Human Nature / The Family of Blood

* After discovering that the middle section of Series 3 isn’t quite as bad as I’d remembered, I was briefly worried that maybe the last few episodes wouldn’t quite be as brilliant as I’d remembered. If anything, this one was even better. Just the complete package from start to finish – funny, scary and almost overwhelmingly emotional at times. It clearly benefited from having a whole novel’s worth of material to draw from, as the level of detail in the fictional world is almost at Robert Holmes levels. It’s impossible not to get lost in this story.

* Has anyone ever done a mash-up of The Doctor talking to Martha about “this watch” and Christopher Walken talking to a young Butch about “this watch”? John Smith hid this uncomfortable hunk of metal. In his ass.

* Jessica Hynes is utterly adorable, as Joan and in general. I found myself welling up within minutes of her first appearing, just at the memory of what was to come. Joan’s courtship with John is brief in terms of screen time, but I totally buy it because she just feels so genuine. She’s an actress that makes everything look effortless, and yet what she does is so carefully constructed and full of depth.

* Furthermore, John Smith is a fully fledged character in his own right, and he’s adorable too. It’s a testament to Tennant’s performance that you quickly forget that John Smith isn’t real, and that this is the first time we’ve met him. He’s not just The Doctor in disguise, although the characterisation is an utterly perfect transposition of what The Doctor – the Tenth specifically – would be like as a human. Dorky, awkward, capable of extraordinary things, but riddled with everyday weaknesses and insecurities. I’m totally in love with John Smith, and with Joan Redfern. I feel like a Tumblr user.

* I remember being so excited about the Journal Of Impossible Things, and particularly the pictures of former Doctors. I distinctly remember there being a text message (though whether I sent or received it I’m not sure) that night, which just said “MCGANN IS CANON”.

* Some things I wouldn’t have spotted the first time round: a baddy disguised as a little girl, skipping along the road with plinky-plonky nursery rhyme music = Remembrance of the Daleks. The Doctor (or a very close approximation) saving lives by “doing impossible things with cricket balls” = Four to Doomsday.

* It’s the return of the dancing metaphor, although I’m guessing that this time it wasn’t as literal as I decided it is when Moffat uses it, otherwise that wasn’t a village dance that the Family of Blood interrupted, it was an orgy. Either way, Smith wasn’t sure whether or not he could manage it, but in the end Joan was utterly delighted by his skillful performance.

* And everything else about this episode was also perfect. The school, the Family, the little boy from Love Actually, Martha’s battles against racial, gender and class prejudice, the creeping shadow of war, everything. Come the second half, I was far too busy watching to make any useful notes, and it was taking all my effort to stop myself from weeping. For John Smith, for the life with Joan that he never got the chance to live, and for the bleak futility of war and destruction. I’d forgotten that the latter played such a big part, and as such the Remembrance Day scene really got me this time round – a timely reminder of what can happen when Europe isn’t united. This is perhaps my favourite story of the revival so far. Until tomorrow.

RATING: 10

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