3.9: The Family of Blood

Information

  Format:   TV
  Written by:   Paul Cornell
  Directed by:   Charles Palmer
  Duration:   45 minutes
  Transmission Date:   2/6/2007
  Reviewed by:   Shawn Lunn, Nick Murphie
It's 1913 in England and war has come a year in advance as the terrifying Family hunt for the Doctor. But, while John Smith refuses to accept his destiny as a Time Lord, the women in his life, Martha and Joan, have to take terrible measures to save the whole of history.

Review

  Submitted:   19/6/2007
  Reviewer:   Shawn Lunn
 

Joan:
“The Timelord has such adventures but he could never have a life like that”
John Smith: “But I could”.

With an ending as tense as Martha and Joan held at gunpoint by two members of the The Family Of Blood and John Smith struggling to fathom their demands for him to change into a Timelord, you really had to wonder how his women would get away from being murdered like many others and that answer comes sooner than later.

Still holding the watch and determined not to see any potential blood shed, Latimer opens it up long enough to get the sniffing Family distracted and proving her assertiveness much more effectively, Martha soon pulls the gun on her old mate Jenny as John Smith and Joan manage to get everyone out of the village dance hall.

There’s a delicious bit of goading between both the supremely nasty Baines and the more frightened Martha as the two of them try to scope out the other’s weakness and while Jenny is free thanks to the Jack Straws, we’ve already come to the conclusion that the people whom the family have possessed are now long dead. It helps later when punishment comes their way.

With everyone out of the hall, the only real sanctuary for John, Joan and Martha seems to be the school, which would strike you as odd seeing as even Martha more than realises that the school would be the very first place the family would look for The Doctor.

At the school there are a multitude of things going on so the least interesting one is John actually setting up the kids to help fight off The Family and the Jack Straws and more to do with the personal stuff all circling the building.

If Martha had a hard time beforehand convincing Joan that her would be husband was too different for the ordinary life, then she really doesn’t have to try too hard here as given her near death experience at the village hall, Joan seems more in the frame of mind to believe anything really.

Okay she has a hard time believing that a black woman can be a doctor but Martha soon puts that one to rights and soon enough Joan is quizzing John about intimate details regarding his childhood, to which John can barely muster a reasonable answer for. You’d think at this point this is where the penny would begin to drop for John that perhaps there’s truth behind both Martha and The Family’s assumptions but it takes a while before he’s forced to admit anything extraordinary about him.

As for The Family, it didn’t take them long to get to the school and soon enough Baines is at his snarky and commanding best as he violently demands for John Smith to be handed over to him and callously kills Mr Philips when he tires of the Headmasters demands for him to stop. Suffice to say, it’ll take more than a cane to stop this particular problem.

Much more assertive in her mission is that little girl with the red balloon known as Lucy Cartwright who manages to sneak into the school and makes the simple deduction that Smith is attempting to draw The Family into a trap of his but more notably she also figures out where that smell of Timelord is coming.

When he isn’t brushing off John Smith, Latimer then keeps using the watch as a neat way of distracting The Family and in some ways pissing them off too as him and Lucy have their own little confrontation before the girl gets hit with a big ray of light and Latimer scrams from the scene.

Now that The Family are closer, Baines summons the Jack Straws to actually attack and the rather terrified students take aim on them with the still annoying Hutchinson deducing that no human lives have been taken after he labels Latimer a coward for disappearing earlier.

Hutchinson is one of those annoying macho types you kind of hope would just disappear but low and behold, the several opportunities there are for him to be killed are never taken. I know it’s because he’s rude to Latimer but the guy just continued to annoy me in all of his scenes.

Still though, the war loving Hutchinson is nothing compared to little killing machine Lucy who humours the Headmasters stupidity and arrogant assumption that she’s harmless before she does him in and with the Headmaster dead, everyone is forced to retreat as The Family try to find Latimer and that watch he’s nicked.

John, Joan and Martha however are clever enough to actually escape their clutches while Jenny scrambles her noggin long enough to remember her human friendship with Martha and more importantly where the girl would often go in the woods during her spare and once she does, The Family have yet another advantage up their sleeve.

