Doctor Who

Season 3 Episode 9

The Family of Blood (2)

Aired Saturday 8:00 PM Jun 02, 2007 on BBC America
out of 10
User Rating
537 votes

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Episode Summary


With the Doctor still human, only Martha can help. The watch is still missing, and the Family of Blood will do anything to get their hands on a Time Lord...

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  • pffft

    Poorly written. The villains are insane and dumb, casually walking into gunfights despite acknowledging their human frailty, nearly incinerating the thing they've traveled through time to find... And then they supposedly live eternally, even though we already know they die without consuming a consciousness every 3 months? This show always tries way too hard to make the Doctor seem merciless.

    All the same, the acting was great, especially from the Family and David Tennant.moreless
  • The Family of Blood

    The Family of Blood was a perfect episode of Doctor Who and I really enjoyed watching the conclusion to this two part story which was extremely well written. There was a lot of action, drama, intrigue, character development and plot progression. It was awesome to watch Martha try to help The Doctor remember who he was along with his new love interest who had read his journals. The Family was scary and merciless making for some great action scenes. I liked how every thing played out and the ending was awesome! I look forward to watching what happens next!!!!!!!!!moreless
  • “Family of blood” was, at times, excellent. The action – with the young military students being called to action a year earlier than history intended - was amazing. However there is a "But" coming....moreless

    The scenes with the Doctor in his human form having to decide on his future path – Human or Timelord were touching. I have said previously – I do not believe he would ever have become human in the first place - he is not only a Timelord – he is the Timelord. Would he really have given that up? However, this decision is different. Can he now give up something he has always, at some level, desired? To progress, to live, to grow old and ultimately die; a normal human existence. The ending destroyed the episode for me. It was well done; I just did not believe it. If he is anything, the Doctor is compassionate and caring. That’s why he does what he does – when he stumbles across trouble through time and space – does he run and hide? No, he stays and saves the day! Ok, would not be much of a show if he didn’t, but that’s not the point. He has struggled with his conscience so often through the years. He even doubted he had the right to destroy the Daleks. Has he really become so cold? If they were that easy to beat – why was he running so scared at the start of the story? Why was he so scared he chose to become human, so he could hide from them? To be kind, so he didn’t have to kill them? I just do not buy it - sorry.moreless
  • So-so...

    I really liked "Human Nature" (the previous episode), but this just didn't work for me. It was a little too scattered. And maybe I'm just picky but John Smith was working my very last nerve. I agree with Martha he's "rubbish as a human." I mean what are we supposed to do with that? I was so happy when the Doctor started coming back I didn't know what to do with myself. And that little kid who was mildly telepathic, whatever. Also, I really did not feel how everyone was either using or talking down to Martha. Her character was completely pushed to the side. Almost, sort of, even by the Doctor. And I was not happy when he invited Nurse Redfern to be his companion (how would that work!?). With Martha all in love with him and stuff. But I REALLY love Jessica Hynes, so much that I can't even hate any character she plays, not even Redfern (at least not much). And the son in the Family of Blood was just way too much for me. So off base. How happy was I too see Martha back in her jeans, leather jacket, and ponytail? ECSTATIC! Martha saved the episode for me. LOVES HER!!!!!

    Anyway, at least it's over. Can't wait for BBCAmerica to start playing season 2 AND Torchwood. YAY!!!!moreless
  • While extolling the many virtues of Human Nature last week, I speculated that we might be celebrating the arrival of the best Doctor Who story since the series returned if Part Two, The Family Of Blood, was of similar quality. So. Was it? Let's discuss.moreless

    Firstly, how the story panned out . . .

    John Smith, the human manifestation of The Doctor hiding in a village in Edwardian England, and Martha are being pursued by the malevolent Family Of Blood, a murderous race who want the essence of a Time Lord to extend their lives.

    Martha is desperately trying to convince a confused Smith that the time-and-space-travelling adventurer of his subconscious, The Doctor, is his true form, and she needs him to return to defeat The Family - but she needs to find the stolen fob watch which contains his life patterns.

    The boy who stole the watch, Tim Latimer, brings it to them in a deserted house, and even Smith's girlfriend, the matron, Joan, believes Martha to be speaking the truth. Smith is faced with the personal dilemma of opening the watch, in the knowledge that he would most likely cease to exist. He decides to make that sacrifice, and The Doctor destroys The Family's spaceship and gives them the immortality they crave - in a form that they can never do any harm to anyone else.

