian period and her visit to the TARDIS manages to be simultaneously touching and deeply disturbing as we view her memories of the Doctor's agonizing transformation. On the other hand there are some pretty jarring bits when she breaks character to try to warn the Doctor and you wonder how she's not getting the whole 'he needs the watch to become a Time Lord again' thing.
There's some other weirdness, like psychic wunderkind du jour Tim Latimer and the Family of Blood using scarecrow henchmen for absolutely no reason besides enforcing an arbitrary creepiness-and-mystery factor which comes across as a little forced. It may seem banal of me but there's something I don't entirely mind about watching John Smith and Daisy from Spaced tottering around the English countryside having polite conversations even if the whole romance thing is a bit tired and predictable. The Edwardian atmosphere is excellently established, however, and the shadow of the First World War lying over everything is well-displayed, especially through the machine-gun scene.
The Family themselves are suitably menacing and their danger is established well through the powerful opening. The creepy stare of Son of Mine is particularly good although somehow I think Father/Husband of Mine should have lost his accent upon possession. It may be a lot of set-up but it's good for establishing a completely different side of the Doctor and even though I feel like there's going to be a lot more for me to say in my review of the next episode it's certainly one of the highlights of the series. It's a highlight because of the lack of the Tenth Doctor. You got that?

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