The Impossible Planet

We are the Legion of the Beast.

The Ood

Synopsis

Separated from the TARDIS, the Doctor and Rose find themselves stuck on a planet orbiting a black hole with the crew of a space base. However, an evil entity is awakening, causing trouble for the crew.

Review

The Impossible Planet is possibly one of the first glimpses of revived Doctor Who I ever had. I have a distinct memory of seeing the crew seeing Scooti’s body floating towards the black hole when my brother was re-watching this episode – or possibly channel hopping. It is certainly a stronger two-parter than the rather limp Cyberman double-hander in the same series, giving us some great moments of fear and unease and (takes a deep breath) some actual decent moments between the Tenth Doctor and Rose. I think the majority of the guest cast do well and they feel like lived-in characters.

No signal. That’s the first time I’ve gone out of range. Mind you, even if I could…what would I tell her? Can you build another TARDIS?

They were grown, not built. And with my home planet gone, we’re kind of stuck.

Well, could be worse. This lot said that they’d give us a lift.

And then what?

I don’t know. Find a planet. Get a job. You live a life the same as the rest of the Universe.

I’d have to settle down. Get a house or something, a proper house. With…doors and carpets. Me, living in a house. That, that is terrifying.

You’d have to get a mortgage.

Rose Tyler and the Tenth Doctor

I’ll start by talking about the Doctor and Rose. If you’ve read any of my other reviews of David Tennant’s first series, you’ll know that I’m not the biggest fan of this pairing, however, the writing seems a lot better. The scene with the Doctor and Rose discussing the implications of losing the TARDIS, especially for the Doctor, is one of the most mature and well-dealt with conversations that I think that these two ever have. It’s interesting for the Doctor to have this discussion, considering that Russell T Davies seems to like forceably separating the Doctor and the TARDIS. I might be wrong but can think of several occasions this happens in his era, and this might be mind playing tricks on me) but I can only think of two occasions since 2010 that this has happened (Cold War and The Tsuranga Conundrum). This story moves to ground their relationship and actually makes me see that David Tennant and Billie Piper do have decent chemistry together. There are little moments like Rose kissing the Doctor’s visor before he goes down in the drill capsule with Ida that sell the idea of this relationship being something more than the standard Doctor-companion relationship. Perhaps because the Doctor feels quite out of his depth, with the language that the TARDIS can’t translate means that they can’t be as smug and cavalier as usual. We do get some of the inconsistent Rose that has been around since Tennant’s debut in New Earth rather than the strong individual we saw when she was with Eccleston, especially in the moment she tells Ida and the Doctor to keep breathing when they are in the diving bell.

The story certainly fits into the category of base under siege, with the interesting added threat of the black hole. I’m reliably informed by my research done in the course of writing this blog that a planet in orbit around a black hole is not as impossible as the Doctor states, just highly improbable, but otherwise this story is well written. Matt Jones goes down as another writer who has written one solitary adventure for the revived series, although Russell T Davies had to do a lot of work on this two-parter, which might explain why he never came back. The story does create a terrifying atmosphere, with the scenes with Toby Zed on his own, with Gabriel Woolf’s voice is really scary. I love the idea of the planet being ‘the bitter pill’, which is a lovely piece of dialogue. The story also presents some uncomfortable truths about humanity with the inclusion of the Ood, revealing that even in the future, humans will still feel the need to subjugate species. The story also benefits from the direction of James Strong who helps the story feel claustrophobic and threatening when it needs to. The shot of Scooti floating in space is beautiful, and even knowing how it was filmed thanks to Doctor Who Confidential, it still blows me away every single time.

In the scriptures of the Valtino, this planet is called Krop-Tor, the bitter pill. And the black hole is supposed to be a mighty demon, who was tricked into devouring the planet only to spit it out because it was poison.