    The Doctor asks Joan to travel with him in the TARDIS, but she rejects him as a result of his role in the death of many innocent villagers.

    Young Latimer, with the power of foresight given to him by the watch, narrowly escapes death in The Great War, and goes on to live a long life. The Doctor and Martha return to Earth to visit him as an old man before continuing their travels.

    Now, that rough outline of the second episode perhaps doesn't sound that special - but there was so much more beneath the surface that made this one of the finest written and acted characterisation pieces in any Doctor Who.

    There were so many great scenes. Early in the episode, there was Martha battling to hold off The Family on her own with their laser gun. This was a great story for Martha, with more to do in two episodes than some previous companions had to do in two series! Without "The Doctor" for most of it, she was left to effectively take the lead against a more-advanced race, and had to cope with her own feelings of hurt that her beloved Doctor in his human form had fallen for another woman.

    Plenty for Freema Agyeman to get her teeth into, and she didn't fail to deliver. If, as rumours have it, her first series is also to her last, that would be a sad loss to the show. I think both actress and character still have much to offer.

    Another extraordinary scene was the scarecrow soldiers' attack on the school, defended by armed pupils. The sight of pre-teenage boys firing rifles at their assailants was a chilling reminder that lads of not much older went off to war in real life in that time period and, in fact, still do today all over the world.

    From a filming perspective, it was one of many superbly-realised action scenes overseen by director Charles Palmer, who has made a big impression this season, and we'll hopefully see more of his work in Series 4. It rather reminded me of a brutal scene in the first episode of Genesis Of The Daleks, which saw men in gasmasks being gunned down in a trench, and made a vivid impression on this young man of eight or nine in 1975.

    Curiously, although the scarecrows were made of straw, seeing their innards splatter out as they were shot was surprisingly effective. It sounds like a funny scene, though was anything but, and the excellent direction and lighting was a large contributory factor here.

    The scary scarecrows themselves worked marvellously well throughout the two parts. From Ailsa Berk's clever "lolloping" choreography to the malevolent tilting of the head to the actual design, they were a triumph. The production team could have got them very wrong, but they were very right.

    Also "very right" was John Smith being given a foretaste (via the watch) of what his human life could be like - through marriage and children until death. This was the life The Doctor can never have (and, deep down, doesn't really want as "he could have changed back"). Making David Tennant up as an old man was another great job from Niall Gorton and his prosthetics team, as it was with Mark Gatiss in The Lazarus Experiment.

    The closing scene of The Doctor and Martha returning to Earth to visit the elderly Latimer was touching, but perhaps the finest scene of the episode - and maybe the entire series - was The Doctor meeting Joan after despatching The Family.

    This was a significant scene because it clearly showed the arrogant side of The Doctor. Having been partly responsible for the devastation which befell this innocent village upon which he descended, he then assumes Joan will be grateful for the opportunity to travel with him in the TARDIS - and without any mention of poor Martha, who has constantly risked her life to save him. Joan's quiet and dignified dismissal of him with a "you can go now" was an even better put-down than Jackie Tyler's slap of the ninth incarnation.

    Superb stuff from Jessica Hynes as Joan - I think she would have made a fascinating short-term companion - and David Tennant was absolutely immense here again, in his dual roles as John Smith and The Doctor. And it was the former which was arguably the more likeable of the two in this episode. The portrayal of Smith's struggle to grasp what was going on and then make the decision to give up his life enabled Tennant to underline the range of his ability.

    I'm rather inclined to gloss over rather unconvincing elements of the plot, notably The Family's sudden demise. Having The Doctor "just press buttons" on their spaceship to make it blow up was a slight let down, and you could argue that the whole premise of the story was rather elaborate if The Doctor could just revert to Time Lord status, and had the power to confine The Family to "a life sentence" straight away.

    That said, I wouldn't be up all night worrying about things like that when there was so much to enjoy. The idea of "giving those who seek immortality what they wish for" was actually explored at the end of The Five Doctors. It's a rather-chilling prospect, and the little girl trapped in the mirror was another intriguing concept.

