Human Nature

And the Time Lord was made flesh and lived amongst us!

I think that this must be the first time that a published Doctor Who novel has been adapted into a story for television rather than the other way around. For this reason alone, therefore, Paul Cornell’s Human Nature has become a little piece of Doctor Who history. In any case the novel, on which this story is based, is considered by many to be one of the best of the Virgin New Adventures Doctor Who novels. So, did this adaptation work?

The Virgin New Adventures have spawned a whole generation of writers like Cornell and the ‘New’ series of Doctor Who, it seems me, has stronger roots in those novels (and the subsequent BBC books series) than in the original classic TV series. The ‘feel’ of many of the new series episodes is very reminiscent of those novels. Therefore the transition from novel to screen was relatively seamless.

With the Doctor now become John Smith, Cornell is able to take liberties with the character in his script that would be unconvincing (and possibly unacceptable) otherwise. This adds a vulnerability and depth to John Smith that he shares with all the human characters. The Doctor shares our sins and our suffering. With the spectre of the First World War just over the horizon, I couldn’t help but feel that even the two public school bullies were included in this. If only they had had a better upbringing.

The characters in the story worked so well that, in a way, it was a shame to bring the aliens into it. Human beings, Cornell reminds us, have an ability to create enough pain and misery for themselves without the aid of outside agencies. That said, the appearance of those shambling Scarecrows will surely give youngsters nightmares and have them scurrying back behind sofa. They are classic New Adventure bogeymen.

Paul Cornell himself has stated (on Doctor Who Confidential) that the main idea within the story, that of the Doctor actually transmuting into mere human ‘John Smith’ is one that occurs again and again in human culture, from Superman II to Jesus Christ. Perhaps, then, he has tapped into a fundamental human archetype and added a dimension to the Doctor Who mythos?

This could well become one of the best stories of the new series, the fact that the ideas in it have been tried and tested in a novel beforehand can only have helped it.

written by Peter Grehan 



2 comments


    The Administrator

    May 27, 2007

    Like to comment on this posting? Please email mbrake@glam.ac.uk so your comment can be moderated.

    Thanks.

    Frank Sable

    May 27, 2007

    There was one mark of respect to the creators of the classic TV series when ??????John Smith?????? named his fictional parents as Sydney and Verity, after the parents of Doctor Who in our world. These were the then Head of Drama, Sydney Newman, and the first producer, Verity Lambert. That was a nice touch I thought.

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