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185b – "The Family of Blood"
Doctor Who episode
Guest stars
Writer Paul Cornell
Director Charles Palmer
Script editor Lindsey Alford
Producer Susie Liggat
Executive producer(s) Russell T Davies
Julie Gardner
Phil Collinson
Production code 3.9
Series Series 3
Length 2nd of 2-part story, 45 minutes
Originally broadcast 2 June 2007
← Preceded by Followed by →
"Human Nature" "Blink"
IMDb profile

"The Family of Blood" is the ninth episode of Series 3 of the revived British science fiction television series Doctor Who. It is the second episode of a two-part story written by Paul Cornell (who also wrote "Father's Day"), adapted from his 1995 Doctor Who novel Human Nature (co-plotted with Kate Orman). The episode was broadcast on BBC One on 2 June 2007.[1]

It is 1913 in England and war has come a year in advance as the terrifying Family hunt for the Doctor. But when John Smith refuses to accept his destiny as a Time Lord, the women in his life — Martha and Joan — have to help him decide.

In 2008, both "Human Nature" and "The Family of Blood" were nominated for the Hugo Award for Best Dramatic Presentation, Short Form.[2]



The Family of Blood, in the form of the humans they have possessed, hold Martha and Joan Redfern captive at the village dance; demanding that John Smith—the Doctor's human form—make a choice about which of the two to save. As John tries to decide, Timothy Latimer, in possession of the Doctor's fob watch containing the Time Lord persona, briefly opens it up again (terrifying the Sister with an image of the Doctor at his most cruel and merciless), which is detected by the Family and momentarily distracts them, allowing John, Joan, Martha, and the other villagers to escape, collecting at the school. John helps to organise the school's defenses while Martha and Joan search for the fob watch.

The Family assault the school with an army of scarecrows, but the boys in the school are able to defend the first wave. When the Family attempts to show John that they have discovered his TARDIS, Joan, having seen the images of the TARDIS in John's "Journal of Impossible Things", realises that John is really the Doctor. As the Family continues to assault the school, John, Joan and Martha escape to the cottage of the little girl's family which the Family had possessed. Realising that the Doctor has left the school, the Family returns to their ship and begins an aerial bombardment of the village. As John and the others take shelter, Tim arrives and returns the watch to John, and both Martha and Joan implore John to use it to become the Doctor and save everyone. John is hesitant as using the watch is the same as committing suicide. Joan takes John aside and shares a series of images generated by the watch showing what their lives may have been like in the future, happily settling down, raising a family, and growing old together. Joan admits that she would love that future, but that the Doctor is needed now.

On the Family's ship, John is let aboard, fumbling about the strange interior and surrendering the watch as to stop the bombardment. When the Family opens the watch, they find it empty and realise that John has changed himself back into the Doctor. The Doctor warns the family that his early bumbling has purposely caused the ship to go into overload, and they all escape before it explodes. The Doctor then punishes the Family for their destruction, giving each of them a form of twisted immortality. He pushes Mother of Mine out of the TARDIS into the event horizon of a collapsing galaxy, wraps Father of Mine in unbreakable chains forged in the heart of a dwarf star. Traps Sister of Mine in every mirror in existence and locks Brother of Mine in a constant state of paralysation under the guise of a scarecrow, when all the Doctor was trying to do was let them die out peacefully. The Doctor returns to Joan, offering her travel aboard the TARDIS but she cannot accept as she loved John but cannot come to love who the Doctor is. The Doctor gives her his Journal as she leaves. The Doctor and Martha say their goodbyes to Timothy, letting him keep the empty fob watch for himself.

A year later, as Timothy aids Hutchinson in World War I, his visions from opening the watch are able to save the two from being hit by a shell, and both survive the war. In Timothy's old age, he participates in Remembrance Sunday, and spots the Doctor and Martha from afar, both wearing artificial poppies. Timothy and the Doctor silently acknowledge each other as the service continues.