Already this lot have possessed important enough members, summoned Jack Straws to life, killed and seriously frightened enough people so while they may not have completed their quest for immortality, you can’t exactly say they’ve been slack in their efforts to do so you have to wonder what else can they use against John Smith?

The answer is of course finding the TARDIS and holding it to ransom which seems a bit lame seeing as they are unable to enter it and Smith himself in his deepest of denials is unable remember it too. Out of all of their ideas, it’s not necessarily their most inventive of ones but seeing as they are having trouble ensnaring Latimer, I guess they’re a bit desperate.

Once in the woods and away from earshot, John is finding himself faced with too many things he can’t ignore but doesn’t want to acknowledge either. When Martha asks him if he recognises the TARDIS, he’s all too quick to admit that he does and his biggest incentive to remain blissfully unaware, Joan is the one who now knows that her John really is The Doctor.

That was already conveyed when he couldn’t answer stuff about his childhood but she recognised the TARDIS immediately and was taking all of Martha’s warnings on board. At this point you can see Joan trying to wrap her head around the reality of soon losing another man she loves and it’s pretty heartbreaking stuff to put it mildly.

Then again so is David Tennant’s performance as John simply asks Martha why he can’t stay the way he is and her mixture of determination to get The Doctor back and sympathy for John is nicely displayed. Joan then interrupts by showing them a safe place hide for the time being.

With neither the watch or John Smith in their hands, The Family really have little options left so they decide that not only will they use the TARDIS as a hostage but also to open fire with a slew meteorite like explosions causing panic and just generally looking quite evocative as well.

Inside the house, the three of them are met by Latimer who is quicker to show John what he really is and also manages to realise that while there may be destruction wherever The Doctor, there’s also some good points too but even with this knowledge, Smith is still having a hard time coming to terms with this.

When he grills Martha about her use to The Doctor, she opens up about The Doctor’s loneliness and her unrequited love for him which I have a feeling will not sit well with some viewers but either way, it’s easy to understand why John wouldn’t want a life of destruction and loneliness. Look how appalled he was that The Doctor never considered him falling in love when coming up with his plan of hiding from The Family.

If you’ve also bought a tabloid this season and watched the exclusive trailers we’ve had before “Smith And Jones” and “42”, you’ll have noticed scenes of John and Joan getting married as having children and settling into old age together but these are only of what would happen if John Smith remained himself. Anything else might get a jump the shark moment but they are beautiful no less.

Getting the alone time they need and mulling over what could’ve been, Joan is obviously the one who points out to John that he is The Doctor and he can’t hide from it and despite her own desire to be with this man, Joan urges him to change back and stop The Family before any more lives are destroyed. It’s another great scene between Tennant and Jessica Hynes and although you know it’s gonna happen, you still feel for Joan no less.

The Family on the other hand with all the destruction they’ve inflicted in the space of two days get exactly what they deserve and because The Doctor and John Smith can’t blame Martha for what has happened, it’s them who bear the brunt of his anger but not before The Doctor pretends to still be Smith long enough for them to be given an empty watch and him being pushed aside and able to hit all the right switches.

The Family were clever and goaded enough to steal the TARDIS; The Doctor is also clever and enraged enough to blow up their invisible ship. It seems fighting fire with fire is a best solution after all because it’s Baines who lets us know well and truly what fate has for them.

The Family caused devastation just so they become immortal and enough people have died because of their ruthless pursuit of a Timelord. Oddly enough they get their wish of immortality but at such nasty prices with Clark being bound in unbreakable chains, Jenny thrown into an event horizon, Lucy trapped in a mirror and Baines forced to be a scarecrow. And I thought what Simon Pavagne got in the Angel episode “Hell Bound” was suitably nasty. These fates are arguably just as bad.

Weirdly enough after an abrupt final scene in which The Doctor naively offers Joan a chance to be a companion and she sensibly declines, the emotional continuity between The Doctor and Martha is kept to a minimum. He thanks her and pretends not be privy of her crush on him while giving Latimer the empty watch.

Funnily enough this episode then ends on Latimer’s point of view as during World War One, his excellent guessing manages to save him and the more cowardly Hutchinson from being blown up and in 2007, during Poppy Day his much older self spots The Doctor and Martha watching him from afar. I’m not really sure why they do but it’s an interesting way of ending the episode so no complaints from me.

