Season 29 Episode 8 – Human Nature, by Paul Cornell

May 11, 2008

review by Martin Odoni.

Human Nature is easily the best episode of the current season. It’s being argued in some quarters that it’s the best since the revival. Nothing unusual in that of course; some fans seem to insist that every episode is the greatest ever, at least until the next one comes out. But this one is being venerated even by many fans who don’t think much of the revived series at all.

For myself, I choose not to get too carried away with it, as it has its weaknesses, not least that it’s a lot less original than people are suggesting. It rips off Superman II (a super-powered alien surrendering his powers to become a human), Batman Forever and Spider-Man (the hero having to choose between saving a lover and saving a friend). Invasion Of The Body-Snatchers is re-re-re-ripped off for about the millionth time. While the behaviour and powers of the family are almost indistinguishable from the nature of the Slitheen. The ‘public-school-prefects-are-all-slimy-pompous-b*st*rds’ stereotype is a little cheap and overplayed, while the guy playing Baines with his dumb facial acting really got on my balls after a while. In fact, the general stern disapproval of the values of the ruling class of a century ago is both unnecessary (like anyone needed these things explained to them), and laid on with all the subtlety of an elephant tusk up the bum. And it’s sad that we still have to have more of the Doctor pining about you-know-who, even if it’s from a subconscious outlet this time.

But I very much enjoyed the rest of the episode. It helped that the Doctor’s ‘back-up’ personality was so mild-mannered, as it forced David Tennant to keep his performance in check. Freema gives another positive display, although her routine sulks about living in Rose’s shadow are getting stale. Some of the guest-acting isn’t so clever, but none of it’s hideously bad.

The scarecrows… hmm, think there may be a Worzel Gummidge-style tribute to the Third Doctor in that. They certainly weren’t as feeble as I feared they’d be. Hey, if shop dummies can work in an alien invasion story, scarecrows certainly can.

The overall plot idea about hiding from the family feels a mite contrived, and the threat they pose the Doctor would be almost imperceptible were it not for DT’s sheer conviction.

Nothing excruciatingly bad on offer, and there’s plenty of decent or great stuff in it. Good first half of a two-parter yet again, now can we have a part two that delivers on the promise for once?

I give it 8/10.

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