Nature versus Nature

Dear Johnny Fanboy,

The two-part Doctor Who television story Human Nature/The Family of Blood is based upon the New Adventures novel Human Nature. Though there are differences between the two narratives, surely they are too similar to happen in the same continuity without us accepting some enormous coincidences.

The main difference between the book and the television story is that in the novel the Doctor seeks human form in order to better understand the human condition, whereas on TV he is hiding out from the Family of Blood.

The villains in the book are a family of Aubertide shape-shifters, who also provide the device that transforms the Doctor into John Smith (as opposed to the chameleon arch used in the television serial). However, their plan is similar to that of the Family of Blood - they want to gain the Time Lord's abilities by stealing his bio-data module (which takes the form of a cricket ball in the book, rather than the pocket watch seen on TV).

Though the television story is set in 1913, while the novel takes place a year later in 1914, the setting is still a boys' school. And although Joan Redfern is a school matron in the television episodes but a science teacher in the novel, in both stories she is widowed, becomes Smith's love interest and objects to teaching the boys to fight. The student Timothy Dean is renamed Tim Latimer for TV but his role and character remain practically identical.

So, is it at all possible for these two stories to be reconciled within the same continuity? If so, why doesn't the Tenth Doctor's list of things for Martha not to let him do include falling in love? Surely he would know better the second time round?

Adam Leigh

Johnny Fanboy replies:

This is a tricky one. However, just as I did when I responded to a recent Family Guy nit-pick, I find myself inspired by the DC Comics Universe.

The superhero comic books published by DC have similarly seen history repeating itself over the decades. Origin stories have been altered or reset. Characters (for instance, Supergirl), settings (such as the bottle city of Kandor) and situations (like Superman's departure from Krypton) have been changed and then often restored to resemble their former selves. These changes have been explained as parallel universes or alterations to the space/time continuum.

In the worlds of Doctor Who, we also have an explanation for how characters such as Joan and Timothy could reappear in slightly different forms. There is strong evidence that the Time War altered certain historical events (for instance, apparently removing the Time Lords and the Daleks from throughout time and space). In the current timeline, it seems that Joan chose the nursing profession instead of teaching, while Timothy's mother married a man called Latimer rather than one named Dean.

As to why the TARDIS should land in such a similar setting to the last time the Doctor became a human, remember that it is the ship that chooses and imprints the Doctor's new identity as John Smith. Asked by the Doctor to do this, it may be that the TARDIS follows its instructions far more precisely than the Time Lord intended. In selecting a suitable back story for John Smith, perhaps the ship decides to match the conditions of that previous transformation as closely as possible, homing in on the location of the current timeline's Joan and Timothy, individuals who proved so pivotal the last time the Doctor's bio-data was being hunted by hostile aliens.

It makes sense that the Tenth Doctor should record a list of more than 20 directives for Martha to follow, as opposed to the list of just nine that the Seventh Doctor gave to Benny in the novel, because the Doctor would have learned a lot from his previous experience. However, I agree it is odd that his directives still don't mention the risk of Smith falling in love. In fact, this is curious even if you don't consider the novel as canon, because the Doctor recently fell in love with a human (Rose) while he was actually a Time Lord.

I would suggest, therefore, that the Tenth Doctor disregards the possibility of falling in love precisely because of his recent loss of Rose. Either he assumes that he can never love again under any circumstances, or his subconscious blots out the subject altogether.

Right, I'm off to my own chameleon arch now, to try and turn myself into a normal human being. Some hope...

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