Also in “The Family Of Blood”...

I’ve noticed that stirring music from the BBCi trailers was being used for the “Previously On” bit. It’s probably the most intriguing score from Murray Gold this season.

Jeremy: “I’ll shoot you down”
Martha: “Try it, we’ll die together”.

Harry Lloyd who plays Baines is also Will Scarlett in Robin Hood. Paul Cornell has scripted two episodes in the show’s first season.

Headmaster: “You speak with someone else’s voice, who might that be?”
Jeremy: “We are the family of blood”.
Joan: “Then tell me in this fairytale, who might you be?”
Martha: “Just a friend”.

A new description came for The Doctor this week when Smith called him a “Romantic Lost Prince”. It’s more simplistic than Latimer’s description later on.

Hutchinson: “Latimer you filthy coward”
Latimer: “Yes sir, everytime”.
Lucy: “You’re funny”
Headmaster: “Now take my hand”
Lucy: “So funny”.

How did Joan know what happened to the Cartwright’s when her, John and Martha were hiding in their cottage?

John Smith: “Why can’t I stay?”
Martha: “Because we need The Doctor”.
John Smith (re The Doctor): “What exactly do you do for him, why does he need you?”
Martha: “Because he’s lonely”.

Joan finally read to the very end of John’s diary which explains why she was more open to The Doctor being something more than Smith or Martha’s imagination.

Latimer (re 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 centre of time and he can see the turn of the universe.”

John Smith (re The Doctor): “He won’t love you”
Joan: “If he’s not you, I don’t want him to”.

After two thirds of the season, Martha finally has a proper change of clothing and once again wears her hair down. Not to be overtly fashion but it suits Freema with her hair down.

Jenny (re The Doctor/John Smith): “He’s made himself into an idiot”
Jeremy: “Same thing isn’t it?”

Jeremy: “We wanted to live forever so The Doctor made sure we did”.

I wonder if The Doctor asking Joan to be a companion came to fruition after the idea of him asking Reinette in “The Girl In The Fireplace” was scrapped.

Joan (to The Doctor): “He was braver than you in the end, that ordinary man you chose to die”.
Martha: “If you want I can go...”
The Doctor: “Time to move on”.

Chronology:
In the present day, is it the same day as the one we saw with Francine in “42”?

Well after such a brilliant start, there was always the pressure of “The Family Of Blood” not being able to deliver the goods and luckily all of those fears got allayed pretty quickly. It’s every bit as chilling, emotional and thought provoking as the previous episode and with some truly startling moments, this season and series has hit an all time high and with four episodes what other great heights are there to be achieved?




© Copyright Shawn Lunn & Doctor Who Online, 2007.

Review

  Submitted:   19/6/2007
  Reviewer:   Nick Murphie
 

The Family of Blood is the most emotional and most moving episode of Doctor Who and should instantly gain classic status.

In some ways The Family of Blood is a misnomer, as the Family didn’t seem to be the real focus of this amazing episode. This moving story was about what it means to be the Doctor. For good or for bad.

I almost shed a tear in Doomsday, but didn’t. But I don’t mind admitting I had a few tears by the end of this episode. The incredible heart and soul so obvious in this story is a credit to writer Paul Cornell and to the outstanding performances from David Tennant, Freema Ageyman and especially from Jessica Hynes as Joan.

To escape the relentless Family, the Doctor had re-written his body’s DNA and memories so that he became human, complete with memories that placed him into a life in 1913 England as teacher John Smith. He’d fallen for nurse, Joan Redfern, which was a cruel blow to companion-turned-maid Martha Jones. Last week we were left with the Family crashing the village dance and threatening to kill either Joan or Martha.

With the Doctor gone, Martha was left to save the patrons of the dance. Following a lot of running around and deaths in the sleepy village and school, John Smith had to decide if he would give his life and become the Doctor to save the universe from the rampaging Family.

The Family’s attack at the dance, and their subsequent siege of the school backed by the army of lumbering scarecrows, provided some heart-thumping action. The scarecrows were vastly more menacing and creepy than they were last week, and the intriguing camera angles gave them a more Tim Burton-esque feel.

