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The Family of Blood

The Family of Blood was the ninth episode of the third series of Doctor Who. It featured the Doctor’s return from his human persona John Smith to his original Time Lord identity. The episode also showed the extent of the Doctor’s ruthlessness when pushed to extremes.


As the Family holds Martha Jones and Joan Redfern captive, John Smith is helplessly bewildered by their demands. Tim Latimer briefly opens the watch containing the Doctor’s essence, confusing the Family with the Doctor’s scent. This allows Martha to grab a gun from Mother of Mine, take her hostage and point the gun at Son of Mine, who points his gun at Martha. The Family members unwillingly retro-doctor-who-reviews-vol-106-L-2SxQRPlower their weapons and Martha tells Smith to evacuate the building. After everyone has left, an animated scarecrow grabs Martha and retrieves the gun. She escapes and runs outside, where she finds Smith and leads him away. The watch still tells Latimer to keep it hidden.

Smith, Joan, and Martha race back to the school, where Smith sounds the alarm. Father of Mine investigates Martha’s past movements while the rest of the Family return to the school. They send Sister of Mine to spy on the school’s inhabitants.

Inside the school, Martha pleads with Smith about having the students fight, but Smith says that they are trained to defend King and Country. Headmaster Rocastle enters, angry at first, but approving Smith’s actions after hearing that Jeremy Baines (Son of Mine) and Clark (Father of Mine) have gone insane and are chasing them and people have been murdered. The headmaster and Smith arm the boys and prepare for battle. Unable to stop them, Martha races to Smith’s room to search for the watch, followed by Joan. Joan slowly comes to accept the origins of Martha and the Doctor. Latimer hides away with the watch.

Rocastle and Phillips go outside to assess the situation. Son of Mine demands John Smith be handed over along with his Time Lord consciousness. He mocks Rocastle for teaching children to fight in the war that is coming. Rocastle states his devotion to King and Country. Son of Mine vaporizes Phillips. Rocastle runs back into the school, where Smith and he resume battle preparations. They order the boys to set up barricades and a line of machine guns to repel the Family. Son of Mine summons his scarecrow “soldiers”. Father of Mine finds the TARDIS. Joan asks Smith about his Nottingham childhood, noting that his knowledge is confined to facts. “How can you think I’m not real?” he protests. She says that whoever he is, he knows it is wrong to have the boys fight.

Sister of Mine finds Latimer, who beams the Time Lord consciousness out of the watch, striking her with an image of the Doctor at his most merciless. This betrays his position and the Family send their scarecrow army to bring out the watch. This army’s first line is machine-gunned, but Smith finds himself unable to fire. Sister of Mine appears and Rocastle thinks she is merely a girl and should be brought in for her own safety, despite warnings from Martha, Joan and Smith. Sister of Mine kills Rocastle. Smith orders the boys to make an orderly retreat, but the Family and their scarecrows chase them and line them up to look for the watch. Finding that none of them have it, they are about to massacre the boys when Latimer sends a beam from the watch on an upper floor. This distracts them and the boys get away. Latimer escapes out a window.

The Family bring the TARDIS to the school, and taunt Smith, who is watching from the adjoining woods, to come to them. Smith denies having seen the TARDIS before, but Joan recognizes it as the blue box in his journal. Seeing this latest evidence of the Doctor’s existence, Smith pleads desperately to remain himself. The Family return to their ship and use their alien technology to bombard the village to hasten Smith’s surrender.

“I want to be John Smith.”

Smith, Joan and Martha retreat to the Cartwrights’ empty cottage; Joan has deduced that Sister of Mine killed her human host’s parents earlier in the day. Latimer arrives soon after, watch in hand. He says he has seen the Doctor. He calls him fearsome and wonderful. After Smith takes the closed watch, it causes him to speak in the Doctor’s voice for a moment, explaining Latimer’s telepathic abilities as due to “an extra synaptic engram”. Smith is horrified. Martha tries to convince Smith to open the watch and change back, saying that she loves the Doctor to bits and he is needed. Smith sees the transformation back to the Doctor as his own suicide.

Latimer and Martha leave Joan and Smith alone. Smith has an agonized discussion with Joan. Both see a vision of how Smith will live out his life if he remains human: marrying Joan, having children, becoming a grandfather and dying at home in bed with Joan at his side. Joan remains ambivalent, having discovered from Smith’s journal the awful consequences of the Family gaining what they seek.

John Smith appears at the Family’s ship and stumbles into things as he yields the watch in return for the Family stopping the bombardment (and, apparently, to preserve his human identity). When they open the watch in triumph, they find it empty. Smith has changed back into the Doctor, misdirected their senses so as to seem human and in falling around, pushed buttons which make the machine overheat and destroy itself.

The Family and the Doctor escape, but Son of Mine narrates the fate of the Family afterward. He realizes the Doctor made himself human out of kindness to the Family; the Doctor would have preferred that they die peacefully. After all the death they caused, however, he deals out the ultimate punishments to them. They wanted to become immortal by absorbing a Time Lord and then conquer across time and space. The Doctor grants this wish in other ways: he traps Father of Mine in chains forged at the heart of a dwarf star, Mother of Mine in tumblr_lp4n7ahl7z1qgg7r0the event horizon of a collapsing galaxy and Sister of Mine in every mirror in existence. The Doctor visits her once a year, every year. Finally, the Doctor suspends Son of Mine in time, and dresses him as a scarecrow to watch over the fields of England as its protector.

The Doctor visits Joan, who is certain that Smith is dead. The Doctor says Smith still exists within him; he is capable of everything that Smith was. He invites her to travel with him, but Joan refuses to go with the stranger who wears her dead lover’s face. Instead she accuses him of causing the deaths around the school, and sends him away. She watches him leave and starts to cry, clutching Smith’s journal to her chest.

The Doctor returns to the TARDIS, where Martha awaits him. She brushes off her earlier confession as an act of desperation, which he seems to accept. He thanks her for looking after him and they hug.

Latimer appears to see the Doctor and Martha off. He states that he now “knows what he must do” and is given the now-empty watch by the Doctor. He watches the TARDIS leave.

Latimer later saves Hutchinson and himself on the Western Front, based on his premonition in the previous episode. In the future, when an elderly Latimer attends an Armistice Day commemoration, still holding the watch, the Doctor and Martha observe from a distance, wearing poppies. They silently acknowledge each other as the service continues.


The Tenth Doctor
Martha Jones