Mark Watches ‘Doctor Who’: S03E09 – The Family of Blood

In the ninth episode of the third series of Doctor Who, John Smith faces a terrible decision: does he save the world by “dying” and becoming the Doctor again, or does he remain a human and live out a full life with Joan? If you’re intrigued, then it’s time for Mark to watch Doctor Who.

It’s no surprise to me to learn that this episode, along with the previous part of the story, were nominated for Hugo Awards. It’s weird, because one of the first things this whole two-parter makes me think is how much I really wish that Doctor Who was a bit more consistent. I think the fact that so many writers handle the scripts is exciting. We get new perspectives, experimental scripts, and fascinating stories that a single writer might not be able to pull off. That being said, there is a part of me that wishes that every episode of Doctor Who was this grand, intense, and emotional.

I think that “The Family of Blood” is actually better than “Human Nature,” and that’s a lofty claim to make, especially since I loved that episode so much. But this episode doesn’t fail to ramp up the tension, the creepiness, and the UTTER HEARTBREAK that was created in the first part.

Paul Cornell and Russell T Davies don’t hesitate to say a lot of uncomfortable, frightening things in this episode and I believe that’s why I grew to love it so much. It started off a bit rocky, as I found myself not really caring about the dilemma John Smith was forced into anymore. I mean that in the sense of…well, it was a great way to end the last episode. As I said before, both sides will lose because neither fully understands the other one. But starting this episode off with that standoff? Well, obviously it’s going to be resolved since there are 44 MINUTES REMAINING, so it doesn’t hold the same power. I don’t know if I consider this a legit complaint since the writers have to deal with this.

Anyway, from this point on, everything is GRIM AS HELL. As the Family of Blood descend on the school, having followed John Smith there, Baines continues to be the most over-the-top, terrifying villain of EVERYTHING EVER. Yes, it is ridiculous that he talks like that and his eyes are always wide open, and I don’t care. Harry Lloyd, you are fantastic. But he really sends me off into Nightmare Land after the boys prepare to launch an attack on the oncoming scarecrow soldiers. Up until this moment, I think most of these people believed they were dealing with humans trying to harm them, but when the little girl with the red balloon shows up, the boys and the staff members have to face the reality of the situation: these are not humans. And they are not going to win.

How about the best line ever?

“War is coming. In foreign fields, war of the whole wide world, with all your boys falling down in the mud. Do you think they will thank the man who taught them it was glorious?”

AKJDFDASFLJKASDF I SERIOUSLY WANTED TO CURL UP FOREVER. The delivery was everything for this line, and it was haunting. The look in the headmaster’s eyes? WILL NOT UNSEE FOREVER.

As if it was even remotely possible at this point, this episode continues to get better, as Martha, Joan, and John Smith head to the Cartwright home to hide. When Tim shows up with the watch that Martha had been looking for, it’s clear that John Smith faces a drastic decision. Having seen the TARDIS earlier in the episode, Joan is now convinced herself that the stories in A Journal of Impossible Things cannot possibly be stories. They are the memories of the Doctor. John Smith is merely an invention.

I cannot even recall many episodes of television that I have seen in my life that are as heartbreaking as what happens here. I finally get to see where that infamous GIF of David Tennant crying with a bow tie comes from and I’d be happier about it if it wasn’t from THE MOST DEPRESSING SCENE EVER. Watching John Smith beg to keep his own life, to keep his own experiences, his identity, the good and the bad, to keep it as his and no one else’s…christ. It’s hard to even think about it.

Of course, much of the praise must also be shared with David Tennant, who came to portray John Smith so genuinely that you stopped thinking he was the Doctor. Here was a man who had finally fallen in love with someone he cared for and respected. And he was going to give all of that up, including his memories of those events, in order to save the world. Joan excuses Martha and Tim to have a final moment alone with John Smith. It’s then that the two of them hold the watch, which shows them images and memories of what their life would become if he stayed. Marriage. Two children. A life in the countryside. His death, with Joan alongside at the end.

It’s a life a Time Lord could never have.

The episode abruptly cuts to John Smith stumbling onto the ship of the Family of Blood. We watch, in horror, as John Smith hands over the watch. He has chosen to stay behind, to give up his life as a Time Lord, and to become human with Joan. Except that the watch is empty and, for the first time in the episode, we hear that familiar inflection from the Doctor, as he joyously explains that his “clumsiness” was a way for him to press just the right buttons to send the ship into overload.

The Doctor is back.

He never raised his voice. That was the worst thing–the fury of the Time Lord–and then we discovered why. Why this Doctor, who had fought with gods and demons, why he had run away from us and hidden. He was being kind. He wrapped my father in unbreakable chains forged in the heart of a dwarf star. He tricked my mother into the event horizon of a collapsing galaxy to be imprisoned there, forever. He still visits my sister, once a year, every year. I wonder if one day he might forgive her, but there she is. Can you see? He trapped her inside a mirror. Every mirror. If ever you look at your reflection and see something move behind you just for a second, that’s her. That’s always her. As for me, I was suspended in time and the Doctor put me to work standing over the fields of England, as their protector. We wanted to live forever. So the Doctor made sure we did.

SIMPLY FLAWLESS. One of the best expository monologues I have ever seen on television.

The Doctor visits Joan one last time, and surprisingly offers her to be his companion. She refuses, thankfully; she could never love the Doctor like she loved John Smith. To her, they are not the same person and they will never be. Before the Doctor leaves, she asks him a damning question:

Answer me this–just one question, that’s all. If the Doctor had never visited us, if he’d never chosen this place…on a whim…would anybody here have died?

The Doctor’s silence is an answer in itself.

The episode ends by focusing on Tim Lattimer, who saw his future when he held the watch. The following year, he’d be helping Hutchinson in the foxholes of World War I, and a shell would fall on them. This entire story-arc suggested that Tim would die on that battlefield and he seemed to resolve himself to this fate. However, we’re finally shown the whole scene and he manages to pull Hutchinson aside to save his life. Many decades later, as Tim attends a ceremony for Rememberance Sunday, he notices two familiar faces watching from a distance: it’s the Doctor and Martha, who haven’t aged a year. And it’s a moment of validation for Tim, whose life was technically saved by his introduction to the Doctor.

“The Family of Blood” reminds us that the Doctor’s effects are never wholly positive on people. He changed Joan’s life forever and we’re left to imagine how she survived without John Smith. But he did save the world that night in 1913, and he saved that boy’s life from a falling shell.

Nothing is black and white.


  • “He’s like fire and ice and rage. He’s like the night and the storm in the heart of the sun. He’s ancient and forever. He burns at the center of time and can see the turn of the universe. And…he’s wonderful.” TIM <333333
  • “Latimer, you filthy coward!” “Oh, yes, sir!” Every time!” MORE TIM <3333
  • “I’m John Smith, that’s all I want to be, John Smith. With his life…and his job…and his love. Why can’t I be John Smith? Isn’t he a good man? Why can’t I stay?” AS;LDKFDASD;J MY CREYS
  • “You’re the Doctor’s companion, can you help? What exactly do you do for him? Why does he need you?” “Because he’s lonely.” OMG MARTHA. I didn’t comment on it up above, but SHIT. She deals with SO MUCH in this episode and that particular line was SO PAINFUL TO WATCH. Ugh, I feel so bad for her.
  • Seriously, fucking amazing amazing episode. Bravo.

About Mark Oshiro

Perpetually unprepared since '09.
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293 Responses to Mark Watches ‘Doctor Who’: S03E09 – The Family of Blood

  1. kaybee42 says:

    A-May-zing episode! I couldn't bring myself to rewatch it and your REVIEW made me cry! Ack! John Smith! Tim when he is old in the wheelchair! Old John asking if the children were okay! :'( tears forever!

    Buuuuut- the bit when you think he is still John then find out it's the Doctor- SO MUCH JOY!

    • ferriswheeljunky says:

      I must have seen this episode a dozen times by now and it still makes me cry every time. Even reading this damn review made me well up. Definitely my favourite episode of Doctor Who.

  2. redheadedgirl says:

    “War is coming. In foreign fields, war of the whole wide world, with all your boys falling down in the mud. Do you think they will thank the man who taught them it was glorious?”

    Chills, chills, chills.

    If ever you are in London, go to the Imperial War Museum. And go through the WWI exhibit, and the recreated trench. (and be terrified of ALL the fucking mannequins OMG NO THANK YOU FOREVER)

    And then try to not be that idiot who is crying out in the museum's garden after they close.

    • Stephen_M says:

      The temptation to sacrifice a cheap MP3 player with external speaker and a 60 minute long loop of *silence…. silence… are you my mummy… silence* tucked into a mannequin with a gas mask in that exhibit is one I always have to resist….

    • diane says:

      Or for North Americans, go to the Pariament building in Ottawa. Go to the chapel in the second floor of the tower. The names of all those Canadians who died in Canada's wars are inscribed in books there. The pages of those books are turned, every day at 11:00. The names of the battlefields are engraved in the walls and the floor. You'll bawl your eyes out.

    • ^^This

      Whenever I visit the Imperial War Museum I always end up in tears at some point. Always.

    • MowerOfLorn says:

      That line. It always makes me think of all the poetry done by soldiers about WW1. So chilling and damning.

    • stellaaaaakris says:

      I'd also like to add the In Flanders Field Museum in Ypres/Ieper, Belgium. It's not as accessible as London (well, neither are all that convenient considering I live in New York), but the museum and entire parts of the city are a giant memorial to WWI. They try to recreate the feel of the war, the sounds, the sights. There are gas masks and poems, including my all time favorite poem, "In Flanders Fields." And red poppies are everywhere. If WWI interests you and you can get there, go.

    • FlameRaven says:

      Both more and less horrifying: the museum in Hiroshima. The second bit has a scene with life-size wax figurines walking around with their skin melted and hanging off in strips and fire flickering in the background. DD:

      I'm sort of glad I got yanked away from that half of the museum quickly.

      • redheadedgirl says:

        Holy shit.

        • FlameRaven says:

          Yeah. D: Seriously if there's one thing that can immediately convince you that no one should use nuclear weapons again, ever, anywhere, it's that museum.

          Alternately, should you not get a chance to visit Japan, you can read the manga/watch the anime movie 'Barefoot Gen' which was written by a survivor of the Hiroshima bombing. That movie is so hideously graphic that it could only be done in animation (all I actually remember are the scenes of people screaming as their eyeballs melt out of their faces DDDD:).

      • knut_knut says:

        Oh god I cried so hard when I was there D:

      • ninjac8 says:

        Good god! I cried all the tears just reading the book Hiroshima by Hersey I don't think I could handle physically seeing all that. And I have a doctorate in 'Burying your feelings waaay down deep inside.'

        • FlameRaven says:

          Yeah, it hurt. I was actually visiting the place as part of a Japanese high school class (I was an exchange student at the time) and I don't think I've ever been more conscious or more guilty about being American. For bonus guilt, I was pulled away from the second part of the museum by guides because I'd gotten separated from my class. They were on the other side of the park, listening to a survivor talk about his experience that day. o_o

    • Ripchordgirl says:

      Oh God, the Imperial War Museum 🙁 I had a traumatic experience there as a child when my dad (a major Doctor Who fan) made me go through the trench bit even though I was sobbing and begging him not to. I can’t have been over six years old.

      • redheadedgirl says:

        I went last summer when I was in London for study abroad- mind you, I am in my 30s. I was there alone, on crutches, near closing time so there was only a handfull of people in the exhibits- the lighting is low, the mannequins are blue, there are sounds all over the place- creepy, right? I'd been looking forward to seeing the trench since I read about it in a guide book MONTHS before, and I get to the entrance and FREEZE. And can't quite get myself to go through it. So I dither, and dither, and dither until a family came by, with a 8 year old kid who is like "THIS IS THE MOST AWESOME THING EVER" and charges through and I crutch after him. Went through that trench at top speed and really didn't see much.

