doctor who 3.9: human nature

29 05 2007

Finally, series 3 hits it’s stride.

Too much of the third season has disappointingly chosen to rehash elements of past episodes, so it’s strange that the only story to be explicitly based on a previously published story (the New Adventure novel of the same name, published in 1995) is the freshest episode yet, crackling with innovation and energy.

Jessica Hynes (nee Stevenson), fresh from being the best thing about Magicians, is on sparkling form here. Tennant is great as the perpetually bemused John Smith, perfectly realising a new facet to the Doctor’s character.

It’s a good episode for Freema Agyeman too, as Martha finally stops being annoying and starts being feisty, smart and spiky. Quite why she has to be a housemaid isn’t entirely clear – couldn’t she just sit things out in theTARDIS? – but it does provide a social commentary subtext.

The standout performance is Harry Lloyd, whose wonky-faced posh possession is exquisitely creepy. An Old Etonian himself (and descendant of Charles Dickens), his stare burns a hole in the screen with every appearance. Coupled with the scary zombie-like scarecrows, I can imagine that this episode will imprint on the younger generation, to be cited with a shiver on I Love 2007 in 20 years time as ‘the one with the scarecrows’.

Human Nature is refreshingly short on badly-designed-spaceship moments – except the big question of why isn’t Martha looking after the watch if it’s so important? And why doesn’t it have a lock on it? But we’ll ignore that as a trade-off for the wealth of old series continuity references. I especially liked the sketches of the previous incarnations, and the mention of ‘Sydney and Verity’ as Smith’s parents (named for Sydney Newman and Verity Lambert, the 60s ‘parents’ of the show).

It’s interesting that the series has continued it’s collection of unconventional families with the villains of the piece, the Family of Blood. Like the Raxacoricofallapatorian family Slitheen, these villains are related as well as hunting together. Here’s hoping the next episode resolves the question of how they found Martha and Smith in the first place.

The flashbacks (and forwards) give the whole thing an epic quality that I can’t wait to see resolved. Cannot wait. Cracking stuff.




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