Ida Scott

The guest cast here for the most part feel quite lived in and three dimensional, with the exception of Scooti, who is dispatched quite early on by Toby. Zach is thrust into a reluctant leadership position by the death of the previous captain of the mission and it is encouraging to see how he is supported by his fellow crew members, making the best of a bad situation. The only character who seems to be lacking characterisation who survives the run-time of this first part is Toby, who seems to be classed as a bit weird and a loner, also known as perfect possession material. I’d like to reserve special praise for the work of Silas Carson and Gabriel Woolf, voicing the Ood and the Beast respectively, as both are key here. Carson makes the Ood’s calm responses chilling when they start reciting the messages of the Beast and Woolf is suitably sinister – when Radio Free Skaro did a commentary episode for it a few years ago, they slipped a clip of his dialogue in unannounced, and save to say it felt as though my heart stopped for a second!

Verdict: The Impossible Planet does a good job of creating a terrifying atmosphere thanks to a strong script and direction, as well as a good guest cast. 9/10

Cast: David Tennant (The Doctor), Billie Piper (Rose Tyler), Danny Webb (Mr Jefferson), Shaun Parkes (Zachary Cross Flane), Claire Rushbrook (Ida Scott), Will Thorp (Toby Zed), Ronny Jhutti (Danny Bartock), MyAnna Buring (Scooti Manista), Paul Kasey (The Ood), Gabriel Woolf (Voice of the Beast) & Silas Carson (Voice of the Ood).

Writer: Matt Jones

Director: James Strong

Behind the Scenes

  • Matt Jones wrote the Seventh Doctor Virgin New Adventures novel Bad Therapy.
  • The story originally featured the Slitheen Family until the production team realised that the cost of repairing the costumes was equivalent to creating new ones.
  • First appearance of the Sanctuary Base space suit, which would be worn on multiple occasions and by multiple incarnations of The Doctor.

Cast Notes

  • Gabriel Woolf previous played Sutekh in Pyramids of Mars.
  • Danny Webb was in the audio plays The Girl Who Never Was and The Dark Husband.
  • Claire Rushbrook went on to appear as Tula Chenka, sister of Eighth Doctor companion Liv Chenka, in Escape from Kaldor and the spin-off series The Robots.
  • Will Thorp has appeared in the Big Finish audio plays 100 BC and Bedtime Story.

Best Moment

The scene where Scooti discovers the possessed Toby out on the planet’s surface, especially with the creepy computer voice.

Best Quote

Well, we’ve come this far. There’s no turning back.

Oh, come on! Did you have to? No turning back, that’s almost as bad as “Nothing could possibly go wrong” or “This is gonna be the best Christmas Walford’s ever had!”

Ida Scott and the Tenth Doctor

Previous Tenth Doctor Review: The Idiot’s Lantern

Link:

Radio Free Skaro’s Commentary for The Impossible Planet/The Satan Pit

The Tsuranga Conundrum

The Idiot’s Lantern

Men in black? Vanishing police cars? This is Churchill’s England, not Stalin’s Russia!

The Tenth Doctor

Synopsis

The Doctor and Rose arrive by accident in London in 1953 on the eve of the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II where something is lurking in the televisions sold by Mr Magpie

Review

Series Two of Doctor Who really frustrates me because it varies so widely in terms of quality. So far on this blog, I have revisited the high points (School Reunion and The Girl in the Fireplace) and the lows (New Earth) and there are more of both to come in this series. Sadly, The Idiot’s Lantern falls at the lower end of the series and continues to contribute to an uneven debut series for David Tennant. Equally frustrating from my point of view is the fact that I know that Mark Gatiss is a better writer than this. For evidence of this, you need look no further than Gatiss’ first script for the revived show, The Unquiet Dead, or Big Finish stories like Invaders from Mars, and there are other stories in the future for this blog which are far better than this.

I will praise the work of the set dressers and others who worked so hard on making sure that this story really evoked the feel of the post-war period. There is fantastic attention to detail to ensure that the story looks right, whether this is costumes or the appearance of the street party at the conclusion of the episode. Gatiss has clearly set out to create a feeling of nostalgia for the post-war period and specifically the Coronation of Queen Elizabeth II for a backdrop for his story and the production team deserve a huge amount of credit for bringing this to life. Of course, Gatiss goes on to show us that the perceived idyllism of the post-war period isn’t as rosy as it would first appear, and this has been subtly alluded to by the shape of the television aerials being similar to that of swastikas, setting up the eventual plot point that Eddie Connolly has been informing the authorities about the people whose faces have been taken by the Wire. I find the direction really strange here, though, as it feels as though Lyn (who is generally quite decent) is afraid to tone down some of the more over the top performances and the majority of shots are shot at an angle that it makes me feel as though the camera stands were all broken.

