Human Nature (TV story)

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Human Nature was the eighth episode of series 3 of Doctor Who.

It introduced the Chameleon arch and its ability to change Time Lord DNA, making the Doctor human. The episode was based on the 1995 novel of the same name and was a two-parter.


In England in 1913, school teacher John Smith experiences amazing dreams of living an incredible life as a mysterious adventurer called "the Doctor", fighting monsters and seeing far away worlds.


The Tenth Doctor and Martha barely make it into the TARDIS as an energy weapon discharges behind them. After ascertaining that their pursuers had not seen their faces, the Doctor explains that they are being pursued by aliens who have stolen a Time Agent's vortex manipulator and can follow the TARDIS anywhere. He gives her a watch and tells her his life depends on it...

In November 1913, at the Farringham School for Boys, schoolteacher John Smith wakes up from this dream. Martha comes in as his maid to bring him breakfast and addresses him as "Dr John Smith". He explains to her that he sometimes has dreams of being an alien adventurer from another world, and she was with him. He notices the watch on the mantelpiece of his bedroom and Martha looks up eagerly, but he replaces it idly whilst remarking how easily dreams seem to slip away. He does, however, remember that it took place in 2007, but she shows him a paper showing he's in 1913 and he's completely human.

Outside, a column of boys in grey trousers and black coats march in formation to the front of the school, which is an elegant if rather old building, as a hymn is sung by another chorus. Smith, wearing a long black coat and hat, leads them through a history lesson regarding the end of the Napoleonic Wars. Elsewhere, Martha and fellow maid Jenny scrub the floors and are accosted by two particularly unpleasant cadets, one of whom makes a snide remark regarding Martha's skin colour. She doesn't rise to it, though remarks that she'd like to smack him upside the head with her bucket once he's out of earshot, and Jenny notes that in a few years, boys like them will be running the country. Martha, her face sad, responds quietly that with the year being 1913, they might not.

Later, Smith runs into Matron Joan Redfern, the school's nurse, and they chat about the boys. She wonders if he'll be going to the local village dance and he rather awkwardly falls down the stairs. Martha comes to check up on him but Redfern casually dismisses her as a maid, under the assumption she has no medical knowledge. Smith talks about dreaming that he has two hearts but a stethoscope easily shows this is not the case. He shows Joan his journal of his various dreams and the creatures he has seen such as Daleks, Cybermen, and the TARDIS. He also has pictures of Rose, although she disappears from the later entries. Nurse Redfern leaves with the book and when Martha goes after her, she asks how Martha came to be there with Smith.

Meanwhile, a group of John's students are studying in their dormitory room. One of them, Timothy Latimer, is bullied by a fellow student, Hutchinson, who compels him into doing his Latin homework with a daunting deadline—the next morning. He proceeds to bully Latimer further as much for his obvious intelligence as for his uncanny and unsettling ability to know things he shouldn't or couldn't possibly know, like where Hutchinson's father is posted while serving abroad. Another student, Jeremy Baines, tires of teasing Latimer and announces to Hutchinson and the others that he knows the location of a secret stash of beer in the woods. He sneaks out the window to bring some back for the boys to enjoy in secret.

Outside the local pub, Martha is complaining to Jenny that it's not fair that they have to freeze outside just to have a beer. Her modern attitude amuses Jenny, who wonders where she gets such ideas. Martha then notices a green light shooting through the sky. John Smith arrives and greets them, explaining shooting stars to them. Martha doubts the explanation, in this case, being exceptionally careful to protect him. She runs off to investigate with Jenny following her.

The inside of the spaceship.

Baines has just found the cache of beer, in the woods near the school, when he sees a strange green light land on the field nearby. Curious, he investigates the light source and stumbles across an entrance to an invisible spaceship. Martha and Jenny arrive just moments after the ship briefly becomes visible, but miss seeing it as the cloaking technology turns back on.

Inside the ship, Baines talks with the spacecraft's occupants, whom he can't see. They call themselves the Family. He wonders why he cannot see them, to which the Family ask why he would want to see them. Baines answers that it's because he wants to know what they look like. A raspy female voice explains that it can be easily done, as soon they will look very familiar. Baines screams in terror at something only he (not the audience) can see.

Hutchinson and the other boys are getting impatient back at the dorm when Baines returns, his search for the secret stash of beer apparently being "unsuccessful". He is also behaving unusually, sniffing the air as though he has a cold. His eyes are also open completely, but none of the other boys seem to notice, saying there's another stash somewhere else.

