TARDIS Index File

John Smith (Tenth Doctor)

John Smith
John Smith
Species: Human
Place of origin: Farringham, England
Appearances: TV: Human Nature / The Family of Blood
Main actor: David Tennant
Memorable moment
Hearts, dreams and journals - Dr Who - BBC sci-fi03:22

Hearts, dreams and journals - Dr Who - BBC sci-fi

Another memorable moment
The life of John Smith - Doctor Who - Human Nature - Series 3 - BBC04:21

The life of John Smith - Doctor Who - Human Nature - Series 3 - BBC

You may wish to consult John Smith for other, similarly-named pages.

John Smith was a human identity the Tenth Doctor assumed while hiding from the Family of Blood.

Creation edit

When the Family of Blood, armed with a stolen vortex manipulator, came after the Tenth Doctor, he decided that it would be best if he and his companion, Martha Jones, hid for a few months waiting for the Family to exhaust their limited lifespan. Since the Family of Blood could track by scent but never saw his face, he used the Chameleon Arch to change his biology and transform into a human, storing his Time Lord essence in a special fob watch. The TARDIS invented a life story for him, chose a setting and integrated him. This led to the Doctor living life as an ordinary schoolteacher named John Smith in 1913, believing himself to be human and believing his TARDIS created memories to be real.

Biography edit

According to John's memories, he was born circa 1880 to Sydney Smith, a watchmaker, and Verity Smith, a nurse. He was raised in the Radford Parade district of Nottingham, on Broadmarsh Street. The Smith family retained a maid, Martha Jones, who continued to serve John after his parents' deaths.

John received an excellent classical education and became a schoolteacher himself. A talented artist, he studied art in "Gallifrey", which was presumably in Ireland.

In reality, John Smith didn't exist until he took a job in the autumn of 1913 as a history teacher at the Farringham School for Boys, in Farringham, England. Not long after arriving, he began to have vivid dreams: that his maid Martha was in fact a medical student from 2007 and he himself was an adventurer known only as the Doctor. Fascinated by the intensity and strangeness of his dreams, John began to keep a journal he titled A Journal of Impossible Things. In it he recorded the adventures of the alien Doctor that he could remember from his dreams. He illustrated them with rough sketches.

By November of 1913, John had begun telling others about his dreams: first his maid Martha; then the school's nurse, Matron Joan Redfern with whom he found himself falling in love. Though in his mid-30s, John had never before been in a romantic relationship.

During his brief courtship of Joan they went for walks in the village, shared a few kisses and he invited her to a village dance. During this time, his true identity as the Doctor started to peek through. His memories didn't quite add up, and as he got to know Joan and answered her questions about his past, this became more evident. He named Gallifrey as the place where he learned to draw but wasn't quite sure where it was, assuming that it was in Ireland because he grew up there and so it must have been there as well. He saved a woman's life showing extraordinary dexterity and coordination, and tried to pass it off as luck, but the incident drew Joan's further attention and he wasn't able to convince himself or her that it was just luck and not something else. It became increasingly evident to John that, deny it though he would, he was not entirely human. His dreaming-self, the Doctor, was the true self; he was, as he later put it, "just a story".

When the Family of Blood attacked Farringham during the annual dance taking Martha and Joan hostage in an attempt to force the Time Lord inside John Smith out of hiding, John froze leaving Martha to rescue him, Joan, and herself. Escaping to the school, John then raised the alarm in the hope that the school standing together and fighting would be enough to fend off the seemingly alive scarecrows that the Family had raised. Joan stopped him for a moment, asking about his childhood and questioning why he sounded like an encyclopædia and seemed to lack the personal history, the secrets that every person has. Desperate to hold onto himself and his newfound love, John pleaded with her, asking her how she could possibly think that he wasn't real.

When Daughter of Mine posing as Lucy Cartwright, killed the Headmaster, John led the evacuation of the school. The Family then brought out the Doctor's TARDIS which they found in the woods, but in an continued attempt to cling to the only identity he ever knew, John denied ever seeing it before. When Joan reminded him that he had dreamt of it and drew pictures of it, John ran away, unwilling to admit to himself his true identity as the Doctor.

