Doctor Who, S2E3 – School Reunion. Written by Tony Whithouse
At a high school, the principal,
Uther Pendragon Mr. Finch, daintily drums his finders together as he descends a stairwell and sees a student outside his office. She has a headache, but she can’t go home because she lives in an orphanage. Mr. Finch offers crappy sympathies: Aww.. You’re alone and unwanted. Then takes her into his office. The door closes, then there is a flap of wings, and the girl screams. (Trivia: Did you know that this dude, Anthony Head was screen tested for the eighth doctor in ’96? Where would Buffy have been?)
The Doctor (under the alias John Smith) and Rose “Not Again” Tyler are already working undercover in the school. (Oh! 21 Jump Street!)
Credits. A long esophagus.
The Doctor is ‘teaching’ physics with great ineptitude and awkwardness. “Right, physics! Physics, eh? Physics, phyyyyyyyysics, physics, physics, physics, physcis. Physics! Hope you’re getting all this down.” Only one student is answering his questions correctly, even the super-high level questions. I loved physics in high school, but that was not me.
Rose is working undercover in the cafeteria and kvetches about it. At lunch, the Doctor expositions that they’ve been there for the past two days because Mickey alerted them to something odd going on. Everyone at the school is well-behaved. He comments there is something odd about the chips, but since Rose is Rose, she loves them.
An uptight lunch lady busts Rose for loafing on her shift, and Rose rats out the Doctor: He doesn’t like the chips. Uptight lady sniffs that the school menu has been designed by Mr. Finch himself. (Micro-managing or sincere interest in the students? You be the judge.)
The Doctor spies a creepy teacher get another student to join his class and chide a student Kenny for not eating the chips, which he says he’s not allowed to do. And then he spies
Uther Pendragon Mr. Finch surveying the lunchroom.
Later, in the kitchen, Rose sees the other kitchen staff, all wearing gloves and face masks, bringing in a large barrel. (of radioactive poison? We dunno.)
Right then, Mickey calls her cell to confirm there was massive UFO activity in the area a few months ago, though his investigations are being blocked by something called Torchwood. (Hmmm…) (And you know, I just realized something – wouldn’t the TARDIS and the presence of the Doctor count as ‘alien activity?’ How can he tell the difference between that and something bad?)
Anyway, as they speak, the barrel slips, spilling something on one of the staff, who starts to burn. (So it is radioactive. and poisonous.) No, we never find out, though we do see the substance – a golden, nasty, oily kind of gel. Nasty stuff, here, people.
In the math classroom, Creepy Teacher tells the children at their computers to put their headphones on and the screens flicker on. The monitors display a green, rotating cube with rapidly scrolling, alien-looking symbols and seemingly random text on the right. The children type on their keyboards with incredible speed, clearly possessed.
Mr. Uther Finch escorts in a journalist who is writing a profile on him. He compliments how she describes the school. “You have great vision.” She says, “Oh, I can see everything quite clearly.”
In the teacher’s lounge, the Doctor is talking to Random Teacher about the changes in the students that began three months ago, when Uther became the headmaster. Interestingly, half the staff “happened” to get sick so Uther could being in his own people. Then, the teacher the Doctor replaced “happened” to win the lottery, even though she never played. Funny, that.
Uther walks into the lounge and introduces Sarah Jane Smith. The Doctor can’t take his eyes off her, a former companion to the Third and Fourth Doctors. He smiles and introduces himself as John Smith, which she recognizes. She starts asking him questions. The Doctor is delighted to see Sarah being like he remembers.
Afterwards, as the Doctor leaves the lounge, student Kenny goes into the math room and finds a bat-like creature under one of the desks that rapidly transforms rapidly into Creepy Teacher. (I think my own math teacher used to do something similar, actually.) He tells Kenny to leave and the boy beats a hasty retreat.
That night, Sarah Jane Smith breaks into the school to explore, as the Doctor, Rose and Mickey do the same. The Doctor sends Mickey to the math room and Rose to get a sample of the oil while he checks the headmaster’s office. Sarah Jane is also trying to break into Finch’s office, and instead finds the TARDIS. She backs away but the Doctor is waiting and says, “Hello, Sarah Jane.” Sarah Jane manages to say, “It’s you…Doctor! Oh, my God, it’s you, isn’t it? You’ve regenerated.” The Doctor replies that he has (literally) done so “about half a dozen times since we last met.” (Five times, actually) She says he looks “incredible”, and he says she does too, but she dismisses since she’s grown old.
