Fearful Symmetries

Witness a machine turn coffee into pointless ramblings...

22 June, 2007


"The Family of Blood" picks up exactly where "Human Nature ended with The Family was holding guns to the heads of Martha and Ms. Redfern in order to get Smith to transform into a Time Lord once more. Tim Latimer, witnessing the scene from a corner of the room, opens the watch containing The Doctor's essence or whatever it is, which causes a distraction and allows Martha the chance to wiggle free and grab the gun from the possessed Jenny and take her hostage.

This is certainly one reason why people love Martha so much. Can you imagine Peri or Jo Grant doing this? Martha has a great weight on her shoulders in this story and she takes the bull by the horns. Getting back to the story, Martha's derring do allows everyone to escape back to the school. Undaunted, The Family make their way there except Clark who heads out to the woods where Martha has been known to go at times. Back at the school, Smith sounds the alarm and calls the students to arms. Martha protests but he notes that they are trained to defend King and country. The headmaster enters demanding to know what's happening and Smith and Ms. Redfern convince him that Baines & Co. have lost it and that they are preparing to attack the school. And so the headmaster and his sidekick, Phillips, head outside to confront the would-be attackers.

At this point, most thematic material regarding class and race are moved aside allowing war to be front and center. The headmaster confronts Baines who makes mention of the impending conflict and taunts him by asking just how much glory there will be when the boys of the school go off and die in battlefields of Northern France. The conversation ends with Phillips being zapped which prompts the headmaster to flee into the school. Inside preparations are being made for war. Guns are distributed and a line of defense is constructed which includes a machine gun nest. Meanwhile we see Clark find the TARDIS before Ms. Redfern once again represent the anti-war side, so to speak, by telling Smith that he knows it is wrong for the boys to fight. This comment is something of a bookend to Baines' remarks to the headmaster. Most viewers would agree with Ms. Redfern that war is bad but, given what we know about the situation, what choice is there but to fight? We may be repulsed by the headmaster's notion of war as a source of glory & honor but needs drive when the devil must.

The balloon girl is sent inside the school to reconnoiter and she finds Latimer who repulses her by opening the watch and giving her a dose of The Doctor's wrath. This also has the added effect of giving away the location of the watch so The Family send in its army of scarecrows who are promptly mowed down by machine gun and rifle fire but Smith is paralyzed with fear and doesn't let off a single round.

The girl appears and the headmaster moves to bring her to safety. He ignores all pleas to contrary and pays for doing the honorable thing with his life. Smith then orders the boys to make a hasty advance to the rear. Eventually the TARDIS is brought to the school where The Family taunt Smith as he crouches in the brush looking on helplessly. He, Ms. Redfern, and Martha take refuge in an empty cottage. Tim Latimer shows up with the watch in hand. This really forces Smith's hand. Martha reminds him of her love for The Doctor and that his Time Lord talents are needed as The Family have returned to their ship and have begun bombarding the local villages. However, Smith realizes that, if he becomes a Time Lord again, he will lose Ms. Redfern. Martha and Tim leave the pair alone. This was a very touching scene with flashes to what Smith and Joan might have together – marriage, children, etc. The agony on Smith's face was quite compelling.

Next we see Smith stumble in the The Family's ship. He nearly falls over himself as he pleads for The Family to just leave him alone. He submits to their will and hands over the watch. Upon opening it, they discover that it merely tells the time. Looking back up, Smith is bespectacled – The Doctor has returned. His Gerald Ford routine actually triggered a reaction which causes the ship to explode. The Family manage to escape the flames but not The Doctor's wrath. They wanted immortality so he gives it to them: Clark is chained up, Jenny is thrust into what looks like a collapsing star, the balloon girl becomes trapped in the mirrors of the world ("a mirror is a negative space with a frame…"), and Baines is paralyzed and dressed as a scarecrow overlooking a field. The Doctor learned his lesson in "The Five Doctors" – immortality is a curse, not a blessing.

Having disposed of the bad guys, The Doctor returns to Joan and invites her to travel with him. But she refuses saying that her lover is dead. She also asks him if the people who had died would have had he chosen to exile himself elsewhere. Then she tells him to leave. Back at the TARDIS, Martha awaits. Tim wanders up and The Doctor gives him the watch. The scene then cuts to the trenches of World War I with the scene that Latimer foresaw in "Human Nature". He saves the life of his fellow student Hutchinson. This is followed by a scene reminiscent of the ending of Saving Private Ryan. Tim is now an old man in a wheel chair. He is at an Armistice Day memorial ceremony and in one hand he clutches the watch. The Doctor and Martha are watching from a distance, each donning poppies. They trade glances and The Doctor and Martha give big grins.

Personally, I loved this story although there was one gaping plot hole: how did The Family know to come to Earth at that time to find The Doctor? This didn't ruin the story for me but I thought it odd that this wasn't explained. Whatever you make of this question, there was plenty else to love in this story. E.g. – seeing The Doctor as a bumbling human who gets all nervous when confronted with romance. Aside from such novelty as that, there's the triad of Smith, Martha, and Ms Redfern which features great acting and some genuinely touching moments. Of especial note is at the end when Redfern asks The Doctor, "If you hadn't just chosen us on a whim, would any of these people have died?" It reminded me of the accusations leveled at the Sixth Doctor in "Trial of a Time Lord". ("Terror of the Vervoids", methinks.) The new series delves more into the notion of The Doctor and his presence having some negative consequences. This was very evident in "School Days", for instance. And I think that the story at hand is served well by Redfern asking this of The Doctor and then rejecting him. This was totally appropriate given that Smith is such a nice guy and, from her point of view, The Doctor does nothing but bring death. Indeed, it wasn't just revenge he was after, it was a reckoning.

Why would our normally nice, kind, and forgiving Doctor act so incredibly cruelly? Perhaps the answer lies in his final conversation with Ms. Redfern. He says something like, "Smith is still inside me and I am able to do whatever he can." Having an angel on your shoulder yet also wearing horns is part of human nature. The headmaster reveled in the glory and honor of battle yet he also came to the aid of what he thought was an innocent girl. The everlasting rub is that people are neither wholly good nor wholly bad. And, if there's still a human inside The Doctor, then it seems that he is capable of both the best and worst of human nature. But one needn't even plead that Smith is still within him. One need only go back to "Trial of a Time Lord" and recall the Valeyard.

So how will The Doctor's dark side fit into the story arc of this season?

|| Palmer, 1:08 PM


Post a Comment