The drama of the Connolly family certainly forms the B part to this episode, with the patriarch, Eddie Connolly being abusive towards his wife’s mother, his wife and his son. I must admit that I haven’t seen Jamie Foreman in anything else but I’m sure he is a good actor. Sadly, the character of Eddie is such a one-dimensional Hitler-allegory that it does Foreman a disservice and really means that the story hits a bum note in the conclusion when Rose encourages his son to try and build bridges with his father, especially considering how he talks about beating Tommy for being homosexual or his emotional abuse of his wife Rita, telling her to put a smile when her mother has been taken away. The rest of the Connolly family are good and we certainly sympathise with their treatment at the hands of Eddie, and Debra Gillett is particularly good in the scene where she sends Tommy off with the Doctor and kicks Eddie out. Tommy is a good companion of the week, and Rory Jennings and David Tennant have some good chemistry together, and I particularly liked the moment where Tommy is reunited with his grandmother at the conclusion of the story.

I’m the Wire, and I’m hungry!

The Wire

Speaking of the one-dimensional fascistic Eddie Connolly, we have another one-dimensional villain in the shape of the Wire played by Maureen Lipman. The idea of televisions taking people’s faces feels as though it should be a classic Doctor Who idea – taking something so prevalent and usual in this modern culture and making it scary. However, the Wire is so one dimensional and irritating that it means that this doesn’t really work. Lipman’s performance at the beginning, but she starts to gain power, it becomes almost unbearable. It is a running joke between my wife and I that we will screech the line above at each other around meal times. Ron Cook’s Mr Magpie, who is manipulated by the Wire into selling the affected television sets, feels largely wasted in this story, but he does well with what he is given. The effect of the ‘stolen’ faces on the actual people looks really unpolished and cheap, whilst, conversely, the effect of the faces on the television screens in the shop is rather effective and unnerving.

I am talking!

And I’m not listening!

Eddie Connolly and the Tenth Doctor

Now to address the Doctor and Rose. It is clear through this series that the intention was to establish the fact that the newly regenerated Doctor and Rose are perhaps overconfident throughout this series, but sadly for me it largely across as them being smug. This is not a problem that is exclusive to this story, but in a story that is quite poor anyway it really stands out. It is interesting to see the Tenth Doctor and Rose separated as this hasn’t happened a lot since the start of the series and Tennant is good in the scenes where he can be a bit quieter, like the interrogation scene where he flips the scenario on Detective Inspector Bishop. In contrast, the louder scenes, like the one the quote above is taken from are so hideously overacted and cringe-worthy. Since The Christmas Invasion, the production team have been hinting at this rage bubbling under the seemingly amiable face of the Doctor, but here it just across as he is a bit of a bully, especially in the scenes with Magpie. There is also the fact that the Doctor doesn’t seem to be too interested in solving the mystery until it directly affects him when the Wire takes Rose’s face. As a character who is supposed to stand up against the wrongs of the universe regardless of how he is impacted personally, this is really glaring. Rose is pretty poor too for the most part, reduced to a shadow of how she was in Eccleston’s series as the Doctor to an obnoxious and lovelorn character. We do get a hint of what the character like last series when she investigates Magpie’s shop though.

Verdict: This story really does flounder with one-dimensional villains and the central cast aren’t good enough to raise this one. Kudos on the production design though. 3/10

Cast: David Tennant (The Doctor), Billie Piper (Rose Tyler), Maureen Lipman (The Wire), Ron Cook (Magpie), Jamie Foreman (Eddie Connolly), Debra Gillett (Rita Connolly), Rory Jennings (Tommy Connolly), Margaret John (Grandma Connolly), Sam Cox (Detective Inspector Bishop), Ieaun Rhys (Crabtree), Jean Challis (Aunty Betty), Christopher Driscoll (Security Guard) & Marie Lewis (Mrs Gallagher).