The moment is interrupted by a piercing scream and they run towards the sound, meeting Rose along the way. The Doctor introduces the two and Sarah Jane comments on Rose’s youth.
The scream turns out to be Mickey, who opened a cupboard, only to be covered in shrink-wrapped rats. The Doctor says to Mickey, “And you decided to scream.” “It took me by surprise!” he protests. “Like a little girl!” the Doctor persists. “It was dark, I was covered in rats!” Mickey points out. “Nine, maybe ten years old. I’m seeing pigtails and a frilly skirt.” The Doctor smugs. Sarah Jane and Rose start to bicker. Mickey sees Sarah Jane with Rose and realizes who Sarah Jane is or may be. He laughs and tells the Doctor, “Oh, mate, the missus and the ex. Welcome to every man’s worst nightmare!” Ha!
The Doctor suggests that the rats may be food for something – like the teacher bats. The Doctor and Co run outside where the Doctor says they have to go back in for the TARDIS to analyze the oil sample. Sarah tells the Doctor she may have something that can help him and pulls out a broken and rusty K9 Mark III, a tin dog. (I had not seen the old Who when I first saw this, still haven’t seen much, but I can just imagine what children of the ’70s thought of this, how cool they would have thought it was. Maybe they would have made their own. It makes me cringe because I would have done the same thing.)
Not knowing that they are being followed by bat people, who stake out the nearby café they’re in, the Doctor repairs K9. Mickey and Rose sit off a little was off, and he teases her about her jealousy, “I have prepared a little “I was right” dance which I can show you later.”
Over to Sarah and the Doctor, she asks why he never came back for her. “Did I do something wrong? ‘Cause you never came back for me. Just…dumped me.” We hear so much despair in her words – she was abandoned by him. He says, “I told you. I was called back home and in those days humans weren’t allowed.” “But I waited for you. I missed you.” He tries to brush this intense moment off, saying that she was getting on with her life. “You were my life.” She is looking at him to intensely here; she is still devastated by his departure. The hardest thing was adjusting back to mundane life after all she had seen. He says, “Look at you. You investigating. You’re doing what we always did.” She asks him why he could not have come back. He says he couldn’t but does not explain why. Then she dogs him about dropped her off 600 miles from her preferred destination, Aberdeen. (Though I suppose she would have measured it in kilometers, so about 900.)
They are distracted by K9 coming to life, and it even talks. Oh good Lord, there is going to be conversation with a robot animal. It also recognizes the Doctor, who smears some of the oil sample on its eye sensor, even after Rose advises him not to. “That dinner lady got scorched.” “I’m no dinner lady.” He says in his lower register. “And I don’t often say that.” K9 determines it is Krillitane oil. The creatures are Krillitanes, scavangers, basically, for the best physical parts of other species they conquer. “Think of the worst thing you can then add another suitcase of bad.” The Doctor explains, realizing this has to do with the children.
As they leave the café, Rose asks the Doctor if Sarah Jane is her future, if she will be left behind like all his other companions. “I’ve been to the year five million, but this, this is really seeing the future- you just leave us behind! Is that what you’re going to do to me?” “No. Not you.” He says. (I’ve always wondered about this – why not her? What makes her different?)
Even Rose isn’t buying it. “But, Sarah Jane- you were that close to her once and now… you never even mention her. Why not?” The Doctor breaks it down for her, painfully: “I don’t age. I regenerate. But humans decay. You wither and you die. Imagine watching that happen to someone you…” and he breaks off. When you watch David Tennant as the Doctor, you forget he’s not human. And he’s so cute and charming and you want to think about him being someone’s boyfriend. But he’s not and he never will be. And DT conveys the Doctor’s history and depth so well.
Rose echoes us by asking, “What, Doctor?” He says, “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. Alone. That’s the curse of the Timelords.”
Uther and a bat person which used to be a teacher, a Krillotane, have been surveying and listening to them the whole time. When they hear the name “Timelords,” they react and send the other Krillitanes to swoop over them, although they do not harm anyone.
