School Reunion

Doctor Sarah K-9

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.  That’s the curse of the Time Lords.

The Tenth Doctor

Synopsis

The Doctor, Rose and Mickey investigate strange events occurring in Deffry Vale High School, where some children have impossible knowledge.  Whilst the Doctor is undercover as a teacher, he bumps into a former companion, Sarah Jane Smith, who is also investigating incredible results.

Review

School Reunion is quite a major milestone for the revived series, as it finally explicitly confirms its connection to the original series.  This is something that had been previously alluded to in the first series, however, it demonstrates confidence here in the second series that the new followers of the show will accept a previous companion returning to the show.  Bringing back Elisabeth Sladen as Sarah Jane seems like a bit of a no-brainer really, as the character is one of the most easily recognisable companions from the ‘Classic’ era of the show, having served as a companion to both Jon Pertwee and Tom Baker.

Hello.

Oh, I should think so!

And you are?

Hm? Ah, Smith.  John Smith.

John Smith.  I used to have sometimes went by that name.

Well, it’s a very common name.

He was a very uncommon man.  Nice to meet you.

Nice to meet you.  Yes, very nice.  More than nice.  Brilliant.

Sarah Jane Smith and The Tenth Doctor

School Reunion sees David Tennant at potentially his best if watching chronologically through his era.  The moment where the Doctor, under the guise of John Smith, spots Sarah Jane for the first time is so well played and Tennant’s enthusiasm at acting alongside Sladen is clear here, equalled only by his reaction when K-9 is unveiled in the back of Sarah’s car.  Tennant and Sladen have some great and easy chemistry which really helps with the idea that this is the same man who travelled with her through time and space.  Sarah does harbour a considerable amount of resentment for how her time with the Doctor ended, with her being left in Aberdeen rather than Croydon.  Equally, there is tension between Rose and Sarah Jane, which I feel is one of the stronger parts of the episode.  This story really brings it home to Rose that there have been other people to travel with the Doctor and almost bursts the smugness that seems to be prevalent in the second series.  The moment where they argue and compare experiences, ultimately realising how silly they are being and mocking the Doctor’s eccentricities is really lovely.  It almost promises an improvement in Rose’s attitude, but it does feel a bit like an immediate step backwards at the conclusion, where Mickey wants to travel with the Doctor.  Noel Clarke continues his upwards trend and Mickey is much more likeable and much more useful as a companion now than he would have been during the first series.  His realisation that he is the equivalent of K-9 is fantastically well played.

Doctor Headmaster

The Krillitane are a good villain for this story and the set up of them taking the place of teachers at the school works really well.  I particularly like the callback when Rose talks about how she thought teachers used to sleep at school, only to find that the Krillitane are asleep in the Headmaster’s office.  Anthony Head is another strong element of this episode, as there is something otherworldly about his appearance, with his slicked-back hair and the way he carries himself which makes it utterly believable that he could, in fact, be an alien disguised as a human.  The Krillitanes’ scheme is also quite effective and gives the Doctor, Rose and Sarah Jane pause for thought, offering the Doctor the opportunity to change the outcome of the Time War, and both Sarah and Rose the opportunity to travel with the Doctor forever.  It does seem as though this opportunity might tempt the Doctor enough here, only for Sarah’s speech to Finch to snap him out of it, and it is nice to see the Doctor potentially swayed by an enemy’s plan for once.

sarah jane and the doctor

School Reunion is perhaps unique in demonstrating the impact travelling with the Doctor has on his companions’ lives and their struggles in adapting to life after the Doctor.  It doesn’t even seem to have occurred to Rose that there is any potential event that might mean that the Doctor would leave her behind, despite Jack having been left behind only a few episodes earlier.  In bringing back Sarah Jane, we see a companion who has had time to deal with being left by the Doctor, however, there is still some uncertainty and lingering doubts as to whether it is due to something that she did wrong which meant that the Doctor did not return for her.  It’s a really superb depiction of what losing that way of life means for people and it’s nice to see Doctor Who actually address that.  The scene at the end of the episode where Sarah finally gets a proper goodbye from the Doctor is really touching.

Did I do something wrong?  ‘Cause you never came back for me.  You just dumped me.

I told you.  I was called back home and in those days, humans weren’t allowed.

I waited for you. I missed you.

Oh, you didn’t need me.  You were getting on with your life.

You were my life.

