30 Apr 2006School Reunion, by Alan McDonald
30 Apr 2006School Reunion, by Douglas Edward Lambert
30 Apr 2006School Reunion, by Jeff Hare
30 Apr 2006School Reunion, by Richard Walter
30 Apr 2006School Reunion, by Paul Regan
30 Apr 2006School Reunion, by Michael Bentley
30 Apr 2006School Reunion, by Billy Higgins
30 Apr 2006School Reunion, by Angus Gulliver
30 Apr 2006School Reunion, by James McLean
30 Apr 2006School Reunion, by Mike Eveleigh
30 Apr 2006School Reunion, by Jason Wilson
30 Apr 2006School Reunion, by Tom Miller
30 Apr 2006School Reunion, by John Byatt
30 Apr 2006School Reunion, by Joe Ford
30 Apr 2006School Reunion, by Simon James Fox
30 Apr 2006School Reunion, by Steve Ferry
30 Apr 2006School Reunion, by Jennifer Kirkland
30 Apr 2006School Reunion, by James Griffiths
30 Apr 2006School Reunion, by Paul Greaves
30 Apr 2006School Reunion, by A.D. Morrison
30 Apr 2006School Reunion, by Robin Dal Pozzo McVay
30 Apr 2006School Reunion, by Steve Manfred
30 Apr 2006School Reunion, by Matt Parrott
30 Apr 2006School Reunion, by Paul McCormick
30 Apr 2006School Reunion, by Greg Shanley
30 Apr 2006School Reunion, by James Winstanley
30 Apr 2006School Reunion, by Robin Calvert
30 Apr 2006School Reunion, by James Tricker
30 Apr 2006School Reunion, by Paul Clarke
30 Apr 2006School Reunion, by Paul Hayes
30 Apr 2006School Reunion, by Geoff Wessel
30 Apr 2006School Reunion, by Robert F.W. Smith
30 Apr 2006School Reunion, by Michelle Nicol
30 Apr 2006School Reunion, by Shane Anderson
30 Apr 2006School Reunion, by Ed Martin
30 Apr 2006School Reunion, by Alex Gibbs
30 Apr 2006School Reunion, by Adam Kintopf
30 Apr 2006School Reunion, by Andy Keast-Marriott
30 Apr 2006School Reunion, by Eddy Wolverson

Now this is a tough one to review. I've just spoken to a friend who said he thought it was 'okay, but last week's was better'. He only came aboard for the new series, however.

'School Reunion' works on two very different levels. For new fans it's a nice piece set in a creepy school replete with aliens, a sinister headmaster, a talking robot dog and an old friend of the Doctor's who makes Rose think about where her relationship with him is going.

For those of us who have loved the show longer, it's all about Sarah Jane.

This is the kind of story which should have been done years ago - just what happens to a companion when the Doctor moves on. Sarah was a perfect choice because she was one of the few who didn't choose to leave. In many respects, she was the closest thing we had to a Rose before Rose came along.

Toby Whithouse's script is a masterclass in how to do several things at once within a short timeframe. We have the action, the sinister monsters, the character exchanges and too many standout scenes to count. Everything featuring the Doctor and Sarah is massively watchable, but other pieces like the Doctor and Finch's battle-of-words across the swimming pool and Finch's offer of everythung the Doctor could want are both wonderful.

After feeling a little unsure after New Earth I'm feeling once again the Saturday night joy I rediscovered last spring. This really is the best thing on TV right now and it's lovely to be able to say that about a show that I've cherished since I was very young, following the Doctor and Tegan, Peri and Ace (yes, I know I left out Mel - do you blame me?), and reliving the past adventures of the Doctor and a girl called Sarah Jane.

Next week, Steven Moffat returns to scripting duties (hurrah!) and we have Mickey along for the ride. Clockwork robots, spaceships, time portals ... with so many ideas, it's entirely possible a future Doctor twenty years from now could be bumping into a middle-aged, blonde woman called Rose, introducing her to his latest companion ...

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There are some episodes that really, really excite and this was one of them. It had so many things going for it. The return of Sarah-Jane and K9 and Anthony Stewart-Head guest starring. And it all came together so, so well.

Bringing back Sarah-Jane and K9 has to be the best decision made by the produces so far. It was just so great to see the pair back on our screens and to have Sarah being such a strong individual. She was slightly bitter about the Doctor just dumping her, and who can blame her, but she had returned to what she was good at, journalism. And more than that she was doing what the Doctor was, hunting out the strange. And it was funny to find out that the Doctor had dumped her in Aberdeen, nowhere near Croydon.

The story was well written, excellently acted, had a right amount of humour and scares in it. The computer scenes reminded me of Dark Season, a Russell T.Davies sci-fi thing from the early 90’s. I think it is very hard to fault this episode really. There was nothing wrong with it, it came together brilliantly. Lis Sladen and Billie Piper played the jealously between the two characters extremely well and their argument scene, throwing the different monsters they’d encountered at each other, was brilliant. It’s such an interesting scenario though, companions meeting their counterparts. It’s happen so rarely and when it has it hasn’t been explored very well, has it? You had Tegan and Sarah meeting but that was all pleasant and nice, same with Peri and Jamie. Here you had the bitchy jealously and protectiveness and it worked well. Anthony Head created a truly chilling enemy and was just superb in the role, it was a match made in heaven.

There was plenty of continuity references for fans of the original series which is nice because the new series has a tendency to avoid it as much as possible. Another Torchwood mention, is it this season’s Bad Wolf? Maybe it won’t be as confusing in is resolution as the whole Bad Wolf was.

The ending had me nearly in tears with Sarah and the Doctor parting once more and then K9 coming back. It was a nice sentimental ending to a fab episode but they can’;t leave it there. This episode proved that there’s still plenty of mileage left in the Sarah-Jane character and given the right scripts Lis Sladen can do wonders with the character. Lis was brilliant here and lets hope it means we’ll be seeing K9 and Sarah-Jane meet up with the Doctor again.

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‘The Doctor meets Sarah-Jane Smith and K9 again’ When I first heard this simple premise regards I thought “Oh God! They did really well with the last series and now they are going to try to top it by going overboard…It’ll be a nightmare” I am DELIGHTED to say I was wrong!!!

Regards the actual story – the Dr and company beat Aliens who are using children in a school as mini computers blah, blah, blah – it’s unimportant because this adventure is about relationships; The Dr and Sarah-Jane, The Dr and Rose & Rose and Sarah-Jane. Not since last year’s ‘Father’s Day’ will you get a more emotional episode. I consider myself a regular beer guzzling, football loving bloke and yet I will freely admit to shedding a tear when the Doctor and Sarah-Jane said goodbye…and then shedding another tear when the TARDIS dematerialised and you saw Sarah-Jane’s ‘present’.

I wont ruin the story for those who have yet to see it, but I will merely tell you that for all the episodes that brought back old characters to face the new Doctor which lacked emotional impact and were humdrum, this is the episode to counteract them all!

The episode continues the new series’ ability to add humour to the series (Mickey realises he’s ‘the tin dog’, the teacher’s sleeping in the school, K9’s one-liners and Anthony head’s glorious turn as the Headmaster), but this story had everything and also explains the Doctor’s reasons for not re-visiting old companions – and it’s a good un!

My favourite creatures were always the Cybermen (I am possibly the only Who fan who hates Daleks) and I was a bit concerned about how they would be portrayed in the series future episodes, but if they show Cybermen the respect and class they have shown to the Doctor’s old-companions, I have nothing to worry about.

After being disappointed with New Earth & Tooth and Claw, this has renewed my faith in the series; Sarah-Jane’s face on seeing the TARDIS, meeting the Doctor again once she realises who he is and the final five emotional minutes of the episode are definite highpoints for all Dr Who fans!! Bring on the Cybermen!

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This had to be the most eagerly awaited story of this season - even ahead of the return of the Cybermen. The only time in the history of Doctor Who that the Doctor has had the chance to properly say goodbye to a former companion. Let's look at the other aspects of the story first. The plot - well there had to be a reason for the reunion but for once the story takes second best to the character dialogue. It's a reasonable story, good aliens and special effects but nothing particularly new or clever. Anthony Head puts in the type of excellent performance you would expect and is a good foyle for DT's Doctor. Rose and Mickey do much to question their relationships with the Doctor and to ponder on their futures with him and of course the scenes between Rose and Sarah Jane Smith are what you would expect - mistrust, jealousy and grudging respect. Nice to see K9 back too even though his scenes were faiirly restricted - interesting that not only did he manage to get himself out of Sarah's car but he closed his own inspection panel too!!

But of course the main reason for this story was to reunite the Doctor with one of his best loved companions ever - journalist Sarah Jane Smith. Who cannot be amazed at how gorgeous Lis Sladen is - wow she is looking as good if not better than she did in the Pertwee and Baker years!! Her performance was absolutely first class and the continuity so well handled - particularly her remarks about the Tardis interior!!! For those doubting fans out there can there not at last be absolute proof that this new Doctor Who show is firmly established with the original???

And David Tennant excelled too - not quite sure what to do when he met Sarah after all the years - unable, at first, to explain why he "abandoned her" - we now find out it was indeed not East Croyden (as Sarah suspected at the end of the Hand of Fear) but Aberdeen!! The closing scenes showed just how much the Doctor really cared for Sarah - and Sarah in turn was able to accept his goodbye this time round - at last she (and her new K9) can start a proper life minus the Time Lord. However, even having gained some of Rose's respect, this is nearly blown when she supports Mickey's decision to join the Tardis crew!!

I suspect there were many tears shed in the closing scenes - this story equalled last season's "Father's Day" in the emotional stakes. What a corker of an episode that not only bridged the old and new Doctor Who but saw the reintroduction of a former colleague in a very clever and totally appropriate way.

Each episode of the new series adds further dimensions to the show and makes one wanting more. Well done all concerned for an extremely enjoyable 45 minutes!!!

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Okay. I almost shed a manly tear; that was a beautiful and moving episode, with great bits of humour and drama added to the mix. Considering the episode was hyped mainly for the reunion between SJS and the Doctor, the villains and their motivations was brilliantly explored. And for anyone who really still doubts DT as the Doctor, just three words: The Pool Scene. The Doctor was at his best here; playful, powerful and quite prepared to tell an arrogant alien where to stick it. Even though ASH played it perfectly in that scene, the Doctor was actually more terrifying, especially when he said he used to have "so much mercy". You really are left with the impression that this is still as scarred a character as the Ninth Doctor was.

We also get more of an in-depth explanation as to why the Doctor really doesn't like to say goodbye to his travelling companions, why he tries not to form too much of an attachment to them. The loneliness and solitary nature of the Time Lord has been mentioned in passing before, but here it became a focus of the story, and David Tennant rose to the challenge. He seemed close to tears when he talked about how everyone around him would wither and die; interestingly, this is something he seems to be trying to break in his relationship with Rose. Equally interesting is the glimmer of dissatisfaction Rose seemed to hint at in her life with the Doctor, especially with Mickey joining the TARDIS crew.

And that ending..

Wow. I mean, wow. Perfectly played by David Tennant and Elisabeth Sladen, we get the Doctor finally saying goodbye to one of the show's most beloved companions, which allowed Sarah to move on with her life. With a robot dog in tow..

Yes, K9 was a great addition to the story, and the scenes with Mickey realising he was the human equivalent of a tin dog were brilliantly done.

Have to say, I'm somewhat less than impressed with Billie Piper for some reason. Maybe it was the way Rose and SJS spent a lot of their time sniping at each other; funny at first, but then slightly irritating. There's a part of me wishing that Sarah Jane had joined the Doctor. Or perhaps that's just nostalgia speaking!

Anthony Head was wonderfully creepy as the Headmaster (not the Master!), and his scene with David Tennant crackled with energy. It's a real shame that he probably won't be in the series again. If the role of the real Master were ever to crop up, he would have to be considered!

The CGI effects were not quite as good as Tooth and Claw's werewolf (what could be?), but they were still well done, aside from the slightly dodgy scene with Anthony Head on the roof opposite the cafe. Still, that's just one tiny complaint in what was a wonderful episode.The Krillitanes themselves were imaginatively designed (beating Star Trek's numerous bumpy headed aliens every time), with a clichéd idea given an interesting twist. Okay, they wanted to take over the universe, but using school children to solve an equation to give them control over time and space? Certainly different! Perhaps some of the plot didn't really make sense (why exactly did the school explode? Um, using earth school children to take over the universe?!), but who cares? It was fun!!

Amazing, moving, with a great story, imaginative alien creatures, a genuine sense of threat, and of course, the return of Sarah Jane Smith, School Reunion continues the superb run of Doctor Who 2006.

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Goodbye my Sarah Jane Smith – wow, what an emotional rollercoaster Toby Whitehouse has given us. The quality of each episode just seems to get better in this season two. This episode for me is definitely a real winner though due to some old element’s I loved growing up with Sarah Jane Smith and K9. When I knew that Elizabeth Sladen and John Leeson were returning I felt that Russell had something special lined up and boy did he deliver.

The credit for writing such a good script has to go to Toby Whitehouse. The opening was pure evil eating the child as they have no parents not to be missed. This element of putting it on a child’s level, a setting in a school with stuff that kids can identify with is sure to have had them chilled tonight. The great thing about new who is there really is something in it for the adults to and that’s in the emotion behind the monsters and the incredible acting. I really like the imaginative stuff to, Russell is right you don’t have to do the guts and gore to get the story over and this is well worked in 3 parts in this story with the right effect every time.

Another good pre credits opener, Rose and the Doctor already being in the school for 2 days accelerates the script and moves the action on quickly. Then enter Sarah reporting on the school for the Times or so she says. The first meeting with the Doctor was enchanting as the Doctor has the recognition but Sarah is oblivious commenting on I knew a John Smith before acquainting herself with the teachers.

The Doctor allows Sarah to walk away, why we wonder? The Doctor is then properly reunited when he and Rose and Mickey investigate the school at night at the same time that Sarah decides to. A point to note is Mickey involvement im still not 100% sure on the character but I am still hesitant to judge. I feel from an adult perspective he isn’t necessary but from a children’s I can see that he is valuable to the show and dynamics. So everyone hears creaks in the school spooky, Sarah runs from the headmaster’s office to find the Tardis great moment, and then Sarah slowly comes face to face with the Doctor. This exchange of dialogue is played just right without slowing things down and then moving the action on. The chemistry that Liz had with John and Tom is the same with David it shows how true Liz is to the character as she displays the right emotions for Sarah all the way through the episode.

So Rose meets Sarah and the jealously starts, this is well played by Billie as always, her progression through this season is great to and Billie is on top form again in this episode. The friction and reality of the Sarah situation is fast and truthful and again is what the adults will be enjoying. Sarah then introduces K9 into the proceedings, visually just the same which was great to see. John gives a good solid performance as K9. There is only one flaw in the script when K9 is left in the car that smashes the window only to somehow jump out and save the day questionable but only noticed on repeated watching which for many of the millions of viewers this won’t happen.

Then we come to Mr Finch played by Anthony Stewart wow what a performance. The subtle but excellent delivery of the pool scene was so enthralling and David really gets to shine here. This is an excellent showdown which underlines the cost of what is going on and how this doctor is different now and makes different decisions. David is really showing his acting strengths and giving us a fabulous doctor. I have to say that I prefer him to Chris as he so eccentric and I prefer this portrayal the many facial expressions the changing in voice pattern and speed at the delivery of dialogue. This is not to take away anything from Chris who delivered a human Doctor that was so full of life, but I hope we get to keep David for more than one season.

Again the visual effects department have worked hard at creating a great monster in fact one of the best we have seen so far and the transformations were fantastic so much better than the slitheen. The climax of the story was great too emotional with us losing K9 as self sacrifice which was just awesome a real sobbing moment. The reaction of Sarah was enough to carry this emotion until the end. So then the finale scene and what a glorious summers day and what a lovely setting. Sarah comes into the Tardis and exchanges words with Rose, stay with him he’s worth the heartache and look me up if you need me when he has left your life, just wonderful. Mickey joins the gang, im as enthusiastic as Rose at the moment im hoping this will change. Then im back to where I began the goodbye to Sarah, A real crying moment for me this emotional punch is fantastic and what as a fan makes me so proud to be a Dr Who fan I just love this show.

One final note I just want to congratulate Elizabeth Sladen for a wonderful character portrayal of Sarah. Liz looks amazing and it was a fitting end on screen for one of the most loved companions, thank you Russell for bringing Sarah back another stroke of genius.

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Sifting through the line-up for Series 2 before it began, two stories stood out for me as likely high spots – the impending Cybermen two-parter and School Reunion, and I was really excited about seeing both. The problem with such great expectations – in my experience anyway – is that the event itself rarely lives up to the anticipation. However, there are always exceptions and, I’m happy to report, School Reunion was one great exception!

There were so many memorable moments crammed into 45 minutes, it’s difficult to know where to start. How about the beginning, that’s a very good place to start . . .

As I noted in a previous review, “New Who” (for want of a better expression) doesn’t mess around with foreplay – and, in School Reunion, this was never better illustrated. Before the opening titles have rolled, we find ourselves in a school, have encountered a wonderfully-malevolent headteacher played by Anthony Head, of whom more superlatives – though I won’t have nearly enough – later. Plus we’ve witnessed a schoolgirl meeting with an audibly-horrible end. And a bespectacled Doctor already on the scene as a teacher.

Another promising start, and the episode built on that encouraging opening. Rose’s appearance as a reluctant dinnerlady (Billie Piper does “sulky” particularly well!) and the suggestion that there were strange goings-on in the school (and in the chips) would certainly have grabbed any floating viewers’ attention.

And then there was a trio of reunions in the school (incidentally, although this was an obvious episode title, it was no less a brilliant one). Mickey Smith was back – OK, he’d only been away for a couple of episodes, so we’d barely had time to miss him. But it had been considerably longer away for Miss Sarah Jane Smith and K9 – although you’d never have guessed, so smoothly did they fit into their roles.

Sarah’s story – of what happens to a companion post-TARDIS – was a fascinating subtext to the main tale of schoolkids being cultivated by a shape-shifting alien race for lunch – and for control of Creation! With a new “dream team” of Doctor, K9, Mickey, Rose and Sarah, there was no doubt they were going to be a match for the Krillitanes and, of course, they were. There was something in the chips – the oil – and that, together with a sacrificial robot dog, made it another successful episode for the good guys!

So that was School Reunion in a nutshell – but just why was it so good?

Firstly, the setting. Perhaps because the very first episode of the original series in 1963 began in a school, the series is synonymous with the classroom? Whatever, it all tied into the theme of reunions – and it just “felt” so right.

As did the return of Sarah Jane Smith. She may have “got old”, but nothing like 30 years older – Lis Sladen still looks terrific, those wide eyes and trademark lip quiver which are SO Sarah Jane were still there, and the script contained everything fans could have hoped for – and more.

The tension between Sarah and Rose (La Piper does jealousy really well, as we saw in Boom Town and The Parting Of The Ways) is something which wouldn’t have been expanded upon too much in years gone by, but this sort of emotional byplay is an important ingredient of 21st-century Doctor Who.

“The missus and the ex” were essentially fighting over who loved The Doctor – and who The Doctor loved – more. Their “my monsters were bigger than your monsters” scene was superb, but it was pleasing that they found common ground by the end, and wouldn’t it have been fun if Sarah had stayed aboard the TARDIS?

The scenes between Sarah and The Doctor were Father’s Day-esque in their intensity. Sarah’s bitterness at being so unceremoniously dumped was evident – and it was nice to see David Tennant run through a range of emotions, including his desperate loneliness, which linked him to his predecessor more than in previous episodes.