    There was a nice nod for fans with a snatch of Ring O' Roses (as accompanied a similarly-malevolent little girl from Remembrance Of The Daleks) and a reminder that a fanboy runs this show! And is making a pretty fine job of it . . .

    This was the best story of David Tennant's tenure as The Doctor for me, and possibly the finest since Caves Of Androzani. Nine and a half out of 10, and surely even the blinkin' majestic Steven Moffat can't top this little gem next week. Can he?moreless

Trivia, Notes, Quotes and Allusions


  • TRIVIA (6)

    • Unlike previous episodes, there is no scientific explanation of the punishments placed on the family (trapping in a mirror, fixed as a scarecrow).

    • The Family were all rewarded with a form of immortality, but not the form they were seeking. This is not the first time a Timelord has rewarded a quest for immortality with eternal imprisonment. In The Five Doctors, in the original series, Rassilon rewarded anyone that sought immortality with a place as a stone carving on his tomb.

    • Baines: He wrapped my father in unbreakable chains forged in the heart of a dwarf star.

      The last time that dwarf star alloy was mentioned was in the Fourth Doctor story Warriors' Gate, the slaver ship was constructed from it.

    • The war memorial scene at the end was filmed at Llandaff Cathedral in Cardiff.

    • According to director Charles Palmer, the scene involving the aged John Smith took approximately fifteen minutes to shoot (whilst David Tennant had spent around four hours having the prosthetics fitted).

    • When Latimer opens the watch in front of the little girl, a brief scene from The Runaway Bride can be seen.

  • QUOTES (21)

    • Martha: Because I love him to bits, and I hope to God he won't remember me saying that.

    • Martha: I'm training to be a doctor. Not an alien doctor, a proper doctor, a doctor of medicine.
      Joan: Well, that certainly is nonsense. Women might train to be doctors, but hardly a skivvy and hardly one of your colour.
      Martha: Oh, d'you think? (holds up hand) Bones of the hand. Carpal bones, proximal row: scaphoid, lunate, triquetral, pisiform. Distal row: trapezium, trapezoid, capitate, hamate. Then the metacarpal bones, extending in three distinct phalanges: proximal, middle, distal.
      Joan: You read that in a book.
      Martha: Yes, to pass my exams!

    • Latimer: I just wanted to say goodbye and thank you, because I've seen the future and now know what must be done. It's coming, isn't it? The biggest war ever.
      Martha: You don't have to fight.
      Latimer: I think we do.
      Martha: You could get hurt.
      Latimer: Well, so could you, travelling round with him, but it's not going to stop you.

    • (After dispatching the Family, the Doctor goes back to see Joan)
      Joan: You look the same. Goodness, you must forgive my rudeness. I… find it difficult to look at you. Doctor, I must call you Doctor. Where is he, John Smith?
      The Doctor: He's in here somewhere.
      Joan: Like a story. Could you change back?
      The Doctor: Yes.
      Joan: Will you?
      The Doctor: No.
      Joan: I see. Well, then… He was braver than you in the end, that ordinary man. You chose to change; he chose to die.
      The Doctor: Come with me.
      Joan: I'm sorry?
      The Doctor: Travel with me.
      Joan: As what?
      The Doctor: My companion.
      Joan: But that's not fair. What must I look like to you, Doctor? I must seem so very small.
      The Doctor: No. We could start again; I'd like that. You and me, we could try at least, because everything that John Smith is and was, I'm capable of that too.
      Joan: I can't.
      The Doctor: Please come with me.
      Joan: I can't.
      The Doctor: Why not?
      Joan: John Smith is dead, and you look like him.
      The Doctor: But he's here, inside. If you look in my eyes.
      Joan: Answer me this, just one question, that's all. If the Doctor had never visited us, never chosen this place on a whim, would anybody here have died? (The Doctor cannot answer her) You can go.

    • Baines: (voice-over) He never raised his voice, that was the worst thing. The fury of the Time Lord, and then we discovered why. Why this Doctor, who had fought with gods and demons, why he'd run away from us and hidden. He was being kind. He wrapped my father in unbreakable chains, forged in the heart of a dwarf star. He tripped my mother into the event horizon of a collapsing galaxy, to be imprisoned there. Forever. He still visits my sister, once a year, every year. I wonder if one day he might forgive her, but there she is, can you see? He trapped her inside a mirror. Every mirror. If ever you look at your reflection and see something move behind you, just for a second, that's her. That's always her. As for me, I was suspended in time and the Doctor put me to work, standing over the fields of England as their protector. We wanted to live forever, so the Doctor made sure that we did.