Sarah Jane Smith and Tenth Doctor

Verdict: A really good episode that sees a past companion return.  The central performances are all really good, and it has a good one off villain.  9/10

Cast: David Tennant (The Doctor), Billie Piper (Rose Tyler), Elisabeth Sladen (Sarah Jane Smith), Anthony Head (Mr. Finch), Noel Clarke (Mickey Smith), Rod Arthur (Mr Parsons), Eugene Washington (Mr Wagner), Heather Cameron (Nina), Joe Pickley (Kenny), Benjamin Smith (Luke), Clem Tibber (Milo), Lucinda Dryzek (Melissa), Caroline Berry (Dinner Lady), John Leeson (Voice of K-9)

Writer: Toby Whithouse

Director: James Hawes

Behind the Scenes

  • With the reappearance of Sarah Jane and K-9, the rebooted show confirms explicitly that it is a continuation of the original series.  This story also acted as a backdoor pilot for The Sarah Jane Adventures, which would be launched in January 2007.  This is the first appearance for both Sarah and K-9 since 1983’s The Five Doctors.
  • The Doctor states that he has regenerated “half a dozen times” since he and Sarah last met.  At the time of broadcast, this referred back to The Hand of Fear, Sarah’s last story as a companion, not taking into account The Five Doctors.  However, after the reveal of the War Doctor, a secret incarnation of the Doctor, this line still works, and takes it back to Sarah meeting the Fifth Doctor.

Best Moment

The confrontation between the Doctor and Mr. Finch in the swimming pool is a highlight, as is the meeting between Sarah and the Doctor once she’s seen the TARDIS.

Best Quote

Their lives are so fleeting.  So many goodbyes.  How lonely you must be, Doctor.  Join us.

I could save everyone.

Yes.

I could stop the war.

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.

Mr Finch, The Tenth Doctor and Sarah Jane Smith

Mr Finch

Honourable mention for:

You bad dog.

Affirmative.

Mr Finch and K-9

 

The Moonbase

moonbase cybermen

Everything’s got a weak point.  It’s just a question of waiting until it turns up, that’s all.

Second Doctor

Synopsis

The TARDIS lands on the Moon in 2070, where the crew are becoming infected with a strange alien virus.  With Jamie unconscious, the Doctor, Ben and Polly become aware of a mysterious silver menace.

Review

The Moonbase is perhaps notable for being the first episode to launch the “base under siege” style of Doctor Who stories, as well as cementing the Cybermen as a true A list Doctor Who villain.  Whilst the story is not perfect, it does a lot of things well, but there is some incredibly shaky scientific basis, surprising as the writer, Kit Pedler, was a scientist.  I think this story gives us Troughton’s first definitive performance as the Doctor, encapsulated by his delivery of the famous “corners” speech.

One of this story’s real strengths is that it definitely shores up the feeling of the Troughton era.  Troughton seems to have learnt where his strengths are and what sort of person the Second Doctor is.  Aside from the obvious moment, he really nails it when he realises how the Neurotrope virus is affecting the crew via the sugar, as well as the look of abject horror on his face when he realises that the crew didn’t search the medical bay.  Troughton’s face is so expressive, and he really uses it to sell the sense of impending dread.  Whilst it’s a shame that Jamie is unconscious or feverish for much of the story, the story does demonstrate the dynamics within the TARDIS team.  Both Jamie and Ben seem to have a bit of hostility towards each other, whilst it is nice that the story allows Polly to come up with a solution to defeating the Cybermen.  It’s also nice to see Ben and Polly discussing their past encounter with the Cybermen, which helps to turn the tide here, as well as bringing Jamie up to speed on their threat.

Polly Doctor Ben

Another of the strengths of the story if how it deals with the Cybermen.  By us only seeing them fleeting in the first two episodes, it effectively allows tension to be built until they are finally seen by the majority of the crew at the end of the second part.  It also allows for Hobson’s distrust of the Doctor and his companions to feel legitimate and it is a good performance by Patrick Barr.  I initially found the new voice of the Cybermen jarring and a bit irritating, but as I got used to it, actually found it more menacing and sinister than the sing-song version we get in The Tenth Planet. The use of music here also helps give the Cybermen a feeling of real dread and I particularly love the shots of the Cybermen moving across the lunar surface.