There may have been a pedantic continuity issue with the old series – Sarah did meet several Doctors in The Five Doctors and did, in theory, get a chance to vent her emotions then. But I prefer to explain that away by suggesting that her memory of that adventure was wiped when she was returned to her time stream. Russell T Davies obviously likes his continuity, though – Sarah’s line about “the spaceship flying overhead at Christmas” was a nice touch.

And, this time, Sarah did get her “closure” at the end of the episode – a really emotional goodbye and hug - and a new, shiny, pet robot dog!

It was fun to see K9 again, too – complete with rust, which was an amusing twist, as was Rose and Mickey’s dismissal of him as rather low-tech. He does seem rather low-tech compared to the The Mill’s creations – what would they have made of K9 from scratch? - but he did save the Universe, so there! And, of course, it was no great shock that The Doctor was able to produce a Mark 4 (albeit very quickly!).

Great as everyone else in the cast was, maybe just top of the class was Anthony Head as Mr Finch. If there is such a thing as quiet malevolence, he delivered it superbly. A wonderful two-hander between Finch and The Doctor over the swimming pool was a high-scoring draw between the two protagonists. Perhaps the most-terrifying thing about Finch wasn’t so much that he had designs on shaping the Universe in his image, it was that he would nonchalantly eat you for lunch afterwards!

The Krillitanes themselves were Reaper-like in appearance, but equally effective. Obviously, they couldn’t be shown to be devouring small children – but the clear inference was enough to earn them a high fear-factor rating. Yet another visual-effects triumph.

And then there was Mickey Smith. A character who has grown enormously in stature since his introduction in Rose. Then, he was basically a one-dimensional wimp who was little more than a bit-part player – now, after improving steadily throughout last season, we have a rounded character full of humour and plenty of depth. If not quite an all-action superhero in his own right, Mickey’s certainly a welcome addition to the TARDIS crew. It’s an added dimension which can only increase the fun . . .

Noel Clarke actually had the pick of the one-liners here, which was quite an achievement in a sparkling script peppered with sharp, witty dialogue (as one might expect of Toby Whithouse, the principal writer of the excellent No Angels) and he delivered them with aplomb.

The gleeful observation to The Doctor about “the missus and the ex” is likely to go down in Doctor Who folklore, but his witty aside to Rose about “watching the chips” when comparing her to Sarah was a laugh-out-loud moment. Mickey’s realisation that “I’m the tin dog” also brought a hearty chuckle.

And who’d have thought it would be The Doctor rather than Rose who was the happier to have Mickey join the crew? Another nice twist. After meeting Sarah, Rose now has extra insecurities about what her relationship with The Doctor is, and this can only make for more tensions as the series progresses.

Great story, wonderful script (what a Doctor Who debut from Whitehouse), terrific performances from the cast, stunning visual effects and, for me, the best score Murray Gold has delivered – I often wish background music was just that, rather than an in-yer-ears full operatic performance. However, the music here just accentuated the script perfectly.

Series 2 may have started slowly with New Earth, but it gathered pace with Tooth and Claw, and is now into full stride with School Reunion. Hard to believe it gets much better than this, but what a treat if it does.

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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.

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School Reunion is the episode every fan has been waiting for. The fans have sat back patiently (well, as patiently as any fan can sit) while the story of the Doctor has slowly unfolded for the new viewers, and now we have an episode which very much indulges the old school in a slice of nostalgia. If you thought the Daleks were a whiff of Doctor Who’s past glory, then prepare for a full blown taste of retro sensations!

Sarah Jane Smith, the fan favourite companion of yesterday returns along with possibly the oddest TARDIS traveller the Doctor has ever had: K-9. Yes the robot dog is back and this time, he’s actually rather good.

They story premise is fairly simple: While investigating one of Mickey’s UFO sightings at a nearby school, the Doctor and Rose encounter a malevolent Headteacher, bats aplenty and a lady who will bring emotional turmoil to the Doctor and his current companion.

The episode starts with a child being eaten. Even on modern television, this is a rare sight and makes for a good opener. The story is a little reminiscent of Virgin’s New Adventures; in so far as we are dropped right into the centre of the story - in this case, with the Doctor already at the school and teaching a class. This certainly makes for a refreshing and intriguing opener.

Anthony Steward Head is wonderful as the Headmaster, Mr Finch. Fondly remembered for his slightly eccentric school Librarian in “Buffy The Vampire Slayer”, Head returns to education with an entirely wicked persona. If anyone should play The Master in Doctor Who, it should be Head. His presence is commanding and an asset to the story, particularly a tale already dominated by the show’s guest stars.

This story works in everyone’s favour, especially Tennant. Both “New Earth” and “Tooth And Claw” demanded the Doctor’s role to be slightly less central, simple for the requirements of both stories. This is very much the Doctor’s tale, both in the emotive drama and the action based plot. Tennant rolls off a wonderful performance as a school teacher, moving onto a spellbinding reunion with Sarah Jane and then an implosive encounter with the Head. The scene with Head and Tennant working a stand-off at the school swimming pool is a gravity-well of tension. The two actors play off each other so well in this scene.

The script has some lovely touches and to know surprise, much of the strength of episode comes from it’s script. The reunion with Sarah Jane is written with the perfect balance of word to action, indeed the very essence of any great scene. The writer knows when to insert dialogue and when to simply let the actions speak for themselves. The scene is written with just enough bite that the moment becomes touching rather than saccharine.

Where School Reunion truly excels is in it’s examination of the Doctor and his companions. Just how do these exciting journeys in time affect the TARDIS crew and more importantly, what’s left when they part company?

It seems fitting Sarah Jane is the companion to ask these question since she was indeed kicked out of the TARDIS and back into reality. Where do you go when you come back from a trip of a lifetime? This is a theme never explored in Doctor Who although it was briefly touched upon by Rose in “Parting Of The Ways”.

This inability to reintegrate into society has always been a problem for those who have lived in unusual and often deadly circumstances. Those who return from war suffer similar disassociation; no one else can understand or appreciate the journey one has taken and with no real connection to that life, one is left feeling stranded. How many companions of the Doctor may suffer from such disassociation? It’s a chilling thought.

The other question posed is why the Doctor doesn’t go back to his old companions? His answer is a rationale one and delivered by Tennant with such conviction. What man wants to watch his friends die?

The tension and jealousy between Sarah Jane and Rose is an interesting one. Certainly “School Reunion” brings out a side of Sarah Jane we’ve not seen before. Again it makes one wonder how many other companions are caught so firmly by the Doctor’s charisma? How many have been so overwhelmed by his character and actions that no one else dare compare? There is an interesting beat between Rose and the Doctor in “School Reunion” which does show how Rose’s feelings are very entrenched in human love while the Doctor’s are not. She thinks there is “something” there which he doesn’t seem to connect with. The question of how Rose views her relationship with the Doctor still isn’t really clear, or if Sarah Jane’s was or is the same. This ambiguity seems to suit the dynamic. The Doctor is literally out of this world, so perhaps that means any close friendship with the Doctor takes on a dynamic different to any other male/female bond.

Piper and Sladen have some excellent chemistry, in fact the whole cast shines. Mickey’s request to join the crew in the last moments is very welcome, which if we compare the reaction to his existence in “Aliens Of London” last year, we can see the character and audience’s empathy for Mickey has come away.

So that leaves us with our and every man’s best friend: K-9. His role was a little less intrusive than I expected - especially as Doctor Who has a very child orientated mandate. I - for the first time since I myself was a child - loved his presence here. It’s not overstated, he isn’t silly and his role plays relevance to the plot and the emotional drama. Mickey and Rose’s reaction to this odd machine serves as a perfect bridge for new viewers and I wouldn’t mind seeing the mutt again.

With a lovely musical score, some very solid cast direction and a great pace, this is an awesome episode.

Down points? All episodes have them. Mr Finch’s Krillitane hoard were rather too reminiscent of the Reapers from “Father’s Day” and that did take a lot away from their presence. Their head shape was a little too comic caricature and seemed more fitting in comic book than a TV show - certainly didn’t make them feel very real or scary. Nevertheless, the actual animation and fusion between film and CG was good enough not to really question their existence. The only other dodgy effect in the whole show was the open TARDIS at the end. The interior console backdrop, looked like just that, a backdrop. You could even see the floor space before the hanging image. Perhaps this patchy bit of prop work was intended to add to the nostalgia factor.

Other than that, the story worked, the characters worked and the show.. worked. I can honestly say this is one school reunion all the fans will want to be a part of.

Episode 4? Come on, I challenge you to top this.

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Thoughtful. Intelligent. Touching. Fun.

I must admit I wasn't sure what I'd make of an episode with a 'Demon Headmaster'-type scenario that was to reintroduce two iconic characters from the programme's past. Well, thanks to an excellent script and cast and crew on top form, I think we were treated to another superb piece of television.

We start with the Headmaster, Mr Finch (an absolutely *barnstorming* performance fro the great Anthony Head) getting, um, tucked into the part immediately and then we cut to the new supply teacher. Yep, the Doctor's on the case and smilingly addresses the children with the wonderfully apt "Are we sitting comfortably?" Cue credits; and we begin...

And I'll begin with the Doctor. Ever since his casting was announced, I thought David Tennant had the potential to be one of the great Doctors, and nothing I have seen so far has disuaded me. I thought he was quite brilliant throughout this episode, showing a wide range of characteristics, including the funny (his supply teacher routine; "Correctamundo!") the dramatic (eyeball to eyeball with Mr Finch) the joyous ("K9!!!") the touching (pretty much every scene with Sarah-Jane) and the positively heart-rending (the chance to resurrect the timelords dangled before him; the sublime "...wither and then die" speech where he is unable to use the word "love") I could go on, but'll engage 'understatement' mode;

I was rather impressed by Mr Tennant.

How good was Elisabeth Sladen? Sarah-Jane pretty much exactly how I'd imagined her to be...I'd expect nothing less from this actress, but it was still a lovely performance; and her relationship with Rose was very believable and played so well. I've sensed a bit of a Billie Piper backlash brewing in certain circles; not here. Rose is still learning and these 45-minutes saw quite a steep learning curve. Jealousy, bitchiness, vulnerability, sulkiness...we're seeing some of Roses less attractive traits, yeah, but they're pulled off with aplomb by Ms Piper. The danger that the Doctor and Rose's relationship was gonna start to grate in its potential smugness? Blown out of the water! (especially now Mickey is aboard) Intriguing, and further proof that this programme is being produced by very smart cookies.

Noel Clarke gave a fine comic performance, nailing some plum lines/ moments...the line "Oh my god...I'm the tin dog!" being a laugh out loud moment. He might scream occasionally (causing another bit of "rude" from the Doctor) but the character is brave when required and fully deserves his place on board as a bona fide companian.

The 'tin dog' himself? Very well utillised and and another nostalgaic treat for us more, er, 'chronologically challenged'! Mind, I think he'll be a hit with the kids this time around too.

So...a success. Enough plot to keep one interested, whilst really being at heart a fantastic 'character' piece.

The last scene was *glorious*, and I really liked Murray Gold's score throughout; using motifs from 'Song for Ten' (the song from Christmas that I thought was the Beach Boys! Still, that's a compliment coming from me) to great effect. And some of the lead guitar lines took me back to 'Mawdryn Undead'; another story set in a school with sinister staff, a male companian joining at the end and a be-trainered (Sic!) , young looking and marvellous Doctor!!

How I 'mark' a story can change once I've seen a whole season, but today this gets a resounding 9 from me. up an episode from the writer of last year's masterpiece, then here come the Cybermen. Happy days.

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So, after a patchy start and a much better number two, how was part three? Mixed. We get an alien plot and some emotive companion stuff. Taking those aspects apart from each other. . . . . . .

Nice alien set up in a sinister school. Lovely touch to have the Doctor and Rose already installed and investigating, the sight of Mr Tennant as a physics teacher made that pre-credits teaser for me. The Krillitanes are a well thought out race- here's hoping we see them again sometime. I loved the idea that they absorbed physical attributes from conquered races. They were also further supplemented by Anthony Head's superb star villain turn- if ever RTD or (if things go on) his successor ever bring back the Master, give Mr Head the role- that or the eleventh Doctor. . . . This said, I wasn't altogether convinced by the theoretical algorithm that the Krillitanes were using children to crack. This may be because, unlike LOGOPOLIS, there wasn't time for the concept to breathe, or it may be because there seemed to be a lack of technology to bring the theory into the physical realm. The use of children's imagination for evil is always strong horror material because abuse of children always is, but it was more impacting in REMEMBRANCE OF THE DALEKS. However, the scene at the culmination of this where the Doctor is given the chance to remake history was powerful given all that we learned last season.

The opening scene with Head's headmaster inviting a child into his office to be eaten was a bit silly, despited Head's restrained performance. This was more than compensated for, however, by the impact of later scenes. The bats swarming the corridors, and hanging upside down in the office, were supremely effective. I loved K9's battle with them, and his little farewell scene with the Doctor, but of his self sacrifice I would say this: these 45 minute one parters are getting far too handy at using self sacrifices to advance or resolve the plots. Jabe in END OF THE WORLD, Gwyneth in UNQUIET DEAD, Roses' Dad in FATHER'S DAY (admittedly more in context) half the cast in TOOTH AND CLAW. And now K9. Ok, K9 was remade, but even so, mark III was sacrificed, and sacrifice gets formulaic if we see it too often.

Moving on, the plot generally wound up well. The role played by a small plump boy who then becomes a hero by blowing up the school was nice, a typical touch of RTD's influence- bringing in incidental charcter into a central place where they grow, and making the kind of kid who usually gets picked on a hero. And there wasn't too much running around in the middle taking the place of explanation this time- unlike episode two, everything set-up wise did make full sense and was explained as much as it needed to be. I would just have liked the algorithm bit to be a bit more plausible by having a bit more science given to give it life.

And onto Sarah Jane. Great to see her again - unless I missed something, this flies in the face of books like BULLET TIME which feature her by making this her first adventure since HAND OF FEAR barring the timescooped FIVE DOCTORS. This proves only the TV series is canon- maybe one day the TV show might tell us what happened to Ace so the dreadful Virgin books version of her can be blown out. Understandable that she might resent him never coming back for her, understandable she might resent Rose. Rose's position was kind of understandable too though it isn't really very plausible that neither of knew that there had been, and would be after them, other companions. With this in mind Sarah's crack about the Doctor's assistants getting younger as he gets older didn't work, and their missus-and-ex bitch fighting was tedious. Yes, I can accept that each of them found it hard to relinquish their special place with the Doctor to others, but as I've said they must have known there were others, especially Sarah. Understandable tension didn't have to manifest itself as sexual jealousy and it really didn't work. It could have been dealt with quicker and the time used elsewhere. This said, the Doctor's "curse of the time lords" reason as to why he leaves people behind was magical (though most companions left him , not the other way round!) and the way Sarah was used to demonstrate the aftermath of travelling in the TARDIS and then having to find normality again was deeply poignant.

Altogether, though, a fun and enjoyable story- as I've said, some of the companion stuff rankled and the code that the children were cracking needed more meat on its bones to be plausible, but overall the episode had a good effect. When stories turn on things like the use of the children however, aspects like the said algorithm do need to be allowed to make sense. No amount of emotional realism injected into things replaces solid plots.

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This was an episode always destined to please the fans of the original series of Doctor Who and especially, of course, those who remembered the characters of Sarah Jane Smith and K9 with fondness.

The emotional centre of the story was that of the relationship between the Doctor and his two companions, the old and the new. And this was carried out extremely well, with all three actors excelling in their roles. The jealousy between Rose and Sarah was a little too immediate and obvious for me, but that is a minor niggle that may simply reflect the 45-minute episode format that is too short on time for more nuanced development. The scenes between Mr. Tennant and Ms. Sladen were the emotional highlights for sure - well, and the return of a K9 Mark IV at the very end!

It surprises me that so many reviews of this episode thus far have been quite so high in praise, however. A reviewer can only be expected to state their own personal view, but as one who was not around when Tom Baker was the Doctor, it strikes me that nostalgia has been allowed to compensate for an average plot. For the majority of viewers out there, the return of old characters is likely to be treated with indifference - Sarah Jane Smith is no more exciting as a one-off character than the Mox of Balhoon, and slightly less so than the enigmatic Face of Boe. I certainly do not begrudge longstanding fans an episode such as this - but I would disagree that this was superior to 'Tooth and Claw', and I think that the majority of the 8 million BBC viewers would concur even if the majority of readers of Outpost Gallifrey would not. It is just something to consider before being too harsh on Russell T. Davies on some of his stories: he tends to delegate the more interesting, adult stories to others, burdening himself with those that have to appeal to the widest audience.

Anyhow, back to 'School Reunion'!

The plot was reasonable, with good build-up. I liked the Krillitanes, although the idea of adding the biological and technological distinctiveness of other species to one's own has already been done somewhat by Star Trek's Borg. As has occasionally been the case with the new Who, the evil plan is a little generic and far-fetched - universe domination by breaking some secret enigma-like code we've never heard of before? I am not overwhelmed. For a 'good' episode, I am always happy to ignore such irksome details, but I do think that such flaws prevent an episode from being 'great'.

To conclude: good acting; a good central theme on emotions, relationships, and the character of the Doctor; an interesting alien; some witty dialogue and a reasonable plot. I thoroughly enjoyed this episode, just not as much as last week.

Oh, and to finish, Mr. Head did not disappoint at the Headmaster - excellent, excellent, job.

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School Reunion was everything it promised to be and more. This was emotion on the scale of "Father's Day", a beautifully written episode, exploring the dynamics of what happens to the Doctor's companions after they have left. Sarah Jane was a perfect ex-companion with whom to explore this, as she was one of the most popular with fans, most dear to the Doctor, and one of the few who left the Tardis unwillingly, being unceremoniously shovelled out by Tom Bakers Doctor after he was called to his home world.

The Doctor looked absolutely cockahoop upon seeing Sarah Jane, and it was interesting and emotional to see Rose's reaction to the revelation that a time might come when the Doctor might have to leave her behind, to get on with normal life. The bitching between Rose and Sarah Jane about who had seen the biggest/greatest/most dangerous monsters and robots e.t.c. was hilarious, and probably totally what you could expect in a relationship triangle. The story could well have turned out to be a necessary add on, but in fact was a well thought out plot really. Anthony Stewart Head played the Headmaster quite convincingly, and I couldn't help thinking that if the "Master" was ever to return that Head would be brilliant for the role.

The Krilitanes were quite convincing, if slightly comicbook, but that is quite ok, ‘cos this is Doctor Who, and in Doctor Who anything is possible.

K9 is a character I have never known much about, as I stopped watching Doctor Who years ago when K9 was first introduced, thinking it to be a rather silly concept. However, I eat my words, because K9 here was so great, that I was shedding tears for him at the sacrifice scene in the school, in the same way that I did when Rose thought the Doctor had been eaten by the reapers in Father's Day; or the same way that I felt sorry for the dalek in Van-Statten's underground bunker last year. The effect of K9s demise on Sarah Jane was really heart tugging stuff.

The scenes inside and outside the Tardis at the end were sublime, the reaction of Sarah Jane on the "redecorated" Tardis, the conversation between Sarah Jane and Rose, the request that Mickey made to join the crew in order that he should cease to be their "tin dog", and the farewell hug at the end.

Then, as the Tardis dematerialises, a surprie for Sarah Jane, a perfect farewell present from the Doctor in the shape of a rebuilt - or mark four - K9. Oh and the kids were great too, especially Kenny, who became an unlikely hero to all his schoolmates for "blowing up the school". 10 out of 10.

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And I thought I loved Sarah Jane already…

I need to get something of my chest, something I have been meaning to say for a long time. Elisabeth Sladen, I love you! It isn’t just her beautiful, definitive portrayal of Sarah Jane Smith but it is the woman herself. Have you heard her in interviews, she has a genuine love for the programme, a need to see her character treated with respect, someone who has a lot of time for the fans and their weird obsessions. Frankly, the only ever convention I went to was with Lis Sladen because I wanted to give her a hug. She deserved a place in the new series, just because of who she is and what she means to the fans of the programme. And by golly she’s beautiful, even after all these years.