The next day, they go back to the school. The Doctor sends Rose and Sarah to look at the computers and Mickey to stay in the car with K9 as surveillance – a task Mickey compares to being “sent to the back of the class with the safety scissors and glitter.” The Doctor himself goes to have a word with Uther Finch where he confirms he is a bat person. The Doctor tells them to leave, either on their own, or he’ll make them. Finch surveys him, wondering. “Fascinating. Your people were peaceful to the point of indolence. You seem to be something new. Would you declare war on us, Doctor?” “I’m so old now. I used to have so much mercy. You get one warning. That was it.” The Doctor answers.
Meanwhile, working on the computers, Sarah and Rose argue about what they know about the Doctor in a tired back and forth of female jealousy. Which is funny, but really, it’s so fucking lame. Put two women on the same show together, and they’re gonna bicker about the male lead. Really? At the same time, they both realize that this argument is stupid and pointless and they’re both better than it, and then they commiserate on life in the TARDIS. They’re both giggling, but the the Doctor walks in and they start laughing harder. (Trivia: At that moment, Tennent had put something funny on himself that the women weren’t expecting, so when they were laughing, they really were laughing at something real.)
The Krillitanes agree that they are moving to the final phase and the intercom calls all pupils to class and the staff to the staff room. Kenny hesitates but eventually follows the others inside. The Krillitanes begin by devouring the rest of the staff. Creepy Teacher activates the computer program which the children begin working on again. Kenny still has the wherewithal to tell Mickey they need help.
Mickey reactivates K9, asking it if it can think of some way to get into the school. “We are in a car.” The dog says in monotone. “Maybe a drill attachment?” “We are in a car.” “Fat lot of good you are.” “We are in a car.” “Wait a second. We’re in a car.” “Affirmative.” And they crash through the school doors. Oh, the hilarity.
Rose, Sarah and the Doctor watch the symbols flash on a large screen. The Doctor works out what’s going on and Uther stalks in to tempt all of them with infinite power. He tries to tempt the Doctor onto their side. “Think of all the people you could save. Your own people, Doctor….The Time Lords. Reborn.” Sarah Jane steps forward. “Doctor, don’t listen to him.” Uther tempts her and Rose with their mortality. “How lonely you must be, Doctor. Join us.” “I could save everyone? I could stop the war?” The Doctor asks. Sarah Jane reminds him that pain and loss define them as much as happiness or love. Everything has its time and everything ends, whether a world or a relationship.
Behind them all, a computer screen is running a program that has sort of entranced the Doctor, and he picks up a chair and throws it at the computer. Then he and Rose and Sarah Jane run out. Mickey crashes the car into the school to get the kids out, and K9 kills the bats that are flying all around and chasing them. It dies in the process. Sarah Jane cries.
Later, the TARDIS is in a park, and Sarah Jane walks up to it, her music playing in the background. and Sarah goes into it. The Doctor invites her join them, but she declines. “It’s time I stopped waiting for you and found a life of my own.” Mickey pipes up and asks if he may join them in the TARDIS. “‘Cause I’m not the tin dog. And I wanna see what’s out there.”
Sarah Jane encourages the Doctor to say yes. “Sarah Jane Smith and Mickey Smith. You need a Smith on board.” Rose is not pleased, though she denies having a problem with it. Before she goes, Sarah Janes pulls her aside for more Girl Talk. Rose asks, “What do I do? Do I stay with him?” Sarah Jane tells her yes. She says, “Some things are worth getting your heart broken for.” She adds that someday, if Rose needs to, she should find her. The Doctor walks her out, where she thanks the Doctor for her time with him. “…like I said, I wouldn’t have missed it for the world.” (You know, this phrase is overused in this show.)
He jokes about her grandkids, and she corrects him that they are no grandkids. He asks if there’s been anyone for her. She says, “Well, there was this one guy. I traveled with him for awhile, but he was a tough act to follow.” They both give a sad chuckle and she says “Goodbye, Doctor.” He says, “Oh, it’s not good-bye.” and she interrupts him. “Say it, please. This time. Say it.” Don’t abandon me again, Doctor. Give me a clear message. He complies sweetly, saying “Goodbye…my Sarah Jane!” (Aw.) He smiles at her and they hug tightly, with Sarah Jane looking to be on the verge of tears. Sarah Jane then watches the TARDIS disappear, but as it does so, a brand new K9 is revealed. She says, “He replaced you with a brand new model.” “Affirmative.” “Yeah. He does that.” (You know, she says that affectionately, but that’s not an affectionate statement, so I don’t know what to do with this.)
But Sarah Jane is happier now and says they need to get home. “We have work to do.”