The Moonbase is definitely an episode that I’d recommend watching when looking at the development of the Second Doctor’s era as a whole, as well as seeing how the Cybermen became a classic villain.  That is not to say that it is not without flaws.  Some of the direction seems quite flat, especially whilst on the titular Moonbase, although some of the shots on the lunar surface are spectacular.  The story in places does stretch credibility, especially when the Cyber-controlled Dr. Evans is able to gain access to the controls of the Gravitron despite the base supposedly being on red alert and the fact that he is covered in black lines and wearing a Cyber control helmet.  Additionally, the conclusion to the episode feels a bit too silly for a story that by and large is a serious story that packs a lot of a threat. The Cybermen’s plan to destroy the surface of the Earth by using the Gravitron also feels pretty ridiculous and convulted plan.  None of these issues massively affected my enjoyment of the story, though I do feel as though they need to be mentioned.

Verdict: A fun, if flawed, introduction to the base under siege style of stories.  The Cybermen really have a decent second outing. 7/10

Cast: Patrick Troughton (The Doctor), Michael Craze (Ben Jackson), Anneke Wills (Polly), Frazer Hines (Jamie McCrimmon), Patrick Barr (Hobson), Andre Maranne (Benoit), Michael Wolf (Nils), John Rolfe (Sam), Alan Rowe (Voice from Space Control), Mark Heath (Ralph), Alan Rowe (Dr. Evans), Barry Ashton, Derek Calder, Arnold Chazen, Leon Maybank, Victor Pemberton, Edward Phillips, Ron Pinnell, Robin Scott, Allan Wells (Scientists), Denis McCarthy (Voice of Controller Rinberg), John Wills, Sonnie Willis, Peter Greene, Keith Goodman, Reg Whitehead (Cybermen), Peter Hawkins (Voice of Cybermen)

Writer: Kit Pedler

Director: Morris Barry

Parts: 4

Behind the Scenes

  • The Moonbase was commissioned very quickly after the broadcast of The Tenth Planet, due to uncertainty about the availability of the Daleks for future appearances and the success of the Cybermen.  Dalek creator Terry Nation was looking at opportunities to launch the infamous villains in televisions and movies in the United States.  The Cybermen would go on to reappear several times in Troughton’s run as the Doctor.
  • The first story to feature the Earth’s Moon, and the first redesign of the Cybermen.  It also marks the final usage of the original title sequence until 2013’s Day of the Doctor.
  • Episode 1 and 3 are missing, but have been animated in the BBC’s DVD release.
  • According to a story told by Anneke Wills, Patrick Troughton was nearly crushed when the Gravitron prop fell from the rigging whilst he was exploring the set.
  • Victor Pemberton, who plays an unnamed scientist, served as the show’s largely uncredited script editor from The Evil of the Daleks until The Ice Warriors, and wrote Fury From The Deep.  This makes him both one of the five people to write and act in the show and the only person to appear in a story before a story of his was broadcast.

Best Moment

I really love the moment where the Cyberman is found in the stock room.  It’s really effective and quite scary, and the story really uses shadows effectively.

Best Quote

There are some corners of the universe which have bred the most terrible things.  Things which act against everything we believe in.  They must be fought.

Second Doctor

Moonbase crew

Aliens of London

slitheen spaceship

Every conversation with you just goes mental.  There’s no one else I can talk to. I’ve seen all that stuff up there.  The size of it.  And I can’t say a word.  Aliens and spaceships and things.  And I’m the only person on Earth who knows they exist.

Rose Tyler

Synopsis

Rose returns to Earth, only to find that the TARDIS has returned them a year after she originally left with the Doctor.  At the same time, a spaceship crash lands in the Thames, smashing through Big Ben in the process, and there are mysterious happenings at Number 10 Downing Street.  The Doctor is required.

Review

Aliens of London is the first time that the revived series really feels like it stumbles.  It may just be one of my least favourite episodes of Doctor Who that I have seen so far.  There is absolutely no subtlety here, with the story seeming like it’s been directed as an out and out comedy.  With the exception of Eccleston, Piper and Wilton, all the cast seem to be playing it for laughs.  Doctor Who doesn’t need to take itself too seriously, and a good fart joke isn’t in itself a massive problem, but the story doesn’t seem to know when to stop.  There are other elements of the episode that don’t work so well as well, but I’ll delve into them in more depth in this review.

