The Family of Blood

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185b – "The Family of Blood"
Doctor Who episode
Two adults, a teenage boy, and a little girl, followed by walking scarecrows.
The Family of Blood ready to chase the Doctor.
Directed byCharles Palmer
Written byPaul Cornell
Based onHuman Nature
by Paul Cornell
Script editorLindsey Alford
Produced bySusie Liggat
Executive producer(s)Russell T Davies
Julie Gardner
Phil Collinson
Incidental music composerMurray Gold
Production code3.9
SeriesSeries 3
Length2nd of 2-part story, 45 minutes
First broadcast2 June 2007 (2007-06-02)
← Preceded by
"Human Nature"
Followed by →
Doctor Who episodes (2005–present)

"The Family of Blood" is the ninth episode of the third series of the British science fiction television series Doctor Who, which was first broadcast on BBC One on 2 June 2007.[1] It is the second episode of a two-part story written by Paul Cornell adapted from his Doctor Who novel Human Nature (1995), co-plotted with Kate Orman. The first part, "Human Nature", aired one week prior, on 26 May.

In the episode, aliens called the Family of Blood attack an English boarding school and its surrounding village in 1913 to seek a fob watch which contains the essence of the long-lived alien time traveller the Tenth Doctor (David Tennant).

In a Doctor Who Magazine interview, Executive Producer Russell T Davies characterised the "Human Nature"/"Family of Blood" two-parter as perhaps being too dark for the programme's audience.[2] In 2008, both "Human Nature" and "The Family of Blood" were nominated for the Hugo Award for Best Dramatic Presentation, Short Form.[3]


At the village dance in 1913, the Family of Blood hold Martha and Joan Redfern captive. While John Smith struggles to understand what is happening, Timothy Latimer briefly opens the fob watch containing the Doctor's Time Lord essence. This momentarily distracts the Family, enabling Martha to grab a gun and escape with the others back to the school. John sounds the alarm and helps to organise the school's defences while Martha and Joan search for the watch.

The Family assault the school with an army of animated scarecrows, but the schoolboys, who have military training, defend themselves against the first wave. When the Family shows John that they have discovered his TARDIS, Joan accepts the truth that John is really the Tenth Doctor. The Family continue their assault while John, Joan and Martha escape to an empty house in the village. They are found by Timothy, who returns the watch to them. Discovering that the Doctor has escaped, the Family begin an aerial bombardment of the village from their hidden ship. Martha and Joan implore John to use the watch to become the Doctor and save everyone. John breaks down in tears, reluctant to give up Joan. The two share a vision, enabled by the fob watch, of what their lives would be like together as humans.

The Doctor makes his way to the Family's ship, tricking the Family into thinking his Time Lord essence is still in the watch. He quietly initiates an overload of the ship's power source, which causes the ship to explode. The Doctor and the Family escape the explosion, but the Doctor captures them and issues each member an eternal punishment. He pushes the mother out of the TARDIS into the event horizon of a collapsing galaxy, wraps the father in unbreakable chains, traps their daughter in every mirror in existence, and suspends their son in time before putting him to work as a scarecrow. The Doctor returns to Joan and offers her a chance to travel with him in the TARDIS, but she refuses. She asks the Doctor whether anyone would have died had he not done so. Timothy bids the Doctor and Martha goodbye and the Doctor gives him the fob watch to keep. Later, during a battle in World War I, Timothy remembers a vision of a bombing and avoids being killed.


A clip of the Doctor confronting the Empress of the Racnoss in "The Runaway Bride" is shown when Latimer opens the fob watch at the school.

In part two of "The End of Time" (2010), while the Doctor was revisiting all of his past companions prior to his regeneration, he visits the granddaughter of Joan who authored a book containing her diary. As she autographed the book for the Doctor, she realizes who he is. The Doctor asks her if Joan was ever happy, to which she responded that she eventually was happy. She then asks, "Were you?".


The costumes of Jeremy Baines and Lucy Cartwright, on display at the Doctor Who Experience.

