Doctor Doctor Who Guide

We knew this was coming for a while. We had the return of Cassandra and her spiders, the return of the “celebrity historical”… but we were all waiting patiently for this episode. The return of the old friends. I was doubly excited to learn that this episode would take place in a comprehensive school. I can’t tell you how much I’ve wanted to see a Doctor Who story in this setting. It took far too long, if you ask me. And, of course, Anthony Stewart head as the main villain… what more could one ask of a Doctor Who story?

After an excellent opening, we’re straight into the action. The Doctor and Rose are already on the case… a rarity in these modern narratives, but I feel they always work well. The look on Rose’s face all through the school-dinner scene is just priceless. We’re heading into “romp” territory here, with Mickey’s undercover work and the strange demise of a dinner-lady (and “She’s fine… she does that” is my favourite comic line in this series so far). But right on time, we get our dose of drama, when our old friend Sarah Jane Smith walks down the stairs and into the staffroom. When the Doctor looks up and sees her… well, can’t you just see the character behind his eyes? True, David Tennant was starstruck by Lis Sladen’s presence, but in the context of the story, this is the Doctor incredibly happy to see his old friend again. The Time Lord just can’t contain himself when she simply strides up to him and shakes his hand like he’s a stranger… which, as far as she knows, he is. But the Doctor knows better, and he can’t stop beaming. He’s even happier to find out Sarah Jane is investigating again. Some things never change.

That night, the Doctor’s “team” sneaks back into the school, as does our intrepid journalist. First she discovers a hauntingly familiar blue box, then she’s confronted with a very serious-looking Doctor, marvellously wearing his long coat (I guess it makes him more familiar as the Doctor). Once again, I can see every previous incarnation behind his eyes. It’s a disarming feeling. Of course, Sarah’s a smart woman, and he hasn’t completely disarmed her. She wants to know why he left her, and naturally, he skirts around the subject. Well, wouldn’t you? Luckily for our Doctor, they’re soon joined by the rest of the “gang”, and the plot thickens. It’s a very simple plot so far – bat-like aliens have taken over the school for some reason – but it’s clear that the alien plot doesn’t matter too much. We’re here for Sarah. Still, it’s too bad the creatures don’t look more realistic. After last year’s Reapers, and last episode’s wonderful CGI werewolf, I expected The Mill to come up with something slightly less cartoon-like. Oh, well. Like I said, we’re not here for that. It’s the girl we want.

And, of course, the tin dog. Bless the tin dog. Even if we’ve laughed at you for twenty-five years, K9, we’re still happy you’re back. What can I say? We’re fans. We’re hypocritical. John Leeson doesn’t sound like he’s missed a day of filming – let alone a couple of decades. Meanwhile, Mickey is in Smug Mode with Rose. That’s very cute, but I can’t believe how jealous Rose is. Okay, she didn’t realise she was “the latest in a long line”, but the Doctor is over nine centuries old – obviously he’s had a life before her. I far prefer Mickey’s subplot here… yes, he’s the tin dog. And suddenly, I love him for it. Rose has been quite callous towards Mickey, if you think about it. I’m beginning to prefer him to Rose. Yikes.

Finally, we have a scene between the Doctor and Mr Finch. Anthony Head is incredible in this role… he seems so comfortable in the world of Doctor Who, and I do hope the production team find some way to resurrect his character. It’s a crying shame that he was sidelined so much in this story, but being the wonderful actor that he is, he managed to stick in my memory more than any villain in this new version of the programme so far. You can keep your Cassandras, or your Blons, or even your Emperor Daleks. Mr Finch blows them all out of the water.

Aha, so they’re trying to crack the Scasis Paradigm. Very nice name, clever little concept. Again, it’s a shame there’s not more time to explore it. But the image of those children typing furiously away at those terminals (just like I’m doing now, come to think of it) is inspired, disturbing, and very Doctor Who.

Gloriously, it’s Mickey, K9 and the schoolboy Kenny who end up saving the day. I’ve got no complaints that the Doctor wasn’t the one who blew up the Krillitanes – it’s not his style to pull the trigger, is it? K9’s death is such a noble moment, it’s easy to forget he’s a robot. Sarah is obviously distraught – it’s also easy to forget K9 was, above everything else, her dog. The companion’s companion.

It’s difficult for a longtime Whovian not to well up in the final scenes. We want the Doctor to be right – no more goodbyes – but when Sarah begs for a last farewell, we somehow understand. People have to move on, they have to evolve. They have to say goodbye. And that’s okay. We’ll still survive.

Thankfully, though, Sarah doesn’t have to try and survive without her companion. K9 Mark IV is waiting for her, and sounds pleased to see his mistress. And as they walk off into the distance, I reflect on the past forty-five minutes. Was there something about aliens? I distinctly remember Anthony Head’s incredible performance, and it was great to see Kenny taking the credit for blowing up the school, but the rest belonged to Sarah. And that’s exactly how it should be.

Filters: Television Series 2/28 Tenth Doctor