The Tenth Doctor transforms himself into a human.

The next morning, Martha rides out on a bicycle to an old hut. Inside is the TARDIS, on reduced power. She enters and greets the time machine, something that makes her think she is cracking up now. Martha thinks back to how the Doctor warned that their pursuers would never stop following them. He gave her a watch saying it contains "me", and said the Family's life spans were running out so they only needed to hide until they die. She remembers how the Doctor used a chameleon arch to (painfully) rewrite his biology and transform himself into a human. The TARDIS took care of everything else, creating a new identity for him. She turns on a recording the Doctor made prior to enacting his plan. She reviews it but finds nothing pertaining to the strange sighting. She now worries that she may have to bring the Doctor back if they have found them, as it was the last resort the message said to use in that scenario.

Later, Joan asks John to sketch her in his journal, being surprised at how beautiful she is in his eyes. They kiss as Martha walks in on them by accident. She excuses herself, mumbling that love wasn't on the Doctor's list. She finds refuge in the TARDIS and reviews the instructions again. The instructions are notably lacking one thing: the Doctor did not foresee that his human self might fall in love. Martha is annoyed and depressed that it wasn't her he fell in love with.

Meanwhile, Latimer is summoned to John's office to retrieve a book. While John looks for it, Latimer is drawn to the pocket watch that contains the Tenth Doctor's Time Lord memories and abilities. The boy opens it, briefly seeing the Doctor's world, and strange voices speaking of a "Time Lord," but closes it quickly as he hears Smith approaching. Latimer slips the watch into his pocket and as he touches the book Smith is handing him, he suddenly gets visions of the Doctor on the prowl. Smith notices that Latimer seems a bit off-kilter, but the boy excuses himself and scurries away, unnerved. Also inside the school is Baines, who senses a trace of a Time Lord. He telepathically reports to the others the status of the Doctor's whereabouts and declares that it's time to activate the soldiers.

On nearby Oakham Farm, Mr. Clark is striding about ensuring everything is as it should be and is startled to see a scarecrow apparently wave at him from a nearby field. He accosts what he thinks is a trespasser, believing it to be one of "those idiot boys from the school". When he pulls the straw out and sticks his hand through the other side, however, he finds that it is just simply a scarecrow and becomes unnerved. Many more animated scarecrows promptly surround him as he cries for help. He becomes the Family's Father. Meanwhile a young girl with a red balloon, Lucy Cartwright, is walking down an adjacent road when yet another scarecrow appears and kidnaps her. She becomes the Family's Daughter.

Smith is giving weaponry training to the boys when Mr. Rocastle, the school's headmaster, arrives and orders firing to cease. Hutchinson tells him they could do "a lot better", as Latimer is being "deliberately shoddy", at least according to him. Latimer denies this, telling the headmaster he is trying his best, to no avail. He also speaks of his discomfort with the targets, which are meant to represent African tribesmen who would stand very little chance against machine-guns when all they carry are spears. Dismissing Latimer's "soft-hearted" beliefs, Rocastle orders for firing to continue. As they continue firing, Latimer is haunted by a vision of the future where he and Hutchinson are under attack in the upcoming war. Hutchinson's patience is getting beyond the limit, and he requests permission to take Latimer off for a "beating". Per Smith's countenance, the boys head back towards the school. Shortly after, Baines sniffs rather loudly, prompting Smith to ask if anything's the matter. He quickly dismisses it, although not in a normal fashion.

Later, during a walk together, Joan informs Smith that he wrote about a war starting the next year, but he dismisses the idea, hoping peace will reign. As he continues talking, he notices a woman and her carriage getting dangerously close to a piano on a rope. Instinctively seeking to save her, John grabs a nearby boy's cricket ball and tosses it to start a chain of events that stop the woman just as the piano comes crashing down just feet away from her. Joan is impressed, but Smith says it was luck. He then asks her to the dance that night. Walking back to the school Joan tells John that she thinks that "the Doctor" is the kind of man he wants to be and his dreams are his subconscious' way of trying to get to be so. They notice a scarecrow askew and John fixes it. Joan asks him where he learned and he reflexively says Gallifrey. However, when questioned about its location, John isn't sure.

