Doctor Who: School Reunion
(1 episode, s02e03, 2006)
The curse of the Time Lord is always having to say goodbye.
While walking the halls of Deffry Vale High School, Headmaster Finch notices a student waiting outside his office. She has a headache, but she can’t go home since she lives in an orphanage. Finch notes that no one will miss her and invites her into his office. The door closes, wings flap, and the girl screams.
The Doctor is posing as a teacher named John Smith. He asks a series of questions, each escalating in difficulty, and each answered by a student named Milo. Rose, on the other hand, is working in the cafeteria serving chips. She’s unhappy about the previous two days where they’ve been under cover based on a tip from Mickey. They note that the chips taste funny, but that the menu has been specially selected by the headmaster. Another teacher, Mr. Wagner, selects a student named Melissa for a top class. Another student, Kenny, is not allowed to eat the chips, and Finch is watching like a vulture from above.
In the kitchen, Rose watches the other kitchen staff bring in a barrel while wearing gloves and face masks. Mickey calls her with news of UFO activity in the area, but notes that he is being blocked by something called Torchwood. The barrel spills and one of the staff members is burned by the contents. The head cook stops Rose from calling an ambulance, even as Rose hears screams and smoke billows out of the side room.
In the mathematics classroom, Mr. Wagner subjects his top students to a Matrix-style computer program with alien symbols. Meanwhile, the Doctor is reunited with Sarah Jane Smith, now working as a reporter who is writing a profile on the headmaster.
I nearly cried at the reunion. I know it gets better.
Strange events are afoot: The students have taken a quantum leap in knowledge since Finch arrived; the day the headmaster arrived, several teachers disappeared under mysterious circumstances; and Kenny notices an alien creature snacking on a student. The Doctor, Rose, and Mickey investigate the school after hours, Sarah Jane finds the TARDIS, and the Doctor finally reconnects with his former companion.
She chastises him for not coming back after leaving her in Aberdeen (not South Croydon), and he reveals that all of the Time Lords are dead. The team comes together when Sarah Jane meets Rose and Mickey, and the two women clash while Mickey ruffles the Doctor’s feathers. They also discover that the teachers are actually bats that roost in the headmaster’s office. When the Doctor tries to take the oil sample back to the TARDIS, Sarah Jane shows him a faster way to analyze the sample.
K9! Mark III, to be exact! In Sarah Jane’s car!
She explains that the tin dog stopped working one day and she couldn’t repair the advanced technology. They don’t notice that they are being trailed by Headmaster Finch as they retire to a nearby café. The Doctor repairs K9, Mickey teases Rose about her jealousy, and Sarah Jane asks the Doctor if she did something wrong since he never came back for her after his visit home. The Doctor tries to brush it off, saying that she was getting on with her life, but Sarah Jane replies that the Doctor was her life. The hardest thing was adjusting back to mundane life after seeing the wonders of the universe.
K9 returns to life and recognizes the Doctor. He analyzes the sample and reports that it is Krillitane oil. The Krillitanes are a composite species who take the best physical parts of other species they conquer, and they’re doing something to the children.
As they leave the café, Rose is struggling with the realization that she’s not the first companion while Sarah Jane relates Mickey to K9, effectively the tin dog of the modern companion set. Rose is troubled that the Doctor has gone through so many companions, but the Doctor retorts that he doesn’t age. The curse of the Time Lords is regenerating and saying goodbye while everyone else ages around them.
The revelation of the Doctor’s identity frightens Mr. Finch, and everyone knows who everyone else is. The team returns to the school the next day. Rose and Sarah Jane investigate the computers, Mickey and K9 act as lookouts in the car, and the Doctor has a word with the headmaster, really a Krillitane named Brother Lassar. The human form is a morphic illusion, and Finch refers to the Doctor as a pompous, dusty senator, afraid of change and chaos and now all but extinct. The Doctor quietly replies that he had much more mercy when he was younger, and he offers a single warning.
