Friday 8 June 2007

Who are the lucky ones? (repost from other blog)

We are. That is, those of us lucky enough to be within broadcast reception range of BBC1 television at 7:10 on Saturday evening.

I've waxed ecstatic previously on this blog about the spin-off series Torchwood, and now I can do the same about its 'parent', Doctor Who.

Doctor Who? Kid's programme, innit? Maybe so, but it has all the ingredients of ideal family viewing -- something for the kids, something for the grown-ups. The latest series (number three of the 'reincarnated' version), with David Tennant really getting into his stride as the Doctor, and Freema Agyeman in her first series as his not-so-ditsy companion, has shown us some impressive spectacles, including the strangely art deco Daleks in a decidedly art deco New York, as well as the Bard of Avon in mischievous mode.

But the zenith of series three so far for me has been the two-parter that concluded last week: "Human Nature" and "The Family of Blood". Scripted by novelist Paul Cornell (who adapted his Doctor Who book Human Nature), these two episodes reveal characterization to a much greater depth than previously seen, and reinforce the notion that I've always felt about great science fiction -- that it tells us more about how we live our lives in the present, than how we might live in the future. Not that this particular story was about the future, despite the tantalizing glimpses of times that might have come to pass for some of the characters.

The Doctor is being pursued by the Family of Blood -- a group in search of a Time Lord for its own nefarious purposes -- and the only way he can evade detection is to become completely human. And he does so in a pre-First-World-War English public school, leaving Martha to look after not only herself, but his own Time-Lordly essence. When, at the beginning, he asks her if she trusts him, he's really asking himself if he trusts her.

Despite its historical setting, this story exhibits well-known SF tropes, such as an invisible space-ship, time travel (of course) and (hooray!) ray guns. (Or should that be hooray guns...?)

I'll not risk spoilers here, as I know that there are people not as lucky as those of us in the British Isles; impoverished souls who have yet to relish these episodes, condemned to wait until their local TV networks deign to show the latest series, and therefore reduced to squinting disjointedly at blocky YouTube fragments, or ploughing through online directories purporting not actually to host anything at all (apart from dubious thumbnail images that predominate in an excess of exposed skin).

For those less fortunate, but willing to search, may I suggest that entering such terms as "Doctor Who Human Nature Family of Blood" will harvest a veritable torrent of results.

Oh my, you have a treat in store.