It's always harder to praise an episode than to criticise it. This review is therefore likely to be quite short.
Five weeks ago I called Daleks In Manhattan the best episode since The Doctor Dances. I stand by that, even if it reflects as much on the state of series two as it does the episode itself. But tonight and episode came along that made it look like utter crap. In fact, not only does it equal The Empty Child, but it gives it a run for its money.
Shallow runarounds are fine in small doses but we've just had two in a row, so a thoughtful and stately episode like Human Nature was exactly the kind of thing I was in the mood for; in fact, I was enjoying the characters so much that I was almost disappointed when the aliens turned up. Paul Cornell has always been known for being politically aware. This isn't always to his credit (Scream Of The Shalka, anyone?) but here it means that he tackles racism and class prejudice utterly fearlessly, something oddly lacking in the Depression-set Dalek two-parter. Great stuff. It even had the Doctor falling in love – properly this time. This has always been a controversial topic, but I always said my problem with it would be how badly it would inevitably be handled; this was very well handled.
That journal of the Doctor's was a truly beautiful piece of production design – I would have liked just one original series reference in there somewhere though, even if just a little one. (I did enjoy the “Sydney and Verity” bit though – as close to Doctor Who's literal parents as you can get). Were there pictures of the Doctor's previous incarnations in there though? Hard to be be sure.
I could sit and analyse this quite happily, but this isn't the place for that. I don't like committing myself to things based on a first part, so I don't want to mention plot and characters yet (although both were fine, and well acted); the only thing that was a slight disappointment were the scarecrows, which suffered from the inbuilt flaw of looking like people dressed up.
But apart from that Human Nature was mature, intelligent and exactly what I want from Doctor Who.