        I went back to the IWM the next week and tried to go through it again and could not do it. Could not.

    • summeriris says:

      I watch the last episode of 'Black Adder Goes Forth'.

  3. NB2000 says:

    I said it before, I'll say it again, Martha is so incredibly awesome in these two episodes. She's really put through the wringer and she handles it better than a lot of people would. I LOVE her showing off her medical knowledge to Joan with the listing of the bones in the hand, and her being able to get the gun away from Mother of Mine. Martha ftw.

    I share your <3 for Tim. He's clearly terrified but he still manages to do what's right in the end, and he gets that awesome moment of blasting Sister of Mine with the watch (which, okay didn't really help in the long run as it told the Family about the watch but it was still an awesome moment).

    I know it's incredibly silly and petty of me but, the part of the "What could have been" montage of Joan and John having their baby is always slightly spoiled for me by the damn stock baby crying they put in there. I ALWAYS hear it and it always pulls me right out of whatever scene it's in. But that's just me being ridiculous, not really the show's fault.

    • monkeybutter says:

      Agreed! I love Martha's badassery in these episodes, especially the part with the bones. But I hate seeing her resigned to second fiddle. Le sigh.

    • Stephen_M says:

      Oh totally agree, Martha has one of the hardest ever Companion gigs here when you think about it (basically abandoned a century before she's born, in a world that still has MAJOR race issues, watching over someone who has no awareness of her even existing (heh, no change there then! Um, sorry) and protecting a) him, b) herself and c) the whole of creation in the process. And, by and large, she pulls it off magnificently.

      Actually… sorry to do this but literaly as I typed that I realised a major problem with this episode from a logic point of view. The Doctor spends, what, three months or so waiting for the family to die of natural causes right? So…. why not park the TARDIS around a black hole, kick back, break out a deck of cards and maybe a DIY manual or two and spend three months in perfect safety behind a door no-one can pass and with nothing to blackmail him with? Same net result after all… Okay, I'll let it pass because the episode is so damn good but yikes, that's a biggie.

      • Hanah says:

        Well, to be fair he only had a few minutes to come up with a solution – I know he's the Doctor and a super genius but perhaps that thought just didn't occur to him? Usually if the Doctor needs to run he just jumps through time and when that doesn't work his brain goes to the most extreme option, and after that he doesn't look back. I realise this is a little bit hand-wavey but I genuinely don't think the Doctor is very logical about a lot of stuff. Plus he was obviously massively curious as to what it would be like to be human and here was the perfect opportunity!

      • kilodalton says:

        Or at least keep the dang fob watch in a safe place! That's one thing I've never understood – why have John Smith keep it with him where 1) he could lose it or 2) it could get stolen (this is, after all, a high school). It would have seemed smarter to keep it in a safe place on board the TARDIS, or have Martha carry it on her.

  4. Anon says:

    DT was brilliant in this, imagine having to learn how to do a whole new accent on top of the one you already did to play The Doctor, neither of which is similar to your own accent.

    • ferriswheeljunky says:

      I especially love the bit where he suddenly slips back into his Doctor accent for a couple of lines of techno-babble – it's a neat reminder of how very different he's managed to make these two characters through very subtle changes.

  5. Nomie says:

    But why does David Tennant in old-age makeup LOOK SO CREEPY? Creepier than half the aliens on the show!

  6. azurefalls says:

    Ack, SUCH a heartbraking episode. &lt;/3 My love for David Tennant only increases with his pure talent. And yes, I will repeat it, HARRY LLOYD FOR TWELVE.
    Stellar writing, brilliant episodes, fantastic characters. Two of my favourites. ^__^

  7. maccyAkaMatthew says:

    On the point of consistency, you don't hit the heights unless you're prepared to risk missing them. And TV doesn't have the luxury of time that movies can have (although more time doesn't always help).

    With this particular story, though, the original version was published in May 1995, so both Paul Cornell and Russell T Davies would have had it percolating in their heads for over ten years before working on adapting it for the new series.

    Also, I think the unsung hero of the whole series is Andy Pryor, the casting director.

    • samarkand_ says:

      Yes, this and +1 and all that to your observation about risk-taking. Doctor Who is ballsy, and barmy, and it goes there, even if, when it gets there, there is really not the greatest of places. But sometimes, there is the BEST place.

      • flamingpie says:

        ….I kind of want to take a pic of a bunch of the cast and write

        DOCTOR WHO

        It Goes There

        in Degrassi font because of this comment. fml.

    • nyssaoftraken74 says:

      Absolutely right. Doctor who could easily be consistently good if they always kept their sights well within what they knew the could achieve. But instead they strive to achieve the impossible because sometimes – more often than would seem possible – they make it and it's glorious. And then having achieved the impossible, they have to aim higher still.

    • xpanasonicyouthx says:

      That's a really good point.

  8. gaeri says:

    This two-parter is just so perfect!
    After some poor episodes the last part of season 3 to me was just better and better.
    And poor Martha! I think the Doctor is just so unfair to her. He asks Joan to join him and never for a second thinks about how Martha would feel. I mean, I love Joan, she's a strong woman and would make a great companion, but Martha always seems to be so overlooked by the Doctor and in this case, after he learned about how she feels about him it is even more evident. Bad Doctor!

  9. Stephen_M says:

    Oh I adore this story, just fabulous in every way. The WW1 stuff is pitch perfect, the ending in particular (war will not weary them, nor the years condem…. as the Doctor and Martha watch on) makes me choke up every time. The exploring of the Doctor's character is great (and Tim's line in the first bullet point above is just PERFECT… the Doc is a scary, scary figure when you stop to think about it) and the bad guys of the week are creepy as all hell, especially son-of-mine.

    But best of all the Tenth Doctor FINALLY gets called out to his face. I was waiting a year and a half for that to happen after his questionable decisions of S2 (and seeming death wish in S3 to this point) and the simple fact is Joan is 100% right. This 'giving the bad guys a chance' lark is okay if it only puts him in danger but when he CHOOSES to place an entire community at risk to 'be kind'… yeah, that's over the moral event horizon frankly and, while not a good moment, it was a very satisfying one to see her chew him a new one over it.

    And now, to borrow a phrase from Babylon 5, the greatest nightmare of our time is waiting for you… Heh, I've ALWAYS wanted to say that. Type that. Whatever.

    Oh and MAJOR props to David Tennant for John Smith, very very different character and yet the occasional hint of the Doctor peeking through. Plus I believe he was sick as a dog for a lot of this story. Kudos sir, kudos.

    • kilodalton says:

      (and seeming death wish in S3 to this point)

      I have a question for ya. I know you're not a Rose fan or a shipper, that's why I'm asking you =) I have never heard a non-shipper say that Ten has a seeming death wish. I completely agree that he DOES have one though (I think it had a lot to do with his large-scale losses, culminating in the loss of Rose, with whom I ship him hard). But most non-shippers I know refuse to admit that he had a death wish at all (I'm guessing, because of the implication that Rose might have had something to do with it).

      So … question to you as a non-shipper is: to what do you attribute this death wish?

      • echinodermata says:

        Not the OP, but also a nonshipper. I think it's absolutely true he cared deeply for Rose, loved her, whatever. (Realize that while I don't necessarily believe he was "in love" with her, even if he were canonically in love with Rose and that they were a couple in canon, I still wouldn't ship it just cause it's not for me)

        He was going to go to drastic measures in the S1 finale to destroy the Daleks, quite potentially out of revenge for the loss of his people/planet. So Time War plus losing Rose, his first companion (so we see, at least) after the Time War means he's really manic this season to me, and potentially making bad decisions because he's fucked up moreso than normal.

        I'm not sure I would characterize it as a death wish, but more that he's sometimes deliberately playing with fire.

    • FlameRaven says:

      Mm, as someone watching B5 for the first time, I'm in Season 3 and I still don't find the Shadows all that threatening. Probably because every time they say "The Shadows!" I just see the Nostalgia Critic bouncing about waving his fingers going Shadoooooows!

  10. kohlrabi says:

    I had to read the wiki synopsis of this episode because I couldn't remember it all that well even though I just saw it about a week ago. Why was that? Oh, right, TEARS FOREVER. I cried throughout the entire episode, I swear. This was a really great wrap-up to the two parter and I really enjoyed how they had John Smith not just want to be this super awesome time lord from his dreams because it meant he would be "dead". That really sold the episode for me. That and getting to see old Timothy being celebrated while the Doctor and Martha looked on. So tragic but sweet.

    Dorky story: My boyfriend tried to watch nuWho before but stopped partly into season 1 because he didn't like it, but I've needled him into watching and we just finished Father's Day and he was totally tearing up at the end. New convert! Yippee!

  11. mkjcaylor says:


    I have said this before, but this episode feels as good as any Harry Potter to me. There are the fantastical elements and then there are the people, the sad, wonderful people who have to really suffer and that's what I love about it. I'm so glad the Doctor managed to save one person, despite killing so many (including the poor little girl who became Mother of Mine).

    The saddest part of this, and most surprising the first time I watched it, was the fact that John Smith and Joan would be so incredibly happy living out his life. And that they show just how happy. Augh, tears.

    I have seen enough Scifi to have seen lots of uses of the 'I'm a spy and I don't know it' trope. Where the fake person has to leave in order for the real person to come back. And never, never has it made me feel like the fake person is sacrificing themselves and their happy amazing life in order for the real person to return.

    I actually just watched an episode of Deep Space Nine where the 'fake' person was a clone of O'Brien and he thought he was real. But they sort of copped out at the end by accidentally killing the fake person, and he really didn't have a choice as to whether or not he died. It was sad, because he was a real happy person, but it did not broach the issue of the fact that he had to die in order for the real O'Brien to live no matter what.


    • echinodermata says:

      Stargate SG-1 has done a couple of stories with respect to having a "fake" version of the original being sacrificed. Off the top of my head, there was one body swap that could fit this bill of "sacrifice," and one "cloning" story where the clone is sacrificed (well, there's sort of a copout for that, too).

  12. monkeybutter says:

    I like what you said about inconsistency, because watching this two-parter, I thought it was funny how two-parters alternate between meh and fantastic. I don't know what it says about me that these two episodes are right up there with The Empty Child and The Doctor Dances, but I guess I like it when the Doctor touches upon the wars.

    I hate watching Martha's treatment in these episodes, even if it is true to the time and deal with racism a lot better than The Shakespeare Code. It's her face when she's asked why the doctor needs her that really gets me. And I can't tell you how satisfying it was to see her stand up for herself by reciting the bones of the hand.

    • calimie says:

      I wanted to slap the matron so damm hard in that scene! Argh, I liked her everywhere else, but after seeing the things you have seen you refuse to believe black women can be doctors?

      • kytten says:

        She's of her era. Most people in that time thought that black people had the minds of children/animals.

    • MowerOfLorn says:

      Well, to be honest, I thought her treatment in 'The Shakespeare Code' wasn't that bad. There were actually quite a few of free black people at the time, so its that big a leap to imagine that she wasn't experiencing such racism. Especially since in those episodes she wasn't forced into an inferior position.

      But Martha in these episodes…God, I feel for her. I mean,its probably bad enough having everyone else making comments, but imagine how it must have hurt her for John Smith, with her friend's face, to say these damning things?

