Doctor Who – School Reunion

Written by Toby Whitehouse
Ironically, on the weekend the Beeb broadcast this latest Doctor Who episode,
America’s Sci-Fi channel was finally getting around to showing “Father’s Day,” one of the best episodes of the first season, and one of the best–dare I say–of all Doctor Who. Ironic in that I so wanted “School Reunion” to at least aim for the emotion of that episode, knowing that it would be bringing back former assistant Sarah Jane Smith (Elizabeth Sladen), and well, it comes up short.
The plot was straight out of Rodriguez’ “The Faculty,” with a school overrun by aliens in teachers’ clothing. There’s some mysterious oil, a supercomputer, large bat creatures, and a headmaster who is cartoony evil. For 45 minutes, it still feels rushed, leaving out the usual Tardis-landing, where-are-we introduction. Instead, The Doctor and Rose are already in place, working undercover in the school as a teacher and a school lunch lady respectively. Then Sarah Jane Smith turns up as an investigative reporter and the episode heads towards its emotional core.
“I waited for you, all these years!” Sarah says to the Doctor, and fans will remember how she was dropped back off on Earth, suddenly after the Doctor was called to Gallifrey alone. Trouble is, every time the story turned dramatic (ie. interesting), some silliness intervened, including being attacked by giant bats and such. Rose’s kneejerk jealousy was a bit too obvious, especially after her character’s development last season, which suggested that her mind had expanded beyond her time-and-space-bound earth perspective. The same goes for the little bitch-fight the two assistants have later. (“I saw a werewolf!” “Well, I saw the Loch Ness Monster!” etc.) It was cute, but designed purely for fans. Much better was the Doctor having to defend why he changes assistants over the years–it was suddenly brutal and harsh and Rose was taken aback.
Maybe it’s too much of me to ask for more drama in a sci-fi serial, but go back and rewatch “Father’s Day” and be amazed at how much emotion (and time-paradox goodness) is packed into a simple siege scenario.
The last five minutes, though, nearly made up for it, with a final goodbye insisted on from Sarah, and K-9 returned to its mistress. Silly tin dog.
Surely this story deserved a two-part arc?

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