Slitheen

The Slitheen are really the elephant in the room so I will address them first.   I don’t mind the idea of shapeshifting aliens, but the added element of the flatulence is a joke that wears thin far too quickly, and it isn’t aided by the performances of the three main actors portraying the human forms of the Slitheen.  Lines like “I’m shaking my booty” and “would you rather silent but deadly?” just make me cringe, which is partially down to the writing and partially down to their delivery, but combined, it leaves a bad taste in my mouth.  Part of me wonders why they didn’t think of bringing back the Zygons if they were going to use shape-shifting aliens – the production team obviously weren’t afraid to bring back ‘B list’ aliens, as they brought back the Autons in Rose.  I think if the direction and the actors treated the Slitheen slightly more seriously, they would be slightly less jarring to me – everything in the first series has been at least treated as a serious threat, but the treatment of the Slitheen makes them feel decidedly lightweight.  It is fine that they treat their plans on Earth as a bit of fun and a joke, but the fact that the episode itself does too seriously undermines them.

Another issue I have with this story is the fallout from Rose’s missing year, although I have to say I love the reveal at the start of the episode, more specifically the way Murray Gold’s score starts off bright and optimistic and slides into a minor key which puts the viewer on edge.  Jackie is pretty one-dimensional in her reaction to the reappearance of Rose, and thinking long term, this doesn’t really have very much impact on the relationship between Jackie and the Doctor going forward to the end of the Tyler’s time on the show.  In a way, Martha’s mother, Francine, has a much more understandable reaction after learning about the Doctor in The Lazarus Experiment than Jackie does here.  She is just angry and shouting constantly, which is understandable, but there are no hints of sorrow in this performance.  Coduri is just shrill, which just sets my teeth on edge, but I don’t think it is entirely her fault.  Again, there is no nuance to either the writing or the directing and her character suffers as a result.   The treatment of Mickey is also a bit ridiculous.  We’re led to believe that Mickey has been questioned about Rose’s disappearance and treated as if he murdered her for almost an entire year.  The story only briefly delves into the effect that this would have on a person, and Rose just asks him if he’s been seeing anyone else whilst she’s been gone.  If Mickey is going to be treated as the comedic “idiot”, which the story wants to do here too, judging by the scene in which he runs to the TARDIS whilst it is dematerialising and crashes into the wall behind it, then there’s little point in adding this detail to his character.  It goes without saying, but Mickey being suspected for Rose’s murder and Jackie’s treatment of him during this year is never explicitly mentioned again after this two-parter.

Excuse me.  Harriet Jones.  MP for Flydale North.

I’m sorry, can’t it wait?

But I did have an appointment at 3:15.

Yes.  And then a spaceship crashed in the middle of London.  I think the schedule might have changed.

Harriet Jones and Indra Ganesh

Fortunately, some of the cast are treating it as serious drama.  Eccleston, Piper and Wilton give decent performances whilst the story crashes around their ears.  Penelope Wilton gives Harriet Jones suitable gravitas and she is likeable enough, even when asked to repeatedly churn out that “Harriet Jones, MP for Flydale North” line which is initially amusing but wears thin quickly.  This is yet more evidence of Davies not knowing when to stop flogging a dead horse.  It is also really lovely to see Eccleston getting to investigate and discover on his own in this story, which is something we don’t really get to see him to do much of.  I love the Doctor’s equal disdain for the aliens who created the “mermaid” space pig and the soldier who shoots it dead, which for me is the strongest part of the episode.  I am going to put in an honourable mention for the scene where the pig is trying to break out of the morgue, which pays a rather obvious homage to Paul McGann’s regeneration scene in the TV Movie, which I only really noticed on this occasion! Billie Piper also helps to keep the story grounded, and these three performances perhaps save this story from me giving it a lower rating.

Verdict: Aliens of London might just be one of the weakest episode of the revived series.  Repeated jokes and extremely broad performances make this one to forget about as quickly as possible – the rest of the series does, anyway!  2/10

Cast: Christopher Eccleston (The Doctor), Billie Piper (Rose Tyler), Camille Coduri (Jackie Tyler), Corey Doabe (Spray Painter), Ceris Jones (Policeman), Jack Tarlton (Reporter), Lachele Carl (Trinity Wells), Andrew Marr (Himself), Matt Baker (Himself), Fiesta Mei Ling (Ru), Basil Chung (Bau), Rupert Vansittart (General Asquith), David Verrey (Joseph Green), Navin Chowdry (Indra Ganesh), Penelope Wilton (Harriet Jones), Annette Badland (Margaret Blaine), Naoko Mori (Doctor Sato), Eric Potts (Oliver Charles), Noel Clarke (Mickey Smith), Jimmy Vee (Pig), Steve Speirs (Strickland), Elizabeth Frost, Paul Kasey and Alan Ruscoe (Slitheen)