But the true horror in these scenes was seeing a row of terrified school boys being forced to take arms to cut the scarecrows down in a hail of bullets. There is an innate wrongness in this image which Son-of-Mine captures when he demands of the headmaster: “Do you think they will thank you for teaching them that war is glorious?” Is Cornell pushing messages of anti-war, anti-WWI or anti-gun culture violence? Either way, it was brilliantly written, powerful stuff.

Son-of-Mine and Mother-of-Mine exuded an off-kilter alien quality, which was chilling. However, more chilling was the final fate of the Family, which possibly showed the Doctor at his most ruthless. You thought the Empress of the Racnoss copped it? The Family have forever to consider their wrongdoings when the Doctor takes his revenge.

The idea of the Family was great, and the Family drove the action, though Son-of-Mine verged on the OTT a couple of times. Despite their central role in both The Family of Blood and Human Nature, the story was hijacked by the John Smith/Doctor scenario and how that impacted on both Martha and Joan.

In Human Nature Martha seemed frustrated and disempowered by her colour and station as a maid. It was fantastic to see Martha seize control of the situation in The Family of Blood – she saved the Doctor and Joan and then rebutted Joan’s arrogant dismissal that a person of her colour could not be a doctor.

I also loved Martha’s dignity and strength regarding Smith’s relationship with Joan. Rose was jealous if the Doctor looked the wrong way, but Martha puts her emotions aside and is as concerned about Joan’s safety as much as her own when the need arises. She does the right thing and handles this situation with maturity. This is Martha’s best episode to date. Internet rumours that Freema has been sacked because “she is not right for Doctor Who” must be ridiculous. Martha has been a great addition to this season and this episode proves it!

However, the episode’s highlights started when both John Smith and Joan Redfern started to realise that Smith may not be exactly what he appears. When Smith started to doubt himself, it is heart-wrenching. He had a happy life with everything he could want, and the more he found out about the Doctor, the less he wanted that life.

He asked Martha why the Doctor needed her, to which she replied, “Because he’s lonely”. Smith’s horror was obvious. “And that’s what you want me to become?”

But he’s more than that, and that’s when young Latimer came in to describe the Doctor in perhaps the best way that it has ever been presented on TV. The Doctor is fire and ice and ancient and powerful and turns at the centre of time and the universe… and he’s wonderful.

Joan realised before Smith what had to be done. The scene they shared together as they discussed whether to open the watch or not, and where they caught a glimpse of the life they may have shared together, was just outstanding.

By the end we knew what Smith must do. The Doctor is capable of love and a normal life, like Smith – but that small life is not for the Doctor. He is bigger than that. When the Family was vanquished and the Doctor stood over them illuminated by the fire of the ship he destroyed, he has rarely seemed so powerful and terrible.

While this powerful figure who saves the universe is the hero we love, it’s not the man Joan Redfern wanted. The final parting scene where the Doctor invited Joan to join the TARDIS crew is a raw moment for the Doctor and Joan. The Doctor says he is “capable of all that John Smith was”, but is he? I don’t think Joan thought so. Her dismissal of the Doctor is a slap in the face about the lifestyle the Doctor leads and was incredibly poignant for both characters. Aside from our leads, Jessica Hynes’ performance in this scene alone should earn her the best actress gong in fan polls.

The narrative style at the end of the episode was also something different, but one which enriched the story greatly. Son-of-Mine’s recounting of the various fates of the Family was captivating, and the Doctors narration about WWI brought the story to another emotional conclusion. The final scenes with Latimer at a future war memorial service gave the story much greater impact and another emotional layer.

Ultimately, the story about the Doctor becoming human actually defined what it means to be a Time Lord. Never has the Doctor’s lifestyle and behaviour been so scrutinised. Never has he seemed so godlike and small and lonely at the same time. Truly, The Family of Blood is one of the best episodes of the entire series and one of the most defining for the Doctor.




© Copyright Nick Murphie & Doctor Who Online, 2007.

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Reviewed By

Shawn Lunn
Submitted: 19/6/2007

 

Nick Murphie
Submitted: 19/6/2007


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