When the Family reigned fireballs down on the village, John eventually accepted that he must become the Doctor again, even though it meant his death. Holding the fob watch, John envisioned a possible future in which he married Joan, had children and grandchildren, grew old and ultimately passed away in old age, secure in the knowledge that everyone he loved was safe. Crying, he opened the fob watch and became the Doctor once more. (TV: Human Nature/The Family of Blood)

Legacy edit

Though the Doctor retained his memories of his time as John Smith, John was for all intents and purposes dead. The Doctor claimed that John Smith was inside him somewhere, that he was capable of "everything that John Smith is and was" and that if one looked him in the eye closely they could see him there. Joan Redfern, however, insisted that John was dead and that the Doctor simply looked like him. (TV: The Family of Blood)

Decades later, Joan's great-granddaughter, Verity Newman published John Smith's A Journal of Impossible Things as a book and told the Doctor that Joan went on to live a happy life. (TV: The End of Time)

Personality edit

John Smith was far more overtly emotional than the Doctor, whose actions often seemed cold or ruthless. The Doctor's personality had hardened from the events of the Last Great Time War. As John, he was cut off from these painful memories. He was aghast at Martha's revelation that the Doctor was indifferent to, or incapable of, romantic love; terrified of Tim Latimer's description of the Doctor's alienness; and, finally, shattered that becoming the Doctor meant that his own life would end.

Joan Redfern held the Doctor in anger and contempt for choosing to come to England in 1913, lamenting that if he had never chosen this place on a whim, "would anyone here have died?" John was, she told the Doctor, braver than him for choosing to die to protect the people he loved, rather than hide away.

John was very much a man of his time, permitting one of his students to give a physical beating to another. He was also occasionally bluntly dismissive of Martha for her skin colour and station. John was also willing to take up weapons, instructing the boys at the school in firearm training and calling the school to arms when the Family of Blood attacked. However, when he raised his gun at the scarecrows, he was unable to actually fire it, hinting that deep down he was more like the Doctor than he appeared to be.

Like the Doctor, John was terribly afraid of losing his identity and considered it a death. The Tenth Doctor would later say about his upcoming regeneration that the change felt like dying. That everything he was died and "some new man [went] sauntering away" in his stead. He would also put off his regeneration for as long as possible in order to say good-bye to his friends, in much the same way that John denied being the Doctor and then held off on changing back for as long as he could. (TV: Human Nature/The Family of Blood, The End of Time)

Skills and abilities edit

Though wholly human, John displayed some skills unusual for a human. He was able to see a woman and her baby in danger of being crushed by a falling piano and throw a cricket ball in order to start a massive chain reaction of events to save them. The ball hit scaffolding so that it fell and hit a plank of wood that sent a brick flying through the air and knocking down a milk churn in front of the woman's pram, stopping her just a moment before the rope hoisting the piano finally gave up and dropped the piano to the ground mere feet in front of the woman. This amazed both Joan and John himself, especially as he was naturally clumsy, once falling down a flight of stairs when startled. This momentary appearance of quick-thinking and quick, sure-footed movement, was implied to be his Time Lord instincts seeping through when he saw someone in imminent danger. (TV: Human Nature)

Behind the scenes edit

  • Smith's parents Sydney and Verity were references to Sydney Newman and Verity Lambert, both essential to the making of Doctor Who. The name Verity was later used for Joan Redfern's great grand-daughter Verity Newman in TV: The End of Time
  • In his video diary (released with the Series 3 DVD set), David Tennant remarked that the makeup used to make him look elderly (in the "alternate future" sequence) made him look uncannily like his real-life father.
  • Radio Times credits David Tennant as "John Smith" for Human Nature, and as "The Doctor" for The Family of Blood. On-screen credits read "The Doctor/Smith" for Human Nature, and "The Doctor" for The Family of Blood.