Meanwhile, the possessed Baines, Mr. Clark and Lucy use their animated scarecrows to capture Jenny, who becomes the Family's Mother. Jenny then returns to the school and engages Martha in conversation. Martha quickly realises something is off about her friend, when Jenny offers to share a pot of gravy instead of tea; and makes a hasty excuse to leave, barely avoiding a laser that Jenny/Mother of Mine fires at her from the upstairs window. She runs to Smith, who is with Joan preparing to go to the village dance that evening. She finds that the watch is gone, and tries in vain to restore him to his Time Lord configuration without it. However, Smith assumes Martha is delusional and unable to tell the difference between fact and fiction (his stories). Annoyed, Martha slaps him, telling him to wake up. Smith, shocked at Martha's behaviour, promptly fires her and leaves for the village dance with Nurse Redfern.

The Family break into Smith's office and search it, as the scent is traced back to him. They find the flyer for the dance and decide to follow. At the same time, Martha has arrived with the sonic screwdriver, prompting Joan to admit she feels something off about Smith. Smith is tired of Martha's "games", but is left speechless when she shows him the device he's seen in his dreams. Latimer is still watching Smith from a distance, curious about him. The Family then arrives, Clark/Father of Mine using a ray-gun to disintegrate the unfortunate door attendant when he asks for a donation, and demand silence from the assembled and very confused villagers. Mr. Chambers, the man in charge of the dance, accosts who he believes to be Clark and asks him what is going on. In response, Clark/Father of Mine disintegrates him in front of the horrified villagers. Martha quickly tells Smith to forget everything she just told him as the Family turn their attention to him. However, Lucy/Daughter of Mine has been there the whole time and overheard Martha's attempts to get the Doctor's memory back, telling her Family that the Time Lord is within their grasp.

However, John easily points out that he is human without any memories of the person he was before. Baines/Son of Mine is amused, seeing the Doctor went as far as erasing his memory along with changing his biology. As the Doctor is useless to them like this, they try forcing him to change back by threatening him with a ray-gun. Remembering Martha said Joan was important to him, the Family takes both of them hostage and order John to choose which is to die:

"Maid or matron, friend or lover, your choice."


Uncredited Cast[[edit]]


General production staff

Script department

Camera and lighting department

Art department

Costume department

Make-up and prosthetics



General post-production staff

Special and visual effects


Not every person who worked on this adventure was credited. The absence of a credit for a position doesn't necessarily mean the job wasn't required. The information above is based solely on observations of the actual end credits of the episodes as broadcast, and does not relay information from IMDB or other sources.



The Doctor[[edit]]

Foods and beverages[[edit]]






  • John Smith mistakes the Family's ship for a meteorite.





  • The weapons used by the Family are sonic.

Story notes[[edit]]