School Reunion was another brilliantly packed episode of the series full of scenes of tension and menace, some great laughs and real emotional depth. Doctor Who had better watch out, it is giving most other television programmes a bad name! It was gorgeously put together by James Hawkes and featured another excellent score by the ever improving and dynamic Murray Gold.

Lets face it the Krillanite plot didn’t have a chance. And it’s good, its real good but (as usual) deserving of extra screen time but compared to the love story between the Doctor, Rose and Sarah it pales in comparison. I loved the idea of the Krillanites invading other worlds and taking the best of the people they conquer and absorbing it into their genetic make up, that’s a really nasty yet entirely original idea. And their plans for universal dominance is the sort of grandiose scheme we haven’t seen since the good old days of Doctor Who. Using kids’ souls as a part of a universal code breaker is obscene and yet hugely imaginative and the domestic setting sells the horror of the situation magnificently. Scenes of endless rows of kids staring at funky graphics on a screen should be utterly monotonous but thanks to some quick editing and inventive camerawork it is some of the scariest scenes we have seen from the new series yet, especially when you think of the implications. And you’ve got to love Anthony Stewart Head’s silky portrayal of the headmaster; so spooky with his softly spoken threats but turning on the scares in the last third when he bares his teeth.

As usual though there is an awful lot that we didn’t see which I guess is just a fault of comparing new with old. Investigate the aliens, discover their plan, stop them. That’s about all you can fit in 45 minutes but I would have loved to see more of these very interesting and well thought through monsters.

The Krillanites were another gloriously well designed monster and so convincing scratching their away along the school halls to feast upon the students.

Sarah’s entrance was no where near as dramatic and as exciting as I imagined it would be, a rather mundane scene with her chatting to the Head but suddenly she bumps into the Doctor in the faculty and my arm was attacked goosebumps. Was there a single Sarah scene that I didn’t like in School Reunion…not that I can think of. I think her story was handled sensitively and with just enough emotional depth to really hit home much we have all missed her. When the Doctor dropped her off (in Aberdeen!) I pretty much thought she had accepted the situation but it only hits home here when we realise how hurt she felt that he never came back for her. I thought the episode was going to descend into soap operatic but instead it is used to exquisitely explore the Doctor’s curse, living and living and living whilst his friends grow old and die around him. When the Doctor admits that to Rose you realise just how lonely the Doctor really is in the universe, even when he is surrounded by friends. It adds a delicious touch of sadness to Tennant’s jolly portrayal of the Doctor that I liked a lot. I loved how embarrassed that the Doctor was that he has never mentioned Sarah before, how they effortlessly fell back into their old relationship, how she was offered another chance to travel with him and how she demanded a proper goodbye this time, the pair of them closing their relationship and a warm and heartfelt cuddle. I was weeping my eyes off at that point, I never considered the new series an opportunity to tidy up loose ends from the classic series but when it can be done this effectively and satisfyingly I am not complaining at all.

But no matter how good the scenes between the Doctor and Sarah were, the scenes between Sarah and Rose were pivotal. Rose’s reaction frustrated me (I always hate jealousy plots…its just so clichéd and boring…I went of Red Dwarf when Kryten got jealous of Kochanski, I went of Voyager when Neelix got jealous of Tom Paris…) until the episode probed a bit deeper. Rose is terrified of being treated like Sarah was, being dropped off and forgotten and left craving the excitement and warmth he can offer. Also special is when we realise Rose thought she was the first person to travel with the Doctor, what they had was special but discovering the man you love has had these feeling before, possibly over and over and over, is heartbreaking. Sarah tries to appease Rose but her jealousy gets ahead of her and she starts to insult Sarah, and gobbing off about all the wonders they have seen together, climaxing in a hilarious bitch off about the monsters the pair have come up against. I adored the TARDIS scene with every fibre of my being because Rose clearly wants to offer Sarah what she once had but rather than taking the simple route and having Sarah accept she hugs Rose and tells her that if she ever needs her when her travels with the Doctor are over she knows where to find her. Beautifully done, and I love the image of Sarah and Rose investigating together with K.9!

Oh yes what about K.9? What is it about the series bringing back old robots in a state of disrepair (almost as if to say they look tatty before!) before sprucing them up and giving them some spanking CG effects. I have always enjoyed K.9 and was devastated when he heroically sacrificed himself at the climax, I was screaming “No! No! NOOOOO!” at the telly! It is ridiculous to feel such affection for a metal box but my reaction mirrored Sarah Jane’s, absolute horror that one of our series icons has been destroyed for good. So the last scene was doubly tear jerking for me…that last shot of Sarah and K.9 walking off together is just about the most perfect ending either of them could have had.

The performances were all fantastic but special mention must go to Sladen and Tennant who light up the screen with their chemistry. Sladen gets to go much further emotionally than she ever did before and her performance hits all the right notes for anybody who is terrified of getting old and forgotten. Tennant continues to impress, he gets another scene here where he gives a single warning before threatening to bring down his wrath on the enemy and I think this may be leading to something, some kind of retribution for being judge, jury and executioner of the entire universe. Piper and Clarke work superbly together as always and I expect some marvellous stuff next week, especially after Rose’s less than enthusiastic response to Mickey joining the TARDIS.

School Reunion is another favourite, series two rollicking along in fantastic style. I didn’t think anything could top last weeks spook-fest but School Reunion was every bit as good and (thanks to the longing to see Sarah again) possibly even better. The standard of this show just gets better. Lets hope the ratings reflect its excellence.

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Recently, I finally sat down for two weeks and hammered out the story of my life - all the trials and tribulations, the scrapes and the dangers and the countries I've been to along the way, and of course, the people I have met. It never really struck me until writing it all down how many good friends I have had over the years and places I have lived. I wonder where they are now...

The Doctor must feel like this at times. He is a man with a very, very long life who has befriended and parted with many friends along the way and he too - in between adventures - must wonder where his beloved confidantes are from time to time.

So, one day, Sarah-Jane Smith and K9 appear from out of the blue. The sheer sense of pathos between the Doctor and Sarah was overwhelming to the point at which I was biting back the tears. Here were two friends who had shared something so special to each other, barely a thing had surpassed it ever since. Of course, in times like this, difficult questions are asked like - Why didn't you come back for me? The answer was our first proper glimpse into the soul of the Tenth Doctor, in that he lives virtually forever and to watch someone you love (like a human with a short life span) grow old and die would be too much to bare. So you move on. Forever moving on.

Rose, in this episode, gets a sense of mortality too. Sure, she's stared death in the face every time the TARDIS has landed, but the sense of mortality that the time of her life will one day end... and what will happen then? Will she wait on like Sarah and she herself couldn't bare to do in Parting of the Ways? Will she move on and put that poor boy Mickey out of his misery by finally having respect for him? Or will she fall to pieces? I think some interesting questions are raised here about as and when Rose will leave the TARDIS. Russel, I can tell you're gonna make me cry when it comes.

The sense of closure that Sarah Jane gets at the end with her insisting that this time the Doctor really did say Goodbye and the surprise of K9 being lovingly restored (his self - sacrifice was wonderful) really did make me blub for real. It's a shame that Sarah never had a family, and yes, the Doctor would be a hard act to follow...

Oh, I forgot - the plot. Well realised CGI aliens that made me think that that was what the Tetraps should have looked like. An all-too-side-lined wonderful performance from Anthony Head which was delightfully creepy in the teaser. Chilling. Oh who cares! The wonderful thing about Doctor Who nowadays is that a whole episode can go by and you couldn't give a flying Krillitane about the latest alien invasion when something in the foreground is making you cry or whoop with joy. The spectacle is there, the alien threat is there, the pathos and the humour and the nostalgia - check, check, check. My only complaint is that it was too damn short. Make it an hour next time, please.

And so Mickey realises he is the Tin Dog and decides to join the TARDIS crew. Mickey you ARE the Tin Dog. But we love Tin Dogs so that's OK.

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I’m not an emotional person but watching this certainly brought a tear to my eye. There were so many moments in the episode when you found yourself wanting to laugh or cry. Sarah Jane Smith represented the older fans of the series when she said that she thought he was dead and complained that he had left her behind without saying goodbye.

The episode has all the issues that surround a 45 minute format namely not enough time to get everything across, Sarah Jane, K9, Torchwood, the doctor's relationship with his companions and oh we need to fit a story in as well but I still enjoyed it hugely. Younger fans of the series had plenty of bangs and flashes to keep them happy along with a biting the carpet performance from Anthony Stewart Head as the demon headmaster.

There were plenty of gags to keep us going to, "ignore the shooty dog thing", "you bad dog", "Oh no I'm the tin dog!" etc but the general tone of things had an air of bathos. The doctor's mixed reaction to Sarah and K9 mirrored our own. We loved the old series and it was a big part of our lives but the new series is better. Yes I said it was better. I have had bitter arguments with people my age about this but if you look at the old eps (apart from a few) they seem two dimensional in comparison.

Anyway the doctor embraces his past at the end of it, "My Sarah Jane" and moves on and even rebuilds K9 or "that bloody dog" as Tom Baker called him. And Mickey has finally decided to join the crew, much to Rose's disgust! As far as the story itself went it introduced a new species of monster in the Krilitane who looked a bit like the reapers from father's day. There was the usual techno babble about what they were up to and Mickey saves the day by pulling a plug out. K9 sacrifices himself near the end and this certailnly brought a lump to my throat but not as much as when Sarah Jane finds the Tardis and then realises that the physics teacher is the Doctor.

Rose and Sarah Jane sniping at each other was brilliant, "every man's worse nightmare the Mrs and the ex", as Mickey put it. But the Doctor's explanation of why he doesn't hang around with companions for too long made sense of things. Finally I couldn't help laughing at Sarah Jane complaining that the Doctor had left her in Aberdeen instead of Croydon.

Anyway roll on the spin offs. The K9 cartoon, Torchwood and, at this rate, the thirteen part series on insane shouting with Sharaz Jek.

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A reunion both of heart and mind with the Doctor and Sara topping the class Doctor Who does not get much better than this…

I missed the first Season of the new ‘Doctor Who’ and only seen David Tennant becoming the 10th Doctor. He had a lot to follow up though but Saturday’s episode proved that an old re-vamped show can outdo anything from all those American imports (CSI, Lost etc) and that it has something timelessly epic in its making something that those shows have not even heard off:

It was not only in the writing but the timing, the delivery, the old and new going hand in hand. With some great one liners - and though both K9 and Sara were just a little before my time, there impact on the current Doctor was all inspiring and heart rendering at the same time.

Combined with Rose and Sara’s jealousy which was played to perfection and nice seeing them coming to an understanding however it was both David Tennant and the actress who plays Sara that gave this episode the absolute anguish and the shadow that forever hangs over the doctor….

The ending was justified and endearing and highly appropriate but it was the middle section the precise moment where we seen right into the 10th doctors soul which brought an ache to the heart – that and perhaps the fact maybe someday very soon this doctor might in someway go to the dark-side.

Not the greatest thought but it brought the hero and everything the doctor is boiling to the surface and Tennant shone because of it. This episode was pistols at dawn and more.

Humour adding to it and Anthony Stewart Head made the most of his character I was left begging for more and K9 was ace, I never knew we made shows like this any more but it was the mastery of the performances and the new understanding Rose had of the doctor as well and where on earth that will go next.

9.5 out of 10 for I know that’s them just cutting the surface the 10th doctor has it in everyway and it’s the light to dark and then back again the depth was outstanding the emotions so real and I cannot wait to get this episode on DVD.

Minor further comment – Having the doctor with that coat and suit (along with cute tie) and well the whole outfit to be precise is every bit the image of the doctor who of my childhood only reborn. Nice work and lets hope the rest of the season brings the heart and soul of this doctor to the surface.

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The only question I want to ask after watching the latest episode, School Reunion is "why"?

That is, why bring Sarah Jane back for a "proper happy ending" which involves letting us know that since we last saw the character, she has spent around three decades living a life of quiet heart-break, unable to forge romantic attachments due to having discovered that she is in love with the Doctor....?!

A few people have mentioned the character of Sarah being treated with respect. I can't see it myself, nor can I see her being treated with much in the way of compassion.

Yes, OK, she might conceivably have been in love with the Doctor, although heaven knows if you watch her run of stories with Pertwee and Baker there is little evidence to suggest that they were anything less than best buddies. But to turn her into a sort of tragic eternal spinster with only a robot dog for company....? Come on, this is Sarah! Plucky, independent Sarah Jane!

The real tragedy of all this is that what we had before (a wonderfully subtle farewell in Hand Of Fear, ending with a big question mark) has been completely bull-dozed by the new show's usual lack of subtely. A rush of shmaltz, a whirlwind of Hollywood strings and tearful eyes, big hugs and moon-eyed looks all combine to totally ruin the Doctor and Sarah forever!

Come on people, how can you bring yourself to buy this...?!

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Crikey. What an episode! Again thin on plot but luckily, for once, plot wasn't the point. It was a character piece and that character was most definitely Sarah Jane Smith.

Like a lot of US TV the episode started with our heroes already on the scene, having skipped the tedium of an old episode 1, which would have introduced things a slowly and allowed us to actually get to know the kids in the school. Still, who gives cares about them, we want to see Sarah...

Which is true. Let's face it, although we should have given a damn about the Krillitanes plot, who can really hold their hand up and say they actually did? Not me, and I'll cheerfully admit it.

Funnily enough, I do care about having a coherent and sensible plot and yes, I am critical about RTDs seeming inability to put one together. Toby Whithouse's debut script for Doctor Who didn't have the greatest plot either (monsters using schoolchildren's imagination to unearth the secrets of a device that would give them control over creation - *yawn*) but it did have some of the strongest characterisation seen in the series so far. The dialogue was sharp and witty, the scenes between the Doctor and Sarah were super-charged with emotion and drama, as were the few scenes between Tennant and Anthony Head, and Mickey continues his progression into better companion material than Rose.

Its difficult to give a fair review of the episode though, as all fans of the show were waiting for the moment where Sarah meets the Tenth Doctor. And it wasn't disappointing in the slightest. Sarah is arguably the companion most memorable in the eyes of both fans and the general public and its hard to imagine any other past companion being re-introduced as successfully. Lis Sladen has aged beautifully over the last thirty years and it felt as if she'd never been away. I think my favourite line has to be:

Sarah: "You look amazing."
Doctor: "So do you."
Sarah (shakes her head): "I got old."

And this is where we discover that she has no family ("There was this man I travelled with. He was a hard act to follow."), she never got over him not coming back for her - and Rose realising (finally) that she's not the big deal she thought she was. There have been others in the Doctor's life that have meant as much to him as she does - and that he constantly moves forward by necessity rather than desire.

Rose has, for me, become less and less likeable over time. She's selfish, manipulative, insanely jealous, rude, stroppy and demanding. Yes, she's a "real" person but a fine line was drawn in this episode with her attitude to Sarah and, interestingly, Mickey. Who'd have expected the Doctor to accept Mickey as a companion before Rose did? Her expression said it all and her possessiveness of the Doctor is extraordinarily irritating, particularly as she's been so uncaring towards Mickey and owes him more respect than she seems prepared to give. However I get the impression we're leading up to a big event later in the season - something that will forever change her and the Doctor's relationship - and hopefully teach her a few harsh lessons about the life of a time-traveller. Queen Victoria mentioned their attitude to consequences in Tooth & Claw, and I wonder whether the whole "tin-dog" analogy will result in a self-sacrifice by Mickey that mirrors K9's...?

As usual, the episode wasn't faultless but there seemed far less to pick over this time than in previous weeks. The children were ciphers and I couldn't have cared less about them if I tried (don't even get me started on the token fat kid). I still think that 45 minutes is too short and that the relentless pacing is too much. I know a lot of people will say that I'm out of touch, that's how TV is these days, or that I'm a grumpy old fan who wants to live in the past. None of these are true, as I enjoy the new series a lot. I just feel that for all the time and effort going into the production, the stories need to be allowed to develop. An extra fifteen minutes could make all the difference. I'd rather have 10 episodes a year, all running to an hour if it gave us that extra time.

But despite this, I did love School Reunion and the last five minutes had me, like everyone else, blubbing like a five-year old. Pitched absolutely perfectly, David Tennant and Lis Sladen took me back to when I was a kid, blubbing that Sarah had been left behind by the Fourth Doctor!

Tennant IS the Doctor and gets better each week. He is Troughton to Eccleston's Hartnell and I accepted him immediately. My faith was not misplaced and this season feels like Doctor Who to me more than last year. It feels as though the confidence of the production team is much stronger and as a result the quality has been ramped up several notches. Now if we could just have a few more two-parters which would allow some plot and character development then I would be a truly happy fan.

Things I Loved: Elisabeth Sladen, Rose as a dinner lady, Mickey, the scene by the swimming pool, Elisabeth Sladen, the scene outside the cafe between the Doctor and Rose, Elisabeth Sladen, Anthony Head, the last five minutes inside and outside the TARDIS. Oh and did I mention Elisabeth Sladen?

Things I Didn't Love: The wafer-thin plot (again), Rose's attitude towards Sarah and Mickey, the schoolchildren (particularly the "stupid fat kid" cliche), 45-minute episodes...

Filters: Television Series 2/28 Tenth Doctor

Before my review proper of the latest episode, I’d just like to take this opportunity to say that after a second viewing of Tooth and Claw, I think I might have been a little bit stingy in my rating (6/10); it is one of the only RTD episodes which stands up to re-visiting (bar perhaps The Long Game, Boom Town and Parting of the Ways), but for its vast improvement on all his former efforts, indeed for the fact that it stands head and shoulders overall of them, and is a generally well-conceived and directed story with a script and atmosphere likely to endure, it deserves a more impressive 8/10 in my books (and that’s a rating in the classic series sense; it ranks alongside Father’s Day, Dalek, The Unquiet Dead and parts of The Empty Child as a virtual classic in the old vein, and I sincerely hope is a pointer to the shape of things to come).

Comparatively I felt that School Reunion was something of a come down from the gothic heights of the Victorian highlands story. However, it is still an episode far superior to the callow New Earth and the one-dimensional Christmas Invasion.

Essentially School Reunion has many of the traditional ingredients of classic Who, the most notable being its extra-terrestrial subversion of a mundane, familiar setting, in this case being a comprehensive school in contemporary England. It’s a far cry from the public school Boys Own Paper-style scenario of Mawdryn Undead (another big nostalgia story with the Brigadier’s return after a seven year absence), in which the then-Doctor Peter Davison indulged his school prefect-style persona; it is on the other hand not a far cry from the shenanigans of Remembrance of the Daleks, also set in a state school and involving juveniles taken over by alien technology, and as with McCoy’s story, shares a similarly implausible tempo and comic strip pace, equally laced with palpable nostalgia and continuity. School Reunion has the excuse of being limited to only 45 minutes and considering this, it works reasonably well, at least, on all surface levels.

Sarah Jane’s return aside (for the moment), the storyline is very traditional Who, and in that sense is well-structured, exudes ‘background’, and has its loose ends tied up at the end by the Doctor; the computerized labours of the hypnotized school children (by far the best directed scenes in the episode, replete with a suitably distinctive score) and the purposes and nature of the Krillitanes is well-substantiated and rather tantalizing: this is a new alien race who take on the physical appearances of the races they infiltrate, which leaves the door open for limitlessly manifest returns in the future (not too unlike the plastic-manipulating Autons). What a pity then that this race is depicted as one uncannily similar in look to the Reapers of Father’s Day. They are well realized (considering its CGI again) as were the Reapers, but for me they just resembled them too much, and one wonders whether the current production team are running out of ideas for new alien races. I also felt the CGI grizzlies, filmic incidental music and school setting, replete with – portly – bespectacled pupil, was all very Harry Potter, not a good thing in my books; and I still don’t like this type of misty, American-style camera that’s used, notably inferior to Tooth and Claw’s grainer tones. The shot of the Krillitanes hanging upside down like bats in a darkened school room was a nice, vampiric touch, and well shot, but I couldn’t help being reminded of the – admittedly infinitely inferior – Tetraps of the horrific Time and the Rani; at least, it is the same principle of physiology anyway. There are also shades of Survival with the contemporary Earth setting, Mr Finch’s rather Anthony Ainley-esque vampiric performance and spates of electric guitar incidental music.

The initial scene of the Doctor posing as a Physics Teacher was a nice idea, and I suppose a fairly logical one if he needs to infiltrate a secondary school – but the comical repetition of the word ‘physics’ was a bit over-done I thought and one does sometimes feel Tennant is a repressed comedian in many ways, as these sorts of scenes feel ad-libbed a little bit from comic instinct. Nevertheless, this scene finally proved pivotal as he quizzed a pupil on highly complicated physics theory and received rapid, correct answers from a disturbingly astute young man (reminiscent of the subtly affecting children’s series of the 80s, Chocky, in which an alien possesses a young school boy, transforming him into a prodigy). This was a strongly realized emphasis for the Doctor’s undercover presence at the school. Having the companion posing undercover also was quite a good stroke and gave Ms Piper an opportunity to wear something other than the Peacock teen range.

It’s ironic but in many ways I think Tennant’s Doctor looks like an investigative journalist, particularly when donning his square glasses. I suppose this is at least a fresh interpretation of the character. And talking of journalists, well, of course it was genuinely really good to see Elizabeth Sladen reprise her role again (after a whopping 23 years), and I have to admit in a fairly convincing sense: rumours of an alien visitation at a state school is bound to lure in an investigative journalist after all (I was initially worried that she might have hit on hard times and ended up working as a dinner lady!). Sladen acts with the same grounded subtlety of her original days and plays her part convincingly and evenly, still very much the same Sarah Jane of old, albeit older and wiser. Her performance is first rate, and although she has some affecting passages of dialogue, she also manages to get through the slacker and more canonically intrusive sections of script in a way that makes them palatable and not seriously injurious to the legacy of her character, even if these elements on paper threaten as much.

Toby Whithouse said in the Radio Times this week when talking of how he approached writing for the programme and the central, traditionally asexual character: ‘You always have to reduce it to a human level, and that situation for the Doctor, it’s the current girlfriend meeting the ex-wife. Once you start thinking like that, it becomes easier to write’. Well now, this is very telling. Surely to write for Who is a challenge a writer should embrace? Instead Mr Whithouse clearly admits that he’d rather take the easier option, completely ignore the series’ stylistic cannon of the sexually indifferent alien wanderer, rip up the foundations laid painstakingly before him for 26 years and rapidly and clumsily inject some terrestrial testosterone into the Timelord in order to slot his script into the mould of his usual projects such as the deplorably crass soap No Angels (which has about as much to do with nursing as The Royal). I know it is RTD who has allowed this sexualisation (or ‘sexing up’) of the central alien character and his human companion, but in this episode particularly Whithouse distils this recurring solecism at potential detriment to the enduring uniqueness of the programme. It’s tantamount to implying that Sherlock Holmes slept with Dr Watson (and bar Billy Wilder’s funny but rather pointless The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes, consciously intended as a pastiche and not part of the cannon, this was never pursued in any other interpretation of that literary format).

Firstly, why does Whithouse assume one has to reduce Who to a human level when the the central character is an alien? This makes absolutely no sense whatsoever and suggests he is a writer lacking imagination, who cannot stretch beyond the format of his usual projects. Why on earth then was he commissioned at all? Well, who knows? Suffice to say the – arguably inevitable – juxtaposition of the old fatherly Doctor and daughterly assistant mould of old into something of an ex-boyfriend and ex-girlfriend scenario is the one really jarring – and sadly pivotal – element to this otherwise reasonably good episode.

Of course it’s perfectly understandable that a young girl whisked off in the Tardis by a charismatic Timelord might have in some sense become ‘infatuated’ with her cerebral knight in shining armour, but this ‘attraction’ was always previously portrayed in a purely platonic way, as if the companion idolised the Doctor on an intellectual and moral level. This is understandable and not necessarily in contradiction of the style of the original series. Where it does begin to get a bit worrying is when somehow the Doctor himself seems to be reciprocating this sentiment in the context continually referred to throughout this episode as ‘a relationship’. Well maybe it is a relationship of sorts, but what’s wrong with just ‘friendship’? Why the obsession with intensifying these semantics to imply something more romantic than platonic?

What is most annoying though is not so much the obvious torch-carrying of Sarah for the most memorable man in her life, but the now palpably romantic attachment that Rose has for the Doctor. Whithouse has managed to go even further than RTD in showing quite clearly that Rose is in love with the Doctor, not to mention fancies him. How else can one interpret her blatant jealousy regarding Sarah’s former ‘relationship’ with him and the fact that she is just one in a long line of ‘companions’ – cue such crass soap-opera lines such as ‘why didn’t you mention her before?’ and ‘I thought we were…?’ The only consolation for the latter line is that it prompts the Doctor to, albeit ambiguously, explode into an almost McCoy-esque tirade of existential isolationism, by far the best piece of script in the episode, with brutal lines such as ‘you will wither and you will die…’ For this speech alone I genuinely applaud Whithouse for re-emphasizing the solitary, unattached nature of the Doctor, ironic in that for the most of the episode around this he seems to do his level best to imply the opposite. Mr Finch’s observation of the Doctor’s timeless, bereavement-afflicted existence is also very well scripted and reminds the viewer of the necessarily solipsistic element to the central character’s emotional makeup. Nevertheless, the manipulation of Sarah’s return as personifying an ex- to threaten Rose’s current ‘relationship’ with the Doctor was an easy, cop-out gimmick, but one which ultimately and thankfully Tennant and Sladen managed to somehow skirt around, providing us with a genuinely touching and platonic goodbye scene.

Talking of Anthony Head, he puts in a solid performance and delivers his lines with resonant aplomb. Even his vampiric hissing in the Krillitane scenes is passable, though slightly hammy. All said this is a convincing new enemy, at least conceptually, and the revelation about the cooking oil as a conductor is a nice, cod-scientific touch to the plot reminiscent of the neo-science of the old days.

K-9 was nicely utilised and made a heroic last stand. It was great to have John Leeson providing the voice again (remember those terrible days in Season Seventeen when K-9 sounded like he had congenital laryngitis, courtesy of a stand-in voice?). And it was nice to see Sarah reunited with K-9 Mark IV at the end. That’s just it though, it was nice. This episode certainly panders to the old fans, which is refreshing in a way amid a re-vamping which generally undermines much of the series’ history; and it is, for this very reason, seemingly necessary as well, more so than the nostalgia-loaded Season Twenty, which sat oddly with its returning companions and enemies as scripturally and conceptually it was one of the most imaginative and innovative seasons ever (Snakedance, Enlightenment and the uniquely dissected character of companion Turlough).

Inevitably in only 45 minutes, with the return of probably the two most iconic companions of the series’ history, the actual storyline will suffer. Considering the restraints imposed on this story by its heavily nostalgic ingredients, its plot does come off quite well with, as I mentioned earlier, a conceptually unusual enemy and all the loose ends neatly tied up. Quite why Micky was present however remains a quandary as he was frankly superfluous to everything. And he’s certainly no tin dog – the tin dog has more intellect for a start!

This is a fairly respectable episode, slightly ludicrous in places though thankfully any humour present is generally underplayed; one might even read in to it some element of ‘satire’ in this school’s emphasis on IT – that Blairite infatuation. It would be interesting to know if this is one of these new-fangled grant-maintained schools.

Tennant’s portrayal is strong in places, especially regarding the ‘wither and die’ speech – this is a classic moment in the series. However, I am still not completely convinced by his incarnation. He has the eccentricity, the quirkiness, the unpredictability – but I want more gravitas, of the kind epitomised by Patrick Troughton and Tom Baker. I have to say I preferred Tennant the Scot in Tooth and Claw. How ironic that inexplicably Eccleston was directed to speak in his Salford accent, which continually jarred with the role, and yet equally inexplicably, Tennant is directed to impersonate a slightly wishy-washy English accent, instead of his native Scottish. Considering Tennant has a slightly high-pitched voice, I think the more rugged, windswept injection of the rolling Scottish intonation adds gravitas to his delivery; something I wouldn’t really have thought about had it not been for the less impressive regional accent of his predecessor (an actor perfectly capable of the old RP as shown in films such as 28 Days Later and Shallow Grave, appalling thought they are as films).

The less said for Rose the better, again. Piper is obviously quite a good actress, I don’t doubt that, but her character is getting on my nerves and has been for some time. And unfortunately, I’m not convinced that Micky will compensate for this; another reasonable actor, but sadly again, a dull and rather pointless character.

School Reunion is, largely thanks to Elizabeth Sladen, a good episode, thought nothing more than good. A couple of rungs down from Tooth and Claw, it nestles at a fair 6/10 in my books. Whithouse shows some potential as a Who writer, but he needs to realise that writing for Who is not about putting the ‘human’ in, but the ‘alien’.

Filters: Television Series 2/28 Tenth Doctor

As this is my first review (hopefully the first of many) let me just give you my personal point of view of the first 1 and a bit seasons of the new Doctor Who (I refuse to call them Seasons 27 and 28). They are better then I could have ever hoped for!!! They are witty, funny, scary and exciting and I get a little irritated by the fans who keep on criticising them for not being like old Doctor Who. Russel T Davies and the other writers stated before the first season that these are primarily aimed at a new audience and not to us die hard fans. I have every episode of Doctor Who represented in one form or another and have watched/listened to them all on several occasions and I feel knowledgable enough to make the statement that aiming this new series for todays family audience is to the showst benefit. People go on about how this new series has too many plot holes, or how it is too fast paced. You must remember that this show is aimed (primarily) at 8 year old children. When you take this into consideration you have to admit that many of the ideas presented are extremely sophisticated and will hopefully encourage the said children to crave, as they get older, more sophisitcated television programmes. When you consider the dire programmes you get on the majority of television these days, this can only be a good thing. How many childrens shows would have the line like that given by Cassandra in "New Earth" when she says "I'm dying... But that's okay". For children who suffer bereavement (whether it be a pet or a Loved One) this must be of comfort. Death is not something to be feared and I think this is not taught to children enough. The concepts that new Doctor Who is imparting to the younger audience makes me proud to be a Doctor Who fan and I can forgive the farting aliens and the occasional plot holes or things that I, as a Doctor Who fan, consider "not Doctor Who".

Rant Over!!!

Now, onto "School Reunion"

As a child, I was always a big K9 fan despite not being old enough to actually have seen a story with him in (I even tried to make a fully working K9 using and old Toy Box and some paint... Then again, I also tried to make a fully operational TARDIS using three bits of wood and some blue paint... Maybe I was just a dim child). However, I was far more excited to be reaquainted with Sarah Jane Smith. I was not disappointed!!! Ellisabeth Sladen obviously relished being back in the part and this was evident in every scene she was in. She absolutely shone. The chemistry between her and David Tennant literally sent goose bumps down my spine (that said, I get goosebumps and laugh uproariously whenever the Title Credits appear... Maybe that is what 16 years waiting for the show to return does to you).

I too, was a little disappointed to begin with when I realised that Sarah and Rose were not gonna get on, but as stated by another reviewer, once I realised that they were comparing Rose to Sarah and what her future may be like after she eventually leaves the Doctor (or he leaves her, as the case may be) I realised that this was, in fact, very clever writing.

As for the "Tin Dog", it was great to see him back. I loved it when Sarah says "He's my dog"... I could hear Tom Baker saying that and it warmed the cockles of my heart.

The overall story was good and Anthony Stewart Head played the role of the "Headmaster" brilliantly. The confrontation scene between him and the Doctor was first class and proves to me that David Tennant is a great Doctor. How can anyone not like this character. He is funny when he needs to be and extremely menacing when called for. I find the fact that he considers himself to be of moral authority very interesting and I desperately hope this is explored further. My only problem with David Tennant is how, when he leaves, they will find somebody to replace him!!!

The final scene... Aaaaahh, the final scene. I have not cried since June 2000 when my beloved dog died (he was made from an old Toy Box and some paint...) but this was the closest I have come since then (I am not sure whether, almost crying for the first time in almost six years due to a television show is healthy). It was played to perfection and once again, showed a level of sophisitication rarely seen in many childrens shows these days.

I have Loved Doctor Who since I was five... I am Loving Doctor Who at twenty-Seven years of age... LONG MAY IT CONTINUE!!!

Filters: Television Series 2/28 Tenth Doctor

In thinking of the story of "School Reunion," I am imagining a garden theme park that is populated with the most amazing and beautifully grown varieties of roses and chrysanthemums and tulips and daisies and carnations that you've ever laid eyes on, and being pushed to run through it all at breakneck speed by a relentless tour guide. I would gladly have stopped to smell any of these ideas or to study how well they bloomed, but no, there's too much to see and too little time to see it.

It's as though we've got two really good episodes trying to be told on top of each other. One of these is about companionship with the Doctor, and what that did to Sarah, what it is doing to Rose, and what not doing it is doing to Mickey and what he should do about that. The other story is about Anthony Head as the leader of a horde of bat aliens that have taken over a school to harness the imaginative powers of the children there to crack the computer code that runs the universe. Either one of these is perfect for an episode all by itself. The two at once leaves too little time for either to fully develop the way I would've liked to have seen. This is not to say that "School Reunion" should have been a two-parter. I'd rather think the ideas should have been decoupled entirely and told in two different stories.

An example of the "not enough time" problem I have is in the scene where Rose and Sarah Jane are at first one-upping each other about what monsters they've seen and then that degenerates into them talking about annoying things that the Doctor does... a grand total of two annoying things (one said by each of them) that then somehow makes them laugh hysterically when the Doctor enters the room. This really needs a laundry list to sell just how hysterical they get, and two items does not a full load make. On the other side, we are given two scenes of the Doctor and Mr. Finch sparring with each other, and_ very_ good those are too, but there's only two! It's _Anthony_flippin'_Head_ you've got here to go against David Tennant, and they only really lock horns in two scenes! And then we have Mickey making the big leap from being the guy who last season (and very wisely if you ask me) knew he couldn't deal with the Doctor's lifestyle what with all the fear there is in it to the guy who's going to bite the bullet and stay in that dangerous time-ship and travel with Rose and the Doctor... because of one moment he shares with K9 in Sarah's car. That's all it takes for him? Apparently so, because meanwhile the mathematical code that runs the entire universe is being cracked by a school full of kids with PCs and we really need to get back to them and the fruit-bat people that are running them, people who absorb physical bits of the alien cultures they conquer... except we don't ever get to see them actually doing any of that... because now we need to get back to K9 saving the day and sacrificing himself... and I would say "and so on" except that the episode ends shortly after this because it's out of time.

This has the smell about it of a script that was drafted and redrafted at least five too many times, and pared not just to the bone but actually well into the bone, and some of the marrow leaks out in the form of some plot holes that go unexplained. For example, why, when she had no reason to think that teacher John Smith was actually the Doctor (yet) did Sarah bring a totally non-functional K9 with her in her car to the school when she returned that night? Why were there vacuum-packed rats in that one closet? (presumably they were something to do with the aliens' eating habits, but we never are actually told) Why is Mr. Finch seemingly unaffected by the oil that's sprayed on him and the other Krillitane at the end? Why is there a time delay between when K9 shot the oil barrel and when it blew up the school? Why did the Krillitane pick a human school to run this hacking-the-universe experiment of theirs, and why that school in particular? Why, when after they hear the Doctor say he's a Time Lord, does that one swoop down at him from the roof, almost shout "boo," and then fly well away again when it could've just grabbed him and saved itself the whole getting-defeated-by-the-Doctor bit later on? OK, so they wanted him to join them at first, but still, it could've grabbed him there and got on with the convincing right then. And if it thought that wasn't the best way to try to convince him, I return to my original question and ask why did it swoop at him in the first place?

I will say it was nice to see that some of the more well thought-out "what it means to be a companion" material that we've seen all throughout the wilderness years in the books and the audios be mined and used here with Rose being forced to realize that she isn't his first and won't be his last (assuming he's not killed), and the reverse of that where the Doctor tells her why he's always dumping people after a time, since she can "spend the rest of your life with me, but I can't spend the rest of mine with you." Dumping humans like he does and moving on to the next one is the only way he can cope. It's not done to hurt the people he travelled with but rather to protect his own hearts. As Chris Eccleston once said, "the Doctor has two hearts. Does that mean he cares twice as much?"

On the production side of things, I can't find any faults at all, and in fact I really did quite like (cough-sorry-choking-a-bit-here) Murray Gold's score this week, particularly his "kids computing" music, and his callback to the theme he used for Rose when she was first discovering the Doctor and the TARDIS back in "Rose" (the episode) for the scene where Sarah goes to visit them in that park at the end. The Krillitane were all very well realized, and I liked the detail of the darker-skinned (and very well-dressed) man turning into a similarly darker-skinned Krillitane. It was also great to hear the sound designers using all of K9's old sound effects, and they even brought back some of the older sonic screwdriver sound effects when Sarah was around it. That was cute. And it was of course great to have John Leeson back as the voice of the old mutt. He couldn't have come back any other way.

On the acting front, the regulars were on their usual top form... I think I've already sung Anthony Head's praises a bit, but I'll sing them some more. I love the way he moves his body and can almost seem to glide as he walks and darts his eyes around and squeezes the fingers in his right hand and so on, and I especially love the little moves he does with looking out of the door in the opening scene when he takes the little girl into his office for "lunch". Elisabeth Sladen seemed to step back into Sarah Jane Smith like she's never been away (and in fact, she's never been away for very long what with all the parts sent Sarah's way during the wilderness years both on video and on audio), and it was really quite moving at times to see her back in the swing of things. At other times, she seemed just a _bit_ off, but I think that's because she's not got that never-bettered chemistry that she developed with Tom Baker going here. In the little time she has here, that just wasn't going to happen with the Tenth Doctor. I'm not even going to call this a complaint, since there's nothing anyone could've done about it. Come to think of it, it was more like seeing her with the Third Doctor, as their chemistry was never as good as it became with the Fourth.

And while I'm thinking of numbers, there seems to have been an inadvertent mistake made in the dialogue which will have fans speculating for years whether or not David Tennant is playing the Tenth Doctor, or if in fact he's actually the _Eleventh_. This is because in the scene where Sarah meets the Doctor in the school and realizes it's the Doctor for the first time, he tells her he's regenerated "half a dozen times since we last met," which would be the right number if the last time he's met her from his point of view was "The Hand of Fear" (when he had to leave her back on Earth), but in fact the last time he did meet her was in his Fifth body in "The Five Doctors," which would mean he's now in his eleventh body. Oops. And they thought they were being clever in avoiding the whole UNIT dating continuity fiasco... hah!

All in all then, there's too much material here competing for the attention of the 44 minutes the episode had. As enjoyable as this is as it is, it could have and should have been twice as much better. I'll say 5 out of 10 for "School Reunion."

Filters: Television Series 2/28 Tenth Doctor

Now we are talking! I must admit having watched the first two episodes of the new season there was just the slightest niggling feeling that something was missing, something was not quite right, don't get me wrong I certainly wasn't grumbling out loud about it after all we are all watching NEW doctor who episodes something I never thought possible just two short years ago.

I think I'm partly to blame myself, in the run up to the new series I of course worked my way through the season 1 box set and so there I sat watching "The parting of the ways" Chris Ecclestons hologram turns to Rose and tells her to have a good life and I have tears rolling down my cheeks AGAIN I just CANNOT get past that bit no matter how many times I've seen it. Anyway after regaining my manly composure I felt, like many I'm sure "how are they going to top this next year?"

I was very sad to lose Chris Eccleston and my girlfriend (new to who) was reluctant to accept the younger David Tennant but hey I'm one of the "old guard" been through this a few times now "give him a chance" I said. The problem for me with episodes one and two is that they lacked emotional depth, I don't mean thrills and scares but actual emotional drama and I am aware how ridiculous that sounds bearing in mind how light on such things the original series was! But now we've had it in Doctor Who I want more! I know it's totally unfair to compare the dramatic climax of one season to the beginning of the next, after all series one took time to build,but I'm so relieved to have figured out that niggling problem and SO glad that "School reunion" has completely restored my faith.

I don't know why but I always feel a little cheated when we don't get to see the TARDIS arriving at the beginning of a story I suppose its just something we all got so used to but despite that I enjoyed the different opening to this weeks episode, the Doctor and Rose "under cover" was clever not to mention amusing and everything was set up very nicely with the mention of Mickey having called the two of them in (Roses "Doctored" mobile presumably?). I must admit Sarah Jane's entrance was not the grandest but we all new she was in this episode anyway and obviously her first meeting with the Doctor was rather one sided as she didn't know who he was but I loved her wistful expression as she recalled a friend who used the name Smith. For me the magic began a few minutes later as Sarah Jane opens a door only to be confronted by the TARDIS the gape jawed look of realisation on her face was wonderful, beaten only by her then turning to see tho Doctor "it's you" she gasps, absolute goose bumps set in at this point I thought this sequence was handled brilliantly.

Sarah Janes unhappiness with the Doctor took me by surprise I must admit I know her leaving Tom Baker's Doctor was one of the sadder goodbyes in the original series but her realising that he had dropped her in the wrong place (not South Croyden) meant that the episode almost ended on a joke but there lies one of the big differences between the old series and the new and what an important and apparently welcome difference it is.Yet this unhappiness was key to Sarah Janes character in "School reunion" and I found it fascinating- how COULD you go back to a normal existence after life in the TARDIS? Sarah Janes line "did I do something wrong?" was heart breaking and I thought Elizabeth Sladen played it perfectly.

The amazing thing is that "School reunion" actually had a good story in it's own right and a great evil mastermind in the form of Anthony Head who any other week would no doubt have completely stolen the show, the monsters were menacing and very well realised in CGI which I thought surpassed that of many other episodes.Its a testament to Anthony Heads acting ability that in a matter of seconds he can convince a hardened Buffy fan that he is not infact good old Giles but in fact a rather nasty, body part stealing, alien presence.

Then of course there was the return of our four castered friend, given a small but pivotal role and making the ultimate sacrifice for his old master, Sarah Janes reaction to his demise had me welling up.Roses relationship with Sarah Jane was interesting I found her initial bitchiness towards her almost uncomfortable but it was great to see the two of them bond over the course of the story and I thought Sarah Janes suggestion that Rose look her up one day was particularly touching.

The final scene in the sun drenched park was just wonderful to watch and played absolutely perfectly by David Tennant and Elizabeth Sladen, Sarah Jane forcing a "proper" goodbye from a man who hates them so and by doing so giving herself closure after so many years of waiting and wondering, then of course the final happy ending as the TARDIS dematerialises to reveal K9 mark 4!

I'm pleased to say that its difficult to try and find fault with this episode there are always little bits you could "nit-pick"; if the Doctor already had a K9 mk4 in the tardis why hadn't we seen it gliding about or is it something he knocked up quickly? Why hadn't Sarah Jane let her feelings be known to the Doctor before?- I know she spent most of "The five Doctors" with Jon Pertwee's incarnation but she could have grabbed a quick word with Peter Davison's Doctor towards the end and maybe even have grabbed a lift if she had been brave enough to face Teegan! It's interesting to compare Sarah Janes reaction to meeting the Doctor again in "The five Doctors" and "School reunion" the difference in the portrayal of emotional attachment is astounding, Elizabeth Sladen must have been so pleased to finally be able to really flex her acting muscles I had no idea what a great actress she actually is.

So everything looks rosy (no pun intended) Sarah Janes got closure, Elizabeth Sladens deservedly won herself a whole new generation of fans,Mickeys graduated to TARDIS crew member-which is bound to make interesting viewing for us (Rose's reaction when he asked to come along?), David Tennant's got the best job in the world and we've had an absolutely crackin episode of DOCTOR WHO how on earth are they going to top this next week? oops here I go again...

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I loved this episode. Absolutely loved it. Which is why I was shocked when my housemates, who never followed the old series that much, told me they hated it. Why? Because it was full of dumb moments and plot-holes, like only 1 kid in the whole school not being part of the code breaking program, and the computers in the computer lab all switching off when the Doctor smashed the large screen. And the worst thing is, they're right. It IS full of dumb moments and lazy plot devices. But I don't care, because I loved it.

I loved the moment when the Doctor first saw Sarah Jane again after all those years; when she first realised who the Doctor was; the tear jerking goodbye; Sarah Jane telling Rose why she should stay with the doctor; K9 Mark 4; 'we are in a car'; the Doctor actually considering (if only for a fraction of a second) siding with the villain to save his race; David Tennant's powerful, understated, performance (particularly in the swimming pool scene); Elisabeth Sladen; Mickey being slightly more funny than annoying; and the whole show being genuinely funny and touching and moving and wonderful.

Yes, if you took out Sarah Jane Smith and K9 the main story of the episode isn't particularly strong, Tony Head switches from brilliant creeping menace to over the top panto at the end, and since when does the sonic screwdriver get stopped by as clunky a plot device as special deadbolt locks. Why do only the chips get coated in the special oil; what exactly were the rats for again; where did all the computer rooms come from; how does unplugging one socket switch off rooms full of computers and causes then to start sparking; why bother switching to human form again during the final confrontation; why is Torchwood splashed across every top secret website when it's supposed to be a top secret organisation even the UN doesn't know about; and what's the unending montage of computer screens and typing, twice!

But I don't care, because I loved this episode.

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I was so moved and impressed by "School Reunion" I have to email my review.

Like so many "Dr.Who" fans in their 30s,Sarah-Jane Smith,Elisabeth Sladen had/has a special place in my heart. Sarah-Jane was always so real,she has that rare distinction of being called the Doctor's "best friend",and thirty years ago,I shed a tear at the end of "The Hand of Fear" when the fourth Doctor had to say goodbye to Sarah-Jane as only he could.

David Tennant's face was a picture as he shoke hands as the Doctor with Sarah-Jane,this is the reaction we wanted from the Doctor,I remember in "The Five Doctors",the disppointment,when Sarah mets the fifth Doctor and he had no reaction at all!

Elisabeth Sladen was on top form as usual,her face said it all as she saw the TARDIS,her "bitch fight" with Rose was both touching and very funny,how great to see K-9 as well,he maybe wasn't as smug as normal but just as cute,like many viewers I thought,"he can't be destroyed"and the end,when the Doctor said his final goodbye to Sarah-Jane and as the TARDIS demateralised,there was the new improved K-9 was so moving.

I would have liked to have seen more of Anthony Head on screen,I felt we needed more information on his race and I was reminded of the Master in his scenes with the Doctor at the swimming pool.

Top marks to the script though,the whole idea of what happens to the companion after he/she has returned to normal life has never really been addressed in the parent series and you could see Rose realising she willl one day be like Sarah-Jane,back on earth will only her memories.

I can see Sarah-Jane and K-9 appearing in "Torchwood" one day. 10/10 for this story.

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I remember quite clearly holding my breath last year while watching the first 10 minutes of "Dalek" waiting for the first glimpse of the Metaltron locked up in the vault, feeling a real buzz when the lights flickered on and there it was! Part of me expected to have the same feeling when Sarah Jane walked back into the Doctors life, and some small part of me was disappointed that it wasn't all greetings and hugs there and then when Anthony Heads Mr Finch introduced her.

But for me the greatest sensation was when Sarah Jane discovered the TARDIS while searching the school and night, shocked and bewildered she closes the door and look who's behind her! FANTASTIC! I can tell you it sent a shiver down my spine when he spoke to her.

School Reunion has already lept up to the top 3 episodes for me so far (and thats without endless re-watching for all the little things I might have missed) and the main reason for that is the sheer emotional weight of this episode, very much in the line of Fathers Day, less action and more characterisation and thats something that has been missing in the first few episodes.

The plot is wonderful, aliens using children as code breakers by enhancing their intelligence with chips! (I am sure Jamie Oliver would have something to say about that - thank god they didnt use turkey twizlers!) I am sure for the younger viewers, the scenes with the children wired up to the computers was much scarier than i found it, but it was a good story, well handled and was reminiscent of other Doctor Who stories set in schools, going back to the first ever epsiode.

Anthony Head gave a chilling performance as Mr Finch, his dialogue with the Doctor was sparkling and I wished it could have been given more time, especially when he was offering the Doctor the power of a God. The CGI bat creatures were a bit like the reapers from Fathers Day but that can be forgoven after seeing them scuttle along the walls and ceilings to attack the children and the TARDIS Crew.

Without sounding too gushing fan boy, I have to say that all the main cast had some great lines and put in equally great performances, Mickey getting the chance to do a little bit more than mope over Rose and skulk away when things get dangerous. His lines to Rose and the Doctor serve to remind us all that the partnership between them both is only finite, their recent exploits have made them almost cocky and I found that annoying in Tooth And Claw, so enter Sarah Jane to stir things up a bit!!

And thats where the emotion in this episode comes from, her reunion with the Doctor, he feeling of abondonment and the jealous Rose taking pot shots at her "he's never mentioned you" is wonderful as is the scene where they are comparing previous adventures "i met the loch ness monster" ... great stuff.

I have always been a fan of K-9 and thought he was used well in the episode. Having watched later Tom Baker episodes with K-9 sidelined because he was too frequently used to solve everything and help the Doctor out of trouble, it was only proper to give the little pooch a good slice of action shooting down the aliens, and well I won't spoil the ending but proving he is mans and the Doctor's best friend.

The final scenes almost had me in tears, like Fathers Day, it was excellently handled and packed with emotion. Sarah Jane walking away from the TARDIS head held high, having said goodbye (for now - we hope?) to the Doctor and reminding Rose that it wont last forever and to look her up if she needs her, Mickey signing up at last to the Crew and the Doctor leaving Sarah a gift ... I'm welling up again!

Finally Series 2 kicks in for me, after 2 episodes of all action romps, back to the grittier stuff and I love it!

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I'm glad the village/Army base locations were ditched in favour of a school setting. Not only was this reminiscent of the very first story, AN UNEARTHLY CHILD, it fed into the childhood memories of everyone who was at school during the 70s like myself when Sarah and later K9 were regulars.

It was straight into the story, with The Doctor & Rose already in place at the school where alien intelligence was afoot. In the old days, they'd have taken the whole of the first episode to get there. Sarah Jane's career as an investigative reporter enabled her to get straight to the action. Her cynicism with Finch reminded me of her trip to Thinktank with Jellicoe & Winters in "ROBOT", Tom Baker's first story. Interesting that Ms Sladen attended the first readthrough of the Tennant Doctor with this. I've listened to the commentary where Phil Collinson says he wanted Sarah's first scene to be voice only. Funnily enough, I thought I spotted the back of Sarah's head in one of the scenes where Mickey was at the internet cafe.

And then the scene where The Doctor and Sarah meet. Of course, he can recognise her, but she can't recognise him. The dropping of his alias enabled to reveal she hadn't forgotten her most "uncommon" friend, but she still doesn't know. The scene where she sees the TARDIS again and turns to see the Tennant Doctor, realising who he is, were poetic.

In fact, given this was one 45 minute episode, there was a lot of ground to cover. Sarah felt dumped, waiting out for a visit that hadn't come - at least until the circumstances they now found themselves in.

It's true Sarah did have contact with The Doctor between 1976 & now. In K9 & CO she unwrapped the metal mutt and answered her own hope - "Oh Doctor, you didn't forget". Sarah met The Doctor again in THE FIVE DOCTORS. But it was mostly Jon Pertwee, so she couldn't have her issues out with him because her sudden departure hadn't happened yet. Good job Tom Baker didn't appear then after all - there would've been continuity problems with SCHOOL REUNION, or RTD & Co wouldn't have been able to tell part of the story. However, Sarah did catch a glimpse of the 5th Doctor and seen he'd moved on already with Tegan & Turlough, although she might have been so chuffed seeing Jon Pertwee again, any angry thoughts went out the window. That still leaves 23 years to get used to feeling dumped.

The producers have used the character of Sarah to tell a story about what happens when The Doctor moves on and leaves a travelling companion behind. As such, it applies equally well to all the other assistants and companions who left, voluntarily or involuntarily. And with Sarah & K9 compartmentalised again, this could be it where returning companions are concerned.

The "ex" thing is a metaphor, in that it plays as serious drama that can be applied to all relationships. While confirming the belief of some fans who think The Doctor does sometimes get off with his companions.

In some ways it was a greater link with the old series to feature an actress & actor from the original series in the same roles than it was to bring back or redesign an existing monster. There seems to be a greater acknowledgement this series, now new WHO is an established hit, that it has a history.

Of course Sarah's appearance had implications for the current and future set-up. It's interesting that in the first episode Rose dumped Mickey to join The Doctor, thinking she was the one and only. Now she realises she's the "latest in a long line". One of her predecessors then encourages her ex to join Rose and The Doctor - whom Rose now must realise isn't going to be around forever.

I think the overall journey arc for Rose is going to be of her rediscovering what was at home all the time (especially if Jackie dies, as rumoured elsewhere). A kind of modern day Dorothy from WIZARD OF OZ. Mickey is coming closer to her again and I reckon she'll go back with him at the end of all this.

The trade-off between Sarah & Rose was funny and perfectly understandable and leaves you wondering why they didn't attempt it in the original series. When they share notes on The Doctor stroking the TARDIS, it had me in stitches. In fact the humour was spot-on - Mickey graduating from tin dog (or Tin Man) status by the conclusion.

There was a lot of speculation as to whether Anthony Head was going to play The Master. On the surface, he didn't - although I noticed a close-up where the letters "HEAD" were missing, just leaving "MASTER" in frame.

School dinners are topical. What happened to some of the children doesn't bear dwelling on for a family audience and they didn't - treating these scenes with a lightness of touch found in, for example, THE DEMON HEADMASTER.

The way it ended played like the final curtain for Sarah in DR WHO, which was touching but also sad. But this was always the intended power of the episode. More a case of Friends Reunited, But Then This Really Is It.

However, I hope both Sarah (investigative reporter with experience of alien phenomena) & K9 (alien artefact) make it to TORCHWOOD.

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School Reunion was a thoroughly enjoyable episode, but not I’m afraid due to the rather hurried plot(the fact that the Who team are already in place and investigating from the start speaks volumes for the time constraints the programme is under these days) but for Anthony Head’s sinister and memorable portrayal of Mr Finch, the return of K9 and most significantly of all the return of Sarah Jane Smith.

I cannot commend Elisabeth Sladen highly enough really for this performance. She has always been my favourite companion anyway, so to speak, and set against that rather lofty background you always wonder, and worry, how older characters will fare when placed in the modern era. Sladen however is so competent, so professional, so obviously caring and protective towards her character that her scenes are a genuine pleasure to watch. Yes this was an unashamed nostalgia trip for us oldies but I hope younger viewers will be able at least in part to glean why Sarah holds such a special place in our affections and won’t be too upset that Sarah won the little bitch war with Rose!The scenes between the Doctor and Sarah in the sun-drenched park at the end were too much for me I’m afraid and this soppy old git wept a little.

I’ve always been slightly bemused by the latter day close association of Sarah with K9 because K9 featured in precisely none of Sarah’s stories in the 70’s. They did of course appear very briefly in the Five Doctors and prior to that in the one-off K9 and Company. And what of the old robot dog?I loved the fact that John Leeson was asked to do the voice as only he can, and that the dog itself was only used sparingly and to maximum effect when he was, mustering just enough energy to zap a Krillitane or two and then to zap the vat at the crucial moment, much to Finch’s disgust!

Given the longevity of Sarah’s travels with the Doctor and the close rapport between the two, particularly with the Fourth Doctor- the departure scenes between Tom Baker and Elizabeth Sladen at the end of the Hand of Fear were particularly well handled as I recall-I have no problem with the suggestion that Sarah has suffered, despite a brief meeting with the Doctor subsequently, a good deal of emotional turmoil both in relation to the realisation that she has been dumped and the need to re-adjust to mundane Earth life after witnessing so many amazing things. She urges Rose to seek her out one day if she needs to-admirable advice. So yes despite the fact that Sarah’s tenure on the programme was pre-RTD and therefore pre the kind of emotional intensity that people either love or loath about the show these days, of course Sarah will have questions that need answering and will need closure by urging the Doctor to bid her a proper farewell. And that is the ingredient, plus Sladen’s incredible performance, that lifts this story from being mildly enjoyable to being memorable and-dare I say it-tear –jerking. After such a fitting finale, I hope in the nicest way that Sarah isn’t brought back, except perhaps if we see Rose seeking her out when her time on the show is done, though I’m sure Elisabeth Sladen is more than capable of deciding what’s best for her rightly cherished character.

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‘School Reunion’ was one of the most highly anticipated episodes of Series Two, featuring as it does the return of Sarah Jane Smith, one of the most popular Doctor Who companions of all time, and children’s’ favourite K9. In fact, despite appearances thus far in the new Doctor Who by Autons, UNIT and Daleks, as well as references to Time Lords, ‘School Reunion’ is the first episode that heavily references the classic series, with blatant references to a handful of specific stories. At the same time, it tries to place Sarah Jane and K9 within the context of the new series, and the end result is a bit… odd.

‘School Reunion’ focuses primarily on the character interaction between the Doctor’s companions, which I’ll come to shortly, but does so against the backdrop of a plot that can best be described as functional. With the Krilitanes having invaded a school so that they can use the imagination of children to crack the “cosmic code” and thus become omnipotent, the Doctor and his friends are forced to stop them in a way that tends to involve running around corridors, and ends with a rushed ending in which the school explodes. I’ll be generous and assume that the Krilitane oil is flammable, but it feels very gratuitous. In the midst of this rather pedestrian plot, there are flashes of potential, for example the nature of the Krilitanes as a composite race, but there is not time for this to be explored, so it ends up as window dressing.

Ironically, ‘School Reunion’ marks the first time since ‘Rose’ that the series has seen the Doctor (and in this case companion) already in place and investigating events when the episode begins, which is quite novel for the series, but rather less so if you’ve read the New Adventures, especially when one notes that the Doctor has rather manipulatively arranged for the teacher he replaces to win the lottery. And because of my familiarity with Doctor Who in other media, quite a lot of the aspects of this story that might seem potentially interesting feel derivative, even though in this case it is almost certainly a coincidence, especially given writer Toby Whithouse’s apparent unfamiliarity with the series. Thus, the most interesting idea hinted at here, the Stasis Paradigm, not only riffs off the idea of Block Transfer Computation first seen in ‘Logopolis’ and developed throughout the novels (most memorably in ‘Dead Romance’), it is also reminiscent of the idea of quantum mnemonics used by Craig Hinton in his novels ‘Millennial Rites’ and ‘The Quantum Archangel’. Oh, and the children sat at their alien computers with headphones is straight out of ‘Downtime’. None of which is a) intentional, and b) of any significance at all to the vast majority of viewers, but it did rather leave me feeling that I’d seen (or read) most of this before. Having said of all of that, I did like the amusingly silliness of all of that alien technology being plugged into a single overloaded electrical socket.

As for the monsters, the Krilitanes look far more effective than they did in the trailer at the end of ‘Tooth and Claw’ (c.f. the Werewolf), although the goofy teeth are perhaps a mistake. It is Anthony Stewart Head however who almost steals the show, with a slightly over-the-top performance as Mr. Finch that is never anything other than hugely watchable. Rumours abounded at one point that Head was to play the Master, and here he more or less does exactly that; he’s a gloating, well-dressed megalomaniac who gets to face off against the Doctor, and long time fans might note that if one imagines him as the Doctor’s old nemesis, Finch’s offer to share ultimate power with the Doctor isn’t a million miles away from the Master’s similar offer in Episode Six of ‘Colony in Space’.

The main focus of ‘School Reunion’ however is the return of Sarah Jane, but she reappears here as a part of an agenda. This isn’t just a happy reunion in which an old friend contacts the Doctor for tea and help, Sarah instead is used as a means of putting Rose’s relationship with the Doctor into perspective. The script does this by making Rose realize, for the first time, that she is just the latest in a long line of mostly female companions, but in order to do this it has to put Sarah and Rose on a level playing field. And the way in which it does this is… divisive. One of the most annoying aspects of the new Doctor Who, for me at least, is that Russell T. Davies has redefined the role of companion as that of a groupie; despite occasional concerns by some fans, there has not, as yet, been any “hanky-panky in the TARDIS”, and on the whole Rose’s seeming infatuation, rather than simple friendship, with the Doctor is unrequited. In order to rattle Rose’s assumptions about their relationship, the production team thus choose to retool Sarah Jane’s relationship with the Doctor (which for anyone who isn’t familiar with the classic series was usually defined as “best friends”) and the result veers widely between just about acceptable to cheapening the past.

It’s worth noting that despite the general impression that some fans have taken away from ‘School Reunion’, the episode opens with Sarah Jane investigating the school of her own accord with the sort of independence and competence exhibited by the older Sarah familiar to some fans from the Big Finish Sarah Jane Smith audio series and the novel ‘Bullet Time’. She tells Finch, “I can see everything Mr. Finch, quite clearly”, and when she’s fondly recalling her old friend “John Smith”, she gives the impression that she hasn’t thought of him in some time. It’s only when the sight of the TARDIS visibly shocks her that the script starts to try and hint that she has been pining for a lost lover for thirty years. And it does this purely for Rose’s benefit, creating a teeth-grinding situation best summed up by Mickey’s line, “The missus and the ex!” Rose is visibly shaken by the existence of Sarah, touchily snapping, “I’m not his assistant!” and telling him, “I thought you and me were… I obviously got it wrong.” This I can accept, as Rose’s infatuation with the Doctor is one of her characteristics, in much the same way that it was one of Sam’s in the Eighth Doctor novel range. Equally, I can cope with Sarah’s difficulty in coping with adjusting to her old life back on Earth after the Doctor, which is summed up nicely when she asks, “How could anything compare to that?” and there is a touching moment at the end when she tells him, “I haven’t ever thanked you for that time.” What did irritate me however is lines such as, “I know how intense a relationship with the Doctor can be”, “you never came back for me, just dumped me”, “some things are worth getting your heart broken for” and “you were my life”. Worst of all is the ghastly grandchildren exchange, which suggests that she’s spent a lonely three decades shunning other men because she’s yearning hopelessly for Time Lord cock. This might sound a tad blunt, but frankly I’d rather the Doctor weren’t effectively reduced to some lecherous old bastard who seduces young women and then swiftly replaces them when they either get tired of travelling with him or he dumps them somewhere. It makes him, I submit, seedy.

On the whole however, the return of Sarah Jane does work well. Even though her reaction to seeing the Doctor hinges on the assumption that she hasn’t seen the Doctor since ‘The Hand of Fear’, which ignores ‘The Five Doctors’ and also effectively ignores the evidence of K9 and Company, which establishes that the Doctor dropped K9 off after he left her behind and that she therefore must have known that he hadn’t died, at least not on Gallifrey. Such continuity issues won’t concern the vast majority of viewers, and nor should they, but given that we are talking about a script that specifies that this is K9 Mark III (and also makes specific references to ‘Pyramids of Mars’, ‘Planet of Evil’, ‘Death to the Daleks’, ‘Genesis of the Daleks’, ‘Terror of the Zygons’ and ‘The Deadly Assassin’, it does rather jar if you do notice such things. Nevertheless, Sarah gets some great moments, including her line, “You can tell you’re getting older, you’re assistants are getting younger” and her sparring with Rose over whose seen the most interesting things with the Doctor. Happily, Sarah wins on points, managing to startle Rose with “The Loch Ness Monster!” after which they stop bitching at one another, and their mutually laughter at the Doctor’s eccentricities is quite sweet, as too is Sarah’s indignation that the suburban street that we saw at the end of ‘The Hand of Fear’ was in Aberdeen. But mostly Sarah works because of Elizabeth Sladen; having reprised the role recently for Big Finish she knows full well how to step back into the character and despite my rant above, it is genuinely nice to see her again.

K9 meanwhile is present largely to appeal to the kids and nostalgic older viewers, and despite being largely knackered, it gets to save the day twice, firstly by zapping attacking Krilitanes out of the air and secondly by making the ultimate sacrifice in order to destroy the villains. It’s hard not to feel sad when he gets blown up at the end, although he does get a great last line, as Finch snarls, “You bad dog…” to which he smugly replies, “Affirmative.” Mind you, this is K9 we are talking about, and in time honoured tradition he gets to sound snooty and superior, especially when he patiently reminds Mickey “We are in a car” until the penny drops. John Leeson has also recently reprised his role (or rather, roles) for Big Finish and he too steps back into character with practiced ease. The poignancy of K9’s destruction is somewhat ruined by its replacement with K9 Mark IV, but it probably appeals to the kids. Otherwise, it just serves as an excuse for Sarah to sum up the previous forty-five with the sledgehammer subtle line, “He replaced you with a brand new model? Yeah, he does that…”

However, K9 also serves another function, as it puts Mickey’s relationship with the Doctor and Rose into perspective and he realises with horror, “Oh my god, I’m the tin dog!” This is significant because it leads to Mickey staying on board the TARDIS at the end of the episode, asking the Doctor, “Can I come? ‘Cause I’m not the tin dog, and I want to see what’s out there.” Since he’s more interesting by now than Rose this is more than welcome, especially when she looks jealous and petulant when the Doctor agrees. Whether or not Mickey’s new role as companion will prove an asset remains to be seen, but it’s a promising development.

As for David Tennant, he gets a good episode, even though he has to contend with such appalling dialogue as, “Physics. Physics, eh?”, “Correctomundo… a word I have never used before and hopefully never will again”, “Happy-slapping hoodies with ASBOs”. He actually delivers these better than might be expected. But he’s at his best when the Doctor meets Sarah again and looks utterly delightedly, babbling, “Nice to meet you! Yes, very nice. More than nice, brilliant!” and he does it again when he joyfully exclaims, “K9!” He also looks suitably haunted when he explains to Rose, “You can spend the rest of your life with me, but I can’t spend the rest of mine with you.” When Finch asks the Doctor to join him, Tennant makes him look first stunned and then extremely tempted as he whispers, “I could save everyone… I could stop the war”, and it seems to take Sarah to snap him out it. The earlier confrontation at the swimming pool is reasonably well staged, although the “If I don’t like it, then it will stop” and “I used to have so much mercy” lines smack again of the sort of “tell don’t show” more often seen in Russell T. Davies’ episodes. He also looks convincingly upset when he sadly says to K9, “Goodbye old friend” and it’s quite moving.

In the final analysis, and despite some strong criticisms, I largely enjoyed ‘School Reunion’ almost exclusively because of Sarah Jane and K9, but in spite of much of the script, not because of it. Ultimately, the end result is that the episode feels more like an important event within the wider context of something larger than a story in its own right, which is it’s definite weakness. One last thought: for those of you who took issue with Rose’s reaction to meeting Sarah Jane, just be glad it wasn’t Susan…

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School Reunion is a pretty rubbish Doctor Who story. It is, however, also a great episode of Doctor Who.

It’s a rubbish story because… Well, come on. Oh, it’s the oil all of a sudden! They’re actually allergic to it! Oh, they’re trying to crack the daft-sounding sci-fi equation thing, oh no! Oh look, the ugly fat kid has set off the fire alarm and managed to save everybody! Aw, the cute tin dog is going to trundle in with his laser beam and save the day too.

It’s Children’s BBC territory, and compared to Tooth and Claw, the plot of which seemed to flow naturally and easily – or even to New Earth – it appeared distinctly amateurish in new series terms, and Toby Whithouse is going to have to buck his ideas up if he gets the chance to write for the show again, when he is unprotected by being able to use two of its icons to cover the damage. Let’s hope his forthcoming episode of Torchwood – the organisation which got another throwaway mention here – allows him to flex his plotting muscles a little more effectively.

Perhaps the CBBC feel was added to by the school setting, which given the use of computers to control the students particularly evoked memories of his 1991 CBBC serial Dark Season. Not that that’s a bad thing, as a bit of nostalgia and evocation of other productions has never hurt the series, and the school setting probably also worked well for the current child and teenage audience, who would have enjoyed the identification factor of seeing the Doctor at work in a school just like theirs. Mind you, that’s no excuse for “Kenny blew up the school!” Yeuch.

However, I am being picky and pedantic, I know, because when it comes down to it School Reunion was no more about the Krillitane plot to crack the thingamajig paradigm than Rose was about the third invasion of Earth by the Nestene Consciousness. Like Rose, this was a vehicle for bringing a companion aboard, albeit only for one episode, but unlike the new series debut she wasn’t somebody new being introduced to both the Doctor and the audience.

This was the return of Sarah Jane Smith. Hurrah!

We all knew it was coming, of course. We’d seen the previews and the press features and the magazine articles. We’d seen various clips in the trailers and support shows, but still, that scene where the Doctor was introduced to Sarah in the staff room, and the look on his face as he recognises her… It was magical. Tennant’s portrayal of the Doctor’s delight as he speaks to Sarah – “Good for you, Sarah Jane Smith!” – is utterly infectious, and this is why it’s a great episode of Doctor Who.

Toby Whithouse has been very keen to point out in just about every interview he’s done about the series that unlike most of the other writers working on the show, he’s not a huge fan of the original Doctor Who. He thinks that this helped when he was given the Sarah – K9 episode, as he was less intimidated by having to write for the icons of the series. Now firstly, I think this is bollocks – Shearman managed to write for the Daleks without collapsing into a puddle on the floor, and everyone else has managed to pen effective episodes featuring the Doctor, the TARDIS etc without having nervous breakdowns at the sheer excitement of it all.

Secondly, it seems odd because there are so many little fanboy touches, “kisses to the past” as our old friend Philip Segal used to call them, that it seems impossible to believe Russell T Davies didn’t have a hand in penning many of the scenes featuring the Doctor and Sarah. It’s insulting, I know, to suggest that any of the good bits in the guest writers’ episodes were written by the showrunner, but it does seem that last year the only scripts Davies left pretty much untouched were Moffat’s episodes, and Elisabeth Sladen herself has said in interviews that Davies “sprinkled his gold dust” across the episode.

But whoever wrote the thing, which is pretty unimportant at the end of the day when you simply have to consider what ended up on screen, did a bloody good job with Sarah’s scenes. Nearly all of them bring a lump to the throat in some way or another – “I thought you’d died!” “Did I do something wrong?” “Say goodbye this time…” It’s pretty damn affecting stuff, and not the kind of emotional punch you usually expect from an episode of Doctor Who, even in the new series. The ending, as Sarah turns down another spin in the TARDIS and gets a final farewell hug from the Doctor before trundling off with her new K9 was just… Aw!

I don’t know how much all of this would have registered with new fans, although on Saturday evening I did by chance watch the episode for a second time in the company of some other people, one of whom was a woman who said she’d never seen any of the classic series and thus didn’t know who Sarah was. She seemed to find it pretty moving, so it does perhaps work on that level for new viewers as well as old, which has to be commended as there must have been a worry that this episode would do nothing for purely new series followers.

I do have to say though that the one aspect of Sarah’s return I didn’t think fired on all cylinders was her initially antagonistic relationship with Rose. It seemed a bit forced, especially the shouting match of monsters they’d encountered which had looked so good in the BBCi three-minute preview, and their making up all seemed a bit rapid, although the sheer speed at which everything went by was a factor across the episode. You also have to wonder why Rose was so keen to offer Sarah a place back aboard the TARDIS at the end of the episode, but seemed a bit pissed off when Mickey finally decided to join up.

Sarah wasn’t the only character returning though, as we also got the reappearance of K9. I’m not a massive fan of the silly tin dog, although then again I don’t despise the creature as others do either. I’m fairly ambivalent towards him, although I will accept he got some nice moments in his brief appearances in the episode, and his final – or not so final, depending on how you look at it – sacrifice to destroy the Krillitane was nicely handled and doubtless spilled some tears amongst the younger viewers.

You have to feel a bit sorry for Anthony Head as Mr Finch, as in any other week he’d be the major guest star of the episode, but here he and his character rather got buried under the return of Sladen as Sarah Jane. He was perfectly fine as the smooth villain, and his scenes with Tennant were very good, but on the whole he was pretty much overshadowed by everything else that was going on. Tennant himself was on sparkling form in most of the episode, with only his embarrassing “correct-a-mundo” scene in the classroom bringing the Doctor’s character down a notch this week for me. He more than made up for it though both with his scenes with Sarah, and with his explanation to Rose of why he had to leave his companions behind, because they age and die and he just regenerates. It’s an issue we’ve not seen the show confront before, and Tennant delivered the lines excellently.

You wouldn’t want them to sacrifice plot and other supporting characters purely to bring back old series elements every week, but as a one-off emotional and nostalgic punch it worked very well indeed, and I certainly wouldn’t lose this episode from the run for anything. It’s so sad to finally say goodbye to Sarah Jane Smith from the Doctor’s life, but nice that he finally got to fulfil that long-ago made promise of “until we meet again.” Wonderful stuff.

But no, I didn’t cry. That would be silly. This is, at the end of the day, only Doctor Who, and it’s not that type of series.

Filters: Television Series 2/28 Tenth Doctor

This was the episode I was dreading the most of the ones I know about so far. This one had all the makings of a clinical example of the worst excesses of fanwankery. Old companions meeting new Doctor/companion team + cult actor from another cult genre show = ... well, let's face it, the worst fanfic and New Adventure novels have all done it before (Hell, sometimes even the BEST novels couldn't help themselves), and that Big Finish hasn't done it more often defies belief. After the sheer mediocrity of "New Earth," and the gigantic letdown of "Tooth and Claw," which I was REALLY looking forward to, how low was the new season of Doctor Who going to sink in only its third episode?

Well, not low enough apparently, because this episode redeemed the season so far and then some. The inclusion of Sarah Jane Smith and K9 back to the fold didn't seem tacked on for fan reasons (tho let's face it, they were), they served a dual purpose. First, of course, to show that the Doctor isn't the only one investigating paranormal events in the UK, and second, and most important, the compare/contrast between Sarah Jane and Rose.

And LORD was this episode just positively DRIPPING with the shippiness. I'm not usually one to call out the ship, or non-ship, or whatever in this series, but good GOD, if anyone thinks that the Doctor and Sarah Jane didn't have a romantic/sexual THING going on after this episode you are positively DELUSIONAL.

That's right, I said it, DELUSIONAL. The ending of "The Hand of Fear" was a lover's spat if ever there was one, Sarah Jane getting K9 to begin with was a backhanded apology after Romana dissed HIM in "Warrior's Gate," and she was happy to see the Third Doctor in "The Five Doctors" because it wasn't the one she had an affair with.

The implication of Sarah Jane being a faithfully waiting but nevertheless jilted lover all these years sits right (even if it does go against what Lawrence Miles had written in Interference ... hmm, wonder if THAT'S why he's ragging against this episode, it contradicts his novel), and furthermore, look what it's done to Rose. She's seeing there's more than what's on the surface with the Doctor now. She's special, but not THAT special anymore. She's not the only one and never has been. And awwww look at the Doctor not being able to say he loved Rose OR Sarah Jane. Rivers in Egypt...

Ah, poor K9, clunky as ever, yet faithful to the end. Just like a good little robot. Same as Mickey. Oh, whoops, he's figured it out. And now he wants in on the real TARDIS action. Rose ain't too pleased for some reason. Both men in her life are pissing her off now it seems. Aw.

Anthony Stewart Head, of course, was fanservice, but he does have a Who pedigree, with that Excelis trilogy of audios, and the cameo as St. Valentine in Death Comes to Time. And in a plot whose McGuffin was right out of "Remembrance of the Daleks," he played the smarmy villain to a T. Not bad, but really anyone could have filled the part. The plot, eh, take it or leave it. The real story here was the Missus meeting the Ex, as Mickey so aptly put it. And it made for a damn fine episode.

Plus, you know, K9 blowing shit up always helps too.

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Good old Russell T Davies!


Well, first things first, I have to accept that my review of Tooth and Claw was unduly negative; looking back, I appear to be one of those moaning minnies, criticised in some of the other reviewers’ comments, who simply cannot accept RTD’s vision of the series. By and large that’s true, but it must be said that ‘Tooth and Claw’ was very good by any standards, and it was simply the grating nature of some of the regulars’ characterisation that spoiled it for me; in the review I concentrated too much on that, at the expense of what was, objectively, at least average and possibly superior Doctor Who.

But that isn’t what my surprising statement was about, oh no. I was giving Russell credit for something else entirely; in this case, for something he didn’t do – and that is, not writing ‘School Reunion’. Russell has been quite good at this throughout – although he couldn’t restrain himself from doing the series finales, he has – as other people have already noted – given a lot of the best material to other writers. Victorian Cardiff and zombies. The Blitz. The Dalek. And the return of Sarah Jane Smith and K9 had classic written all over it from the start – my honest opinion is that Russell would not have done it as well as the writer who in the end got the job has done it. Whoever Toby Whitehouse is, he really came up trumps here. So well done Russell.

With all that out of the way, the very first thing to say is well done, Elisabeth Sladen. What a consummate actress. What a performer. What a star. We love you, Lis.

I was prepared for this to be dreadful, I had to be, or else I couldn’t have stood it had it been. But even I never thought that Lis Sladen could let us down! Well done, Elisabeth Sladen. What a consummate actress. What a performer. What…

…oops, repeating myself. But Lis’ contribution to the programme was superlative. Whitehouse has done a wonderful job with the returning guests, getting Sarah Jane’s characterisation close to ‘bang on the nose’ – what quibbles there were, for example the initial unpleasantness between Sarah and Rose, and Sarah’s implied sexual attraction to the Doctor, Elisabeth’s performance ironed out, because with her you can believe it. K9 was even better, in terms of being true to the original, that is (those nose lasers! Sweet.) Even Mickey was less irritating than usual, and he had a couple of good scenes saving the kids. The more I look back over it, the more incredible it seems that Whitehouse has juggled so many elements so well.

Not all the credit can go to him, however (it’s alright though, there’s a lot of credit to go around). James Hawes deserves a round of applause (hey, that nearly rhymes). His direction is in the very best tradition of TV directing – you don’t notice it, but if it wasn’t there, and if it wasn’t so skilful… you’d know. And as for the performances! It would have been very hard for a writer to fail with Elisabeth Sladen, Anthony Stewart Head, John Leeson and David Tennant on the team. Leeson – as fabulous as he ever was… his “Master”-s must have brought a tear to every eye. Good old K9. Good dog. And Head, playing the Head, was also utterly wonderful. We were treated to an old-school “join us, Doctor, and all this can be yours” scene from the lead villain, and he played it so well, part of me was actually taken outside the story, to the point of saying, “what acting!” – while the rest of me goggled. What’s more, you could see David Tennant reacting to it, pushing himself – the Doctor, visibly, is actually considering it. How nice that it was Sarah who talked him through it, just like in Genesis of the Daleks.

And that’s another thing. HOW GOOD was David Tennant in this? From his Clint Eastwood-style confrontation with the Headmaster to his first sight of Sarah Jane, and right up to their goodbye – “Goodbye… my Sarah Jane.” Even the scenes that he could have overplayed he nailed; I’m thinking of the “no, everybody else died” scene, and in particular the “if I don’t like it, it will stop” scene. Totally in character for this more merciless Doctor (he used to have so much… the third Doctor would never have even thought of behaving the way the tenth has, that at least is certainly true), but nicely played nonetheless. The Doctor losing his defining mercy with the passage of time is truly disturbing. I don’t like it at all; it makes him a different person. But this is a review of ‘School Reunion’, and in the context of this story… well, while it didn’t add anything, it didn’t harm the story, as such.

We also see this Doctor’s cruelty again in his scenes with Mickey at the beginning and the end, although it can now be interpreted as just a crazy male-bonding ritual they always go through. And, in another welcome moment, Sarah Jane says she prefers the console room how it was before, when she was travelling with the Doctor – you and me both, Sarah!

Good joke about the Doctor thinking of a comprehensive school which produces clever children as being worthy of investigation in itself! And, surprisingly for a show with left-liberal politics, they even mentioned how it ought to have been swarming with hoodies with ASBOs, although the Doctor didn’t seem to take it very seriously. Shame they had to blow it up; even if the staff were evil bat-winged aliens with delusions of godhood! Possible plot hole, though; how come, if it’s been three months or so, nobody else has noticed the weirdness? Like, the gobbled-up children’s social workers? Or UNIT/Torchwood? And why was only Milo clever in Dr Smith’s class when the Krillitanes seemed to be using all the pupils by the end? Oh well.

The dialogue was mostly excellent, and that is something you can solely accredit Toby Whitehouse with. And probably the wealth of continuity is his too; Time Lords, the Skarasen, The Invisible Enemy and the year 5000 when “disco” was the in-thing! Thank you, thank you, thank you – I love continuity!! And all of it right!! Except the references to them not having met for years and years, when in fact they last met in 1996, if not sooner (novel, Interference, Lawrence Miles – “if not sooner” means possibly1997, in Bullet Time). But never mind! It hardly matters, in fact emotionally the script is far stronger for it, and what’s more I think that if ever we’ve been obliged to cut a writer some slack, this is the time. This could even have been the best in the series.

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I remember watching Doctor Who as a child, and my first Doctor was the unforgettable Tom Baker. But I don't really recall much of the clasic series, and certainly don't have the encyclopedic knowledge of many dedicated fans. I know a lot of them have been looking forward to the re-introduction of Sarah Jane Smith and K-9, but even if, like me, you knew next to nothing about these much-loved characters, it was obvious from the emotional tone of this episode that this was a big deal. Liz Sladen obviously felt a great affection for her character of Sarah Jane and put in a great performance, showing a great range of emotions from regret to anger and finally some resolution.

There was so much packed into 45 minutes - from a homage to the classic series, jealousy and back biting from the leading ladies, emotional understandings, some pretty cool monsters, funny one liners and a chubby kid saving the day! Oh and extra points for the Doctor wearing glasses (yum!).

I've deliberately left the casting of Anthony Head out of that list, as he deserves a separate mention. The verbal showdown between him and the Doctor around the edge of the swimming pool, was perfectly pitched, perfectly paced and just wonderful to watch. Here were two well-matched adversaries, sizing each other up, cool and menacing, jousting with words. And in an episode which dealt with the solitary price of being immortality, it also gave us a chance to see the dark side of the Doctor, with that telling line, "I used to have so much mercy."

I think this is one significant difference between Tennant's Doctor and Christopher Ecclestone's (may he forever be praised for playing a major part in resurrecting this series). For an actor often cast in brooding roles and with the physical build to carry off an air of imposing menace, Ecclestone delighted me with his child-like delight and wonder, his desire to explore. When he did show his darker moods, as in Dalek, his rage often stemmed from fear.

David Tennant's Doctor is like quicksilver, flicking between light and dark with the speed of cloud shadows scurrying across the hills on a sunny day. He can laugh and explore and enjoy new experiences, as he showed in response to last week's werewolf ("That's beautiful"). But his anger is ice cold. "You get one warning, that's all", had echoes of a similar stand-off moment in New Earth, when he declared, "It stops with me!". Is this pride or arrogance? Could this be a foreshadowing of things to come? Judging from the links that only became obvious in retrospect last series, it makes sense to look for clues in the writing.

The contemporary nod to recent campaigns for healthy school meals, and the chubby, salad-eating boy saving the day were nice touches. (Was it just me, or was he just wearing a big jumper?). There was so much in this episode, it was almost easy to overlook the monsters which, to my mind, were a little too much like the bat-style beasties of Father's Day. But I'm sure they'll have prompted some behind-the-sofa moments.

With an episode from the same writer that brought us the chillingly spooky gas mask zombies to look forward to this week, I'm already counting down the days…

Filters: Television Series 2/28 Tenth Doctor

“School Reunion” has an interesting if quickly resolved story, new aliens with a suitably grand goal and a creative way of achieving that goal, and some good performances from all involved. I do have some issues with characterization, but I’ll come to those in a moment.

I think this is the first time the 45 minute format really seemed too short to me. So many ideas and story threads are crammed into this episode, but it’s not as though they aren’t dealt with. It’s just that every little plot idea is shown and resolved so rapidly that the episode really does feel rushed. There’s no dramatic process of discovery, where events proceed and I as the audience have time to think about and mentally digest the latest plot revelation before the next one comes along. Everything is thrown at the audience at a break-neck pace. This approach doesn’t derail the story by any means, but it’s just not as emotionally satisfying as I would like.

That being said, at least the story isn’t dull. The Doctor is already in place and investigating when the story opens, which is new ground for the series, and also indicative of the generally rushed pace of events. It’s hilarious that Rose is working in the school kitchen and that she’s clearly resentful of that fact! It doesn’t take long figure out that something is amiss in the school, as demonstrated by the genius kid in the Doctor’s physics class and the odd cooking oil in the kitchen.

Then during the chat in the teacher’s lounge one of my favorite companions is added to the mix: Sarah Jane Smith. I’ve been looking forward to this episode ever since I heard that Elisabeth Sladen would been guest starring. And John Leeson is back voicing K9 as well! And while it’s wonderful to see the two characters again, the characterization of Sarah is the part of this episode that bothers me. I don’t want to criticize said characterization, since apparently Mrs. Sladen felt that the writers had treated Sarah well, but it’s just sad to think that she had pined away for the Doctor for thirty years. That’s not the strong independent Sarah Jane I remember. I imagine it would be very difficult to go back to an ordinary life after all those experiences and adventures she’d had, but to have denied herself a family and a life of her own is just sad, and frankly a little tough to believe. I’d rather they hadn’t gone that route with her story. Especially when it’s patently obvious that Sarah is being treated in part as an object lesson for Rose as much as a character in her own right. That isn’t sad, it’s downright irritating.

The first meeting between the Doctor and Sarah where he knows her but she doesn’t recognize him is lovely, as he’s clearly delighted to see her again, and as proud as he can be of her. David Tennant just does an outstanding job in that scene. Later on when they meet in the school and head down to the diner, he’s clearly enjoying her company, though Rose is not. Now here I have to say that though I’ve generally liked Rose up to this point, her little jealous fits are becoming very irritating. So much so that I’d just as soon she left the show than put up with having to watch them over and over. It’s bad enough when she’s throwing the evil eye at Lynda with a y, but when she starts criticizing Sarah Jane it’s too much. Grow up and get over it already. In this fan’s view, if it comes down to a choice between Rose and Sarah Jane, Sarah wins every time.

Is it me, or is “The Five Doctors” pretty much ignored? It’s odd with all the continuity that’s on display that Sarah pretty much acts as if she hasn’t seen the Doctor since he dropped her off in what turned out to be Aberdeen. I suppose that in “The FIve Doctors” she did spend the majority of her time with the third Doctor, who of course hadn’t been the one who dropped her off and left, but she did meet the fifth briefly. Perhaps we could rationalize it away by saying that she didn’t realize he was the ‘successor’ to her Doctor. But then there’s the presence of K9, who the Doctor obviously left for her some time after he dropped her off, so she would have known he hadn’t died. I think that in order to write the story he wanted to, Toby Whithouse had to ignore the fact that Sarah had already had some closure, and had to play fast and loose with the old series in order to make something more out of the ‘best friends’ that the fourth Doctor and Sarah were. I get the feeling that like so many people today, the writers of this show have a hard time conceiving of a close friendship that doesn’t involve romance and sex, which shows a lack of imagination on their part, to say the least. As I said before, turning Sarah into the victim of unrequited love so she can be a sad old spinster and a object lesson to Rose is certainly not respectful of the character, or faithful to the past.

All of that being said, Sarah is still one of my all-time favorites, and the use of her character, above complaints excepted, is good enough that I still enjoyed her inclusion in the episode tremendously. And the ‘real goodbye’ at the end is touching, and I’m glad to see she finally got that goodbye.

Poor K9 is all rusty and not working well. But Sarah is still carrying him around, and the Doctor is happy to see him again, and Tennant just does so well in expressing his delight that it’s infectious. The little dog is as endearing as ever, though he doesn’t get a lot of time on screen, he is crucial to resolving the plot and ending the Krillitane threat. He’s a brave little fellow, and I’m glad I knew he was coming back at the end of the episode, or I’d have been really unhappy when he sacrificed himself to blow up the school. As it is, he gets some of the best lines, telling Mickey several times “We are in a car”, and his smug little “Affirmative” to the Headmaster’s “You bad dog!” I was just grinning like a little kid again when he comes to the rescue in the cafeteria and starts shooting down Krillitane.

I really enjoyed Anthony Head’s performance as well. I remember him from the Excelis audios that Big Finish released a few years back, where he was quite good as Lord Grayvorn. He’s just as good here, with his distinctive voice and restrained mannerisms. Then he gets angry and looks rather fiendish, and clearly seems to be having fun in the part of an evil alien school headmaster who eats students. He’s a good strong bit of casting which I think was certainly needed in a story with so much going on. A less distinctive actor might well have been lost in the shuffle or just outshone by Sarah and K9’s return.

The coda at the end is welcome, as Sarah gets to see the TARDIS and comment that she ‘preferred the old one’, and turn down an offer to travel again. It’s good to see the Doctor express his affection for her so openly. Most of the time I prefer the Doctor to be reserved, but not in this case. Sarah’s obvious happiness at seeing K9 again is well performed, and the scene elicited a bit “awwwww” out of my wife, who didn’t know it was coming.

As for David Tennant, he put in another fine performance. His acting is first rate from start to finish. As is the episode itself. It’s not perfect by any means, and I have other minor nitpicks besides the characterization of Sarah, but generally speaking the story is good and works quite well. One of my favorites of the new season.

Filters: Television Series 2/28 Tenth Doctor

Okay then, in a nutshell…the Doctor meets an old companion resulting in much “you left me you cad” dialogue, all of which takes place in a school to get the kids interested, while a bunch of bat creatures try to take over the universe with super-enhanced chip-oil. Add to that a robot dog with a laser in its nose, and I’d be hard pressed to find a less enticing prospect for an episode. Actually School Reunion is okay, but rather than falling short of greatness like some other episodes do, “okay” is all this episode can ever hope to achieve. With Toby Whithouse not being a fan of the original series, it becomes a worrying sign of the way the series could go if more writers came along taking their inspiration solely from Russell T. Davies’s blueprint.

I write my reviews by going chronologically through the episode and highlighting anything interesting on the way; the first notable element is Anthony Stewart Head as Mr Finch, who immediately sees his character for what it is. Whether or not having the monsters led by a campy supervillain (apparently an “ironic” one, not that that necessarily makes a difference) detracts from their credibility, Head plays the role the only way that could possibly work: by hamming it up. It’s done with a lot of skill though, making it seem genuinely ironic (and therefore clever) rather than an attempt at it (and therefore smug). With every scene he’s in geared up to cater for his character’s cartoonish quality (“nearly time for lunch…”) he says in the pre-titles sequence, there really isn’t any other option.

Some of the Doctor’s lines are terrible (“physics, physics, physics, physics, physics, physics, physics, physics, etc”) and combined with David Tennant’s performance, which is growing increasingly irritating by this stage, the character becomes cringe-inducing. The creepy little kid with alien knowledge is contrastingly effective, and it speaks volumes when the series’s lead actor is outperformed by a twelve-year-old.

Having the episode start with the Doctor and Rose already two days into their investigations is a good use of the forty-five minute format, and throughout its length the pacing feels much more natural than with many other episodes. It isn’t structural problems that beset School Reunion. The problem is with the characters largely, and the Doctor’s line of “happy-slapping hoodies with ringtones” (or something like that) is unbearably self-conscious, the kind of pop culture reference that really needs toning down – especially with all the “eh? Eh?” stuff he gives it afterwards. Such relentless referencing of 2006 going to look so silly in years to come, you mark my words: how much would people laugh at the Jon Pertwee years if he went round with the latest Mud LP under his arm going on about greebos with flares and lapels, on space-hoppers? It’s followed by a tense scene where one of the Krillitanes gets burned by the oil – it’s only when they start cooking chips in it that it loses its allure as a science-fiction device.

It’s great to see Elisabeth Sladen again as she is a really wonderful actress and my favourite original series companion, but she shows up a flaw in the episode’s characterisation very early on: the Doctor (a complete stranger at this stage) only has to mention “John Smith” and suddenly she’s off down memory lane like somebody has flicked a switch.

Perhaps it seems odd because Sladen plays it so straight, while Anthony Stewart Ham, the Doctor’s wackiness and Mickey’s “where’s the Maths department” routine owe more of a debt to season 24. Sarah’s first sight of the TARDIS is possibly the episode’s best scene: it’s manipulative, like all the rest, but it gets away with it for being reasonably well-written and well directed by James Hawes (who still disappoints after the tour de force that was The Empty Child), although as usual Murray Gold overdoes the music. His scores for the new series are much easier on the ears than many early scores, but they can’t hope to just fade into the background, and nothing removes mystery more than having that ubiquitous “oooooooOOOOOOOOooooo” singing come floating out of nowhere whenever anything remotely enigmatic happens.

There’s yet another moment of self-referential metafiction, when Sarah responds with “okay, now I can believe it’s you” when she hears a scream. I tuned in to watch Doctor Who, not a programme about Doctor Who!

The vacuum-packed rats are a slight improvement in terms of imagery, and these little touches are what rescue the episode to an extent.

K9 makes for a large prod at my fanboy-nature but he was never my favourite original series creation.

Ordinarily the café scene would be one of those moments where the plot has to grind to a halt to allow for an emotional moment (a common fault of the new series), but it feels less obtrusive here; it takes place at night, when there’s a natural break in the narrative anyway, and the repairing of K9 gives it more of a sense of focus. However, all the “you were my life” moments are annoying, retconning the original series into line with the new series’s mawkish ethos.

I’m all for engaging with what happens to companions after they’ve left, but to have them miserable and pining is to remove all their dignity – not to mention spoiling Sarah’s wonderfully elegant departure at the end of The Hand Of Fear. It’s rescued by Mickey to a large degree, as Noel Clarke stakes a claim for the episode’s best actor. There’s some unusually crude exposition as the Doctor gives a mini lecture on the Krillitanes – a race that reshapes itself with parts of other species is a very nice idea, but since they’re sidelines for so much of the episode they can never be a classic monster and can only be relegated to the “could have been good with more care” bin.

The Doctor’s confrontation with Rose outside the café comes from an interesting perspective, asking the question “what do you do when he’s left you?” but it’s very badly handled with excessive “curse of the Time Lords” guff and the Doctor just breaking off his sentence before saying the word “love”. The are-they-aren’t-they aspect of the new series is one of its less mature features – who cares either way, where are the monsters?

The swimming pool scene, which surprisingly seems to have become one of the big set pieces of the entire second series, is a worthy moment in the episode; Head gets some interesting dialogue, and both performers do well with even Tennant quietening down for a moment.

By contrast, there’s more peculiar characterisation going on in the Maths lab: first of all the episode goes into complete continuity meltdown, referencing fourteen other episodes in the space of about half a minute, an excess to which John Nathan-Turner never stooped to even at his most insular. For some reason it triggers another random change in the characters as Rose and Sarah go from hating each other to being best friends in the space of a single line of dialogue.

School Reunion is an explicitly character driven episode, the series two equivalent of Father’s Day in that respect, and while that’s not necessarily a problem (I liked Father’s Day) it does mean that it’s a fairly basic requirement that the characters are convincing and you don’t get this by removing all trace of emotional development. What actually happens is that characters go from A to Z without ever passing through the rest of the alphabet, if you’ll pardon that horrendous analogy.

Okay, here’s a criticism that’s going to sound really unreasonable: the Scasis Paradigm is bad because it’s too interesting. That really sounds like I’m looking for things to criticise, but the reasoning is this: the thought of an equation that can unlock complete control of time and space is a massively compelling one. In fact, in the late 1970s an entire season was dedicated to a not-dissimilar concept. In this case though it serves merely as a platform for the characters to go on one emotional journey to another, and as such feels like a real wasted opportunity. What could be the best idea of the episode is thrown away.

However, it does lead to a great scene where the Doctor is tempted by the prospect of power…which is itself let down by Sarah suddenly changing her mind yet again, like she’s having a breakdown, and telling him in a great monologue (one of the new series’s trademark features) about the importance of change.

It’s quite fun watching K9 shoot at the Krillitanes and I suppose the simplicity of how the plot is resolves is proportional to how much prevalence that aspect of the episode had in the narrative anyway.

However, the children cheering as the school blows up puts the episode firmly in kids’-show territory. It finishes with a sugary-sweet ending scene where emotional dialogue, and the music to go with it, gets delivered by truck. I won’t dwell on it really as my opinion of this kind of thing is already well documented. One thing though: isn’t Sarah saying that she preferred the old TARDIS console room a bit of a v-sign at production designer Ed Thomas? Not that she’s wrong or anything.

School Reunion is one of those episodes that depends on my mood, and tonight I didn’t enjoy it that much. Looking at it more objectively I feel it just about squeaks an average rating, but only just. All I can say for it is that it doesn’t disappoint; where Tooth And Claw should have been a classic, School Reunion just settles into its furrow and stays there. A common complaint with many average episodes is that “it’s not as good as it could have been”; in this case I find myself thinking that it’s not as bad as it nearly is . The only thing I can’t work out is whether that’s a good thing or a bad thing.

Filters: Television Series 2/28 Tenth Doctor

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

I suppose I should start with the problems and the plot. The Krillitane storyline has been criticized by some for being ‘uncomplicated’ (read: stooopid), and it’s true it does have some problems. I’ve been disappointed to see how quickly Russell T. Davies’s Doctor Who, at times so wary of imitating the classic series, has begun to imitate *itself* instead. Already this season we’ve had another gothic monster story in which the Doctor meets a giant of the Victorian Era (‘Tooth and Claw’), and now we get a kind of fat-free remix of the Slitheen scenario (though minus the ‘laughs,’ thank god). And not only is the story unoriginal, it's unbelievable as well, as we are asked to swallow that beings whom the Doctor identifies as an incredibly grave threat to the universe would a) allow two complete unknowns to be placed on staff within their undercover operation, and b) let a member of the *press* wander around their HQ with an open invitation! "Imagine how bad things could possibly get," indeed – these Krillitanes do everything to give themselves away short of buying a full-page ad in ‘Time Out.’ And the concept of the aliens as composite monsters that take on the characteristics of consumed races is a great one, yet it is hardly borne out by their appearance, unless of course the Krillitanes spent many campaigns conquering one species of giant bat after another. (Seriously, one wonders whether the designer even read that bit of the script).

But let's move on to the good. The story’s guest star, Anthony Stewart Head, can probably be mentioned up front as well; Finch is a bit undercharacterized on paper, but Head’s acting is nicely plummy in the old style, and it’s sort of a shame he didn’t turn out to be playing the Master after all. But that would have sent the already dangerously over-percolating Nostalg-O-Meter off the charts, and there just isn’t room for this to be the Master’s story.

Sarah Jane Smith, having been one of the longer-running companions and having accompanied two of the most popular Doctors, seems like the only choice for a story that mainly leaves the monsters to the kiddies and offers the grown-ups in the audience the long-term implications of companion life instead, via a walk down Fan Memory Lane. And, somewhat surprisingly, ‘School Reunion’ does this about as well as could be hoped, especially given the constraints of the 45-min. format. Toby Whithouse’s screenplay doesn’t manage the depth or wit or poetry of, say, ‘Father’s Day,’ but it does communicate its sentimental subject matter directly and believably, without lapsing into the heavy-handedness that marred the last big attempt to wrestle with series past (‘Dalek’). Sarah’s bittersweet future is well conceived, and believably played out; and while it’s true that her spontaneous scratchfest with Rose seems a touch forced, there’s genuine emotion behind it, and each woman’s emotional response to the ‘other companion’ seems real.

A sidebar: now, some have suggested that the story projects a love relationship onto the Doctor and Sarah that was never there to begin with. One can make such an argument, I suppose, but I don’t think this script ever makes that explicit: when Sarah says “You *were* my life,” it seems like a reflection not of Love-With-a-Capital-L, but of the lost “splendor” of travel and adventure. How could an earthbound life compare after her years in the TARDIS? And even if the script implies that the young Sarah, after being unceremoniously ‘dumped’ – in Aberdeen, hilariously – developed a retroactive crush on her friend and teacher, well, is that really so hard to believe or accept? She was one of the few companions to leave the TARDIS unwillingly, and her pain at finding herself replaced and unmentioned feels authentic with or without the supposed love angle, so I guess it doesn’t bother me either way.

And as for Rose, whose take on the situation as (expectedly) less mature, she is also quite sympathetic as she realizes that maybe ‘her’ Doctor isn’t quite so lonely as he’s let her on to be. If there has been a love story between Rose and the Doctor, it’s been a one-sided one to this point, and the knowledge we have of Rose’s puppyish crush helps us to feel for her, and to see how her character grows here. Mickey grows as well – after a whole season of not knowing what to do with him, the production team have finally begun to develop him into interesting companion material. His self-comparison to K9 is funny and fitting – how often did K9 find himself stuck behind while the Doctor and Leela or Romana went rock-climbing or whatever? And as for K9 himself, he isn’t given much to do – whether this was simply because of time restrictions, or whether it was a bone thrown to all those fans who despise him, is hard to say. Still, I thought John Leeson sounded great – 25 years have not deteriorated his voice in the way they have, say, Anthony Daniels’s. (But that’s another story.)

Four episodes in, I’m still not sure I like David Tennant’s Doctor – fast-talking, repetitions, and other silly verbal tics aside, I don’t really get a sense of his personality yet. Oh, he *acts* a lot – his half-smile and obvious agitation when the Doctor sees Sarah can hardly fail to please – but I’m not sure the actor has really established who this Doctor is yet, beyond being a sort of lanky, blathering goof. The dark, damaged, preoccupied Eccleston seems long gone, and when this Doctor considers using the Krillitanes’ power to undo the Time War, it’s an odd, out-of-tune moment. Does this silly Doctor even remember or care about that?

Now, fans have also complained, as fans must, about the continuity problems created by the script ignoring Sarah’s role in ‘The Five Doctors’ and ‘K9 and Company.’ It also irked me how the script worked to insinuate that the Doctor’s call home in ‘The Hand of Fear’ had something to do with the Time War (“Everyone died, Sarah” – whatever, Doc). But the continuity patrollers will simply have to work those questions out, and besides, the ‘dueling companions’ monster catalogue scene goes along way towards validating the continuity of the old series in relation to the new, and that should be enough to make most fans very happy.

All in all a thoughtful, if not quite inspired, attempt to reconcile this show’s past and future. And Elisabeth Sladen is just marvelous.

Filters: Television Series 2/28 Tenth Doctor

"Give Sarah Jane Smith my fondest love. Tell her I shall remember her always." - K-9, in "K-9 and Company", 1981.

"School Reunion" was an extraordinary episode, worthy of both old and new Who. It served as a smart, well-paced adventure that didn't require an understanding of the Doctor's past to appreciate the pathos, fun and seriousness of a "missus meeting the ex" scenario.

It was also a nostalgic trip for fans of Sarah Jane and her trusty tin friend which, sensitively written and acted, added weight to the enigma that is The Doctor.

Whereas we're used to the love story of Doctor Nine/Ten and Rose Tyler, this was about a different, classic series love, rekindled after three decades.

But rather than resorting to a fanw*nky continuity-laden script, bogged down by references to Harry and the Brigadier (bless them) or the second Kraal from the left in 4J, the script was filled with easy-to-follow mentions which served as foundation stones for the situation.

Toby Whithouse's script buzzed; there were crisp one-liners; jousts of claims and counter-claims: "The Loch Ness Monster.... Seriously?"; in-jokes: "You can keep K-9 company......"; and wonderfully considered, touching moments of dialogue ensuring that that this fan blubbed like a baby or laughed out loud through most of the 45 minutes.

The adventure is a well-executed and darn good yarn in itself, but is simple enough not to become more important than the emotional drama unfolding around it.

The actual concept is a good one: alien cherry-pickers invade a secondary school for galactic/dimensional domination by means of children's souls. Far-fetched, but typical, wonderful Who.

The special effects are magnificent, with the Krillitanes very well realised - and almost provided light relief between the emotional bits! But they would surely be scary for the young, and if would-be secondary schoolers aren't just a little bit concerned about what lies in store for them, I'd be surprised.

Murray Gold's use of the orchestra and choir complemented the action admirably, and his use of the Song for Ten was insightful.

The supporting cast are great in this episode, with Tony Head excelling particularly, dripping malevolence from the pre-titles onwards, as he eats young children and staff for lunch.

James Hawes is my favourite director of the new series; his style is pacy and cinematic, and his direction adapts to each different type of story . Here he achieves a lot with a single shot or a well-lit camera angle - a sudden view of a blue box that shocks Sarah Jane into realising her old travelling companion is nearby, a lone tin dog appearing beyond the wheezing and groaning of a disappearing TARDIS, a hug between departing friends. Hawes' direction of the scene where they acknowledge each other is an electric moment for Doctor Who and is truly magnificent television.

The Doctor's reaction is wonderful as he slowly realises Sarah is back. He's seen his friend, whom he probably thought he'd never seen again. He's surprised, and very, very happy. "Oh good for you, Sarah Jane Smith." "My Sarah Jane", back from the companion junkyard of Croydon (near Aberdeen).

And Lis Sladen. What can be said? Always a favourite companion, it was very clever to bring her back alongside the established Rose. One of the few truly self-sufficient companions, SJS was still the same, even in her late fifties. In a moment echoing the Genesis of the Daleks "You must do it" scene, it is Sarah who tries to convince the slightly-tempted Doctor that he mustn't fall in with Finch's plans, as "Everything has its time, and everything ends".

In what should be her swansong, Lis picked up the role she knows so well and gave one of her best ever performances. She was the best thing in "School Reunion", and the good use of her character in terms of emotional development (for her, the Doctor and for Rose) was pure genius.

This is a memorable conclusion for Sarah Jane's story in Who, and at same time managed to deliver real development - after 43 years! - of the Doctor's character.

We get to understand why the other Doctors have sometimes seemed detached. The Doctor cares, but his feelings are compromised by the reality that he lives for hundreds of years. Loved ones will grow old, but he will not: "I lived. Everyone died."

And Rose's story. After all, we can't have an episode of Who without a Rose story! I'm sure her jealousy will develop throughout the series as she comes to terms with the fact that she's not as unique as she may have thought. She initially distrusts SJS' intentions, perhaps believing that,"with the big sad eyes and the robot dog" she will try to take the Doctor away from her. But by the end, they understand each other, with Sarah even suggesting that, post-Doctor, Rose would be welcome to find her. She also offers advice: "Some things are worth getting your heart broken for."

And the nostalgia continued with another truly iconic blast from the past. K-9 was as endearing as ever. He was, indeed, so very "disco", but my affection him has never waned over the years, and I shed another tear or two at the sadness of his demise. But he had been well used, and played an important and amusing role in this episode. He managed to save the day again, giving Mickey a reason to travel in the TARDIS. Now Mickey will need to prove that he's more top dog than tin dog.

All in all, "School Reunion" was in my view the best of the Tennant stories so far. It appealed to new and old viewers alike, and was one of the very strongest of stories emotionally since the series returned.

Filters: Television Series 2/28 Tenth Doctor

“The missus and the ex. Welcome to every man’s worst nightmare!”

Mickey may have very succinctly put into words just exactly how the tenth Doctor feels about “School Reunion,” but as a long time fan of the series this episode is just about as far from a ‘nightmare’ as you can get. In his first contribution to the series, Toby Whithouse has written both a classic Doctor Who contemporary horror story and a cracking piece of emotional drama. “School Reunion” may bring back characters and dwell on certain events from the classic series, but this is no piece of fanw**k – this is a story that explores the relationship between the Doctor and Rose (and even to a certain extent Mickey) and that is the reason why we have Sarah Jane Smith and K-9 on board.

Like most people, I couldn’t believe my eyes when I saw how little Elizabeth Sladen had aged. Her understated introduction into the story (being shown to the staff room by Mr. Finch) is beautifully written and performed, and succeeds in establishing the character of ‘Investigative Journalist’ Sarah Jane Smith for the benefit of those new to the series or those with appalling memory. I love the Doctor’s reaction to her; he is clearly overjoyed to see her but can’t say that he recognises her. I love the line “Oh good for you Sarah Jane Smith!” which is delivered with relish by David Tennant; he’s like a proud parent or teacher, over the moon that his star pupil is still doing what she does best.

As I watched Sarah come across the TARDIS I found myself right on the edge of my seat. James Hawes direction is absolutely superb; Sarah turns slowly to face her old friend and the penny finally drops. For the first time in the episode we see that this is not the same Sarah Jane Smith that the fourth Doctor abandoned in Croydon (well… Aberdeen) way back in “The Hand of Fear.” She’s grown up. She’s even become a little bitter. As Sarah herself puts it, “I got old.” The Doctor claims to have regenerated “half a dozen times” since they last met*, and he too has grown older and harder. The ‘President Flavia’ music (as Russell T. Davies calls it!) has become synonymous with pivotal, heart-wrenching Time Lordy moments in the new series and every time I hear it I end up struggling to prevent a single, manly tear trickling down the cheek. If anything I expected “School Reunion” to be a nostalgic, light-hearted romp but in fact I found it almost as sad as the closing moments of “The Parting of the Ways.”

“I thought you died. I waited for you and you didn’t come back and I thought you must’ve died.”

“I lived. Everyone else died.”

“What you do mean?”

“Everyone died Sarah.”

David Tennant’s voice sounds as if it as about to crack as he says “Everyone died Sarah,” and I can’t say exactly why but for some reason it seems so much more tragic for him to confess his loneliness to an old friend – a friend who knew him when there was a Gallifrey; a UNIT; a family - things for the Doctor that are all long gone. I also liked how the moment wasn’t dwelled on; the scene quickly moved on (thanks to a Mickey Smith scream!) and we were back into the action – even when it is at its ‘soapiest’ this show never slows.

“Did I do something wrong because you never came back for me? You just dumped me… you were my life.”

Sarah Jane is quite possibly the most recognisable of all the Doctor’s travelling companions (hence why Liz Sladen was invited to take part in this episode) and it is wonderfully to have her back for a week and to have the Doctor and Sarah to say their big goodbye, but the fact of the matter is that the real story of “School Reunion” lies with Rose. It is no longer 1976 it is 2006, and it is Rose, not Sarah Jane who we will be watching week in week out. Since “Rose” the relationship between the Doctor and his latest ‘companion’ has been shown as a strange sort of love story; a special, one-of-a-kind affair between a young human girl and centuries’ old alien bloke. “School Reunion” hammers the point home that this special, ‘one-of-a-kind’ affair is far from unique. Sarah Jane came before Rose, as did a great many others. One day Sarah was off fighting Daleks, Mummies and the Loch Ness monster, then the next she found herself lost in the middle of Aberdeen. How could she go back to lead a normal life after that? And more to the point, how will Rose be able to go back and lead a normal life after all her adventures with the Doctor? The thought of it terrified her in “The Parting of the Ways” as she cried to her Mother and Mickey “What do I do every day?” At least back then, Rose was under the illusion that what she has with the Doctor is somehow unique, and that in some way he would always remember her. Her jealous mocking of Sarah - “He’s never mentioned you” – soon comes back to haunt her as she realises that one day, she will be Sarah Jane. She will be the one who is never mentioned.

“As opposed to what?”

The Doctor finally asks the question that no one has ever dared to ask.

“I thought you and me were…”

“I don’t age. I regenerate. But humans decay. You whither and you die. Imagine watching that happen to someone who you… You can spend the rest of your life with me, but I can’t spend the rest of mine with you. I have to live on. Alone. That’s the curse of the Time Lords.”

It is still left open, although from the dialogue and the fantastic performances of both Tennant and Piper it is clear that they do love each other. The Doctor just manages to hold himself back from saying it; it’s on the tip of his tongue. I’m glad that he doesn’t actually say that he loves her – or that he has loved any of his companions for that matter – probably because of the whole eighth Doctor / Charley saga. That particular relationship was handled beautifully (“I love you’s” and all) through “Neverland” and “Zagreus,” then when Big Finish tried to ‘get out of it’ (for want of a better phrase) it just got a little bit too messy. More importantly, the words are not necessary. The audience isn’t dumb; and as it is the dialogue just sparkles and most people can reasonably infer what the Doctor is thinking and feeling.

“Oh my God. I’m the tin dog!”

With all the heavyweight drama going on in “School Reunion” it’s easy to forget Mr. Mickey Smith, who is going on an important character journey of his own. Ever since day one Mickey has been the comic relief, and although his bravery and his confidence are growing with each episode he is still the butt of all the jokes, and I dare say he forever will be. He either can’t find the Maths department or is being down told to sit in the car and “… leave the window open a crack.” However, a combination of clever writing and superb acting from Noel Clarke has slowly made me warm to the character more and more. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve never disliked the character - I’ve always found him amusing, even when he was just an irritating, selfish coward, but of late I’ve found myself actively championing Mickey. I want him to do well; I want him to save the day or get the girl – God knows he deserves it! Mr. “Safety Scissors and Glitter” brings something special to almost every scene he is in – even when he has no dialogue his facial expressions alone often have me cracking up! Thanks to a little help from K-9, Mickey really does get to be a hero in this episode – he bravely crashes his car into the school so that the fat bespectacled kid can escape, and even better, he frees all the children by simply unplugging their mind-controlling computers! Incidentally, that scene is another example of just how good James Hawes’ direction is – the way you can almost physically follow Mickey’s train of thought as he looks from the computers, to the floor, to the power cables to the socket is simply fantastic.

Of course, hidden behind the character story is a wonderfully chilling horror story waiting to get out, and although it suffers slightly from not having quite enough screen-time (I think “School Reunion” should have been a serious contender for a two-part slot), it is a damn good one. Landing Anthony Stewart Head for the role of Mr. Finch is a real coup for the show, and I couldn’t imagine anyone else on Earth being as suited to the role as he is. Head can exude evil but he can also lay on the charm; he can stand on top of the school and whisper “come to me” to one of the Krillitanes in one scene and then in the next be smoothly trying to turn the Doctor over to his cause. I was also impressed by Eugene Washington as Mr. Wagner – in many ways I found him far more scary and intense than even Mr. Finch! There is so much classic Doctor Who stuff crammed in forty-four minutes it’s hard to comment on it all, but stuff like the Krillitane flying in front of the moon, the zombie kids in front of their computers and the dinner lady immolation scene are absolutely classic Doctor Who ingredients. Even for those who aren’t into the more sort of ‘real life’ / ‘soap opera’ parts of the story, there is still a hell of a lot of fantastic sci-fi horror to be found in “School Reunion.”

In the beautifully shot ‘showdown’ at the swimming pool between Finch and the Doctor, almost every element is perfect. Writing; acting; lighting; music; direction. It’s just one of those scenes that make you go “WOW!” and for those out there who doubted that David Tennant might not have Christopher Eccleston’s weight, this scene – just like “The Christmas Invasion”’s ‘satsuma’ scene – put any fears to rest.

“I’m so old now. I used to have so much mercy. You get one warning.”

I know I see it in everything, but there is a real Palpatine / Anakin Skywalker thing going on with Finch and the Doctor. This “Scasis Paradigm” idea is heavy stuff for an episode already crammed to bursting point, but it works so well. Finch can offer the Doctor absolute power over everything – quite literally power over life and death – meaning that he can resurrect the Time Lords, Katarina, Adric, Roz and God knows who else. Whereas in that ‘Anakin Skywalker Crisis Moment’ on a weak day he may possibly have broken, Sarah Jane Smith is on hand to remind him exactly why he shouldn’t. It is only as she says the words - “No. The universe has to move forward… everything has its time and everything ends” (misquoting the ninth Doctor) – that she seems to realise what they mean and for the first time since the Doctor abandoned her to return to Gallifrey, she gains some measure of closure.

“You good dog.”


K-9’s heroic sacrifice was something of an unexpected choker but like Sarah, I felt strange being saddened by the death of a “daft metal dog” (or as Finch brilliantly puts it, a “shooty dog thing”) but I suppose if you can get cut up over Data’s death in Star Trek: Nemesis then you can grieve for the third incarnation of a tin dog. I have to say though, I was annoyed at the Star Trek: Nemesis-style cop-out right at the end – how many K-9’s are there going to be? I know he’s getting his own spin-off series (again) but c’mon!

“Some things are worth getting your heart broken for.”

The episode’s ending is satisfying on so many levels. It’s nice to see the Doctor offer Sarah a chance to pick up where they left off, even though he knows that she’ll turn him down because she has a “..much bigger adventure ahead…” Sarah’s face is absolutely priceless when she hears Mickey ask, “Can I come?”, before she realises that he means with the Doctor and Rose, not with her! It’s interesting to see that Rose doesn’t seem to happy about her pseudo-boyfriend coming along for the trip of a lifetime…

Throughout “School Reunion” Murray Gold’s score is incredibly impressive; it reminds me very much of the epic soundtrack to last season’s Dalek episodes, giving the whole episode a real sense of gravity. A beautiful, soft, instrumental version “Song For Ten” contrasts the final scene of the episode with everything that has gone before it as the Sarah Jane makes the Doctor say Goodbye. That’s what really gets you. There’s not a dry eye in the house.

“Goodbye my Sarah Jane!”

As with last year’s much-hyped episode “Dalek”, the Bank Holiday weekend prevented me from watching this historic episode as it went out on Saturday evening (this year blame the Kaiser Chiefs in Millennium Square, Leeds!) but, as with “Dalek”, it was certainly worth the wait. Chilling scenes of horror, gut-wrenching character drama, fantastic dialogue (“Happy slapping hoodies with ASBOs and ringtones!”) and a retro robot dog mean that there is a little bit of something in “School Reunion” for everyone. A positive triumph in every possible respect. I honestly did not believe that the second series could be any better than the first, but the way things are going thus far…

* Probably best to either forget about “The Five Doctors”, or just say after she returned to her own time with the third Doctor, the Time Lords wiped Sarah’s memory! Sorted.

Filters: Television Series 2/28 Tenth Doctor