Writer: Mark Gatiss

Director: Euros Lyn

Behind the Scenes

  • The working titles of Mr Sandman, Sonic Doom and The One-Eyed Monster.
  • Mark Gatiss originally wrote this episode for Christopher Eccleston’s 9th Doctor, and it was originally intended to be broadcast as the ninth episode of Series 2. It also contained a sub-plot about Tommy having a crush on the Doctor, but Rose mistakenly believing that he had a crush on her.
  • Magpie Electricals is a brand that would reoccur throughout the revived series, including Martha’s television in The Sound of Drums, a microphone in Voyage of the Damned, some parts of the Eleventh Doctor’s first TARDIS and a shop is seen in The Lie of the Land. The brand has been retrospectively inserted as an Easter Egg in several animations of Patrick Troughton episodes, including The Power of the Daleks.
  • The street on which the Connolly family lives is Florizel Street which was the original name for long-running soap opera Coronation Street. Coincidentally, Doctor Who producer Phil Collinson went on to be producer of Coronation Street from 2010 to 2013, whilst Russell T Davies had previously briefly been a storyline editor in the 1990s.

Cast Notes

  • Margaret John holds the record for the longest gap between appearances at 38 years, having previously appeared in Fury from the Deep.
  • Rory Jennings played teenage Davros in I, Davros: Innocence.

Best Moment

It’s always hard to choose these with an episode that I don’t particularly like. Probably Rita finally kicking out her abusive husband.

Best Quote

Twenty years on the force, I don’t even know where to start. We haven’t got the faintest clue what’s going on.

Well. That could change.

How?

Start from the beginning. Tell me everything you know.

Detective Inspector Bishop and the Tenth Doctor

Previous Tenth Doctor Review: The Age of Steel

Reviews mentioned:

The Christmas Invasion

New Earth

School Reunion

The Girl in the Fireplace

Invaders from Mars

The Age of Steel

The Age of Steel - Cybermen

The human race.  For such an intelligent lot you aren’t half susceptible. Give anyone a chance to take control and you submit.  Sometimes I think you enjoy it.  Easy life.

Tenth Doctor

Synopsis

On the parallel Earth, Lumic is starting to convert unwilling humans into Cybermen and it is a race against time for the Doctor, Rose and Mickey along with Pete Tyler and the Preachers to stop the Cybermen.

Review

I’d love to say that my problems from Rise of the Cybermen are magically fixed by the second part.  There are some nice moments here, however, the Cybermen do still feel quite hampered by the presence of John Lumic, their creator, who feels like a completely unnecessary addition to Doctor Who’s history.  The conclusion to their reintroduction to the revived series, this episode is better than it’s predecessor but could be so much better.

There are moments here that work really nicely and most of these are down to Graeme Harper’s direction.  The scenes with the Doctor and Mrs Moore walking through the Cybermen-filled tunnels leading to Battersea Power Station are beautifully shot and nicely atmospheric.  Harper’s experience of directing the original series definitely stands him in good stead and this definitely shows through here and shooting the Cybermen from low angles certainly makes them feel intimidating.  There are some nice emotional moments here, like the scene with the Cyberman remember who she was prior to conversion, revealing that she was Sally Phelan and converted the night before her marriage.  Call me a sentimental old romantic, but that really gets me every time.  Equally, even though I know that Mrs Moore’s demise is coming every time, it doesn’t lessen its emotional impact.  A scene that did take me by surprise, however, is a very brief one in the episode’s closing moments when Rose returns home to see her mother, and when Jackie asks what’s happened and the Doctor can only answer that they went ‘Far away.’  It’s a lovely moment, where the acting achieves more than pages of dialogue ever would.

Equally, Mickey finally has some development.  Following on from the death of his doppelganger Ricky early on in this concluding episode, Mickey finds a place for him to be happy and not trailing around after the Doctor and Rose, which feels like a lovely moment of seizing control of his future.  I wish I could say that this feels like it has been coming from Rose, however, from my other Tenth Doctor reviews you will see that I am not a fan of how the show has treated Mickey generally.  That being said, the fact that he kisses Rose before running off with Ricky does suggest that he hasn’t entirely moved on from her, despite her ambivalence towards him.  Rose’s reaction to her decision to stay on this parallel Earth feels slightly false considering what we’ve seen before.