  • When the Doctor is speaking to Joan he names his parents as Sydney and Verity. This is clearly an in-joke reference to Sydney Newman, the original creator of Doctor Who, and Verity Lambert, the first showrunner/producer.
  • This is the first occurrence of an explicitly racist comment within the new series directed at a companion.
  • Radio Times credits David Tennant as "John Smith", as opposed to "The Doctor", while the on-screen credit reads "The Doctor/Smith". For The Family of Blood, Tennant is credited as "The Doctor" both on-screen and in Radio Times.
  • The BBC logo does not appear on-screen at any point during the episode, whereas it usually appears at the beginning of the cold opening or during the opening titles.
  • This story introduced the Chameleon Arch, which would play a major role in the episode Utopia.
  • The sketches in Smith's sketchbook marked the first visual acknowledgement in the revived series of any incarnations predating that of the Ninth Doctor, although School Reunion previously re-established the fact that there were incarnations prior to the Ninth.
  • In a deleted scene, based on one from the original novel, one of the Doctor instructions for Martha is to not let him eat pears, as he does not like them and doesn't want to wake up having tasted them. Although the scene was deleted, the Doctor's distaste for pears survived and was carried over into other stories, including The Taking of Chelsea 426 and finally on TV in Hell Bent and Twice Upon a Time.
  • The Doctor's list of 23 directives, much of which is sped through in the episode, is presented at normal speed in a deleted scene released on the BBC DVD. In place of the nonexistent unheard requests, David Tennant breaks the fourth wall to speak about a love for The Housemartins and also talk nonsense to pad out the time before returning to character for the 23rd and final directive.
  • The receptacle for the Doctor's identity was changed from a cricket ball to a pocketwatch, as this was something which could actually be opened.
  • The scarecrows were added because Russell T Davies wanted a traditional monster for the story.
  • The Aubertides of the novel were creatures whose entire being (including their clothes and possessions) was an extension of their form. Paul Cornell tried to make this work on screen, including giving the little girl (whose last name was initially Wainwright, changed to Cartwright because Blink already featured a character with that surname) a sentient, attacking balloon, and having Martha realise that Jenny is an alien when her friend reacts with pain after Martha spills tea on her handbag. Ultimately, however, it was decided that this notion worked better in prose than as television, and so the Aubertides were replaced by the Family of Blood.
  • The setting was shifted forward to the summer of 1914, and then back to the winter of 1913 in order to ensure that viewers not confused as to when the events of the story fell relative to the start of World War I.
  • John Smith's birthplace is Gallifrey, which is said to be in Ireland. However, it is stated that Smith was brought up in Nottingham, to reflect David Tennant's desire to continue using his English accent.
  • Part of the plot at one point was Martha's family. At an early stage, the character was intended to actually come from 1914.
  • The cliffhanger originally focused on John Smith being faced with the decision of ordering the schoolboys to open fire on the Family.
  • The Doctor is shown wearing a bow tie in this episode. His next incarnation would go on to wear a bow tie all the time, insisting "Bow ties are cool."
  • The school's name was changed from The Hulton Academy for Boys to The Farringham School for Boys.
  • A great deal of the episode was rewritten by Russell T Davies.
  • The fob watch that figures so prominently in this episode (and through the rest of the third series) was originally seen in the early series one episodes as a knob on the TARDIS control console. It is clearly seen in closeups of Christopher Eccleston's hands as he sets the controls in The End of the World.
  • In the original novel, the little girl's red balloon is a significant plot point. That aspect of the plot was left out of the TV version, but the balloon itself was retained as a whimsical detail.
  • The Family of Blood were intended to have technology that was very organically based and this carried through to the design of their guns. The guns' theoretical design was that there was a creature inside each gun and pulling the trigger resulted in a jab to the creature, who would then scream; this scream is the disintegration beam.
  • Harry Lloyd and Thomas Sangster would later appear on Game of Thrones.
  • Harry Lloyd was twenty-four when he played the teenaged Jeremy Baines.
  • Fearing that a straight adaptation of Human Nature would be too old-fashioned for the series' modern storytelling sensibilities, Paul Cornell struggled with the construction of his narrative. At one point, for instance, the adventure opened with the Doctor already married to Joan Redfern. However, Russell T Davies encouraged Cornell to hew more closely to his novel.
  • It was Russell T Davies' idea for the Family of Blood to refer to each other by their family relationship.
  • The scarecrows were originally robots. This was changed because Russell T Davies wanted a traditional monster in the story.
  • This was originally the fourth episode of season three. It was moved up to close the distance to the reappearance of the Chameleon Arch in Utopia. It was replaced with Daleks in Manhattan.
  • This two-parter was originally intended to form season three's fifth production block but, when the recording dates for Blink were moved up, it exchanged designations and it became Block Six.
  • The episode was double banked with Blink due to the need to record season three and The Runaway Bride in just nine months. To ease the burden, Susie Liggat produced this two-parter, while Phil Collinson served as executive producer.
  • The Family's spaceship was actually a redressed version of a portion of the Hub from Torchwood.


  • 7.1 million (overnight)
  • 7.74 million (UK final)[1]
  • 0.87 million (BBC3 repeat ratings)

Filming locations[[edit]]

  • Llandaff Cathedral, Llandaff, Cardiff
  • St Fagans National History Museum, Cardiff
  • Tredegar House, Newport
  • Treberfydd House, Llangasty, Brecon
  • BBC Broadcasting House, Llandaff, Cardiff
  • Cwm Ifor Farm, Caerphilly

Production errors[[edit]]

If you'd like to talk about narrative problems with this story — like plot holes and things that seem to contradict other stories — please go to this episode's discontinuity discussion.
  • Joan puts her stethoscope in her ears backwards when listening to John Smith's single heart.
  • During the shooting class outside at 25:28 a bus drives by in the distance.
  • When John Smith throws the cricket ball to stop the baby carriage from reaching where the piano is going to fall, the rope is revealed snapping just seconds after the ball has left his hand. In the wide shot showing the aftermath, the carriage is a good fifteen feet from the crashed piano.
  • The Dalek in the flashback has an inversed symbol whereas in the actual scene the symbol's written position is different.
  • During the opening scene, while the Doctor is fiddling with the TARDIS's controls, for a split second footage is used from New Earth, where the console room is noticeably darker in that clip than any of the others before or after it.


Home video releases[[edit]]

  • This episode was released with The Family of Blood and Blink on the Series 3 Volume 3 DVD.
  • It was later released as part of the series 3 DVD box set.

External links[[edit]]