  13. nextboy says:

    as i said yesterday, favourite two parter. You’ve said everything already, but it’s just pure heartbreak. Joans anger at the doctor at people’s deaths, despite having loved john smith, still pretty much the man standing before her, is so powerful

  14. xghostproof says:

    My go to gif of Ten crying has disappeared from my laptop, apparently, so my reaction with another David Tennant gif:

    <img src=""&gt;

    I love these episodes, but oh man do they make me sad and cry.

  15. psycicflower says:

    <img src="; border="0" alt="Image and video hosting by TinyPic">

    I can't count the number of times I thought 'Oh Joan/John/Martha/Tim/Kids' during this episode.

    All the scenes at the school about war are so sad because you know what's coming. The scene where the scarecrows attack and there's these boys, just crying children with guns at the ready who aren't prepared for this, were never prepared for anything like this, is just so powerful. The scarecrows, which were just ripped to pieces by bullets, allow them to be graphic without being blood and guts graphic. They can get away with showing the horror and violence of WW1 trench warfare on a Saturday evening family show through this and it's just so terrible to see. I think it adds an extra dimension that the track 'Just Scarecrows to War' plays over both the gathering scarecrows but also the school boys fighting because the odds of them facing the same fate in WW1 was so very high.

    I love Joan, she does what she thinks is right and takes charge at the school, she listens to Martha, she is so selfless in knowing that the Doctor is needed and she'll have to let go of John in order to save the day. The life she and John could've had together just puts the icing on top of the heart break cake. I also love her at the end of the episode saying no to the Doctor and knowing that he and John aren't the same person. Her finale words to him may be damning but they're true.

    Martha is also love in this episode. I will always love that moment where she just goes right so, I am sick of this racism and just starts naming off the bones of the hand. I also love how she takes advantage of the Family's distraction and sorts out the cliffhanger. It must've been so hard and frustrating trying to convince John of the truth.
    Timothy is great as well. I love how he keeps his head throughout the whole episode and is a BAMF in his own way. His 'fire and ice' quote is amazing. But seeing him at the end on Remeberence Day, having survied not only the Great War but saving his school tormentor in the process, having lived a long life is a great/sad moment.

    I think the 'fury of the Time Lord' scene might be one of the most extreme examples of the punishing, vengeful side of 10. It’s all very well getting justice but just look at how far the Doctor goes. Part of me is all Hells Yeah, while another part is horrified by what the Doctor’s doing. And then you have Baines monologue over it all and it just equals chills.

    ‘Miss Joan Redfern’ kind of breaks my heart a little. It’s gorgeous but it’s got that same slightly melancholy feel that ‘Madame du Pompadour’ has. She and John never really had a chance in the end. <a href="” target=”_blank”>

  16. Karen says:

    I hope you guys have fun watching Blink tonight! I’m in London and thus will be dead asleep while you guys are watching. BUT NEVER FEAR. I WILL BE DROPPING OFF A TL;DR COMMENT ABOUT “BLINK” AT THE LIVEBLOG POST WHEN I WAKE UP. Which will be hours after you all finish watching. BUT WHATEVER WHATEVER I DO WHAT I WANT. Anyway, on to The Family of Blood!

    The mythical and fairytale feel has been deeply embedded into this story from the beginning. Inanimate things coming to life. A transformation/metamorphosis. A love story. And that all really comes full circle here with the fate of the Family.

    <img src=""&gt;
    <img src=""&gt;
    This episode has one of the best scenes in all of Doctor Who. That scene where the school boys are mowing down the scarecrows is brilliant because this is exactly what these boys will be doing in a few years time, hiding in the trenches and firing at the enemy. The look of horror on John’s Smith’s face as he realizes what he’s doing, getting these boys involved just gets to me. All of that paired with the choral music in the background makes for an incredibly moving and emotional scene that really goes towards setting the tone for later events in the episode.

    Ok, now to move onto all the wonderful character exploration in this episode. Martha is wonderful in this episode, but since she doesn’t have quite the emotional journey that others do, I’m just going to say a few quick words. Martha is wonderful here, doing whatever she can to save the day. And at the end, she just shows what a fantastic and selfless friend she is, offering to talk to Joan.

    I love Joan Redfern. She is so strong when it matters.

    John Smith: How can you think I'm not real? When I kissed you, was that a lie?
    Joan Redfern: No, it wasn't, no
    John Smith: But this 'Doctor' sounds like some, some romantic lost prince. Would you rather that? Am I not enough?
    Joan Redfern: No, that's not true, never.
    John Smith: I've got to go.
    Joan Redfern: Martha was right about one thing though; those boys, they're children. John Smith wouldn't want them to fight, never mind the Doctor. The John Smith I was getting to know… he knows it's wrong, doesn't he?
    John Smith: What choice do I have?

    Oh Joan. I love that she points out how insane it is to have those poor boys fight. I love that she cares about that instead of just accepting it. And I love that she knows that John Smith wouldn’t like it either if he stopped to think. She knows that John Smith is a good man, and she loves him. To me that makes her actions later in the episode so very brave. She doesn’t like it, but Joan knows what has to be done. She knows that John must change back into the Doctor. She knows that she has to be the strong one because John can’t do it on his own. So she asks for some privacy and even though it is hard for her, she tells John that he has to become the Doctor again.

    And I must say, I love this bit at the end.

    Joan Redfern: He was braver than you, in the end- that ordinary man. You chose to change. He chose to die.

    • Karen says:

      When the Doctor asks Joan to go along with him, she can’t. The Doctor isn’t the same man that she fell in love with. And she knows that Death is his constant companion. But in some respects the Doctor wants so badly to be able to be John Smith, so he convinces himself that he could make a go of it with Joan because there is a part of John Smith still inside of him. But he was right when he told Rose back on Bad Wolf Bay, that she is there “living a life, day after day. The one adventure I could never have.” The universe needs the Doctor to be extraordinary. He can’t be ordinary, and Joan can’t go with him because it’s too painful and not fair to her.

      <img src=""&gt;
      The Doctor: Travel with me.
      Joan Redfern: As what?
      The Doctor: My companion.
      Joan Redfern: But that's not fair. What must I look like to you, Doctor? I must seem so very small.
      The Doctor: No! We could start again- I'd like that. You and me- we could try, at least. Cause everything that John Smith is and was, I'm capable of that too.
      Joan Redfern: I can't.
      The Doctor: Please come with me.
      Joan Redfern: I can't.
      The Doctor: Why not?
      Joan Redfern: John Smith is dead and you look like him.
      The Doctor [as he walks closer to Joan]: But he's here, inside. If you look in my eyes-
      Joan Redfern [refusing to meet the Doctor's eyes]: Answer me this – just one question, that's all. If the Doctor had never visited us, if he'd never chosen this place… on a whim… would anybody here have died?
      [the Doctor does not answer]
      Joan Redfern: You can go now.

      John’s struggle as he comes to term with being just a fiction is absolutely heart breaking. He doesn’t want to die, but he knows that he has to. Those people died because of him, because of the Doctor. And in order to stop the killing, John Smith himself must die so that the Doctor can return and save them. But watching John wrestle with it and rage at death is just absolutely tear jerking.

      <img src=""&gt;
      Joan Redfern: I'm Sorry, John. But you wrote about it. The Blue Box. You dreamt of a blue box.
      John Smith: I'm not…
      John Smith: I'm John Smith, that's all I want to be, John Smith. With his life… and his job… and his love. Why can't I be John Smith? Isn't he a good man? Why can't I stay?
      Martha Jones: But we need the Doctor.
      John Smith: Who am I then? Nothing…? I'm just a story?

      That last line is brilliant and is at the heart of what this story is about. What makes us who we are? Is it our biology? Our DNA? Is it our memories? Is it our stories? I think that what this story is telling us is that is it our choices who define us. It is the brave decision that John Smith makes to open the watch that makes him who he is.

      That moment where Joan is telling John that he needs to become the Doctor just hurts.

      Joan Redfern: If I could do this instead of you, then I would. … I’d hoped- but my hopes aren’t important.
      John Smith: He won’t love you.
      Johan Redfern: If he’s not you, then I don’t want him too. I had one husband and he died, and I never thought… ever again, and then you…

      And then they hold the watch and see the life that they might have had, and damnit if I’m not crying.

      <img src=""&gt;
      <img src=""&gt;
      <img src=""&gt;
      Joan Redfern: The Time Lord has such adventures, but he could never have a life like that.
      John Smith: And yet I could.

      • Karen says:

        John Smith, this man that Joan has come to love and who I, as a viewer, have come to love has to die in order to save the world. And it’s not fair, but that’s the way it is. He has to become the Doctor once more, but before that, he gets to see a glimpse of the life that he might have had. It’s like the Tantalus myth, he is able to see this happy and normal existence, but he will never be able to have it.

        The Doctor in this episode… oh the Doctor. Who would want to become the Doctor? He might have adventures and save the world, but he is a profoundly lonely man.

        John Smith: You're this doctor's companion, can't you help? What exactly do you do for him? Why does he need you?
        Martha Jones: Because he's lonely.
        John Smith: …And that's what you want me to become?

        There is a reason that John Smith doesn’t want to become the Doctor. On the surface, the Doctor’s life seems appealing, but there is so much tragedy there and so much loss and loneliness.

        John Smith: You knew this all along and yet you watched while Nurse Redfern and I…
        Martha Jones: I didn't know how to stop you. He gave me a list of things to watch out for, but that wasn't included.
        John Smith: Falling in love? That didn't even occur to him?
        Martha Jones: No.
        John Smith: Then what sort of man is that? And now you expect me to die?

        And yes, the Doctor is the sort of man that would never consider falling in love a possibility. That’s part of the reason that I love the Doctor/Rose story so much. It wasn’t something he could have expected or predicted, but there it was. And after losing her, he doesn’t see it as something that could happen again. It’s not something he would think to give Martha instructions about.

        <img src=""&gt;
        Joan Redfern: Where is he… John Smith?
        The Doctor: He's in here somewhere.
        Joan Redfern: Like a story… could you change back?
        The Doctor: Yes.
        Joan Redfern: Will you?
        The Doctor: No.

        (A brief aside: This echoes the language the Rose used after Nine regenerated.) In spite of the fact that the Doctor won’t change back, I think the Doctor feels guilty for what he did. He came into this woman’s life because he was hiding from The Family of Blood and in the end he broke her heart. He didn’t think of the effect that using the chameleon arch might have on other people. I think the Doctor feels like he’s behaved badly which is why he offers her a chance to try and make a go of it with Joan.

        Son of Mine: He never raised his voice. That was the worst thing – the fury of the Time Lord – and then we discovered why. Why this Doctor, who had fought with gods and demons, why he had run away from us and hidden. He was being kind. He wrapped my father in unbreakable chains forged in the heart of a dwarf star. He tricked my mother into the event horizon of a collapsing galaxy to be imprisoned there, forever. He still visits my sister, once a year, every year. I wonder if one day he might forgive her, but there she is. Can you see? He trapped her inside a mirror. Every mirror. If ever you look at your reflection and see something move behind you just for a second, that's her. That's always her. As for me, I was suspended in time and the Doctor put me to work standing over the fields of England, as their protector. We wanted to live forever. So the Doctor made sure we did.

        What a wonderful end to a fairytale of a story. It’s so perfectly creepy and a bit horrific. Why does the Doctor punish the Family of Blood so harshly? The Doctor is angry. This is what happens when the Doctor is angry. He’s angry that the Family of Blood killed those innocent people. He’s angry that he felt like he was forced to hide, and he’s angry that in doing so he broke Joan’s heart.

        These two episodes are just some brilliant pieces of television. David Tennant and Jessica Hynes are just magnificent in their roles. Paul Cornell's story and writing is Doctor Who at its finest- exploring character and telling stories that grip your heart. These episodes might not be as frightening as others, but they pack an emotional wallop that few other episodes are capable of.

