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Human Nature (TV story): Misc


Dr Who

Up to date as of January 31, 2010

From TARDIS Index File, the free Doctor Who reference.

For the Virgin New Adventures novel Human Nature, see separate entry.
"I sometimes think of how magical it would be, if stories like this were true..."
John Smith
Human Nature
Series: Doctor Who -
TV Stories
Series Number: Series 3
Story Number: 185a
Doctor: Tenth Doctor
Companions: Martha Jones
Setting: Farringham, England; 10th-11th November 1913
Writer: Paul Cornell
Director: Charles Palmer
Producer: Susie Liggat
Broadcast: 26th May 2007
Format: 1st of 2 45 Minute Episodes
Prod. Code: 189a
Previous Story: 42
Following Story: The Family of Blood



It is autumn 1913; and John Smith, history teacher at a small school in England, has vivid and extraordinary dreams of adventures in time and space with a mysterious blue box. But his quiet life--and courtship of the school's nurse, Matron Joan Redfern--is shattered by the arrival of something strange and terrible... and his maid, Martha, insists that he alone can set things right.


The Doctor and Martha barely make it into the TARDIS as some sort of 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.

The Doctor sees only one way out: since their pursuers have very short lifespans, he and Martha can hide from them until they die naturally. He considers their plight and comes to a decision: he entrusts Martha with a pocket watch, explaining that his Time Lord consciousness will be kept in the watch while he uses the TARDIS' Chameleon Arch to transform himself into a human.

Two months later, in November 1913, schoolteacher John Smith is settling into his new job at the Farringham School for Boys, ably assisted by his maid, Martha. A quiet, introspective, and somewhat absent-minded man, John finds a creative outlet in a journal he keeps of his strange and vivid dreams. Fascinated by his extraordinary dreams of adventures in space and time, he begins to confide in Matron Joan Redfern, the school's nurse.

Meanwhile, a group of John's students are studying in their dormitory room. One of them, Tim Latimer, is bullied by the rest, as much for his obvious intelligence as for his uncanny and unsettling ability to know things he shouldn't or couldn't possibly know. Another student, Jeremy Baines, tires of teasing Latimer and announces that he knows the location of a secret cache of beer and will bring some back for the boys to enjoy in secret.

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 just beyond the woods. Curious, he investigates the light source, and stumbles across an entrance to an invisible spaceship. There, he meets its occupants, gaseous creatures who call themselves the Family. One of them takes over Baines' body.

Joan Redfern confronts Martha and asks about John's strange behaviour, but Martha cannot tell her the truth. She finds refuge in the TARDIS, which has been hidden safely out of sight, and reviews instructions that the Doctor hastily recorded just before his transformation. But the instructions are notably lacking: the Doctor did not foresee that his human self might fall in love.

Meanwhile, Tim Latimer is summoned to John Smith's office to retrieve a book. While Smith looks for it, Latimer is drawn to the pocket watch that contains the Doctor's Time Lord memories and abilities. The boy opens it, briefly seeing the Doctor's world, but closes it quickly as he hears Smith approaching. Latimer slips the watch into his pocket and scurries away, unnerved.

Latimer inspects his prize, unaware that each time he opens the watch, a diffuse trace is detected by the pursuers, who now number three, as the Family have possessed two other villagers: local farmer Mr. Clark becomes the Family's Father, and schoolgirl Lucy Cartwright becomes the Daughter.

John Smith and Nurse Redfern discuss his Journal of Impossible Things while on a walk around the village.

Meanwhile, the Family has captured Jenny, Martha's fellow maid, and their "mother" possesses her. Jenny then returns to the school and engages Martha in conversation. Martha quickly realises Jenny has been taken over. She runs to Smith, who is with Redfern preparing to go to the village dance that evening, finds that the watch is gone, and tries in vain to restore him to his Time Lord configuration without it.

Smith, shocked at Martha's behaviour, promptly fires her and leaves for the village dance with Nurse Redfern.

The pursuers crash the dance and reveal that John Smith is the Doctor in human form. Smith still refuses to believe it. They take Martha and Joan hostage and demand that the bewildered schoolteacher choose which of them they should kill: his friend, or his lover.



to be added


Story Notes

  • When the Doctor is speaking to Joan he names his parents as Sydney and Verity. This is clearly a reference to Sydney Newman, the original creator of Doctor Who, and Verity Lambert, the first 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 for Human Nature, and as The Doctor for The Family of Blood. On-screen credits read The Doctor/Smith for Human Nature, and The Doctor for The Family of Blood.
  • During the video instructions that The Doctor has recorded for Martha, a deleted scene for the episode reveals that instruction number five stated that The Doctor hated pears (before a number of improvised statements by Tennant that were intended to be "fast forwarded" when shown). The declaration of The Doctor's distaste for pears was removed, and the fast forward implemented just before this instruction was said, as the BBC felt that it may encourage children to stop eating pears.


  • 7.1 million (overnight)
  • 7.74 million (final ratings)
  • 0.87 million (BBC3 repeat ratings)


to be added

Filming Locations

  • 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

Discontinuity, Plot Holes, Errors

  • John Smith's statement that his adventures with Martha take place in 2007 contradict the timeline. Incorrect, they are time travellers. They were in 2007, a year in Martha's relative past, when the Family caught up to them. Martha's myspace blog states that they were attending the Eurovision concert of that year.
  • John Smith said that he learned how to draw on Gallifrey. The Doctor's conversation with Romana in the DW: City of Death suggests that all drawings on Gallifrey are done by computers. Actually it's said that painting is done on computer not all drawings.
  • Joan puts her stethoscope in her ears backwards when listening to John Smith's single heart. It could have been a different type of stethoscope, one used in the early 1900s.
  • How did Martha get John Smith out of the TARDIS without him noticing where he was? A shock most likely occured when the Doctor made himself human thus causing him to faint and giving Martha the time to get him out of the TARDIS.


DVD and Other Releases

Series 3 Volume 3 cover
  • This episode has been released on DVD alongside The Family of Blood and Blink.
  • It is also part of the series 3 DVD boxset.

See also

to be added

External Links

  • Official BBC Website - Episode Guide: Human Nature
  • Doctor Who Reference Guide detailed synopsis of Human Nature
  • A Brief History of Time (Travel): Human Nature
  • The Locations Guide to Doctor Who - Human Nature
Series 3
Christmas Special: The Runaway Bride

Smith and Jones  • The Shakespeare Code  • Gridlock  • Daleks in Manhattan  • Evolution of the Daleks  • The Lazarus Experiment  • 42  • Human Nature  • The Family of Blood  • Blink  • Utopia  • The Sound of Drums  • Last of the Time Lords

Animated serial: The Infinite Quest

This article uses material from the "Human Nature (TV story)" article on the Dr Who wiki at Wikia and is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike License.


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