Doctor Doctor Who Guide

Expectations were high, perhaps unrealistically so. The return of Sarah Jane Smith, the Doctor's companion when I first watched (and in fact my earliest memory of television) and K9 were always in danger of overshadowing the story. Especially in the one episode format. After first viewing I am unsure what to think.

The story centres around a school which has experienced massive improvements in behvaiour and exam results since a mysterious new headmaster took over. Curiously, the area around the school has been subject to UFO activity, and it transpires that Mickey has called Rose and the Doctor to investigate. Somehow the Doctor has become a new physics teacher and Rose a dinner lady.

Also on the scene is journalist (and 70's Doctor Who companion) Sarah Jane Smith. At this point the story splits into two. We learn that Sarah never really got on with her life after the Doctor was called back to Gallifrey. She stayed behind, waiting for him to return. Initially Sarah is angry, things not helped by a strained relationship with the 'new model', Rose.

During the adventure, Rose and Sarah eventually bond and work together. Rose realises for the first time the implications of the Doctor's likely lifespan, that he's had many companions before and will have more after herself. We also see K9, who is given his usual stop-start role in the adventure.

Back to the story! The Doctor, Sarah, Rose and Mickey all investigate the school after hours. We already know that there is something strange about the oil used to cook the chips for school meals. Mickey finds a store cupbard full of vacuum packed rats which makes for a good comedy moment but is never explained. The four eventually locate the teachers apparently sleeping in the headmaster's office, hanging like bats.

Then the story begins to race, pacing was perhaps not so strong in this episode. The following day the students are all sat at computers apparently learning...or are they?

It transpires the alien teachers are a race that has ambitions to crack a code that will set them up as gods, rulers of the galaxy. The headmaster offers the Doctor the chance to join them, in effect creating a new race not unlike the Time Lords. Thankfully, partially persuaded by Sarah, the Doctor refuses eventually destroying the aliens with their own cooking oil - which Rose earlier noticed causes them to be burned.

I really enjoyed seeing Sarah and K9 again. they worked well as part of the story and were not out of place. Pacing was the problem, if Tooth & Claw might have benefitted somewhat from being longer, then School Reunion definately should have been. The Doctor's moral dilemma, where clearly he is considering joining in with the aliens, could have been presented so much more dramatically.

The bulk of the time is spent examining how Sarah has been affected by her past travels with the Doctor, both positively and negatively and with the implications for Rose. This doesn't leave enough space for what seems like a worthy story to be fleshed out properly.

It was good to see that all four companions (yes, even Mickey and K9!) had a part in saving the day, as well as the Doctor who actually worked out the solution. At the story's conclusion both Mickey and Sarah are given the opportunity to stay on board the Tardis. Sarah declines, Mickey accepts, and tellingly we see that perhaps Rose isn't so thrilled at the two parts of her life being combined.

All in all a lot happened in those 45 minutes. I am tempted to say too much, and to give School Reunion 6.5 out of 10. In saying this I hope it doesn't discourage RTD and Co from reintroducing old characters from time to time.

A word for Tony Head, who was superb as the headmaster. Casting of one-off characters thus far this year has been excellent.

Filters: Television Series 2/28 Tenth Doctor