Review of Doctor Who ‘School Reunion’ (Series 28)
In the run up to the 50th anniversary of ‘Doctor Who’ in November 2013, Neela Debnath with the help of BBC DVD, will be reviewing one story from each of the previous 31 series of the show. Each review will offer readers a snapshot from every series of ‘Doctor Who’ and celebrate the longest-running science fiction television programme in the world.
Another year and another Doctor, Christopher Eccleston only stayed for one series before moving on to other projects. The ninth Doctor regenerated after kissing Rose and absorbing all the power from the time vortex at the end of The Parting of Ways. And so the era of David Tennant’s tenth incarnation commenced.
Rose Tyler (Billie Piper) is still travelling with the Doctor. After the initial shock of the regeneration, she has grown accustomed to the new incarnation. Their relationship develops as she learns more about him along the way.
The first series was very successful with guest stars ranging from Zoe Wanamaker to Simon Pegg to Richard Wilson. There was also a scintillating two-parter written by Steven Moffat called The Empty Child/The Doctor Dances that raised the bar for Doctor Who. Saying this, there were some more embarrassing moments – most notably the farting Slitheen.
Doctor Who returned with more gusto for the second series after a much lauded first year. School Reunion was penned by Being Human creator Toby Whithouse. The story saw the Doctor cross paths with former companions Sarah Jane Smith (Elisabeth Sladen) and K-9 while investigating alien activity at a comprehensive school. This episode essentially served as a ‘backdoor pilot’ for The Sarah Jane Adventures.
School Reunion is wonderful because it marries the world of classic Doctor Who with Nu-Who. The revived series was trying to avoid too much backstory from the previous 40 years but the inclusion of Sarah Jane Smith worked wonderfully. We last saw Sarah Jane in The Hand of Fear in series 13 alongside Tom Baker’s Doctor. He was called back to Gallifrey by the Time Lords and she was not allowed to come with him, forcing her to return to Earth. It turns out he dropped her off in Aberdeen instead of South Croydon.
Sarah Jane was utterly dismayed at having to leave the Tardis and her return is all the more emotional. Sladen is absolutely brilliant and it’s as if very little has changed since she was last on the show. Equally, K-9 fits in well despite looking a little ‘disco’. It’s the perfect collaboration.
The tension between classic Doctor Who versus Nu-Who is played out between Rose and Sarah Jane. Their initial mutual dislike of one another and fighting over the Doctor is done well. While their quarrel over who has had the most exciting adventures is a delight. It mirrors the discussions and debates between fans today.
Whithouse focuses on the Doctor’s relationship with his companions and leaving them behind. It works both ways. We see Sarah Jane’s experience of being abandoned. She is utterly bereft by the whole experience and her story is tragic. Then we see it from the Doctor’s perspective, he lives on alone while his companions die. It’s just as painful for him. This episode picks up on the loneliness of the Doctor, a theme that is carried on throughout the new series. It adds new layers to the Doctor that we have not been seen before. The script is an impressive feat, capturing so much in 45 minutes.
As a fan of Doctor Who as a child, Tennant pours his enthusiasm into the role. His Doctor is more amicable than his predecessor and more likeable. There is also an oddball quality to him. He can deliver speeches at lightning speed without missing a beat but is firm when he needs to be. Eccleston went for grit while Tennant opts for eccentricity.
School Reunion is beautiful and heart breaking stuff even if you haven’t seen the old series. At its core it is a good old-fashioned love story: boy meets girl, then boy leaves girl to travel through space and time in his blue police box. It’s something for fans of all generations of Doctor Who and that is why it is so magical. It will leave you an emotional wreck by the end.
DVD & image credit: BBCTagged in: Billie Piper, David Tennant, doctor who, Doctor Who 50th anniversary, Elisabeth sladen, Sarah Jane Smith, The Sarah Jane Adventures
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