        • calimie says:

          The parallels to what Rose asked of him so long ago was so terribly sad.

          And at the end, he becomes the Oncoming Storm when he just wanted them to die on their own.

          • MowerOfLorn says:

            I agree. The first time, the Doctor was willing to change back for Rose, but couldn't….this time, the opposite is true. Wonderful mirroring there.

        • Jen says:

          "That’s part of the reason that I love the Doctor/Rose story so much. It wasn’t something he could have expected or predicted, but there it was."

          Yes, this. You just broke my heart a little.

        • ninjac8 says:

          Karen you are simply the best ever.

  17. sarasingsout says:

    S3 pretty much made up for the incredible mediocrity of episodes 4-6 with these two episodes, as far as I'm concerned. They're just plain awesome.

  18. Hanah says:

    God I love this episode so much. I've seen it countless times but I still break down cryin every time. Mostly because of the story and the tragedy but god, I have always been very emotionally connected with war (woot for having a military family) and EVERY FUCKING TIME we see the boys crying as they shoot the scarecrows, so damn scared and so ashamed of being scared, with their choir playing over the top…oh crap I'm tearing up just thinking about it. Then the scene at the end at Remembrance Sunday, which is the nearest I come to religiosity (I don't do God but damn it I do remembrance) which is SO RELEVANT to the Time Lords and so fucking beautiful and I just end up in tears.

    It's amazing. And Joan is wonderful and poor John Smith, I don't think I'd be brave enough to give up my entire life and my love to turn into someone else who won't really even remember me.

    Martha continues fucking amazing. There is some competition, but she is a massively strong contender for Favourite Companion, and these episodes are a huge huge part of it. Never stop rocking Martha Jones.

    • echinodermata says:

      "Martha continues fucking amazing. There is some competition, but she is a massively strong contender for Favourite Companion, and these episodes are a huge huge part of it. Never stop rocking Martha Jones. "

      YES! I feel badly that Martha's not my favorite since she's so amazing and it's only because there are really awesome characters to come that she's not.

      But Martha is a total BAMF and I love watching her, even if I don't care for many aspects of this season.

    • __Jen__ says:

      There is some competition, but she is a massively strong contender for Favourite Companion, and these episodes are a huge huge part of it. Never stop rocking Martha Jones.

      I seriously can not choose. It's something like a 4-way tie for me for favorite (Martha is definitely included) and all for different reasons.

  19. araineparrot says:

    My goodness, this episode is just gorgeous and heartbreaking, and I love it so very, very, very much. One of my favorite two-parters.

    I knew that you were going to be watching it, so I went ahead and watched it last night. And then I made a picspam to put on my Tumblr, because THAT IS WHO I AM AND WHAT I DO.

    Here it is, just for you!

  20. Maya says:

    David Tennant holding that baby was enough to make me just melt into a puddle.

    It always shocks me when I go back and watch these episodes and realize all over again how AMAZING an actor David Tennant is. We see him every week playing this over the top character and then this comes along and it turns out he's just as brilliant at playing the quiet, ordinary man as he is the manic, brilliant Doctor.

    Also, Jessica Hynes FOREVER. I knew she could do comedy (Spaced <33333333333333 forever) but DAMN is she amazing at the emotional bits. And the writing is just PERFECT.

    The end of this somehow freaks me out a lot more than most episodes (not as much as Blink though…but there are reasons for that). The idea of the Doctor's calm fury….*shudder*

    The beginning of this two parter to the end was basically

    <img src=""/&gt;

  21. SiobhanC says:

    My main memory of the first time I watched this was bawling at the Rememberence Sunday scene.
    Also, Harry Lloyd!! <3 My prior knowledge of him was in roles where he was the nice guy, here he was pure evil and did it fantastically. Nothing like Will in the BBC series of Robin Hood (Yes, I watched it. Don't judge me!) 😀

    This weekend when I have some spare time I think I will get my DVD's out and watch it. 🙂

    • YES. Harry Lloyd is so ace. I'd been watching him for weeks and weeks in Robin Hood being nice and then he shoes up in Who and I was all :O

      Even his moment of Baines-Crazy in Robin Hoodie was nothing on the actual Baines-Crazy here.

      AND YAY SOMEONE ELSE WHO WATCHED IT. Was it just me, or was Robin the least sympathetic character ALL the way through?

  22. Albion19 says:

    BONES OF THE HAND IN YOUR FACE! Martha I love you so.

    I agree with you, I enjoy this part a little bit more then the first. It's utterly heartbreaking and no matter how many times I watch it I always cry at the scene between Joan and the Doctor. So painful.

    The punishment of the Family is just magical and awful. I love Son of Mine's VO. He sounds so tired, the strange inflection in his voice gone and the way he's saying it, all past tense. I like to think that one day, some how he got free and was telling someone what happened before he died.

    Don't fuck with the Doctor because underneath that manic smile is something truly scary.

  23. jackiep says:

    There's so much in this. Joan finally convinced that John Smith is a made-up character when his answers about his childhood sound like they come out of an encyclopaedia and he is stumped when asked where he played.

    John Smith turning briefly into the Doctor and back again half way through a sentence when holding the watch and John Smith's sheer horror and terror of what he can sense of the Doctor.

    John Smith unable to fire his gun, even at the scarecrows.

    Joan, when she realises that essentially her job is to convince the man she loves to commit suicide.

    Looking again at when "John Smith" is in the spaceship stumbling about, how on a second look it's the Doctor pretending to be John Smith and getting it ever so slightly wrong.

    The way that when he comes into the room after to talk to Joan, it's easy to believe that she sees an Alien thing who has replaced her loved one.

    The scene with Old Tim (they're all gone now, those First World War veterans). His life is nearly over. That scene still makes me tear up every time.

    • agrinningfool says:

      According to Wikipedia there are 3 World War I veterans living still. Two in the United Kingdom, One in the United States. Of course, the information may not be 100% but still… it is humbling. These brave men and women are nearly, if not, all gone and we still feel the effects of their service to this day and of that terrible war.

  24. flamingpie says:

    Unpopular fandom opinion time but I have very mixed feelings about these episodes. Yeah, they have very, VERY great aspects. I love that Martha gets her moment to shine and show what a BAMF she is. I find the plot absolutely enthralling, and I love the revelation that all along, the Doctor was just trying to be kind. I'm a huge fan of the Doctor's dark side, and this episode is a perfect example of it. I like Joan, and I love Tim. The secondary characters were all brilliant. This would probably be my favorite episode of series three if it weren't for one fact.

    I do not like John Smith. I really, really don't. There's no singular thing about him that bothers me, which I find annoying because I like knowing why something bugs me, but every single moment he's on screen just grates on my nerves. Which… is a testament to David's acting abilities, but that doesn't change the fact that he's on screen for quite a lot of these episodes and I therefore spend a large amount of them feeling intensely aggravated. I felt, at the end, that I should have been sad for him, but I wasn't. I was just glad to have the Doctor back. For that reason I do absolutely LOVE the ending of this one, though. I was just sooo relieved.

    I did enjoy these episodes a bit more on rewatch though, because I made myself just ignore John Smith and concentrate on the plot and the awesomeness of Martha. Especially when she smacks him. She basically encapsulated my feelings right there. You are the embodiment of awesome, Martha Jones.

    • __Jen__ says:

      I end up still loving these episode for all the awesome things you've listed, but I definitely agree about John Smith. I do think that his interactions with Joan are very charming, but I'm not really fond of him with any other characters. I understand that he's a product of his time and it is sad to see him give up his life (though I'm definitely much more sad for Joan than I am for John. She lost her first husband already and now this? All the tears.) But I'm already on the fence about liking Ten this season, and with the character of John Smith most of the redeeming characteristics of the Doctor are replaced with things like racism, paternalism and for much of the first episode, an indifference to violence. The moment in the first episode where he gave Hutchinson permission to beat Tim really got to me, as I'm sure it was supposed to. Not to mention all the moments with Martha, which make me ragey when I think about them. I understand that these are characteristics that were natural for the time, but that doesn't mean I'm going to like John. :\

      Joan's pain and the moment at the remembrance ceremony really made me tear up and Martha continues to be completely incredible so these episodes still end up towards the top of a best of NuWho list for me.

      • flamingpie says:

        Yeah, I mean, on rewatch I really can enjoy them a lot more because I know what to expect and can concentrate on the good, but… Ugh, John Smith. The funny thing is I'm usually a big fan of more unsympathetic protagonists. I absolutely adore the Doctor in this season, and for risk of spoiling (is talking about old who spoily? oh well, better safe than sorry), I'll say my favorite old who doctor is probably the biggest douchebag of the lot. but John Smith was just… bland? Bland is probably the best word I can think of. He's absolutely a product of his time in a lot of negative ways, and I don't want to blame him for that but… when he's otherwise that bland? I do. Like… a good example is the bit where he explains the "meteorite" in quite possibly the lamest way ever. "It's just rocks falling to the ground, that's all". Where is your sense of WONDER John Smith? I think that scene completely encapsulates what I dislike about him.

      • kohlrabi says:

        Oh, totally forgot about the beating thing! I was so angry! And then in the second part he essentially allows these children to risk their lives for him because he knows that The Family only want him.

        The real issue with him is he was just SO human and especially SO that era of human. He did what most of us would have done in his place and it's upsetting because it's not heroic or amazing in the slightest. It's selfishness and prejudices of his time, which he can't really be faulted for but it does make it hard for him to be a more sympathetic character.

    • Minish says:

      That's what I absolutely LOVE about John Smith: He's a fully developed character in his own right. Flaws and wisdom and troubles all his own.

    • shyguy3450 says:

      I agree with you, for most of the reasons already listed by other people. It's not that John Smith is a bad person necessarily, but some of the things he did really pissed me off, like letting students beat each other without a second thought (like someone else said). I get that he's a product of the time period, but if Joan, an actual real person who was born into that period naturally can see that all the violence is wrong, why can't he? I just get the feeling that he doesn't care, and that if he does care he's too afraid to bring it up. I get that he's not the Doctor, but he could at least have some backbone (yeah, I know he does in the end, but it annoyed me for most of the episode). I just get the feeling that if he were a real person, regardless of really being the Doctor, I would either be indifferent to him or not like him at all. He's just too apathetic/borderline asshole at times for me to truly like him. I did love this episode though, regardless. I'll stop whining now.

  25. Hotaru-hime says:

    Emo!John Smith GIF never fails to make me laugh because it's such a ridiculous expression, but the context never fails to make me cry.
    And that speech about how the Doctor punishes the family! Good lordy, it gives me such chills.
    I had such an issue with Joan telling the Doctor that John Smith was braver because he was giving up everything, because the Doctor already HAS given up everything. He is a Wanderer.
    Tim! Dear Tim! Beautiful.

    • agrinningfool says:

      Yes, perhaps the doctor is braver than John Smith. I'm not going to argue that, but I think.. and I kinda can relate.. he didn't share that he has lost everything and is forced to live a life alone to spare her the heartbreak. Not a heartbreak of losing someone but that heartbreak of shame you have when you feel like your problem, whatever it is, is the most terrible thing and someone else outdoes you or reminds me there are worse things in life. It's kinda shameful and it can hurt and Joan didn't need that additional shame and pain.

      If that comes across.. right? :/

  26. mkjcaylor says:

    HI. I would just like to take the moment to grab this gif (thanks openattheclose) from the Mockingjay MarkReads thread and just sit it down right here. Right here it goes.

