TBT: Doctor Who: Human Nature & The Family of Blood (2007)


The two-part Doctor Who story arc from 2007, Human Nature and The Family of Blood, are set in 1913, just before the outbreak of World War I, though that has very little to do with the story. The actual plot concerns the Tenth Doctor (David Tennant, a.k.a., My Boyfriend) running his companion Martha (Freema Ageyman, a.k.a. my second favorite companion) through the emotional wringer as he wakes up in 1913 England absolutely convinced he is John Smith, a school teacher, and Martha is his faithful servant. John Smith then goes on and falls in love with the matron at his school, Joan Redfern (played by Jessica Hynes), leaving Martha quietly going bonkers trying to get him to remember that he’s actually in 1913 for a bloody good reason and it’s not about falling in love and having babies with Joan.

The real reason they traveled to 1913 is because Some Shit is About to Go Down™ when the last of a dying race of aliens, the Family of Blood, start chasing the Doctor in order to steal his life force so that they can save themselves from extinction. Obviously, 1913 rural England is a logical place to hide, so the Doctor implants his identity in a pocket watch and replaces it with the persona of John Smith, humble school teacher. It’s mostly a good excuse to show Martha’s increasing issues in dealing with her not-so-subtle feelings for the Doctor, because the first thing John Smith does is treat Martha like crap (she’s a servant, after all, and a black one at that, so she best not forget her place), and fall in love with the aforementioned Joan, leaving Martha increasingly distraught at her inability to get him to realize that he’s actually a functionally immortal Time Lord with virtually unlimited powers who has to defeat the Family of Blood or else risk losing the entire planet to them.

Initially, Martha is game to the Doctor’s instructions to make sure that he is completely unaware of his true identity, playing the part of a servant as best she can. Considering the fact that in her timeline she’s a respected doctor, this role-playing quickly starts to wear thin.

It’s a lot for our Martha deal with.

Let me just interject this here: I know Martha isn’t a fan favorite as a companion, but I have to point out that she’s one of the most well-rounded character-wise, and even though a significant amount of her story arc is couched around her unrequited feelings for the Doctor, she is one of the few companions who actually moves on from him after putting her needs first, showing a respectable capacity for agency and advocating for herself. She then goes on to become a badass freedom fighter in the alternate timeline and actually appears happy with how her life turned out post-Doctor, apocalypse notwithstanding. The same can’t really be said for the vast majority of the Doctor’s companions…

Anyway, back to the costumes.

John Smith doing his best Arthur Dent impression.

#fanservice #nicethreepiece #nursefetish

Eventually, Joan gets some pretty clothes when she attends a social dance with John.

Back view of the aforementioned party dress.

Meanwhile, Martha gets to wear servant’s clothes. *sad trombone*

The rest of the story is all about dodging a creepy school kid with an army of creepier scarecrows, which if you’re into that sort of thing, it totally won’t disappoint. All I’m saying is that Martha is a legit badass, even in 1913 and forced into a maid costume.


Are you a fan of Doctor Who historical episodes?


About the author

Sarah Lorraine

Sarah has an undergraduate degree in Clothing & Textile Design and a Master's in Art History and Visual Culture, with an emphasis on fashion history. When she’s not caught in paralyzing existential dread, she's drinking craft cocktails and writing about historical costume in film and television. She's been pissing people off on the internet since 1995.

19 Responses

  1. Mary

    I love Martha, too! I’m surprised that she’s considered not a favorite.

  2. mmcquown

    Martha apparently finally finished med school and is now operating in “New Amsterdam.” She was always one of my faves and I thought her a much better choice for a romance with the Doctor than Rose.

  3. Dorothy

    This is where all the hairpins migrated! They stowed away in the TARDIS and landed here.

  4. LovingTheSnark

    Martha is my favorite of the Who Companions. The best scene in this episode was where she named ALL the bones of the hand when Joan suggested that Martha was incapable of knowing anything medical (or something to that effect)

  5. Kelly

    This one also had a lot of nice villager clothing–notably the little girl’s and Joan’s coats–and spiffy school uniforms for the lads. It also really let David Tennant show his acting chops–I weep every time I watch him, sobbing for the chance of a normal life with Jessica Hynes. She’s in an unusually subdued role here–she’s absolutely hilarious as Siobhan Sharp in Twenty-Twelve–but makes a lasting impression in what might have been a rather trite character. Love this story!

  6. Kaite Fink

    Absolutely some of my favorite episodes ever. And I agree that she’s one of the best companions ever for our Doctor. These episodes get me every time! Right in the feels.

  7. SarahV

    This was an absolutely enchanting story, and it cemented my esteem of Martha as the second favorite companion (Donna is actually my first, if you simply must know).

    Also, Harry Lloyd briefly scene as the pathetic psychotic Prince Viserys on Game of Thrones and also as the mostly pathetic Peter Quayle on the late lamented Counterpart was really quite devilishly creepy as one of the Family of Blood.

    Sarah, who is your favorite companion?

  8. Emily

    Woohoo! Y’all covered my favorite Doctor Who story! And my favorite companion! Many thanks for bringing up Martha’s agency, it really grinds my gears that she’s the only NewWho companion who gets to leave on their own terms! .

    • Daniel Milford-Cottam

      Arguably, Amy does too when she finally leaves properly, and uses her book to tell the future Doctor that he stays out of her and Rory’s life and they never see him again.

  9. Roxana

    As an old school fan Sarah Jane Smith will forever be my favorite. But I like how Martha took control of her life instead of mooning after the Doctor indefinitely.

  10. Sarah

    Martha is my favorite companion! Freema Agyeman did a fabulous job with a character who unfortunately boiled down a lot to “the one after Rose,” and Martha’s growing confidence and competence while the Doctor was moping around for much of her run meant she really felt like a proper lead. Plus my teenage heart loved seeing an unrequited crush played with onscreen, for sure.

    • SarahV

      I adored that she occasionally swanned back in later episodes with a burgeoning career and a happy marriage! Plus, Freema is such a naturally warm and engaging actress, you just want to like her and hang out with her.

  11. Adina

    Martha is my absolute favorite companion because she had this clarity of mind and purpose while still being able to give as good as she got and having a sense of humour