School Reunion

I’m crying. I’ve just watched an episode of Doctor Who where the Doctor and Sarah Jane investigated strange goings on at a comprehensive school, aided by robot dog K9. There were a couple of younger companions fleeting about, a heroic, if over-weight school boy who was skipping classes and a blonde girl who seemed familiar and another guy. I’ve just watched K9 save the day!

I’ve just watched the Doctor say “goodbye” to Sarah Jane Smith.

School Reunion was the Doctor’s Father’s Day. We’ve suspected for some time now that the Doctor has strong feelings for Rose, and while I always suspected he was very fond of Sarah Jane Smith back in the 1970s, now we know for sure. It’s interesting that Elisabeth Sladen’s departure from the show was front page news in 1976 – while not as big a name as Billie Piper is now to the tabloid Press, her importance to the series at that time was obvious, so much so that the Doctor was companionless in the story following her surely PMT-induced departure.

Russell T Davies and Phil Collinson pulled off a master-stroke coaxing Ms. Sladen back for a final appearance in Doctor Who in a story that while flimsy on plot was certainly strong on character and emotion and featured winged alien creatures engulfing children. There’s the Father’s Day similarity again…

David Tennant, just a wee laddee when Sarah Jane Smith complained of wanting to have her hair done, seemed once more to take it all in his stride and truly convince that he isn’t some skinny tall Scot playing a body-changing Time Lord with a London accent who used to be played by some other blokes, BUT that he is a skinny tall Time Lord called the Doctor who used to have curly long hair, a scarf and a wonderful best friend called Sarah Jane. The moments between the Doctor and Sarah, and Sarah’s moments with the TARDIS, were some of the best of the show’s new incarnation. We were given life, love, death and the eternal quest for godliness in a show about a man who used to have a robot dog. Brilliant!

Other than a bit of Powell Estate attitude, we didn’t get much of Rose Tyler for the second week running. But then surely her story is mostly told? Welcome, then, finally to the TARDIS Mr. Mickey Smith. And about time too. He’s certainly overdue, and I’m looking forward to seeing exactly how he copes over the next few weeks with trips to pre-revolution France and parallel Earth…

So the reintroduction for one week only of classic companions Sarah Jane and K9 – who never appeared together with the Doctor – was bound to attract cries of derision from those wanting to avoid steeping the show in ladles of soupy continuity. Fortunately Toby Whithouse’s script hit the mark. References to the Loch Ness Monster during Sarah Jane and Rose’s “little chat”, and the moment when Sarah revealed that the Doctor had overshot South Croydon by a few miles to leave her in Aberdeen were short of gratuitous, and rather funny. And they didn’t intrude on the younger/newer audiences’ enjoyment either.

If there is anything wrong with School Reunion it is the woeful under-use of the superb Anthony Head. His Headmaster character, Mr Hector Finch was truly chilling right down to the measured manner in which he walked, talked and picked bones form his teeth after lunch. We should have seen so much more of him and the Krillitane and their lack of real characterisation was sadly due to nothing more than the timeslot. I find myself agreeing with those – Anthony Dry included – who are beginning to find that the 45 minute slot is just too short. This story, as well as Tooth and Claw, are in desperate need of a minimum of 60 minutes…

John Leeson’s voicing of K9 was a joy, particularly his repeated observation to Mickey looking for some way to get into the locked school that “We are in a car.” There were a couple of things that could have been taken out of context to contradict established continuity, but on the whole the script and the acting made School Reunion a pleasure to watch.

Lots of nice moments, good performances and plenty of emotion and nostalgia win the day against flimsy plotting and insufficient time. Oh and the David Tennant’s Doctor seems to be noticeable more watchable when someone who isn’t called Russell T Davies gets a chance to write for him. Told you so.

Anthony Dry’s two penneth…

Well that was a pleasant episode wasn’t it? I was welling up near the end of what was a very nice piece of tv. I was not over enamoured with the alien side of the story itself – it was a good setting with a solid cast (including Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink as one of the alien teachers, no wonder he’s been missing for the Boro this season) but again I have to question the format as again the story goes so fast, it could have done with more of a sinister build up of strange goings on at the school, instead we were treated as if most of the beginning had been played out already with the Doctor taking up a teaching role and Sarah Jane Smith investigating.

Oh Sarah Jane Smith.

It was a breath of fresh air seeing SJS back and K-9 thrown in for good measure. I’ve heard people moan about continuity in Doctor Who, but I’m all for it. The show has such a rich and diverse history, from time to time we should be reminded of it, and boy where we reminded of it. Elisabeth Sladen looked fantastic and so did K-9, and I have to say they made the story count in a big way, their involvement made an average story line bigger and better. The running theme of the episode was really about the Doctor and his past relationships and we see it come to the fore here, theres lovely dialogue between the Doctor and SJS, her feelings for him, his feelings for her, how she has had to deal with her loss of him and of course the jealousy of Rose towards her. Its a lovely piece of closure and really makes you believe that David Tennant’s Doctor is the same man who was played by Tom Baker or Jon Pertwee all those years ago.

So a big thumbs up to Elisabeth for her contribution here its as if she never left, I also have to say how much I enjoyed K-9, voiced impeccably by John Leeson, a choice bit of casting!

Which brings me to a few points before close. Anthony Head ‘s Mr Finch proved to be a match for Tennant and the Doctor and was wonderfully sinister, if under used. Again I go back to the 45 minute format, and good characters like Finch lose out, there’s simply not enough screen time for them to stamp their authority.

So all in all a very memorable and quite sad episode. It’s an episode about moving on, about caring and sharing. It affects us all in our day to day lives, we know things wont last, the good times won’t always roll and that’s what we get here; the last chance to enjoy what we had with someone and to make the best with it and remember fondly and not dwell

It certainly struck a chord with me.


Christian Cawley

About

A long-term Doctor Who fan, Christian grew up watching the show and has early memories of the Graham Williams era. His favourite stories are Inferno, The Seeds of Doom and Human Nature (although The Empty Child, Blink and Utopia all come close). When he’s not bossing around the news team, Christian is a freelance writer specialising in mobile technology and domestic computing, and enjoys classic rock, cooking and spending time in the countryside with his wife and young children. You can find him on Twitter, Facebook and Google+.


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