    <img src=""&gt;

  27. swimmingtrunks says:

    This is one of the few episodes of Doctor Who that has made me cry, and I cry every time I watch it. John Smith's story is so poignant- a man who is entirely his own person, and yet he is an aspect of the Doctor. I might be a sucker for stories that play upon what makes a person a person, and metaphorical deaths, but that's my preference and I love how this episode deals with those things. It's emotional without being emotionally manipulative. The times where the action stops and they talk about things don't seem out of place or badly paced. It's solid, it's tragic, and I love it.

    For those who were commenting yesterday that this was a missed opportunity to change the dynamic between the Doctor and his companion, I would say look to this episode. Martha doesn't save the day in the most direct sense, but she is a BAMF and does for a time take the leadership position of their group, especially in the resolution of the opening situation. The Doctor is in a position of privilege throughout Earth's history. (Maybe that's why he likes Earth/humans so much?) He is an educated white male. Martha has to contend with the prejudices of this time- one might say there are very few settings where she could fully take the Doctor's role without encountering the difficulties of at least sexism, and probably racism. She's made a tragic Cassandra figure here: she speaks the truth but no one will listen to her. You can't tell me the Doctor, deprived of the authority that comes with his privilege, could function at full capacity. Martha does a great job with a lot going against her, and we should give her credit for that. Maybe there should be a story some day that puts the companion in a more privileged position than the Doctor, but I don't think this one has to, or even should be it. This isn't a story about the Doctor being disadvantaged, this is the story about the Doctor creating and killing a man, a facet of himself, for his own safety.

    • swimmingtrunks says:

      Oh my god, I've had too much coffee again today, so I'm having trouble organizing my thoughts. Here are some more, that just didn't seem right putting in that last post. That was a love fest, this is for my more critical thoughts.

      We've been having long discussions about the Doctor acting badly and whether or not the show itself is critical enough of these less favorable traits of the Doctor. I would say he gets criticized for the wrong things, and here's an example. He's taken to task for allowing collateral damage here- for people dying because he exists, and because he lets himself get tangled up in messy things instead of living a quiet life. That's not completely unfair, but it is a more complicated situation than being his fault. When you get characters praising the Doctor and looking upon him as some great, mythical thing- and then the one thing he's faulted for is being "dangerous," it sort of paints over all the unpleasant parts of his personality and the "bad" things he directly does, and instead shames him for something that really isn't entirely under his control. It's like saying his one fault isn't his fault at all, and that bothers me.

      • echinodermata says:

        "We've been having long discussions about the Doctor acting badly and whether or not the show itself is critical enough of these less favorable traits of the Doctor. I would say he gets criticized for the wrong things, and here's an example."

        Ooh, that's a good point. My issue has more do to with his flaws being present but him still being given descriptions like "lonely god" and "angel" and "wonderful" and stuff, but this criticism from Joan really wasn't something I had a problem with (as in, I didn't share her problem), since it's such a black and white portrayal of the world.

        Also, with respect to "This isn't a story about the Doctor being disadvantaged" regarding this being a missed opportunity (which I was the one to originally bring up yesterday), I really do want to see him disadvantaged, though. I get that wasn't this story, but that's my point – I want stories from DW that I'm not being given.

        "there are very few settings where she could fully take the Doctor's role without encountering the difficulties of at least sexism, and probably racism"
        I still think having this story being set in modern times would have improved things regarding the missed opportunity. And, you know, they could set it in the future ala Star Trek, where *isms aren't a problem.

        I was imagining in my head this episode in more contemporary times, where Martha's pretending to be a trufax medical doctor, and the Doctor is like, a nurse that has to do her bidding, or a receptionist, or a patient, or something subordinate to her.

        • swimmingtrunks says:

          Ooh, that's a good point. My issue has more do to with his flaws being present but him still being given descriptions like "lonely god" and "angel" and "wonderful" and stuff, but this criticism from Joan really wasn't something I had a problem with, since it's such a black and white portrayal of the world.

          I think we're pretty much in agreement- that's the bulk of my problem too. Like I said, Joan's criticism isn't unfair, and it's definitely in character and appropriate for her to say. I am completely okay with it in the context of this episode. It's just that on the writing level, when that's the only complaint being lobbed against the Doctor amongst such praise, it contributes to the idea that all the other stuff he does is okay.

          As toward the other thing- I think that story could be really interesting too, and I'd love to see it written. I think criticizing this story for not being that one is a little unfair, but I understand that you feel like these are kind of passable episodes in comparison to the potential of what you would like to see. It's just my opinion that giving Martha those disadvantages by setting the story in this time period actually works to it's advantage, not it's detriment.

          It would actually be really awesome if there was an episode if they went to some alien planet or future time where the Doctor would end up in the discriminated minority Cassandra role and his companion gets all the authority- leaving the Doctor entertainingly flustered and impotent. Unfortunately, we can only dream, or think our thoughts very very hard and hope Moffat picks up on them.

          • echinodermata says:

            I think objectively this is a super strong two-parter, and I thought Father's Day was also quite objectively strong, so I fully understand the love these episodes get. And I do enjoy them.

            I think all three are good, but it's just that I'd never consider them my favorites because they set up premises that I would like to see be explored differently. I do think this story lets Martha shine, and I love seeing her being awesome, so I do agree that what they did was still interesting. I just would have rather seen the story unfold differently, since I think the idea of the Doctor becoming human and the idea of the chameleon arch and hidden biology is really amazing and has a lot of yet unexplored potential.

            And that's why just the idea and notion behind fanfic excites me, even if I never really got into reading DW fanfic (except for crossovers, which I love).

            Also, I think Moffat is the writer to count on for exploring the less formulaic relationships between the Doctor and anyone, so I'm hopeful.

  28. samarkand_ says:

    There's really only 1 other episode (it doesn't come until much, much later) that ever competes with this story for my #1 favourite. Just an incredible 2 hours of TV, and I cry during the Remembrance Day scene every. single. time.

    Also: fire and ice and rage? LOVE THAT SPEECH. COME AT ME, FANDOM.

    • echinodermata says:


      What? I thought that was a super popular moment in fandom. It shows up on tumblr a lot, at least.

      Why don't people like it?

      • samarkand_ says:

        Doctor Who fandom is a very fickle place. I've seen people say that it's just cheesy and over-the-top, and I've also seen people say that it over-mythologises the Doctor (which I think is sort of the point?). I love it precisely because it does over-mythologise the Doctor, but at the same time, it's all true. And something that I love about the character is that he can be god-like in his power, but he often shouldn't be, and the line where those two things converge is slippery and not easily classified as good or bad.

  29. nanceoir says:

    I always find myself a little wistful during that scene in the spaceship, when the Doctor pretending to be John Smith gives the Family of Blood the watch. It's a weird sensation, because I want the Doctor back, but I like John Smith, too. When the Doctor is revealed as being himself again, I'm always a little sad, even though it's a great Doctor moment, too.

  30. flamingpie says:

    Seriously, and much as I really do like Joan, I HATED her line about how John Smith was the braver man, because he was willing to change. I mean… yes, that was brave, but come on. Much as he might bring destruction and death in his wake, the universe needs the Doctor. Even if he has the capability to change back, it doesn't really mean he could.

    • MowerOfLorn says:

      I agree that the Doctor is brave, but you have to realise that Joan doesn't know all the things we know. Yes, she's read the Journal of Impossible Things, but how much detail did that go into? Did it mention all the times the Doctor sacraficed himself, sure he would die? All the times he did, regenerating?

      We know the sacrafices the Doctor's made; all Joan's seen is John's. So I don't need to hold her up to that.

  31. totiebinds says:

    This is far without a doubt my favorite episode concerning dialogue. We get to see the wrath of the Time Lord in the perfect, chilling words that describe how he punishes the Family. There's also such epic, genuine, and horrifyingly emotional quotes from each important person on the good side. The dilemma is clear that when the Doctor returns, he is ending the existence of the man he invented.

  32. Avit says:

    I've been leery of every romance involving the Doctor ever, ever since Girl in the Fireplace. I know that most fen and critics found it awesomesauce and so forth, but it really did not do anything for me at all and even struck me as a bit unintendedly wrong, you know?

    But Human Nature/Family of Blood did it beautifully, I think. Perhaps an in-universe thing — it being John Smith instead of the Doctor — or perhaps a writer thing — considering the gender-essentialist BS that Moffat spouts off and apparently believes in.

    • swimmingtrunks says:

      I would agree that this does the Doctor romance better than elsewhere in the series, and I too think it's because it's not really the Doctor being paired up with anyone, but John Smith, who really isn't the same person as the Doctor at all. I think the Doctor would like Joan very very much, but I don't think he would let himself love her.

      • MowerOfLorn says:

        I agree. Usually whenever the Doctor is shown to be in love with someone, I can't help but think "we know it won't work. Somethings going to keep them from staying together." But here it was a human, and there was a chance for a life and a life-long love. That's why it works.

  33. CJBadwolf says:

    Not that Blink isn't outstanding in every way, but for me, THIS is the best of all things Who. I was angry with John Smith for not changing and saving us all, and then he both shamed and pitied me for wishing his death. Pretty damned good for a children's show.

    I can get silly monsters in rubber suits in all sorts of places, but that? Damn.

  34. Minish says:

    DEFINITELY in my top 10 (adding 2-parters as 1 serial) along with all Moffat episodes up to this point as well as Impossible Planet/Satan Pit.

    I wish I weren't depressed right now or I'd go out on a full-on review.

  35. nanceoir says:

    Except from John Smith's point of view, this is Martha's life: being a servant. She didn't give up anything to be there; she just is. And, when it comes to blaming Martha for everything, can you really blame him? The Doctor's not there, and for much of the episode, he doesn't believe the Doctor exists anyway, and Martha's there and seems to understand what all is going on. It's not fair, exactly, because Martha didn't cause it, but she's definitely a part of it, so I don't think it's completely horrible.

    • doesntsparkle says:

      I see if more from Martha's perspective. To her, John Smith isn't real. He's a figment of the Doctor's imagination and if he gets his way, she would have been trapped in 1914 for the rest of her life. I think that Martha's twenty plus years of being a human are more important that John Smith's three months. She has a real family to get back to. He has false memories.

      • nanceoir says:

        Oh, definitely, Martha's entire real life is ultimately more important than John's few months of existence. Absolutely no question about that.

        But for me, part of the… well, not fun per se, but, well, interesting stuff to come out of these episodes is the whole idea of what makes us who we are. Many of John Smith's memories are false, but does that make what he experiences less important or less real? He's a construct of the Tardis, but he lived and breathed and felt for those two months in 1913, and who is anyone else to diminish that?

        But, he was basically programmed to be able to seamlessly exist there, so to what degree are the things he did experience real? Then again, we're all programmed in various ways all our lives, and that colors our thoughts and reactions to things; I start to wonder how the ways I've been programmed to view things affect the way I feel and react, and how that compares to the actual reality of situations. Then I'm reminded of a phrase repeated in Babylon 5, that understanding is a three-edged sword: your side, their side, and the truth. And then the subtext rapidly becomes the text, and pop culture references start to collide and….

        Basically, at least for myself, I start thinking about the different perspectives here, and I start seeing interesting things, and then I start thinking and making long, rambling comments to say that I think both Martha and John Smith have points of view that deserve attention, even if John is doomed before he even started.

        • doesntsparkle says:

          You have really good points and raise questions that I am in no way qualified to answer. I agree that everything that he thought and felt is valid. My problem is that I'm just a cold hearted cynic and the way that they used romance to humanize John Smith makes me roll my eyes.

  36. Hypatia_ says:

    I'll say it right now: I do love Blink, but I think these two are better. Blink makes me hide behind my sofa, these two make me laugh and think and cry. I prefer the latter.