Sarah Jane and Rose argue about who has had more experience with the Doctor – references include Pyramids of Mars, The Time Warrior, Robot, The Sontaran Experiment, Revenge of the Cybermen, The Android Invasion, The Five Doctors, Death to the Daleks, Genesis of the Daleks, Planet of Evil, Invasion of the Dinosaurs, Terror of the Zygons, The Unquiet Dead, Aliens of London/World War Three, The Empty Child/The Doctor Dances, and Tooth and Claw – and Sarah Jane gets the upper hand with the Loch Ness Monster. They bond over their compared notes about the Doctor – he still strokes parts of the TARDIS! – and the Time Lord is confused by their laughter when he enters the room.
The Krillitanes are rallied to their final phase as Finch seals the school, recalls the students to their hyper-processing class, and offers the rest of the staff as a lunchtime snack. The Doctor finds that the mainframe is fixed with a deadlock seal which the sonic screwdriver cannot breach. Meanwhile, Kenny, the only student not enthralled by the computers, attracts Mickey and K9 for help. While Mickey looks for a way to break down the door, K9 reminds him they are in a car.
Oh, K9. I have missed you.
Rose, Sarah Jane, and the Doctor watch the symbols flash on a large screen. The Doctor works out that the Krillitanes are trying to solve the Skasis Paradigm, the Universal Theory. Whoever solves it can control the building blocks of the universe and all of time and space. The oil is boosting the children’s intelligence, focusing them as a giant processor. Finch arrives with an offer for the Doctor to join them, to change the universe, to save everyone, even restore the Time Lords. In true Sarah Jane fashion, she acts as his the Doctor’s conscience: Pain and loss define them as much as happiness or love; Everything has its time and everything ends, whether a world or a relationship. The Doctor smashes the screen and they all run as Finch rallies the Krillitanes.
Mickey crashes through the front doors with Sarah Jane’s car. K9 springs to the rescue and shoots down one of the bats with his blaster. The Doctor tells K9 to hold them off while they retreat, even though his battery is failing. The Krillitane ignore the “shooty dog thing” – hello, Joss Whedon – and pursue the Doctor. The Time Lord realizes that the oil is the solution, and the Krillitanes have changed their physiology so often that even their own oil is toxic to them now. Mickey goes for the kids while the Doctor stuns the bats with the fire alarm.
The barrels have been deadlock sealed, and K9 notes that he can destroy them with one shot from his blaster. Unfortunately, K9 must remain behind to strike the blow. The Doctor protests, but then bids his old friend farewell – “You good dog.” – and leaves. He takes Sarah Jane’s hand to stop her from going back for the robot dog and drags her to safety.
Finch and the bat brethren enter the kitchen in search of the Doctor. K9 shoots the barrel, and Finch snarls: “You bad dog.” K9 replies with, “Affirmative,” as the school explodes. The students cheer, hailing Kenny as the hero who saved the day as Sarah Jane weeps over K9’s sacrifice.
Later on, Sarah Jane finds the TARDIS in a park. The Doctor suggests that she join them, but Sarah Jane declines. It’s time, she says, that she found a life of her own. Mickey asks if he may join the TARDIS, ready to see the universe. Sarah Jane gives him her blessing, one Smith to another, and the Doctor agrees. Rose isn’t as pleased.
Sarah Jane wants to stay, but some things are worth getting your heart broken for. She tells Rose that if she ever needs to, Sarah Jane is there to talk. She thanks the Doctor for her time with him, and he asks if she ever found someone special. She tells him that there was one man with whom she traveled with for a while, but he was a tough act to follow. She asks him to say goodbye this time and he does – “Goodbye, my Sarah Jane!” – with a tight hug. She walks away as the TARDIS dematerializes, but when she looks back she finds a present: A brand new K9 with the Mark III consciousness installed.
Happily, Sarah orders her new companion home. They have work to do.
This was a magnificent episode. We get to reunite with two classic companions, we get connections between the revival series and the classic series that officially link the mythology together, and we get David Tennant getting comfortable in his skin as the Doctor. The first time I saw this episode, I also was very pleased with guest star Anthony Stewart Head, who I had only seen as Giles on Buffy the Vampire Slayer.
I love him as a bad guy.
I especially loved seeing Elisabeth Sladen once again. Her performance brought tears to my eyes, and I really do miss her as the incomparable and irreplaceable Sarah Jane Smith. I’m looking forward to The Sarah Jane Adventures when they roll up in this project.
Rating: 5/5 – “Fantastic!”
UP NEXT – Doctor Who: The Girl in the Fireplace
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