  • A clip from "The Runaway Bride" is used as a mental projection when Latimer terrifies the Sister with an image of the Doctor at his most cruel and merciless.
  • When Tim deserts Hutchinson before the battle at the school, Hutchinson calls him a coward, to which Tim replies, "Oh, yes, sir, every time". This mirrors the line, "Coward, any day", said by the Ninth Doctor in "The Parting of the Ways", when asked by the Dalek Emperor if he is a coward or a killer.
  • In a vision Joan shares with John Smith, she comments "you can never have a life like that", echoing a line from the Ninth Doctor in Cornell's "Father's Day", where he tells the bride and groom "I've never had a life like that." Both quotations refer to the Doctor's inability to live a settled family life of the kind seen in the vision, though other episodes in the revived series have referred to the Doctor having a family - in Fear Her he states he "was a dad once", in The Doctor's Daughter he refers to his Time Lord family being lost in the Time War.
  • When Baines is mocking the Head Master's militarism, he uses the expression "Etcetera, etcetera" referencing the Seventh Doctor's mocking of Davros's militaristic rant in Remembrance Of The Daleks.
  • In John Smith's journal there are images of his previous selves, among them the eighth Doctor, the first on-screen depiction of this incarnation since the television movie.
  • The Master is seen to have used the same "Chameleon Arch" technology in "Utopia", having rewritten his DNA in order to assume the human identity of Professor Yana. His Time Lord consciousness is also stored in a fob watch.
  • In The End of Time, the Doctor has a book, Journal of Impossible Things, signed by the great-granddaughter of Joan, Verity Newman, who authored the book based on Joan's diary.

Comparison with the novel

The novel featured the Seventh Doctor and Bernice Summerfield, with their roles replaced on television by the Tenth Doctor and Martha Jones. Key changes from the novel include the fate of the villains, who in the novel are shapeshifters called Aubertides. In the book, the explosion traps them for eternity in their own "temporal shields", although the irony of them now living forever is not commented on. Another alteration to the ending is that the Aubertides have captured Joan, and are holding her hostage for the biodata module. When the Doctor arrives, pretending to be Smith, the module is not empty, but contains the John Smith persona. One of the Aubertides therefore becomes Smith, and betrays the others, sacrificing himself to save Joan.

The scenes with the restored Doctor and Joan are also different; in the novel, the Seventh Doctor admits he cannot love Joan the way John did. The Tenth Doctor believes he is capable of everything John was capable of, although there is a clear difference in his demeanor after he has been restored to a Time Lord. Joan can sense the difference and this is just as distressing for her.

The last scenes of the episode are based on the novel's epilogue, although, in the novel, Tim does not join the army, but saves the life of a character who was destined to die in the War (not Hutchinson, who does) as a member of the Red Cross, and at the memorial service he wears a White Poppy. This contrasts sharply with the episode, where Tim's reaction to being told "You don't have to fight" is "I think I do".

The line in which the Mother says Jenny has been "consumed" is a subtle reference to the Aubertides' method of shapeshifting, which requires that they eat part of the being they wish to become, to analyse the DNA.

Martha's blog for the episode starts "Long ago in an English winter". This was the last sentence of Cornell's first New Adventures novel Timewyrm: Revelation. The last sentence of Human Nature is "Long ago in an English spring", concluding a pattern that continued through Love and War and No Future.


  • The presence of a female vicar at the memorial service is an example of a recurring element in Cornell's writing.[3]
  • In a Doctor Who Magazine interview, Executive Producer Russell T Davies cited the "Human Nature"/"Family of Blood" two-parter as perhaps being too dark for the program's audience.[4]


Literary reference

  • At the memorial service, the vicar reads the poem "For the Fallen" by Laurence Binyon.


Along with "Human Nature", "The Family of Blood" was nominated for the 2008 Hugo Award for Best Dramatic Presentation, Short Form.[2] David Tennant won the Constellation Award for Best Male Performance in a 2007 Science Fiction Television Episode for his dual role as John Smith and the Doctor in this two-part story.[5]


  1. ^ "Doctor Who UK airdate announced". News (Dreamwatch). February 27, 2007.  
  2. ^ a b "2008 Hugo Nomination List". Denvention 3: The 66th World Science Fiction Convention. World Science Fiction Society. 2008. Retrieved 2008-03-21.  
  3. ^ Paul Cornell. "Adapting The Novel For The Screen". Retrieved 2007-06-12.  "There's a female vicar, as there seems to be in almost everything I write."
  4. ^ Doctor Who Magazine #386.
  5. ^ "2008 Constellation Awards". Constellation Awards website. 2008-07-15. Retrieved 2008-07-15.  

External links



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