The Age of Steel - Cybercontroller

I feel as though the writer, Tom MacRae, and potentially Russell T Davies (depending on how much he rewrote), don’t really know what to do with the Cybermen.  They seem to just be there for large periods of this story, not really doing anything except being pawns in Lumic’s game for World Domination.  The fact that the Doctor is able to save himself, Pete and Rose early on with the sonic screwdriver without really explaining what he did really irritates me.  The story does feel extremely derivative of Genesis of the Daleks, especially when he debates whether causing the destruction of the Cybermen by overwhelming them with emotion is the right course of action.  Equally, Lumic feels utterly superfluous – not every adversary that the Doctor faces needs a Davros style creator, and Lumic feels utterly ridiculous here.  Ultimately, the audience doesn’t really care when John Lumic gets converted into the Cyber Controller by the Cybermen because we haven’t really spent enough time with this character to care about his ultimate fate.

The Age of Steel - Pete Rose Doctor

Verdict: The conclusion of the reintroduction of the Cybermen is enjoyable if slightly underwhelming, with the titular antagonist taking more of a back seat in this concluding part. 5/10

Cast: David Tennant (The Doctor), Billie Piper (Rose Tyler), Noel Clarke (Mickey Smith), Camille Coduri (Jackie Tyler), Shaun Dingwall (Peter Tyler), Roger Lloyd Pack (John Lumic), Andrew Hayden-Smith (Jake Simmonds), Helen Griffin (Mrs Moore), Colin Spaull (Mr Crane), Duncan Duff (Newsreader), Paul Kasey (Cyber Leader) & Nicholas Briggs (Voice of the Cybermen).

Writer: Tom MacRae

Director: Graeme Harper

Behind the Scenes

  • In a scene that was deleted from the final episode, it would have been revealed that Ricky and Jake were lovers.
  • There are references to Tomb of the Cybermen, including the Cybermen being able to kill with electricity from their hands, using mind control and characters being surprised by a decoy Cyberman.

Best Moment

A scene that I had forgotten but one that plays really nicely – the brief scene between Rose, Jackie and the Doctor towards the end of the episode.

Best Quote

I’ve been captured.  But don’t worry, Rose and Pete are out there.  They can rescue me.  Oh well, never mind.

The Tenth Doctor

The Girl in the Fireplace

TGIF Doctor and Reinette

What’s a horse doing on a spaceship?

Mickey, what’s pre-Revolutionary France doing on a spaceship?  Get a little perspective.

Mickey Smith and the Tenth Doctor

Synopsis

The Doctor, Rose and Mickey arrive onboard a deserted spaceship three thousand years in the future.  What has happened to the crew?  And why has the ship got gateways into the life of Madame de Pompadour, a French lady from the 18th Century?

Review

The Girl in the Fireplace is not only a superb example of what Doctor Who can do but is a fantastic example of television in general.  It is definitely in my top ten episodes of the revival and probably in my top ten episodes of Doctor Who of all time.  I say this as someone who loves Moffat’s work under Russell T Davies and his work whilst showrunner with a very few exceptions, and this has a lot of his tropes perfectly executed – we’ve got a bit of mucking about with time and some sharp, witty, and frankly brilliant dialogue.  I think if I am looking for an episode of Doctor Who to pick me up, this is one of the first I will turn to.

You think I fear you.  But I do not fear you even now.  You are merely the nightmare from my childhood.  And if my childhood nightmare can return to plague me then rest assured, so will yours.

Reinette

One of the strongest parts of this episode is in the casting of Sophia Myles as Reinette, who gives a superb performance as Madame de Pompadour, and she has clear and believable chemistry with David Tennant.  Obviously, I must mention that Tennant and Myles did date for a short time following working together on this episode, breaking up in 2007.  However, when you have a story that hinges on the central premise of two characters falling in love and telling this story in 45 minutes, this chemistry is essential.  On a side note, a large part of my issues with Tennant’s first series as the Doctor and Rose is that Tennant and Billie Piper don’t have that chemistry.  The two obviously get on well as friends, but there’s something lacking that stops me buying into that whole ‘they both love each other romantically’ element of their story.  The chemistry between Reinette and the Doctor also means that you ultimately believe in both the Doctor’s decision to come and save her, knowing that this means being separated from his TARDIS and Rose and Mickey, as well as the final scene, where he comes back for her, only to find that she has passed away.  Sophia Myles’ Reinette also feels like a strong heroine and we fully root for her defeating the Clockwork Droids.  Her speech when she speaks about being resigned to taking the slow path whilst hearing her own future screams is beautifully played, as is the scene when the Doctor manages to fix the link to the ship.

