Note: This was going to be feedback to Traveling the Vortex for their review of "Human Nature" and "The Family of Blood" in their most recent podcast. However, a mix of real life being terribly busy and the fact that this review got away from me, it made more sense to rewrite it as a blog post and put it here.
First, my video tribute to "Human Nature" and "The Family of Blood" -
This two-parter is my hands-down favorite of Series 3. I know "Blink" usually gets the "HOLY CRAP THIS IS AWESOME!!!" nod, but for story and character development, this Paul Cornell-penned piece does it for me.
The very first time I saw it, I hated this story. And I mean HATED it. In television, there are certain things you just do NOT do - you do NOT tell Jack Bauer to leave a terrorist situation in the hands of ineffectual bureaucrats, you do NOT call the lawyers out on Gil Grissom, you do NOT take Sheldon Cooper's spot on the couch and you do NOT turn the Doctor into this sniveling little weepy-mess of a pencil-necked teacher who just wants to get married and have 2.5 children with a dog and white picket fence. He's the blankety-blanking DOCTOR, for crying out loud! He's awesome - he travels in time and space, he saves planets and fights monsters and has the most amazing adventures and the best freaking life in the UNIVERSE! Why in the name of Rassilon would he want to give that up for the 9-5 life? (and any minute now, that TARDIS is going to land on my doorstep and that marvelous Time Lord is going to ask me to travel with him and I'm going to jump at the chance. No, seriously, I have my bags packed and ready to go).
Initially, that was my rant at this story. Because, even at that early stage of my entrance into Who-dom, the Doctor was my hero. And you don't want your heroes to be fallible. Because if your heroes are fallible, what hope is there for the rest of us?
(Wasn't I precious back then?)
Soon after I watched this, I was on a road trip somewhere, but this conundrum was boiling in my brain. All the while, my iPod was on shuffle and "Ordinary" by Train popped up (I love Train, in case you didn't know). And the lyrics hit the boiling pot of fledgling Whovian thoughts and it all made sense to me - the Doctor knows that he is not a normal person (even by Gallifreyan standards). He does some pretty amazing things and the universe is better for it. But deep down, there is a part of him that is John Smith that wants to have the normal peaceful life and get away from all the space fights and stuff.
But would he be happy there?
Back in high school, we read The Odyssey - that's the one with Odysseus spending ten years to get home after being away to war for ten years. To make a long story short (and to completely spoil it for you all), Odysseus gets home to his wife and son and all seems well. However, in my 9th grade English class someone wrote a poem that dealt with the aftermath of all of Odysseus' travels and showed him settling down to normal life. The idea of this poem was that Odysseus longed for the travels and the danger and the adventures - he wasn't happy being back in Ithaca with the wife and kids.
I wonder if that's how the Doctor is - he can't ever be a normal person, even within his own society because he is always going to be remarkable. It's the way he is - whether by choice or fate or whatever you want to call it - he is the Doctor.
Don't misunderstand me - I certainly don't see this as a negative thing. Far from it, actually. I've always seen the Doctor as a very hopeful figure. Somebody that we all could aspire to be like. Someone who doesn't get pulled down by the drudgery of regular life and just makes life wonderful. Sure, he's caught some flack for being the violent type (see the ending of "A Good Man Goes to War," for example), but for every enemy he's defeated and for every army that's turned tail at the mention of his name - there is a companion or a friend that he believes is the most important person in the universe. Throughout the Doctor's travels, there's always someone to care about. And he finds those people by fighting evil and standing up for the good side.
Call me mushy and sentimental, but that's someone to admire. Sure, the Doctor's probably missed out on some seemingly-vital life experiences, but what he got instead was probably worth more to him in the long run than any normal family life. He's found his niche and this is what he does and it's wonderful. Not just to him, but to everyone around him.
That's what I ended up taking away from this two-parter. This conclusion, coupled with the Doctor's beautiful line at the end of "Vincent and the Doctor," makes Doctor Who more than a silly little sci-fi show. Maybe I'm reading a lot into this stuff (and maybe no one else gets what I'm trying to say through all this rambling), but this is what works and it means so much to me.