Saturday, August 23, 2014

Doctor Who--"School Reunion"

If it weren’t for some of the high emotion moments here, I’d swear the Doctor was getting jaded about aliens invading the earth every week and always starting with the United Kingdom. I guess we all think our homeland is the center of the universe, no? I gather a lot of older fans are thrilled to see onetime companion Sarah Jane and K9 again. I would say she hasn’t been seen since The Five Doctors in 1983, but the Doctor’s statement that he has regenerated “half a dozen times” since he left her would seem to contradict that. I’ll let the more rabid continuity freaks handle that one. I’m thinking a lot of folks are happy to see Anthony Head, Giles from Buffy the Vampire Slayer portraying Headmaster Finch.

Another new touch--and I’m not sure I go for it--is the tenth Doctor has taken more of a shine to Mickey than did the Ninth. The entire off screen setup is that Mickey notes some UFO activity over a school. The doctor and Rose acquire jobs there as a physics teacher and a cook, respectively. The Doctor asks his class a series of simple questions that anyone of them should be able to answer. Only one named Milo does. The Doctor asks him a series of increasingly difficult question which he answers with ease. Finally the Doctor asks him how to travel at the speed of light, which Milo answers correctly. The children have somehow acquired knowledge beyond anything they’d know on Earth. In the kitchen, Rose notices the staff carrying a huge vat of slop being extremely careful not to drop any of it. The vat tips over with the contents splashing all over one of them. She screams in pain and is hauled off to another room in which she literally explodes. Strange things are afoot.

Finch escorts a reporter around who is supposedly profiling him for a Sunday newspaper. In reality, it is Sarah Jane, former companion, and she is investigating the UFO sightings instead. Old habits die hard. The Doctor is ecstatic to see her, yet doesn’t reveal himself until Later that night when he, Rose, and Mickey are snooping around the school and run into her. Sarah and Rose have a running catfight which gets somewhat irritating before they finally bond over their mutually odd experiences with the Doctor. The Doctor discover the teaching staff are all batlike aliens 9at least for now. They absorb characteristics from races they conquer) and, using K9 to analyze the vat of slop they’ve been serving the kids. He realizes its an oil used to enhance intelligence and performance.

The kids are being forced to work on computers to solve the Universal Theory, which is the key to the building blocks of creation. The aliens need imagination, not just intelligence, to crack the theory, and kids are perfect for that. The gang invades the school the next day and are trapped by the alien. K9 holds them off with his laser while the doctor brainstorms a way to stop the aliens. He realizes they are avoiding the because their physiology has changed so much over the years it is toxic to them. He lures them all into the kitchen near the vats of oil where K0 is waiting. K9 fires his laser at the vats, dousing th aliens, and burning them just like the kitchen stff. Mickey rescues the children from the computers and the rest of the gang is safe outside when the school explodes. Sarah is upset that k9 sacrificed himself to save them.

Back at the TARDIS, Mickey asks to join the crew. Rose isn’t happy, but acquiesces. The Doctor asks Sarah Jane to come along, too, but she refuses. She has her own life now and is done waiting for him. He leaves her a parting gift--a rebuilt K9. As the two of them depart from the TARDIS crew, Sarah Jane repeats a line similar to last last one spoken in the original series: “Come on, K9 [Ace], we’ve got work to do.”

I was interested in the relationship between the doctor and Sarah Jane. She say he left her and promised to come back, but never did. Rose fears that will happen to her as well. The doctor explains--sorrowfully--that he is nearly immortal so while Rose can spend the rest of her life with him, he can’t spend the rest of his with her. I wonder, though, if Rose is the first companion the doctor has ever made that promise to? Obviously in the past series both Doctors and companions came and went for various reasons. The doctor apparently dumped Sarah jane because he cared for her too much to watch her grow old, yet he says he cares for Rose too much to ever let her go. I’m going to chalk it up as a moment of dramatic necessity, but I’m wondering if the creators are going to start playing up the romantic elements between the two? That, I believe, would be an odd thing.

A watchable episode. somewhat formulaic, but the priority was working Sarah Jane in and getting Mickey into the TARDIS crew, not being a monumental story. I couldn't picture Christopher Eccleston playing the Doctor in this one. He would be just too inense and something tells me he probably hates kids and dogs--even robotic ones. David Tennant is a much more versatile and fun Doctor, even in a just so-so installment.

Rating: *** (out of 5)

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