    • Joan: (after seeing a glimpse of their possible future together if John stays as he is) The Time Lord has such adventures, but he could never have a life like that.
      John Smith: And yet I could.

    • Joan: If I could do this instead of you, then I would. I had hoped… but my hopes aren't important.
      John Smith: He won't love you.
      Joan: If he's not you, then I don't want him to.

    • John Smith: (to Martha) You're this Doctor's companion. Can't you help? What exactly do you do for him? Why does he need you?
      Martha: Because he's lonely.
      John Smith: And that's what you want me to become?

    • (Martha, Joan and John are outside the school; the Family are guarding the TARDIS)
      Martha: You recognise it, don't you?
      Jenny: Come out, Doctor! Come to us!
      John Smith: I've never seen it in my life.
      Martha: Do you remember its name?
      Joan: I'm sorry, John, but you wrote about it. The blue box. You dreamt of a blue box.
      John Smith: (starting to cry) I'm… I'm John Smith. That's all I want to be. John Smith, with his life and his job… and his love. Why I can't be John Smith? Isn't he a good man?
      Joan: Yes, yes, he is.
      John Smith: Why can't I stay?
      Martha: But we need the Doctor.
      John Smith: What am I, then? Now then? I'm just a story.

    • Martha: If you want I can go...
      The Doctor: Time to move on

    • Latimer: (about the Doctor) He's like fire and ice and rage. He's like the night and the storm in the heart of the sun…
      John Smith: Stop it.
      Latimer: He's ancient and forever. He burns at the centre of time and he can see the turn of the universe.
      John Smith: Stop it! I said, stop it!
      Latimer: And… he's wonderful.

    • John Smith: How can you think I'm not real? When I kissed you, was that a lie?
      Joan: No, it wasn't. No.
      John Smith: This Doctor sounds like some… some romantic lost prince. Would you rather that? Am I not enough?

    • Joan: Tell me. In this fairytale… who are you?
      Martha: Just a friend. I'm not… I mean, you haven't got a rival, as much as I might… just his friend.
      Joan: And human, I take it?
      Martha: Human, don't worry and, more than that, I don't just follow him around. I'm training to be a doctor. Not an alien doctor, a proper doctor. A doctor of medicine.
      Joan: Well, that certainly is nonsense. Women might train to be doctors but hardly a skivvy and hardly one of your colour.

    • Rocastle: You speak with someone else's voice, Baines. Who might that be?
      Baines: We are the Family of Blood
      Rocastle: Mr. Smith said there have been deaths.
      Baines: Yes, sir, and they were good, sir.
      Rocastle: Well, I warn you. The school is armed.
      Baines: All your little tin solders. But tell me, sir… will they thank you?
      Rocastle: I don't understand.
      Baines: What do you know of history, sir? What do you know of next year?
      Rocastle: You're not making sense, Baines.
      Baines: 1914, sir. The Family has travelled far and wide looking for Mr. Smith and… the things we have seen. War is coming. In foreign fields, war of the whole wide world, with all your boys falling down in the mud. Do you think they will thank the man who taught them it was glorious?

    • (At the school gates, Rocastle and Phillips encounter Baines, Jenny and several Scarecrow soldiers)
      Rocastle: So, Baines, and one of the cleaning staff. There's always a woman involved. Am I to gather that some practical joke has got out of hand?
      Baines: Headmaster, sir. Good evening, sir. Come to give me a caning, sir? Would you like that, sir?
      Rocastle: Keep a civil tongue, boy.
      Phillips: Now, come on everyone. I suspect alcohol has played its part in this. Let's all just calm down. Who are these friends of yours, Baines, in fancy dress?
      Baines: Do you like them, Mr. Phillips? I made them myself. I'm ever so good at science, sir.

    • Rocastle: (after being told of the imminent attack on the school) Mr. Phillips, with me, we shall investigate.
      Martha: No, but it's not safe out there.
      Rocastle: Mr. Smith, it seems your favourite servant is giving me advice. You will control her, sir.

