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New Series Episodes 37 & 38:
Human Nature / The Family Of Blood
In 1913, Farringham School for Boys is a normal place bothered only by rather common complications. Oft-bullied Tim Latimer shows flashes of preternatural insight. New maid Martha Jones is distractingly feisty. And John Smith -- the latest addition to the faculty -- is becoming close with the school nurse, Joan Redfern. But Smith also dreams of being an adventurer in time and space known as “the Doctor”, and the appearance of ominous lights in the sky above Farringham may force him to confront the truth about himself.
Virgin Books published the Doctor Who: The New Adventures range from 1991 to 1997, encompassing sixty-one titles. Of these, arguably the most popular was Paul Cornell's Human Nature, released in May 1995. This was voted the all-time best of the New Adventures according to Doctor Who Magazine balloting in 1998, and also maintained the pole position in the Usenet “Doctor Who Rankings” survey through to the final edition in 2006. Cornell's fifth Doctor Who novel, it had been plotted with the help of fellow New Adventures author Kate Orman and several other Australian fans during a stay in Sydney.
Human Nature starred the Seventh Doctor and Bernice “Benny” Summerfield (a companion Cornell had created specifically for the New Adventures in 1992). It was inspired by the iconic “hero's journey” described by Joseph Campbell in his seminal 1949 work on traditional mythologies, The Hero With A Thousand Faces. Cornell was particularly interested in the stage termed the “apotheosis”, in which a hero gives up everything in order to gain enlightenment. In this case, Benny had experienced the death of her lover in the previous New Adventures novel, and so saw the Doctor transform himself into a human in order to comprehend what his companion is going through. With the Doctor now believing himself to be Aberdeen native “Dr John Smith”, he and Bernice (posing as his niece) settle at the Hulton Academy for Boys in the spring of 1914, where the Doctor falls in love with widowed science teacher Joan Redfern. There they are pursued by the shapeshifting alien Aubertides, who seek the receptacle containing the Doctor's true personality, disguised as a cricket ball.
Human Nature had always been a favourite of both Cornell and Russell T Davies, who thought of the novel when he was appointed executive producer of Doctor Who in 2003. Soon after the completion of Father's Day, Cornell's first televised Doctor Who script, Davies asked him to turn Human Nature into a two-part story for the series. Davies wanted the Human Nature adaptation to form part of the revived programme's third season, and as such it was one of the earliest commissions for that slate.
Some aspects of Human Nature could easily be altered to suit the screen: Benny was replaced by Martha Jones, pretending to be the Doctor's maid. The Doctor's human persona became simply “Mr John Smith” so that he would not be referred to by other characters as “the Doctor”. His birthplace was given as Nottingham to reflect David Tennant's desire to continue using his English accent. The receptacle for the Doctor's identity was now a pocketwatch, as this was something which could actually be opened. The setting -- rechristened the Farringham School for Boys -- 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. Cornell also eliminated various subplots found in the novel, including those involving a doomed suffragette named Constance; Benny's landlord, Alexander Shuttleworth, who discovers that she's a time traveller; and an ersatz future Doctor.
Other changes were more significant, however. The Aubertides of the novel were creatures whose entire being (including their clothes and possessions) was an extension of their form. 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 short lifespan of these revised antagonists also provided the new motivation for the Doctor's metamorphosis. Davies still wanted some kind of traditional monster in the story, and so the Family's scarecrow servitors (originally robots) were conceived. Also part of the plot at one point was Martha's family: at an early stage, the character was intended to actually come from 1914.
Fearing that a straight adaptation of Human Nature would be too old-fashioned for Doctor Who's modern storytelling sensibilities, Cornell struggled mightily with the construction of his scripts. At one point, for instance, the adventure opened with the Doctor already married to Joan Redfern (now the school's nurse rather than a teacher). Davies encouraged Cornell to hew more closely to his novel, however. Later, Cornell had the timeline for the episodes stretch over several weeks to provide time for John Smith's courtship of Joan to play out, but it was found that this removed too much intensity from the Family's pursuit of the Doctor. Much of the emotion of their relationship's development was instead invested into the “flash-forward” sequence late in part two. The cliffhanger at the end of episode one also changed: initially, this focussed on John Smith being faced with the decision of ordering the schoolboys to open fire on the Family.