TGIF Doctor and Arthur

Steven Moffat’s writing is also fantastic.  The story itself, despite its obvious links to The Time Traveller’s Wife, is different enough, and the reveal of the twist is really superb.  I love the fact that the Doctor and his companions never solve the mystery of why the Clockwork Droids are stalking Reinette, and the way the episode is directed by Euros Lyn withholds this reveal well.  We see the exterior of S.S. Madame de Pompadour on multiple occasions as a transition shot between scenes, but this never spoils the twist.  Moffat’s script fizzles with what we now see as his trademark wit but packs a lot of emotion into this story.  I love the fact that the Doctor reasoning for wanting to keep Arthur is that he allowed Rose to ‘keep’ Mickey!  The story also has some fantastic pacing and ties up the story beautifully with no loose ends.  One of the most powerful scenes in a story that is full of them is the mind reading scene where the chemistry between the two actors really helps but the writing is fantastic and the twist is very cleverly done.

TGIF Reinette

I feel that this is one of Tennant’s best performances as the Doctor to date, and there are some really great moments here.  Obviously, this story allows Tennant to utilise his Casanova experience, but he has lovely moments like when he sees the clockwork mechanism in the Clockwork Droid’s head which is quintessentially Doctor-y.  Additionally, the scene where the Doctor acts drunk when Rose and Mickey have been captured by the Clockwork Droids is great.  Ultimately, the highlight of this story is how he plays the scene where the King tells him that Reinette has died, he reads the letter and tucks it into his pocket is beautifully played by all involved, and the following scene where he reads the letter in the TARDIS is heartbreaking.

The Clockwork Droids are a really good adversary for the Doctor and his companions, with their intentions no doubt honourable but misguided in their attempt to repair their ship.  Before the story even begins, they have murdered the entirety of the crew of the S.S. Madame de Pompadour and their search then turns to Reinette, believing that the ship can only be fixed with her head once she has reached the correct age. The Droids are very creepy, with their wigs and masks and I really like the idea that they would break any working clocks in the room to disguise themselves.

Verdict: I don’t think I can overstate my fondness for The Girl in the Fireplace.  It is one of the finest episodes of Doctor Who since the revival, if not of all time. 10/10

Cast: David Tennant (The Doctor), Billie Piper (Rose Tyler), Noel Clarke (Mickey Smith), Sophia Myles (Reinette), Ben Turner (King Louis), Jessica Atkins (Young Reinette), Angel Coulby (Katherine), Gareth Wyn Griffiths (Manservant), Paul Kasey (Clockwork Man), Ellen Thomas (Clockwork Woman), Jonathan Hart & Emily Joyce (Voices)

Writer: Steven Moffat

Director: Euros Lyn

Behind the Scenes

  • The story follows School Reunion directly, however, when Steven Moffat wrote the story he had not had the chance to read the end of the story, hence the lack of animosity between Rose and Mickey.  There are also no references to Torchwood, as Russell T Davies did not ask Moffat to put any in.
  • This story was originally second in the series order, however, due to the experimental nature of the story, it was moved to fourth.
  • The Time Traveller’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger was an inspiration for Moffat whilst writing this story but the finished product is structured differently.
  • Russell T Davies was inspired by the Turk, an 18th Century robot, when devising the Clockwork Droids.
  • The Girl in the Fireplace was nominated for a Nebula Award and won the 2007 Hugo Award for Best Dramatic Presentation, Short Form.

Best Moment

The mind reading scene.

Best Quote

What the hell is going on?

Oh.  This is my lover, the King of France.

Yeah? Well, I’m the Lord of Time.

King Louis, Reinette and the Tenth Doctor

Clockwork Droid

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