    • Martha: (as the village hall clears; to John Smith) Go on, just shift.
      John Smith: What about you?
      Martha: Mr. Smith, I think you should escort your lady friend to safety, don't you?

    • (Martha points the alien gun at Baines)
      Baines: Would you really pull the trigger? Looks too scared.
      Martha: Scared and holding a gun. It's a good combination. D'you wanna risk it?

    • (As John Smith stumbles around the Family of Blood's spacecraft, pleading for his life)
      Jenny: He didn't just make himself human - he made himself an idiot.
      Baines: Same thing isn't it?

    • (when Martha runs out of the Village Hall, she sees John Smith still standing at the gate)
      Martha: Don't just stand there, move! God you're rubbish as a human! Run!

    • (Upon returning to the school, John Smith raises the alarm by ringing the bell)
      Hudson: What's the matter?
      John Smith: Enemy at the door, Hudson, enemy at the door!

  • NOTES (4)

    • International Airdates:
      Turkey: December 26, 2010 on CNBC-e

    • Overnight viewing figures for this episode were 6.6 million, with a final viewing figure of 7.21 million.

    • Joan Redfern is another who has declined the offer of travelling with the Doctor. Others who have also declined the offer are Dr. Grace Holloway in Doctor Who: The Movie (1996), Mikey Smith in World War Three [Season 1, Episode 5](2005) and Donna Noble in The Runaway Bride (2006)

    • Unlike Human Nature, David Tennant is only credited as 'The Doctor' in the end credits of this episode.


    • Hutchinson: Coward!
      Tim Latimer: Oh, yes, sir, every time.

      This is similar to the response given by the Ninth Doctor to the Dalek Emperor ("Coward, every time!") in "Parting of the Ways"

    • John Smith: So what am I then? Nothing? I'm just a story?
      Subtle self-reference: John Smith worries that he is just a story, whereas Doctor Who actually is a story.

    • Joan: Can you change back?
      The Doctor: Yes.
      Joan: Will you?
      The Doctor: No.

      This is very similar to what the Doctor said to Rose in the Children in Need special of 2005.

      Rose: Can you change back?
      The Doctor: Do you want me to?
      Rose: Yeah.
      The Doctor: Oh.
      Rose: Can you?
      The Doctor: No.

    • Rocastle: We need water for the Vickers gun.

      The Vickers .303 Machine Gun became the standard in the British Army from 1912 to 1960. Being water-cooled, it could fire continuously for long periods. Heat engendered by the rapid fire soon boiled the water and caused a powerful emission of steam, which was condensed by passing it through a tube into a canvas bag of water. By this means the gun could continue to fire without a cloud of steam giving its position away to the enemy.

    • Vicar: Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
      At the going down of the sun and in the morning,
      We will remember them.

      This is a quote from Laurence Binyon's poem 'For The Fallen' (1914). Whilst seven stanzas long, the third and fourth stanzas (as can be heard quoted in this episode) are often used at Remembrance Day and Remembrance Sunday services, as well as ANZAC Day, as seen here.

    • At the final war memorial scene, both the Doctor and Martha are seen wearing artificial red poppies. This is a mark of respect for all those who have fallen in war, although traditionally associated with the First World War. The poppy's significance to Remembrance Day is a result of John McCrae's poem 'In Flanders Fields' (1915). The poppy emblem was chosen because of the poppies that bloomed across some of the worst battlefields of Flanders in World War I, their red colour an appropriate symbol for the bloodshed of trench warfare. Artificial poppy wreaths are laid at cenotaphs and war memorials on Remembrance Day and Remembrance Sunday each November.

    • The Doctor: In June 1914, an Archduke of Austria was shot by a Serbian and this then led, through nations having treaties with nations, like a line of dominoes falling, to some boys from England walking together in France on a terrible day.

      On 28 June 1914, Gavrilo Princip, a Yugoslav student, killed Archduke Franz Ferdinand, the heir to the Austro-Hungarian throne, in Sarajevo. The assassination in Sarajevo set into motion a series of fast-moving events that escalated into a full-scale war that lasted from 1914 to1918. Over nine million people died in the conflict. Among them were English boys who had lied about their age in order to enter into battle for King and Country.