Episode 8 – HUMAN NATURE

The tone was set from the very first minute of this superb two parter. We joined the Doctor and Martha being shot at as they ran into the TARDIS, while the Doctor was very concerned that whoever was chasing them got a glimpse of his companion. The episode then cut to the Doctor waking up, and Martha entering “Mr Smith’s” room and the year was 1913. I don’t think there are many starts to episodes that top this one. It’s thrilling and you really don’t have a clue what could come next. You’re left scratching your head and that’s exactly what Doctor Who should do (if the questions are then answered later of course). We did get an explanation and this two parter was a really thought provoking story. The first part was really just to set the scene, it didn’t have as much action as the following episode, but it was still brilliant. David Tennant’s performance as John Smith was terrific, it can’t be easy to portray a completely different character while working on the same show. In my opinion, it was Tennant’s best performance since The Christmas Invasion. The Chameleon Arch that rewrote the Doctor’s biology was the most revolutionary item we’d been introduced to at the time in the modern era. It opened up a whole world of possibilities and of course, went on to play a huge part in the remainder of this series. And this episode contained the best Doctor Who reference I think I’ve ever heard. John Smith named his parents as Sydney and Verity. Sydney Newman and Verity Newman of course were monumental forces in kick starting the show back in the sixties and this was such a perfect little nod to their hard work. If you haven’t seen Mark Gatiss’ An Adventure in Space and Time, then definitely watch that as soon as possible. It pays tribute to all of the cast and crew of Doctor Who at its beginning. Anyway, back to this episode and it was one where Martha proved herself as one of the Doctor’s most resiliant companions ever. Not many who have travelled with the Doctor have encountered more testing scenarios than this and I thought Martha did a superb job of remaining calm, trusting the Doctor and doing her best to protect him. The script was written very well by Paul Cornell who was credited for the first time since Father’s Day, another excellent story. The inclusion of racism towards Martha was a good aspect as it showed how tough it was for her to fit into 1913. However there were a couple of little things that I didn’t like. I didn’t understand how Latimer could hear the watch if the Doctor had put a perception filter on it. The Doctor does say he has low level telepathic ability in the next episode but I still don’t really get why that allows him to hear the watch and see so clearly into the future. The scene where the Doctor threw the cricket ball to save the baby from the falling piano was also pointless. I know it wasn’t a big deal and was probably a nod to the fifth Doctor protruding out of John Smith, but it was quite a ridiculous little sequence of happenings to divert the pram from the piano. Also, I didn’t like the inclusion of Rose in John Smith’s journal, it was so unnecessary and once again overshadowed Martha, who as I said, had one of her best stories. But overall, this is an episode that brilliantly sets up the second part. The cliffhanger is excellent as you really don’t know who John Smith will choose. 8/10

Episode 9 – THE FAMILY OF BLOOD

Like the first part, this episode starts in stunning fashion as Martha once again demonstrates what an excellent companion she is. She puts her life in serious danger to try and save everyone in the hall and protect the Doctor. This strangely is a story though that portrays the Doctor in a poor and selfish light. When Latimer is hiding with the watch, the Family have already murdered people, so I find it strange that it tells Latimer to keep the watch hidden. Surely once people have died and the Family are close to accessing the Doctor, the watch would want him to return to help? As the matron also says, the Doctor could’ve chosen anywhere and because he chose that village in that time, people died. I don’t get why he and Martha couldn’t have hidden in an uninhabited or quieter area to avoid all the trouble. But that is what made the episode so good. Martha was trying to persuade John Smith to change back and he was understandably reluctant as what he’d heard about the Doctor wasn’t good. The matron was slowly starting to side with Martha as the episode went on and as more people died and she was a key factor in persuading John Smith to revert back to the Doctor. The scene where the Doctor tricks the family and blows up their ship was an emphatic return and the best moment of the two parter. And then we see the Doctor at his darkest as he sentences the Family to exactly what they want, eternal life. It was a great sequence as Son of Mine narrates the Doctor’s individual punishment for each Family member. Also the scarecrows were immaculately designed and the way they walked really made them terrifying. The very end of the episode was very poignant as the Doctor and Martha paid their respects to a much older Latimer at a Rememberance Day service. The only thing I didn’t like was that Son of Mine was portrayed in an annoying way and was a villain who was too over the top. The other Family members were much more understated and calm and I think that made them a bit spookier. However, this is a very strong conclusion to an excellently devised and executed story. 9/10

Episode 10 – BLINK

You might think I’m about to hand out the second perfect ten of this marathon. I’ll tell you right now I’m not, but I was very close to doing so. Steven Moffat produced one of his best scripts for this episode and of course created the now iconic, Weeping Angels. This is how a “timey wimey” story should be done. There were so many clever, genius in fact, aspects to this episode. It would have been nice to see Sally Sparrow tell the Doctor he needed to write her a message, or even see her write it down, but the opening scene where she tore back the wallpaper to read “Sally Sparrow, Duck! Now!” was absolutely amazing. Billy being behind the Easter Eggs was another very clever feature that I liked, I’m glad that was well explained. The episode was constantly full of suspense and you couldn’t take your eyes off of it. There are too many scenes to individually reference but my favourite was in the cellar when the Angels were closing in on Sally and Larry and began to turn out the lights. It was the Angels at their most threatening and that scene is probably what made them so feared in Doctor Who. The trick that led the Angels to all look at each other after the TARDIS dematerialised was also exceptionally clever. Sally Sparrow is the best female character Moffat has written for the show. I wish he’d bring her back as she refreshingly wasn’t flirtatious, but she was strong and very clever. The only thing that was a bit dubious was the Doctor in a taxi…really? He seemed in a rush so why didn’t he take the TARDIS? And for how long did he have to carry that rather bulky file Sally gave him before he was sent back in time? Apart from that, this is the standout episode of series three. I wish Moffat wrote more stories like this as head writer. I can’t give it a ten, but it’s better than some episode I’ve rated as nine. 9.5/10

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