Writer: Russell T Davies

Director: Keith Boak

Doctor Rose Downing Street

Behind the Scenes

  • First two-parter of the revived series and the 700th episode of Doctor Who.
  • The final Doctor Who story to have any footage shot at Television Centre.
  • This story introduced some recurring characters and aliens for this era of Doctor Who.  The Slitheen would go on to reappear in Boom Town and The Sarah Jane Adventures, whilst it would also introduce Harriet Jones, who had several appearances later in the Tennant era.  It also introduced Toshiko Sato, who would be a member of the Torchwood 3 team in the first two series of the spin-off, Torchwood.  Finally, it marks the first appearance of newsreader Trinity Wells.
  • This story features U.N.I.T. for the first time since Battlefield.  Notably, this is the last time they are referred to as the United Nations Intelligence Task Force.
  • The story moved the narrative of the programme to a year ahead of the broadcast version, something which would continue until Planet of the Dead in 2009.
  • The next time trailer being shown immediately after the cliffhanger was criticised, and following this story, the trailer for multi-part stories would only be shown after the closing credits concluded.

Best Moment

The scenes where the Doctor is off investigating at the hospital, especially when he expresses his disgust at what the space pig is, comparing it to a “mermaid” and his anger at the U.N.I.T. soldier for shooting it dead.

Best Quote

Excuse me, would you mind not farting while I’m saving the world?

Ninth Doctor

Doctor Aliens of London

Marco Polo

the khan and the doctor

Marco Polo was the fourth serial of Doctor Who, initially broadcast from 22nd February to 4th April 1964.  Sadly, this story is the first which is completely lost from the BBC’s Archive, although telesnap reconstructions do exist, with a condensed thirty-minute version being released on the DVD release of The Edge of Destruction.  Rather ironically, this story was one of the most distributed stories of Doctor Who in this era, which means that it is the story that has probably been wiped the most of all the missing episodes.  However, it does also mean that there is a higher probability of its return to the BBC Archive.

Marco Polo does contain some notable firsts, though.  It marks the first and only time that a broadcast story of Doctor Who linking narration and maps to allow the viewer to follow the narration more closely.  This was provided by guest star, Mark Eden, although originally it was supposed to be split between the Doctor, Ian and Barbara.  It is also the first story to feature a historical figure in the shape of Marco Polo, and rather intriguingly, the first story considered for treatment for the move to the big screen by the Walt Disney Corporation, of all people!  This fell through, however, and the Doctor’s adventures with the Daleks were adapted instead.  Finally, the story features the TARDIS being used as a plot point for the very first time, rather than as simply a means of transport.

In terms of the story, it does seem to marginalise the companions a little bit more than what came before.  William Russell in particular was annoyed by the reduced role played by Ian in this story, however, Carol Ann Ford lists it amongst her favourite serials.  The Doctor seems a bit softer here following the events of The Edge of Destruction and he certainly seems more recognisable as the Doctor in this story.  Also, rather remarkably for the time, the story does depict a multi-ethnic group, which is a positive for this story.

Synopsis

The TARDIS lands in Central Asia in 1289, with the Doctor and his companions joining the travelling caravan of Marco Polo, the Venetian explorer.  Travelling from the Pamir Plateau, through the Gobi Desert and into Imperial Cathay, they encounter many dangers, before meeting the aged Kublai Khan in Shang-Tu.  Travelling to Peking, the TARDIS team save Khan from an assassination team before travelling off in the TARDIS.

marco polo doctor susan ian ping-cho

Cast: William Hartnell (The Doctor), William Russell (Ian Chesterton), Jacqueline Hill (Barbara Wright), Carol Ann Ford (Susan Foreman), Mark Eden (Marco Polo), Derren Nesbitt (Tegana), Zienia Merten (Ping-Cho), Martin Millar (Kublai Khan), Jimmy Gardener (Chenchu), Leslie Bates (Man at Lop), Michael Guest (Mongol Bandit), Charles Wade (Malik), Philip Voss (Acomat), Paul Carson (Ling-Tau), Gabo Baraker (Wang-Lo), Tutte Lemkow (Kuiju), Claire Davenport (Empress), Peter Lawrence (Vizier), Basil Tang (Office Foreman), O. Ikeda (Yeng)

Writer: John Lucarotti

Director: Waris Hussein and John Crockett (Part 4: The Wall of Lies only)

Parts: 7 (The Roof of the World, The Singing Sands, Five Hundred Eyes, The Wall of Lies, Rider from Shang-Tu, Mighty Kublai Khan, Assassin at Peking)

Ping-Cho and Susan