John Smith's wedding and the Remembrance Day memorial scene were filmed at Llandaff Cathedral.[4] The building used as the school is a private house, the Grade I-listed Treberfydd in Bwlch a few miles south of Brecon.[5]

Other scenes, including the cricket ball stunt and scenes at Cartwrights' cottage were filmed at St Fagans National History Museum, Cardiff.[6]

The Doctor, in the guise of Mr Smith, is convinced that his parents were called Sydney and Verity, the writer's reference to the programme's original creators Verity Lambert and Sydney Newman.[7]

Comparison with the novel[edit]

The novel Human Nature featured the Seventh Doctor and Bernice Summerfield, with their roles replaced on television by the Tenth Doctor and Martha Jones. Key changes from the novel include the fate of the villains, who in the novel are shapeshifters called Aubertides. In the book, the explosion traps them for eternity in their own "temporal shields", although the irony of them now living forever is not commented on. Another alteration to the ending is that the Aubertides have captured Joan, and are holding her hostage for the biodata module. When the Doctor arrives, pretending to be Smith, the module is not empty, but contains the John Smith persona. One of the Aubertides therefore becomes Smith, and betrays the others, sacrificing himself to save Joan.

The scenes with the restored Doctor and Joan are also different; in the novel, the Seventh Doctor admits he cannot love Joan the way John did. The Tenth Doctor believes he is capable of everything John was capable of, although there is a clear difference in his demeanor after he has been restored to a Time Lord. Joan can sense the difference and this is just as distressing for her.

The last scenes of the episode are based on the novel's epilogue, although, in the novel, Tim does not join the army, but saves the life of a character who was destined to die in the War as a member of the Red Cross, and at the memorial service he wears a white poppy. This contrasts sharply with the episode, where Tim's reaction to being told "You don't have to fight" is "I think we do".

Martha's blog for the episode[citation needed] starts "Long ago in an English winter". This was the last sentence of Cornell's first New Adventures novel Timewyrm: Revelation. The last sentence of Human Nature is "Long ago in an English spring", concluding a pattern that continued through Love and War and No Future.


Along with "Human Nature", "The Family of Blood" was nominated for the 2008 Hugo Award for Best Dramatic Presentation, Short Form.[3] David Tennant won the Constellation Award for Best Male Performance in a 2007 Science Fiction Television Episode for his performance in this two-part story.[8]

In 2008, The Daily Telegraph named "Human Nature"/"The Family of Blood" the seventh greatest Doctor Who episode.[9] In 2009, Doctor Who Magazine readers voted it as the sixth best Doctor Who story of all time.[10] Matt Wales of IGN named the two-part story the best episode of Tennant's tenure as the Doctor, describing it as "stunningly produced" and praising Tennant's performance.[11]


  1. ^ "Doctor Who UK airdate announced". News. Dreamwatch. 27 February 2007. Archived from the original on 12 March 2007.
  2. ^ "Doctor Who Magazine". Doctor Who Magazine (386). August 2007.[page needed]
  3. ^ a b "2008 Hugo Nomination List". Denvention 3: The 66th World Science Fiction Convention. World Science Fiction Society. 2008. Archived from the original on 21 December 2008. Retrieved 21 March 2008.
  4. ^ "Walesarts, Llandaff village, Cardiff". BBC. Retrieved 30 May 2010.
  5. ^ "Treberfydd official website". Retrieved 27 August 2010.
  6. ^ "St Fagans Natural History Museum, Cardiff". BBC. Retrieved 30 May 2010.
  7. ^ Shimpach, Shawn (2010). Television in Transition: The Life and Afterlife of the Narrative Action Hero. John Wiley and Sons. p. 204. ISBN 1-4051-8536-8.
  8. ^ "2008 Constellation Awards". Constellation Awards website. 15 July 2008. Retrieved 15 July 2008.
  9. ^ "The 10 greatest episodes of Doctor Who ever". The Daily Telegraph. 2 July 2008. Retrieved 29 April 2012.
  10. ^ Haines, Lester (17 September 2009). "Doctor Who fans name best episode ever". The Register. Retrieved 15 August 2011.
  11. ^ Wales, Matt (5 January 2010). "Top 10 Tennant Doctor Who Stories". IGN. Retrieved 29 April 2012.

External links[edit]