Paul Cornell and I have been friends for around twelve or thirteen years now, and while I haven't read everything he's ever written - and am quite fond of both his current Wisdom comic book from Marvel and his truly excellent science fiction novel British Summertime, (A book so good it made me vomit on an airplane. Long story, see for yourself when it comes out in the US from Monkeybrain Books), to date my favorite fiction he's ever written is an old Virgin Books Doctor Who tie-in novel called Human Nature, out of print now, but available from the BBC as a free ebook. In it, for reasons I won't spoil, the Doctor decides to become human and not only alters his DNA but his memory as well, such that he had no concept of things non-terrestrial. It's a bit of a temporal Last Temptation or a Superman II and maybe you can guess where it goes from there, but it's sheer brilliance and recounting the ending to friends has never failed to elicit a tear from me, even here a decade later.
Now, Paul has written more Doctor Who novels than I can count, as well as quite a few spin-off books, audio books, etc... But apart from Doctor Who, he's also written comic books (2000AD among them), and has written for several UK television shows - Coronation Street and the new Robin Hood among them. He's even had his own series, Wavelength, on the telly. Pretty much universally regarded as the best of the Doctor Who novel scribes and with years of television experience, in an act of cosmic justice so rare in television Paul was indeed tapped to write for the new series. His first outing gave us "Father's Day," the very touching episode in which Rose went back in time and met her deceased father. Good, certainly. One of the better episodes, yes, with good moments for the actors, but it didn't unseat the best of the new season. But the last two weeks on the BBC saw a two-parter, "Human Nature" and "The Family of Blood," and as you might guess, this was the long-anticipated (by me) adaptation to the small screen of my favorite Who novel ever. So, was it any good?
Now, Paul knows that I'm not closed lipped when I don't like something, so hopefully he - and you - will believe me when I say this: Not only is it the best story to arise from the new series to date, but it just might be the best episode of Britain's number one television show in the entire five decade history of the series. It might just be tied with Steve Moffat's "The Empty Child/the Doctor Dances" (and Moffat's "The Girl in the Fireplace" makes any top three list), but if it's tied then it's neck-and-neck and I'm not sure but what Cornell isn't pulling ahead. I'll of have to watch it again to be sure! I've already watched part one twice and gone back to other bits. I think they're going to be talking about this one for a long, long time. Certainly, this is my vote for Best Dramatic Presentation Short Form in next year's Hugo awards. Watch it, vote for it, buy the DVD when it comes out in your region. It's rare when you get perfect television and this one is a real gift.
After years of teasing him about everything I can think of, I am suddenly in awe of my friend. So before I let that get in the way, here is a picture of Paul, his wonderful wife, and David Tennat (the reigning Doctor) that I unapologetically nicked from his blog: