YAY!!! THE SARAH-JANE SMITH MEETS BUFFY GILES EPISODE. IN A SCHOOL. I wonder where Clara and Class got it from? Also, K9. Oh, and Mickey and Rose are somewhere in the episode. Don’t forget them!
The Pre-title Sequence
Ben: It’s what’s his face from BBC Merlin! Oh, and Buffy too, I guess. I found this title sequence to be pretty standard fare. It gives you a good idea of what to expect from the episode – a school setting, an evil principal, and The Doctor as a teacher!
Ten: Good morning, class. Are we sitting comfortably?
Maureen: A third wall audience shout-out if ever I heard one! I quite enjoyed The Doctor wearing glasses and teaching kids in suitable frenetic style. I wonder if Clara teaching Jane Austin in the Capaldi era was influenced by this episode?
Giles was seriously ominous.
Mr Finch (upon discovering the student outside his office was an orphan): No one to miss you. You poor child… thing… child.
Ben: Miserable lunch lady Rose amused me greatly, particularly considering how poorly she treats Sarah-Jane later on in the episode. It’s like karma in advance. Although I do appreciate she got to do some investigating of her own.
Maureen: I thought it was also ironic that Rose escaped a life of chip eating and shitty retail jobs to travel with The Doctor, but in this adventure mundanity still catches her up. At least, Rose figures out something is suss with the chips… especially after a lunch lady is doused in it and an ambulance isn’t called as she screams and screams behind closed blinds! This whole episode reminded me very much of the TV show, Goosebumps, in terms of the ‘horror that’s relatable to young people’ fare. Young, nerdy Miles blowing up the school and the aliens to cheers from his classmates is one such example.
Anyway, Rose was fine to start with this episode, but her jealous swipes at Sarah-Jane over her past relationship with The Doctor can go die in a deep vat of spitting hot oil. Now I’m no longer a teen, Rose’s behavior isn’t relatable. It’s bitchy, needy and shows she defines herself through her romantic and sexual relationships with men. Her digs at other women can fuck right on off. Give it a rest already, RTD!
Ben: Yes, I agree. I understand there’s going to be some turbulence in having an old companion meet a current companion, but this whole ex-girlfriend meeting the new girlfriend-esque bickering is just immature.
Maureen: It’s sexist, thoughtless writing and it can go die in a hole. I suspect the only reason such scenes were includes in School Reunion were to reinforce to the viewer how important and special Rose is and how her and Ten have twu-love to move mountains or some such shit. I was relieved when Sarah-Jane and Rose finally bonded towards the end of the episode, even if their bonding was still in relation to The Doctor.
Ben: Onwards! Poor Mickey is still far too attached to Rose. His realisation that he’s basically the K9 of the Ten/Rose/Mickey trio was apt, considering he ends up being about as useful as K9. And K9 doesn’t make snide remarks about how Rose should lay off the chips if she wants to keep The Doctor…
Maureen: Yeah, that was a low moment from Mickey. Every time he redeems himself, he does or says something petty and jealous to try and win Rose back. Unappealing! Ten and Mickey arguing about Mickey being afraid of dead rats echoed the bickering of Sarah-Jane and Rose and was just as irritating. Stop trying to one-up each other, folks! It’s turning into Doctor Who Eastenders!
Ben: Now, having not watched any of Classic Who I’m not at all familiar with the character of Sarah-Jane Smith, but from the moment she laid eyes on the TARDIS I was invested. The emotional journey she goes through this episode is compelling, to say the least.
Maureen: I’d seen bits of Baker/Sarah-Jane here and there. Sarah-Jane reminded me in this episode of Harriet Jones in how she goes undercover as a journalist to dig up an alien plot. I enjoyed her spunk. When she realises Ten is a Doctor you feel her unresolved trauma and pain.
Sarah-Jane: I waited for you and I thought you’d died. You didn’t come back… did I do something wrong coz you just dumped me? You were my life.
Aside: echoes of Amy Pond? But this speech serves to remind the viewer of the alien danger of The Doctor. He’s alluring, yes, but time marches on and so must he. He ditches Sarah-Jane for Aberdeen, Scotland and doesn’t mention her again (or at least he hasn’t to Rose).
Ben: This reunion has re-opened some old and deep wounds. And this is something we’ve seen before, with The Doctor leaving mess after mess behind after he’s done saving the day. The Doctor really isn’t that great at follow ups. At least Sarah Jane gets the ending she deserves from the start – finally she can move on with her life. She is offered the chance to travel with The Doctor, but instead she’s going to start living for herself.
Maureen: I wasn’t a fan of the ending’s implication that Sarah-Jane is this sexless, love-lorn Doctor fan-girl, but I liked that she said no to further TARDIS travel and like Martha and later Amy decided to stop waiting.
Ben: My first impression of this episode is that if I hear The Doctor say the word ‘physics’ again it’ll be too soon. The second impression I got was how creepy kids who know things they shouldn’t are. Answering physics questions in a deadpan voice is not quite ‘twins playing in a hotel corridor’ levels of creepy, but it’s up there. And then Sarah-Jane Smith comes along and sweeps The Doctor off his feet! It’s not often we get to see The Doctor dumbfounded, but it was well worth it. Their second meeting was just as emotionally charged, but this time they’re on equal footing; this John Smith really is /her/ John smith.
Maureen: This episode showed the beginning of Ten’s real descent into the last of the Time Lord’s lonely God damage. Take this conversation between him and Rose:
Rose Tyler: I’ve been to the year five million, but this, this is really seeing the future- you just leave us behind! Is that what you’re going to do to me?
The Doctor: No. Not you.
Rose Tyler: But, Sarah Jane- you were that close to her once, and now… you never even mention her. Why not?
The Doctor: I don’t age. I regenerate. But humans decay. You wither and you die. Imagine watching that happen to someone you…
Rose Tyler: What, Doctor?
The Doctor: 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 Timelords.
It makes one wonder what The Doctor would have done with Rose had the Series Two finale not happened!
Ben: The Doctor’s confrontation with the leader of the Krillitane, Mr Finch, was quite charged, and then he gives The Doctor the chance to join with him! I guess with the power of this God Maker plus a Time Lord they’ll be able to rule the universe or something.
Maureen: Yeah, I was pretty confused at Mr Finch’s motivations at this point too. My notebook simply says, ‘huh? O.K.’ On the plus side, Anthony Head was great as Mr Finch and delivered his lines so beautifully I didn’t care I couldn’t figure his character out.
Mr Finch: Your people were peaceful to the point of indolence.
Ten: I used to have so much mercy.
Ben: Luckily Sarah-Jane has wise words of wisdom to say about how everything has to move on, and that pain and suffering is part of existing, and The Doctor snaps out of his daydream and smashes a tv screen.
Sarah-Jane: No. The universe has to move forward. Pain and loss, they define us as much as happiness or love. Whether it’s a world, or a relationship… Everything has its time. And everything ends.
It’s all very dramatic and doesn’t make much sense. I’m not entirely sure what this episode was trying to focus on? I definitely think it was a case of biting off more than they can chew. Why not focus on The Doctor struggling with the idea of being in control of this God Maker code? Now that would have been an interesting episode. Anyways this episode ends with the Doctor finally saying a proper goodbye to Sarah Jane Smith and presenting her with a new and improved K9. Shame he didn’t change the voice too. To say K9’s voice grates on the ears is an understatement.
The Alien of the Week
Ben: Even though you know the principal is up to No Good, we’re left with more questions than answers for the first chunk of School Reunion. E.g. Surely you’d find a more secure way to transport a mysterious dangerous substance than a rickety old trolley; why the obsession with the chips? And finally, why are kids frantically mashing keyboards whilst staring blankly at creepy green screens while dramatic music plays in the background? Oh, and why are the kids freakishly smart, I guess.
Maureen: I thought the freakishly smart thing was explained! It was because of what was in the lunch chips! And the kids were mashing keyboards to break the Skasis Paradigm. Because aliens had reasons?
Ben: After some creepy night-time investigating the gang discovers that these mysterious aliens are in fact Krillitanes – an alien race that takes on traits of races they conquer. And they’re doing something to the children in the school! Other than eating them, as we saw in the intro. I had a couple of issues with the evil plot these Krillitane have come up with, particularly how well integrated the Principal is after being on Earth for all of three months? He knows about orphanages and the Sunday Times, and how to successfully make small talk with a journalist. Their nefarious scheme to crack the Skasis Paradigm – the God Maker – didn’t really make sense to me. How exactly are these schoolkids cracking it? All it looks like they’re doing is mashing their keyboards while a weird green screen of technobabble flashes in front of them. Plus, I take issue with the fact that they need kids to do it because they need their imagination. Plenty of adults have great imaginations and pure souls, or whatever else the Doctor thinks they need. And if it was such an easy thing to crack, this code to the universe, surely the Time Lords would have done it ages ago.
Maureen: The Skasis Paradigm thing was so much what?!? A mcguffin if ever I watched one!
Ben: Anyways, the way they’re defeated is very Superman and kryptonite – the aliens have changed their own physiology so much that oil native to their planet is now toxic to them. Sure. And for some reason they explode so violently upon contact with this oil the schoolkids think the school has been blown up and celebrate. It’s a very strange ending.
Maureen: It was a very noisy ending that doesn’t stand up to much scrutiny, that’s for sure!
Ben: Overall, this was a very average episode of Doctor Who. I loved Sarah Jane Smith’s arc, I hated the frenetic keyboard smashing the kids did when they were hacking the universe. But overall it was just a bit too… vague for me. It felt like they came up with the idea of wanting a Sarah Jane episode and then shoehorned the rest to fit. I dunno, maybe the script needed another round of refinement. And less K9. I liked a lot of individual ideas in this episode, but the coming together left a lot to be desired. I’m giving it a 5/10.
Maureen: The overall episode tone reminded me of another RTD penned script in a crime show called Touching Evil. The elements just didn’t come together and whether intentional or otherwise, hints of nastiness bled in the script to make the episode mean. I feel like the same thing happened with School Reunion. Bringing Sarah Jane back was a great idea, but RTD ran into trouble with the Ten/Rose ship and explaining Sarah Jane’s meaning to The Doctor which led to un-neccessary female to female nastiness. And I agree Mr Finch’s plan made little sense. 6/10 inky stars