    The scenes between Nurse Redfern and John Smith just before he changes are utterly tragic. The Doctor may not want to settle down (I don't think that, at this point, he's even capable of it, even if he wanted to) but he did at one time have a family. I think that's why he went so scary in punishing the Family. You do NOT taunt the Doctor with things he can't have. It wasn't the Family directly who showed him the vision of the life he could have as John Smith, but the Doctor got pushed a bit too close to the edge again, and when that happens, the dark side of him comes out in force. Also, congratulations, Doctor Who, you have now made mirrors scary. Thanks.

    I find it interesting that John Smith can't seem to fire the gun he's holding during the scarecrow soldier attack. Apparently the Doctor's aversion to guns is so deep-seated that even as a human in a time period that glorified war, he couldn't use one.

    I love the way Joan quietly tells him truth, it's something he hasn't been getting a lot of lately. "If the Doctor had never visited us, if he'd never chosen this place…on a whim…would anybody here have died?" The Doctor so rarely gets confronted with the fact that, although he saves a lot of lives and on occasion, entire planets (and a few times the whole universe) he also leaves a trail of destruction. No wonder he never stops, he'd have to confront the fact that his adventures destroy people almost as often as they save them.

    • samarkand_ says:

      Blink doesn't even make it into my Top 10, actually, so you're not alone. It was good, it gave me a good BOO! scare the first time I watched it, but now that the scare-factor has kind of worn off I can't really get that worked up over it.

    • hassibah says:

      I like Blink and these about equally. Actually I have about equal love for Moffat and Cornell's stuff, I like Blink about as much as anything else, which is still quite a lot.

      Also, that one shot of John Smith holding the baby kills me, I don't know what that says about me.

    • Sierra says:

      Oh I think the Doctor really is keenly aware of how death and destruction seem to follow him. Remember how excited he was when "Everybody lives, Rose! Just this once, everyone lives!" _THIS_ is the kind of shit he was referring to, and in hindsight it makes that enthusiasm kind of bittersweet. Because the secretly important part of that is "just this once."

  37. HungryLikeLupin says:

    Favorite. Episode. Ever.

    I've been so excited for you to get to this episode. It's heartbreaking, and as close to flawless as TV is likely to get, and if you don't cry at John Smith begging to live then I HEREBY DECLARE YOU INHUMAN PLEASE REMOVE YOURSELF FROM MY SIGHT.

    Honestly, this episode is packed so full of wonderful that I don't even know how you managed to pick things to mention in your review. I have it a little bit easier, since there are two things that you didn't talk about that top my list of favorite things.

    1. The Doctor's face during Son of Mine's monologue at the end is seriously one of the most chilling things I've ever seen. David Tennant's Doctor is so bouncy and happy and manic most of the time that to see him cold and expressionless and merciless while he does all of this is absolutely horrifying. This was the point in the series where I couldn't help thinking back to the Racnoss in the Christmas special, and how he was perfectly willing to let this last survivor of an entire species die in fire or flood. Watching the Doctor here, all I could manage to think was, "Oh . . . I think he's gone a little bit wrong."

    2. You briefly mentioned how Tim is called a coward, and he gleefully shouts back "Yes sir, every time!" At this point, he's been exposing himself to the memories in the Doctor's watch for some time, and it's clear that he's gotten a pretty good read on who the Doctor is. This moment, then, was pure poetic brilliance to me, because it was the echo of the Doctor's words in The Parting Of the Ways. The Dalek emperor, taunting him, says, "Then prove yourself Doctor. What are you, coward or killer?" And the Doctor's answer?

    "Coward. Any day."

    Tim. <3333

    • Hypatia_ says:

      This comment deserves more than the +1 I can give it. Know that I am upvoting you repeatedly on the astral plane.

      …which sounds a bit dirtier than I meant it. Oh well.

    • flamingpie says:


      but +1412841 because your thoughts are awesome even if I am inhuman D:

    • __Jen__ says:

      Tim is absolutely fantastic! He's just a very interesting character with all the little ways he sticks out from everything around him. The school setting is extremely "normal"- even the colors are muted, but here's this boy who is a bit psychic and a bit rebellious and just so strong in the face of madness.

      I really appreciate that they had a sympathetic character who was still a bit out of the norm to balance the Family. Most of the creepiness in this episode arose from things that were off. The aliens were scary because they looked human but weren't, the scarecrows were everyday objects acting in ways they shouldn't. John Smith's character created a kind of dissonance as well. The Doctor at the end is not the Doctor we have come to know (for the most part), and he is chilling. Tim, in not really fitting in, is a nice positive balance to all of this.

    • trash_addict says:

      Nice catch on the coward thing! Thought that dialogue was a bit familiar…

  38. MowerOfLorn says:

    Ah, ‘Family of Blood’. Honestly, it’s strange to think of it as a separate story to ‘Human Nature’ because they blend so well.

    What I love about this is the emotion. Every character from John, Tim, Joan- even the freakin’ Son of Mine get their emotional scenes. I swear, I still feel tears whenever I watch the scenes in the house with them all contemplating John needing to sacrifice himself. You see Martha, so desperate to bring her friend back and stop the Family; but at the same time you realise she’s realised that John doesn’t want to leave. It’s incredibly painful when Smith accusers her of simply waiting to murder him- it brings a whole new twist to the problem.
    Timothy’s speech about the Doctor is hauntingly beautiful. “He’s like fire and ice and rage. He’s like the storm and the heart of the sun. He’s ancient and forever; he can see the turn of the universe. And…he’s wonderful.” So elegant. But at the same time, you see John rejecting all these things, and it makes it painful too.

    And the moments when Smith and Joan are alone are simply heartbreaking. In the story they’ve only known each other for a few months, and only really confessed or acted upon their feelings for about a day. For the viewer, we’ve seen them together for probably less than an hour- and yet I find their love and the marriage-that-could-be totally believable. Plus it is just so heart-wrenching to see how sad and desperate John Smith is. He doesn’t want to die. He doesn’t want to become this strange, alien being; he just wants to live a happy life. But in the end he sacrifices himself. I don’t agree with Joan’s assessment that Smith was braver than the Doctor; the Doctor has, after all, willing risked himself in situations where he was sure to die. But that doesn’t lessen John Smith’s sacrifice at all.

    The spaceship scene where the Doctor comes back- brilliant. It really builds the tension, and it shocks you to think ‘He’s really going to give the watch to them’. But when the Doctor comes back, easily destroying the ship, I honestly can’t help but grin wildly. He’s back!

    When the Family of Blood gets defeated…it does seem anti-climatic. These villains are built up this whole time, and the Doctor destroys them off-screen. But I’m able to forgive it for two reasons. 1) How well its executed. The Son’s description of their own fate, all the while seeing the Doctor mercilessly doling out these punishments is chilling. 2) It does reinforce the message that the Doctor was needed, and that Smith’s sacrifice wasn’t worthless. The Doctor needs to be there to stop creatures just like the Family.

    Of course…you could argue it was his fault in the first place. But that’s the irony- we learn that the Doctor was only “being kind”. He wanted to avoid conflict, to avoid his own cruelty, but inadvertently caused more. Joan has a right to criticise his actions; when a single man has such power, it’s so easy to cause mistakes just like this. Still, when I think of all the good the Doctor’s done, all the lives he’s saved, I know that in general, he does the right thing. As ‘The Ten Doctors’ fan comic puts it, the Doctor does “far more deliberate good than accidental evil.”

  39. StarGirlAlice says:

    I adore these two episodes. Along with the Shakespeare episode, I think they are my favourites.
    However, I am now scared of my mirror…

  40. flamingpie says:

    Do we know if Mark is watching Torchwood or not? BECAUSE I WANT TO POST A GIF BUT I FEAR SPOILERS.

    • MowerOfLorn says:


      Actually, if its the one I'm thinking of, THAT WHOLE EPISODE!

    • mr_bobby says:

      We don't know, it's been suggested many a time though!
      (I am a firm supporter of 'Mark Watches Torchwood' happening at some point in the future!)

      As for the GIF, unless it spoils a plot point it should be ok?

      • flamingpie says:

        Yeah, it doesn't, but I'm paranoid anyway XD

        He needs to decide one way or another! Just because thanks to the obvious interconnectedness, aspects of it may be spoiled for him by Who eventually.

        • mr_bobby says:

          Oh yeah, good point.
          I know it would be hard for him to review what with all the other series he's already committed to doing, but it would be cool even if he just watched it for himself… HINT HINT, MARK. 😛

          Personally I think it's a lot more consistent than Doctor Who (although I think most of the fandom disagrees on that, lol) and definitely benefits from the more, ahem, *adult* tone… Also, CHILDREN OF EARTH. CHILDREN. OF. EARTH.

          • flamingpie says:

            I'm actually not the biggest torchwood fan. I keep telling myself I need to just get over it and marathon it but as of now I've only watched like… 6 random episodes. Same goes for Sarah Jane Adventures, which I THINK I like more and am more inclined to marathon because… shorter episodes. XD

            • mr_bobby says:

              Haha fair enough, I haven't seen any of SJA but only because I'm a horrific snob when it comes to what is technically children's TV… *ashamed face* ONE DAY I WILL DO IT.

              I'm totally biased for Torchwood though… Again, GARETH DAVID-LLOYD. (I'll stop now :D)

              • flamingpie says:

                Well I mean Ianto IS the best part of Torchwood. XD

                You should try SJA. It's kind of hilarious. It's just got SO much connectivity to old Who, which I love. Like, ridiculous amounts. Which I guess is to be expected, because, Sarah Jane… but still.

              • nanceoir says:

                Seriously, the first story of SJA Series 4 (more the first episode of it, but still) is terrifically awesome and creepy. GIVE IT A GO!

                • flamingpie says:

                  I loved that one too! and not gonna lie, I may have enjoyed the third story of series 4 more than series 5 of who. 😡

    • echinodermata says:

      I think he's seen the main Crying Ianto gif (in the rain), so I'd say go ahead.

  41. echinodermata says:

    "God, you're rubbish as a human" – ilu Martha. And bones of the hand! I really do appreciate completely nonviolent crowning moments of awesome.

    I know everyone's going to quote that quote from Latimer, so I'll skip repeating it, but I do want to say that if you want to deify the Doctor, this is the way to go. Other writers, take note. Make him elemental and raw, and potentially uncontrollable, uncontrollable even and especially from himself.

    And major props to David Tennant – he sometimes gets criticized for being too over the top, but I think this was a pretty perfect performance.

    The punishment to the family is more cruel than not, I think. So for all his second chances and offering villains to leave quietly, the Doctor is still not what I consider merciful or Good. So Ten's playfulness and whimsy just reads as a bit sinister when we know he can be brutal and that he favors the "fate worse than death" sort of punishments.

    So this two-parter is one of the most interesting of the Doctor's stories, and I think Ten is more interesting than Nine, but also less preferable to Nine for me. Ten hits this personality where he's not an absolute bastard (which I tend to like in fiction), but also isn't nice enough to easily accept. So it's hard for me to like Ten the way I like other flawed characters – he sits in this middle ground of being not flawed enough for me to really get into, but mean enough to make me not like him.

  42. naive_wanderer says:

    The one part that really got to me in this ep was during one of the scenes when Martha is trying to convince John to be the Doctor again, and she says that he hadn't given her any instructions about what to do if he fell in love, and John says "That didn't even occur to him?"

  43. MowerOfLorn says:

    Hmm…so I've got a little question that has bugged me about these two episodes.

    Now, we know the Doctor gave instructions to Martha, and we can also presume that he changed out of his modern suit and coat before going into 1912. However, this seems to suggest that the Doctor had some memories for a while after the change to sort things out. ( I mean, Martha could have changed his unconious body, and he could just have has 'what do I do if I change myself human' message stored for her, but that seems doubtful).

