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The Family of Blood was the ninth episode of series 3 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.

His time as the human John Smith, and comparing his returning to his Time Lord persona as a form of suicide would have a profound lasting effect on the Tenth Doctor and how he would view the regeneration process in the same way, with this mindset causing him to go so far as to abort a regeneration in order to keep his current body and to not answer the call of Ood Sigma when it came time for his eventual regeneration, opting to prolong the meeting until the time came.

Daughter of Mine's eventual fate would later be addressed in The Shadow in the Mirror.


It's 1913, and war comes to England a year early as the terrifying Family hunt for the Tenth Doctor.


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 doesn't take her seriously and remarks on her fire. Martha snarls "And you can shut up!", punctuating the warning with a shot through the roof. Son of Mine doubts that she'd have the gall to shoot him, but she points out that a scared person with a gun is quite dangerous. The Family members unwillingly lower their weapons and Martha tells Smith to evacuate the building.

After everyone has left, Martha releases Mother of Mine but keeps her weapon poised to shoot 'Sonny-boy' if they try anything. Advancing on her, Son and Mother of Mine remark on her bravery and how Mother of Mine should have taken her form instead. Martha asks about Jenny's fate and Mother of Mine sadistically reveals her last moments; the possession kills the host in the process, unfortunately. Taking advantage, 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, which will make them see war as less glorious than they were led to believe. Rocastle states his devotion to King and Country. Son of Mine vaporises 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, then taunts the boys, none of whom are willing to kill a girl. 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 has 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 recognises 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.

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 after they realised she was not their child. Latimer arrives soon after knocking on the door (scarecrows don't knock), 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. Smith asks why she let Joan and him be in a relationship if she knew it would have to end. Martha explains the list of warnings the Doctor left her, but falling in love wasn't included, devastating Smith at the Doctor's ignorance to love. Martha tells him that people are dying out there and she says that she loves the Doctor to bits and he is needed. Smith sees the transformation back to the Doctor as his own suicide.

Smith and Redfern view a possible future together.

Latimer and Martha leave Joan and Smith alone. Smith has an agonised 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 and how they will spread despair, destruction and death across the universe.

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. Before leaving, he offers them one word of advice: Run! They quickly oblige and are able to make it out before the ship explodes.

The Family and the Doctor escape, but Son of Mine narrates the fate of the Family afterwards. He finally realised why this man who had fought gods and monsters had fled from a much less threatening enemy like them: it was a kindness. The Doctor would have preferred that they die peacefully. After all the death they caused, however, instead of showing them mercy he unleashes his wrath and deals out the ultimate punishments to them. As the Family's desire was to become immortal, he chooses to grant this wish but in other ways: Father of Mine is wrapped in unbreakable chains forged at the heart of a dwarf star, and imprisoned in an underground chamber; Mother of Mine is sent plunging into the event horizon of a collapsing galaxy, where she will be imprisoned forever; and Sister of Mine is trapped in every mirror in existence, where 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 their 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 reminds him that had he not chosen to hide then everyone who the Family murdered would still be alive, 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, using a wheelchair, 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.


Uncredited cast[]


General production staff

Script department

Camera and lighting department

Art department

Costume department

Make-up and prosthetics



General post-production staff

Special and visual effects


Not every person who worked on this adventure was credited. The absence of a credit for a position doesn't necessarily mean the job wasn't required. The information above is based solely on observations of the actual end credits of the episodes as broadcast, and does not relay information from IMDB or other sources.


Story notes[]

  • Smith's A Journal of Impossible Things was created by artist Kellyanne Walker, based on text provided by (writer) Paul Cornell. Kellyanne's brief was to reflect the fact that Smith wasn't an excellent artist — and that these were images and thoughts from his dreams that he had rushed down on paper before he forgot them.
  • Joan Redfern was the third character in the revived series to decline an invitation to travel with the Tenth Doctor, after Sarah Jane Smith and Donna Noble. Donna would ultimately travel with the Doctor in series 4.
  • Russell T Davies once stated in an interview for the Doctor Who Magazine[which?] his belief that this two-parter was too dark for the programme's audience.
  • Radio Times and the on-screen credits bill David Tennant only as "The Doctor". For Human Nature, Tennant was credited as "John Smith" in Radio Times and as "The Doctor/Smith" on-screen.
  • When Hutchinson calls Latimer a "filthy coward", Latimer responds by saying, "Oh, yes, sir! Every time!" This is a reference to The Parting of the Ways. It is revealed in the Doctor Who Confidential for these two episodes that they wanted to make Latimer a bit Doctor-ish in his character, so they included this as a nod to that quality of his.
  • When Joan asks the Doctor if he can change back, the dialogue matches the Children in Need Special.
  • In the original script, the narration of the Family's respective fates at the hands of the Doctor was originally given to Sister of Mine (who has the least amount of dialogue in the episode out of the four), ending with her punishment of being trapped in the reflections of every mirror. In the episode proper, this role is given to Son of Mine, presumably due to his more central role in the story and ensuring a smoother transition between the Doctor leaving him frozen as a scarecrow and returning to Martha and the TARDIS.
  • Fourteen days of rain caused difficulty for the production of the episode.
  • Consideration was given to attempting the story entirely without the use of computer effects, but this was ultimately abandoned.
  • The role of Phillips was offered to Nicholas Briggs but he passed because it was too small.
  • David Tennant suffered from voice problems.
  • The destruction of the Family of Blood's spaceship emulates the Yautja's suicide bombing demise from 1987 science-fiction/horror/thriller movie Predator, including the noises increasing in pitch as the explosion approaches.


  • 6.6 million (overnight)
  • 7.21 million (UK final)[2]
  • 0.76 million (repeat on BBC 3)

Filming locations[]

  • St Fagans in Cardiff

Production errors[]

If you'd like to talk about narrative problems with this story — like plot holes and things that seem to contradict other stories — please go to this episode's discontinuity discussion.
  • When Phillips is disintegrated, it pauses for a second and then he fully dies.
  • As the scarecrows advance on the school to do battle, the scene cuts to Sister of Mine, looking out of a school window and there is clearly heavy rainfall outside. However, when the scene cuts back to the advancing scarecrows, it is a clear night.
  • When Sister of Mine comes through the school's gate after the first attack by the scarecrow soldiers, while the Headmaster is talking to her, her balloon changes position multiple times, including changing which hand is holding the balloon, held close behind her on the right, stretched farther out on the left, etc.


DVD releases[]

  • This episode was released with Human Nature and Blink on the Series 3 Volume 3 DVD.
  • It is also part of the series 3 DVD box set.

External links[]