Cornell began writing his scripts for the Human Nature adaptation around May 2006. Consideration was given to attempting the story entirely without the use of computer effects, but this was ultimately abandoned. At one point, it was thought that these would be the fourth and fifth episodes of the season, but later it was decided to push them back to become the eighth and ninth. As such, the story was referred to as Block Five of the production schedule, but when the recording dates for Blink were moved up, Cornell's adventure exchanged designations with that episode to become Block Six. The director would be Charles Palmer, who had just finished helming Smith And Jones and The Shakepeare Code.
Because work on Blink would overlap with the Human Nature adaptation, a new producer was appointed to handle the two-part serial and ease the burden on regular producer Phil Collinson. This was Susie Liggat, who had also been named producer of Invasion Of The Bane, the first episode of The Sarah Jane Adventures. Collinson would instead receive an executive producer credit on Cornell's scripts, now called Human Nature and The Family Of Blood. The story would also pay homage to an earlier Doctor Who production team. In the novel, John Smith had given the names of his parents as Harry and Sarah Jane (in reference to companions Harry Sullivan and Sarah Jane Smith). This was now amended to Sydney and Verity, in honour of BBC Head of Drama Sydney Newman (whose ideas had to led to the conception of Doctor Who in 1963) and original Doctor Who producer Verity Lambert.
Recording for Human Nature / The Family Of Blood began on November 27th, when Martha's scenes in the TARDIS were filmed at the Upper Boat Studios. Several locations were used to represent Farringham School. The first of these was Llandaff Cathedral in Llandaff, visited on the 28th. From November 29th to December 5th (omitting only the 3rd), Treberfydd House in Brecon posed as the school, as did Tredegar House in Newport on the 6th. (The “flash-forward” shot of John Smith and Joan with their first child was also recorded there.) The next three days were spent at Upper Boat, taping the Doctor's messages in the TARDIS and sequences in Smith's study. Artist Kellyanne Walker prepared Smith's A Journal Of Impossible Things seen in this footage; in addition to depicting various monsters which had appeared in Doctor Who since its 2005 return, sketches could also be seen of the nine previous Doctors. This was the first visual reference in the revived programme to any of the actors who had played the Doctor before Christopher Eccleston.
More school scenes were filmed at Tredegar House on December 11th (along with John Smith's death in 1963 and “Lucy”'s imprisonment). The 12th saw several locations visited: Llandaff Cathedral provided the war memorial, as well as the setting for Smith and Joan's wedding; the modern corridor in Tim's vision of Martha was found at BBC Broadcasting House in Llandaff, where “Clark”'s chaining was also filmed; and the World War I battlefield was constructed at Neal's Soils in Cardiff. Cast and crew then moved to St Fagans National History Museum in Cardiff, where most village exteriors (as well as material inside the dance hall) was taped from December 13th to 15th.
Following the Christmas break, production resumed at Upper Boat on January 3rd, 2007, dealing with sequences inside the Family's spaceship. The team then returned to St Fagans on the 4th, 5th, 7th and 8th; on the latter day, time was also spent at Cwm Ifor Farm in Caerphilly for Tim's farewell to the Doctor and Martha. Upper Boat was once again the venue on January 9th and 10th, when scenes in the Cartwrights' cottage were filmed; Tennant was experiencing continuing voice problems on these days, which he had also been battling while making Blink. The 10th also included a return to Cwm Ifor Farm for the sequence in which Smith and Joan encounter the scarecrow in the field. All the remaining footage was then completed at Upper Boat: TARDIS scenes on January 11th and 17th, and various inserts on February 5th and 23rd.
|Updated 14th August 2011|
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