    So here's the questions…if the Doctor was in possession of his memories some time after he changed human, why didn't he realise that maybe early 20th century wasn't a good idea? Maybe pop forward a good 75 years before the change was complete?

    • FlameRaven says:

      I get the impression that they were rushed and didn't get time to think about it– that the Family was after them, the Doctor went for the Chameleon Arch and the TARDIS just picked a random time and fixed his memories for that time.

      What I always wanted to know was, if the Arch changed his actual DNA to be human (one heart) how exactly did just opening the watch again change him back? Or did he just get his memories back and have to use the Arch again to be totally Time Lord? Doesn't. Make. Sense.

  44. Mauve_Avenger says:

    Oh, my goodness…This episode essentially has three different ending sequences, and the use of any one of them alone would have me in awe. The Family stuck in their punishments forever (I know I'm not supposed to like them, but I can't help but think of Hawkin from The Dark is Rising), Joan alone with no one she can even tell about her experiences, and Latimer, who in the last episode likely thought he was going to die in absolute pain and terror in the trenches and instead survived and became a hero….Ugh.
    <img src=""&gt;

  45. roguebelle says:

    These two episodes are why I'm so ridiculously excited for Harry Lloyd as Viserys Targaryen in A Game of Thrones. It's gonna be awesome.

    And yes, omg Tim, and when they show up at the Remembrance Day ceremony? !!!

  46. LadyLately says:

    I think this two-parter is at the core of why I like Martha better than Rose. This isn't to say I hate Rose, certainly not. But…Rose, to be honest, had it easy. The Doctor loves her, can't forget her, she had the best of him. And Martha will never live up to that in the Doctor's mind. Yet she goes through all the absolute SHIT he puts her through out of necessity at the time, and with absolute aplomb. And it's a parallel to how Rose treated Mickey.

    Rose and Ten deserve each other.

    Martha ought have better.

  47. ladylarla says:

    “War is coming. In foreign fields, war of the whole wide world, with all your boys falling down in the mud. Do you think they will thank the man who taught them it was glorious?”

    Absolute love of this episode. Just the way that the boys who reviled in the war games and violence, see what actual death is, that moment is brilliant. Its easy for us to know how WW1 turned out, but the horror for them and Tim ( such love for Tim) especially to just go ahead with the future.

    As for John Smith/Doctor oh my heart breaks for him, to want a future and know that it cannot be yours.

    Oh and yay for Martha too! Oh dear Blink next…..

  48. One of the best expository monologues I have ever seen on television.
    Oh yeah, I love that monologue and the accompanying montage. So fucking creepy, really. You do not fuck with the Doctor.

    “He’s like fire and ice and rage. He’s like the night and the storm in the heart of the sun. He’s ancient and forever. He burns at the center of time and can see the turn of the universe. And…he’s wonderful.”
    I also love this speech. And the description of the Doctor as a "lonely god."

    “I’m John Smith, that’s all I want to be, John Smith. With his life…and his job…and his love. Why can’t I be John Smith? Isn’t he a good man? Why can’t I stay?”
    Holy crap! I never picked up on that. I won't mention the show, but there is a character in a (kind of) similar situation whose last words were also "Why can't I stay?"

  49. buyn says:

    Alrighty. Back from the dentist. Family of Blood rates a 4 for scariness.

    But not to me. The fate of the sister? To be forever in mirrors? That is one of the scariest thoughts ever.

    SHE'S THERE. ALWAYS. IN ANY MIRROR SHE WANTS. Just think about that next time you take a shower.
    Blink Liveblog tonight?

    • LadyLately says:

      Man, that's not scary. You know that voice in the back of your head that tells you to turn around and you find your skirt's caught in the back of your shirt somehow? Totally her. She's not scary, she's the Ultimate Dos and Don'ts columnist.

  50. kytten says:

    Oh,. I cried so much. RIP, John Smith.

  51. Anon says:

    These episodes are kind of what i love about Doctor Who, its just a fantastic story really well told. Also, can i just say this show goes out at 6pm on a saturday night, they call it family entertainment, i don't know any other family entertainment show that takes you where Doctor Who does.

  52. flootzavut says:

    Just reading the review and seeing all these weepy gifs is making me tear up…

    Just such a wonderful episode. I LOVE this swoop to the end of this series, so much good stuff!

  53. You Are Not Alone says:

    No episode of any TV series has ever made me cry as much as this one. From beginning to end, every time I find myself recovering, something else will set me off.
    It starts with the kids holding up the guns and crying and their relief when they discover they hadn't killed anyone. But we know in a year's time it will be for real, and they'll be crying with terror just the same.
    A brief moment of joy at the BONES OF THE HAND SCENE FUCK YES MARTHA REPRESENT! But then: oh, Joan.
    Then, John Smith discovering he's not real. Oh, man. Notice how throughout this episode he goes the five stages of grief
    1. Denial: I've never seen [that box] in my life.
    2. Anger: You knew this all along and yet you watched while Nurse Redfern and I–
    3 Bargaining:I should have thought of it before–I can give them this. Just the watch. Then they can leave and I can stay as I am!
    4. Depression: <img src=""&gt;
    5. Acceptance: It was real [you and I]. I really thought…
    Next, Martha. "Because he's lonely". SOB INDEED. And then, her beautiful, brave speech about loving the Doctor, where she voices her devotion in order to save him. It's so rare for Martha to speak her mind like that and it lifts my heart everytime it happens. Here Martha's unrequited love just makes me love her more. Its painful for her, but she wouldn't have it any other way because it's an expression of the passionate human she is and she deals with it admirable dignity, I think. We've all been there, we know how hard that is!
    I loved the Doctor's mythic punishments of the Family of Blood. On one hand, it's so unusual to see him so vengeful, dark and, well, cruel. On the other hand, they had it coming and, in spite of everything, the Doctor didn't kill them. The fact that he still visits Sister-of-Mine suggests that he will free them some day, once they've learnt their lesson.
    And then then Joan cries over John's Journal as the Doctor leaves. When I first watched this episode, I hated the Doctor a little bit when he asked her to be his companion, because I was watching that scene from Joan's point of view and it felt like the Doctor was just being insensitive towards her loss. But then, thinking about it, I understood that the Doctor was trying to help in the only way he could, and save Joan from the hardship of having to go through another War and more loss. And I know the Doctor struggles a lot with the idea of how in the process of saving many lives, he can ruin those of a few, and it's not his fault. So I felt really bad for him too.
    Next, Martha volunteers to speak to Joan. Still so selfless.
    OK, so I've cried over the boys, John Smith, Joan, Martha and the Doctor. To finish off, there's the beautiful coda where we see that Timothy Latimer gets to live a long life thanks to the Doctor, and a great show of respect to those who've fought and fight wars.
    This is the only episode of Doctor Who so far completely lacking in humour, which I feel is an important part of the show, so they can't all be like this. But, boy, do they pack a punch when they come along!

  54. Starsea28 says:

    Let me just take a moment to worship Martha Jones. MARTHA JONES, ladies and gentlemen, holds an alien hostage and sends everyone outside – including the Doctor. Martha Jones never stops trying to make John Smith remember. Martha Jones has to deal with John Smith yelling and crying, including this prize winner: "You’re the Doctor’s companion, can you help? What exactly do you do for him?" Because in John's Edwardian mind, it has to be Martha DOING something for the Doctor. They can't 'just' be friends, she has to serve him in some way. And then Martha's heartbreaking answer: “Because he’s lonely.” Because watching John fall in love with Joan is like the final nail in the coffin, even when he's a different person he doesn't love her, he loves someone else and she knows why he takes her along. Oh Martha, few people could face a truth like that but you did.

    I love Latimer but I do NOT love his speech about the Doctor. Eurgh eurgh eurgh. I do not need the Doctor eulogised and lionised like that, it makes me grit my teeth. I find Son of Mine's monologue FAR more effective. Why were you so vicious, Ten? Because they slaughtered people? Or because they killed your one chance at happiness?

  55. flamingpie says:

    It's all over the interwebs if you do a bit of searching, although that's on sites like wisevid and megavideo. As for LEGITIMATE places to watch it, I don't think there are any. I couldn't find any at least.

  56. John says:

    I love the bit where John Smith is holding the watch, and he starts babbling on like the Doctor about telepathic fields and whatnot, then catches himself and gets that horrified look on his face: "Is that how he talks???" Hilarious and heartbreaking and so intensely creepy all at once.

  57. trash_addict says:

    Rarrrrr, all the astral plane high fives to everyone involved in the making of this episode, because holy shit, isn't it just FANTASTIC?

    Have to send so many props in David Tennant's direction though. He toned the shit down out of all the wackiness we see in the Doctor and made John Smith a completely independent character, a seperate man, who I want to give ALL THE CUDDLES EVER because holy shit, what a horrible choice to have to make.

    And then to turn back into the Scary Ice Cold Doctor – the resolutions for the Family of Blood were fantastic, and just made scarecrows even creepier than the rest of the ep had :/

    I re-watched the final three episodes of the season last night so they were fresh for discussion, but I might need to go back and watch Human Nature/The Family of Blood for the millionth time just for the hell of it.

  58. fantasylover12001 says:

    Heartbreak pretty much sums up this episode. I honestly had no idea these eps got nominated for Hugos. That's awesome.

  59. Nikki says:

    Wow, this was just like The Last Unicorn, wasn't it? I've always LOVED that movie to death and this is the first time I've seen the same kind of situation portrayed. I loved it! <3

    The first episode was so good, but this one was even better! But, I gotta say, out of everyone in this episode I feel most sorry for Martha. I still really hate that she's got a crush on the Doctor, but now instead of just being irritated I really feel bad for her.

    • fantasylover12001 says:

      You get upvote for mentioning The Last Unicorn which is my favorite book (I like the movie too, but book all the way for me).

      • Nikki says:

        I'm ashamed to say I've never read it, but I've wanted to for a long while now. I should really get on that.

        • fantasylover12001 says:

          Go for it! You won't be sorry. The movie is one of those rare ones where they actually pretty much follow the book, they just added singing so if you love the movie you'll love the book. Don't feel bad about not reading it. The only reason I discovered it is because my grandmother had it on her bookshelf which is where I discovered a lot of my favorite childhood books actually (she's a retired english teacher).

    • FlameRaven says:

      Hmmm…. now I'm thinking about how Amalthia changed after she went back to being a unicorn, that she understood regret (and love) and was separate from the other unicorns because of it. Unfortunately I don't think his experiences as a human really helped Ten, except maybe to kick up his paranoia about anyone he cares about dying, which seems to be a problem for him. Or maybe that was just because he lost Rose.

  60. Ronni says:

    This episode haunts me. Because you really, really, really learn not to mess with a Timelord. Do NOT make him mad. He will jack your shit up.

    It's chilling. And amazing.

  61. sabra_n says:


    That said, I'm probably a wee less enamored of these episodes than the bulk of fandom. I do think Tennant's acting hit one of its peaks in "Family of Blood", and it was a pleasure to watch him go…but. But but but. The plot resolutions niggle at me. First off, the punishments that Ten gave the Family are just fucking cold, even by his standards. I realize that Ten is a bastard-coated bastard with bastard filling and all, but that's a breadth of cruelty so breathtaking I think it's just too much for any Doctor to bear while still remaining…Doctorish. The Doctor is a hero with downsides, not an antihero. Or at least that's what he is in my head, which made the end of this story kind of difficult for me to swallow.

    My other objection comes from having read the book the episodes are based on – in the original story, Tim Latimer becomes a conscientious objector who works as a medic during the war. And that's a much more fitting ending, I think, for that proud "coward" and the star of a story that's pretty anti-war. I don't know why they changed it.

    Man, I feel like every time I've posted here lately it's been to bitch about something. But here's the thing: I gripe because I care. Doctor Who S3 made me feel so strongly when it aired, and that's something only shows with quality can do to me. If I just wasn't engaged, I'd have stopped watching. But instead I was more and more riveted with each episode that went by. Just wait, Mark. You are going to go apeshit by the end of the week.

    • echinodermata says:

      Man, I feel like every time I’ve posted here lately it’s been to bitch about something. But here’s the thing: I gripe because I care. Doctor Who S3 made me feel so strongly when it aired, and that’s something only shows with quality can do to me. If I just wasn’t engaged, I’d have stopped watching. But instead I was more and more riveted with each episode that went by

      YES YES YES I complain because I love this show and want it to be as perfect as possible since it’s at times utterly brilliant and has so much potential, so I’m more unhappy when DW does something I don’t like compared to when other shows do it.

      And I also feel like I’ve been complaining a lot too, but I actually do prefer interesting discussions to straight up squee, so I appreciate comments like yours, and hopefully some people appreciate mine.

      Also, ditto on not reading the doctor as antihero and so not being pleased with the punishment.

    • Nikki says:

      I really agree with you on the cruelty of the punishments the Doctor gave to the Family. I was quite appalled to learn what he did to them. It was very jarring and to be honest, made me feel a bit less sympathy for him.

    • Hypatia_ says:

      I kind of agree about the punishments. This is why Ten is not my favorite Doctor. Sometimes he's amazing and awesome and I love him, but he's altogether too dark and scary and, well, human at other times.

      But these two episodes are still among my very favorites.

    • arctic_hare says:

      I love this comment. Not just because I agree so much (particularly about Ten's punishments for the Family, and feeling like I've been griping a lot lately here and why), but because you quoted Doctor Cox. 😀

    • notemily says:

      I feel like the Doctor was so harsh on the Family because he was devastated by having to give up John Smith and a life with love in it. He was punishing them, essentially, for taking that away from him. Even though if not for them he would have never found it in the first place… argh, I dunno.

      The part with Tim is really interesting. The whole point of most of the story is that war isn't glorious, it's hell, but then at the end Tim has all these medals and everyone's smiling and it seems to be kind of contradicting that message a little bit. I do like the idea of him as a conscientious objector.

  62. bookling says:

    Oh my god, this episode. I'm so glad you included the whole "fury of the Time Lord" monologue, because it's so amazing.

    John Smith and Joan seeing their lives together:

    <img src=""&gt;

    When you think John Smith has chosen to stay himself:

    <img src=""&gt;

    When you realize he's actually the Doctor:

    <img src=""&gt;

    When they visit Tim at the veteran's ceremony in the future:

    <img src=""&gt;


  63. Mreeb says:

    This episode will always, always, always break my heart into so many millions of pieces. And I can't handle old people crying, so Tim's ending was just icing on the cake. TEARS FOREVER FOR EVERYTHING. Love this episode. Brilliant.

  64. fakehepburn says:

    Oh, Mark.

    See, I WISH I could say this episode is the most heartbreaking, amazing, exciting, terrifying, fantastic, intense, shocking (insert appropriately hyperbolic descriptor here) thing you're going to watch all week, but I'd be lying.

    You are it.

  65. jennywildcat says:

    I &lt;3 THIS EPISODE SO, SO MUCH!! On the one hand, you know that somewhere deep down, the Doctor feels the same way John Smith did (he even asks Joan to travel with him!), but he can never have that life. And, as much as he wants to be a normal person, he just can't. It's not his way or his nature to do any of that, even though he wonders what it would be like.

    Ack! I could ramble on and on about this story, but I'll just post this and let it stand as my review of this story – - (LOVE LOVE LOVE LOVE!!!!)

    One more thing – David Tennant knows how to rip your heart out and stomp it flat and hand it back to you in a way that makes you enjoy the experience. I hope everyone has their tissues at the ready.

  66. Pseudonymph says:

    Yeah, if the Doctor had not shown up, no one would have died. But if the Doctor hadn't shown up, then you would never have met or spent any time with John Smith at all, Joan. Just wanted to point that out.

    I don't remember at what point I cried the first time I watched this but this time I started tearing up when oldTim waved to the Doctor and Martha.

  67. pica_scribit says:

    WHY couldn't Tim be a companion? WHYYYYYYYYYYYYY?!

    What you said. Everything about both these episodes. Just fabulous.

  68. blackrose says:

    Check out this lovely John/Joan video that my friend made.

  69. syntheticjesso says:

    I want to just keysmash for a bit to proclaim my LOVE for this story, but I did that last night so I'll spare my keyboard. Poor keyboard.

    But oh man, I DO love everything about this episode. Tim! Joan! John Smith! Martha! The fury of the Doctor! The scene in the trenches! The naming of the bones of the hand! The absolutely gut-wrenching scene in the house! Joan giving the Doctor what-for! IT IS ALL SO GOOD.

    Also, seeing David Tennant holding a baby just about made my heart stop. Guh.

  70. PJG says:

    wasnt there also a perception filter on it? so it was there, but he wasnt really able to notice it… couldnt get much safer than that…> Only reason Tim found it was because of his telepathy

    • Mauve_Avenger says:

      The Bombadil reference is deliberate; he can't properly guard something he doesn't even know to care about. Unless I'm massively underestimating what a perception filter can do (which is definitely possible, as I've only watched as far as Mark has), the perception filter can't tell him not to throw/give the thing away or even just open it on a whim. Which would mean that he's either stuck as John Smith or in immediate danger of attack. It just makes so much more sense to give the watch over to Martha's care.

      Telepaths can find it and the Family could apparently smell it to a certain degree. At the beginning of the first part, John Smith himself notices it, because he seemingly had a dream about its real purpose. If he had been able to remember more of his dream, he probably would've opened it and the Family would have realized he was there immediately. Far too many ways for that to go wrong.

  71. daisysparrow says:

    So, I was watching this episode on my computer, at my desk, and I have a mirror right above my desk. Right after I saw the part about Sister of Mine being trapped in mirrors, I looked right at mine and I SWEAR I saw something move. I was so, so freaked out.

  72. Sierra says:

    I envy these other posters their eloquence while I'm sitting here CRYING ALL THE TEARS.

    Ugh Joan is just so amazing, with that quiet kind of strength that used to be all that was acceptable from a woman. She sent her first husband of to war and he never came back, and now she has to tell John he needs to become the Doctor. And she DOES IT. Oh my god, this woman. I really don't think I would have been able to, in her position. And years later I'm still undecided about whether I wanted her to accept the Doctor's invitation. The years ahead of her are not enviable, and I have a hard time imagining that looking at John Smith's face every day with another man behind it would really be so terrible when compared to the horror of the wars she is about to live through. I think eventually they would have worked through the awkwardness, she would have learned more about who the Doctor is and what he does and he wouldn't just have been The Man Who Made John Go Away, and though she may never have loved him – certainly not the way she loved John – I think they could have got to the point where they worked well together. He could certainly use someone with her cool rationality and firm moral center.

    And I think he honestly was trying to be kind to her, in inviting her along. He really thought she would accept, and can't quite wrap his brain around why she refuses him. To him it's an olive branch, an apology, he's trying to fix the hurt he's done her by giving her the only thing he can give: the incredible experiences of a Companion. That's a hell of a gift to be thrown back in one's face.

  73. lizvelrene says:

    I just have to say that Season 3 is my favorite.

    The premiere is just perfection and ILU forever Martha.

    Then some episodes that are fairly solid, maybe a little forgettable.

    Then FAMILY OF BLOOD these two episodes are so strong and so amazing and really you can tell it's a labor of love for Paul Cornell and Russel T Davies. Paul Cornell MUST write more episodes, he simply MUST.

    Then blink.. Which is still my single favorite episode of anything ever.

    And the end of the season is just so spectacular. I won't say anymore so as not to be spoilery but.. eeee!!!!!! LOVE IT. LOVE IT SO MUCH.

  74. Imogen1984 says:

    I can accept intellectually that this is a good story arc. I cried, I admit. It was well done. Beautifully written. Gorgeous. But it's not what I like Doctor Who for, so as a Doctor Who episode…. suffice to say I won't re-watch it. Still, Martha Jones = Awesome. Whenever I hear her theme I get teary. DAMN YOU FOR MAKING ME CRY.

  75. James says:

    The actress who plays Joan was a total suprise when this ep first aired, I was dreading another terrible comedian stuntcast like Tate in Runaway Bride or Peter Kay in Love and Monsters. Then she comes and knocks it out of the park. Shouldn't have been suprised, she was amazing in Spaced. In fact I'm going to imagine that Daisy from Spaced is a descendant of Joan from this episode from now on.

  76. Karen says:

    No one mentioned John Smith saying, "oh…I see…cultural differences – Marthaaa (speaking very slowly, as if to a person with mental deficiency) this is a stoooory…it's not real" That's the point at which I would've punched him, walked away and left irritating John Smith to his doom.

  77. Kaci says:

    A few days ago, I commented on one of your reviews and said that season three had some of the best episodes, plot-wise, for my money of the entire series. Of course, the very next episode to air was Daleks in Manhattan, which made me sound like I have terrible taste. So I just wanted to say that when I said that, I was thinking of Human Nature and The Family of Blood. And, now that you've seen it, I can add Blink, too.

  78. RJM says:

    The end of Family of Blood is why the Tenth Doctor scares the shit out of me.

  79. notemily says:

    The whole time I watched these episodes I kept thinking about the Doctor's instruction to Martha–"Don't let me hurt anyone." That just breaks my heart because of all the people he does end up hurting. There are casual moments of cruelty like allowing one of the boys to beat Timothy, and then there are the big ones like breaking Joan's heart and breaking JOHN SMITH's heart for that matter. And basically sending a bunch of kids out to shoot people, that's not cool either. I kept expecting Martha to say "stop, you can't hurt anyone!" but… she never did. Not that I'm blaming her–there was a lot at stake and she was busy trying to bring the Doctor back to himself. It's just so sad to me that that was one of the Doctor's instructions.

    I kept hoping that they could find a way to split John Smith's consciousness off from the Doctor's and let him live out that full life with Joan. God, that moment of seeing their future family just kills me. That's like Angel "I Will Remember You" level of heartbreak. ALL THE SADS.

    It kind of bothered me how glib the Doctor and Martha were about her confession of love at the end. Like, whatever, let's just gloss over that whole thing. I feel like Ten is just WILLFULLY not seeing Martha's feelings about him at this point, which makes me angry.

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  82. Lucille says:

    The Doctor implied to Marthat that he couldn't defeat the Family so he had to become human but Baines said the Doctor wanted to be merciful to them. OMG what about being merciful to Martha?

    Of course the Doctor finds yet another woman to put above Martha in just another sadistic act as he asks Joan to come with him, and evidently Martha’s feelings on the matter are irrelevant,

    When the Doctor walks up to Martha and doesn’t let her to go to Joan or she’d find out what he’d done, he doesn’t ask her is she o.k., but instead Martha proceeds to apologize and pretend that she didn’t really love him as she told John Smith and the Doctor lets her, like he was thinking, ‘and don’t let it happen again.” I just could not believe what I was seeing.

    It would have been interesting to see if Joan had said yes what they would have had Martha do? Would she stay and witness the Doctor "trying" with Joan what he heretofore refused to "try" with her supposedly because of Rose does that excuse suddenly go out the window? Martha's mother was so right.

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