School reunions promise a night of fellowship and an opportunity to reminisce with old friends. So it’s not surprising that the episode was entitled as such given that the Doctor reunites with his old companions, Sarah Jane Smith and K9 MIII. What I like about this episode is its use of Rose Tyler and Mickey Smith as our point of view characters to avoid excluding newer fans like me amidst its reference to “Classic Who”. As part of this newer fan base, I share the same confusion that Rose feels with the Doctor’s treatment to his former companion. In this sense, Sarah Jane is the unfamiliar character amidst the familiar experience of time and space travel with the Doctor. On the hand, the original fans of the show see the episode in the eyes of the Doctor who reunites with his good friend. For them, Sarah Jane’s character is the familiar in the unfamiliar situation where the Doctor gets reacquainted with a former companion.

The episode’s villains were the Krillitanes, an alien race that reminded me of the Slitheens from series 1. Think about it. Both the Krillitanes and Slitheens attack their prey in a similar manner. Both assimilate the physical features of its victims. The Slitheens disguise themselves using the skin of their prey while the Krillitanes creates an illusion that copies the physical features of its victims. Both attempted yet failed to use man to cause their own destruction. Perhaps the Krillitanes noticed our human tendency to overlook the ordinary so they modified the chips with Krillitane oil to boost the students’ intelligence. In effect, the students became the key to decoding the Skasis Paradigm. If you think about it, these similarities are too uncanny that it leads me to believe that the plotlines of series 2 are patterned after series 1. But this isn’t limited to “School Reunion” because this same pattern is carried over to the succeeding episodes.

I also like that the reunion served a bigger purpose than simply earning higher ratings. It showed why each companion was chosen by the Doctor as they did their share in saving the universe from another race of false gods. For one, Rose retrieves the Krillitane oil for the Doctor who uses it to poison the Krillitanes. Sarah Jane saves the Doctor from giving into his weakness and choosing the seemingly easier path. Her take on the truth of the universe echoed what the 9th Doctor once said, “Everything has its time and everything dies”; thus, reminding him of the natural course of the universe and the basic foundation of life. Defying this would enslave him to his regrets and selfish desires while compromising the safety of every living thing. In effect, it empowered the Doctor to destroy the main monitor. Moreover, Mickey frees the students from their intellectual captivity. He uses the car to break the school doors open, unplugs the computers in the classroom and leads the students to safety. K9 MIII stays behind twice to face the Krillitanes on his own. In the first instance, he tries to buy his master more time by aimlessly shooting at all of the Krillitanes in the room. In the second instance, he volunteers to stay behind to shoot the barrel of Krillitane oil while everyone runs towards safety. In my opinion, this decision easily makes the list of heroic decisions in the episode because K9 MIII chooses to defend his friends instead of escaping. Likewise, the Doctor’s decision to forfeit his chances with the Skasis Paradigm in exchange of his victor against the Krillitanes makes the list as well.

Furthermore, the reunion was significant to the episode’s narrative as its plotline reflected this in its character dynamics and themes. For one, the introduction/re-introduction of Sarah Jane Smith to the show provided a glimpse of the Doctor’s relationship with her back in “Classic Who”. But due to the regeneration, their reunion began at different scenes. The Doctor immediately recognized her the minute that she steps into his line of sight. Despite the years apart, he realizes that she is still the same inquisitive Sarah Jane as he learned that she’s holding her own investigation. On the other hand, the reunion began for Sarah Jane when she accidentally finds the TARDIS while the Doctor stood behind her. I like this scene for its dramatic function but they went overboard by making the Doctor stand behind Sarah Jane. The predictability of the moment broke the scene’s supposedly dramatic atmosphere and made it comedic.

But their reunion naturally affected the Doctor’s relationship with Rose. Mickey described the situation best when he teases the Doctor with the lines “The missus and the ex. Welcome to every man’s worst nightmare”. I don’t blame Rose though for questioning her budding romance with the Doctor knowing how sure she was of him. She did choose him over everything familiar to her. In one scene, Rose asks the Doctor the only question he finds difficulty in answering. She asks her about the stance of their relationship and what happens after. Would she end up a forgotten memory like Sarah Jane?

I’ve always liked watching shows where the characters begin to see each other in a different perspective. So in watching “Doctor Who”, it became a habit of mine to look for clues regarding the development in their relationship. Rose’s confrontation of the Doctor is quite telling of this development. But adding an old companion to the picture strains this relationship because she introduces an undistinguishable mix of love and friendship in her relationship with the Doctor. It plants the idea that Rose might have imagined it and lived in a one-sided relationship. It can also be that the Doctor is a Captain Jack, a man capable of holding numerous relationships in varying degrees. Maybe, this is the reason that he takes no liking for domesticity because he can only be domesticated by his attachment with his companions and their family members. But beyond that such as settling down, he can’t.

But this concern was immediately put to rest when the Doctor assures Rose of her future with him. He left Sarah Jane because he couldn’t bear the possibility of seeing her die but their reunion taught him a valuable lesson. Now, he tells Rose that she is welcome to spend her entire life with him even if he has to face his greatest fear in the process. After enjoying the lifestyle of a Time Lord, this scene grounds the show to reality as it shows the other side of the story. It teaches us of the reality behind immortality by introducing the curse of the Time Lords. When Rose asks the Doctor about her future with him, he responds by saying “I don’t age. I regenerate. But humans decay. You wither and die. Imagine watching that happen to someone who you…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 Time Lords”.

But the quote extends itself by setting the tone for the fate of his companions—the Doctor may leave them behind. The Doctor left Sarah Jane because he felt trapped by the curse. It crippled him to choose the alternative. In effect, the scene introduces fear, a natural emotion of all living creatures, as the episode’s first theme. Hi heartbreaking speech implied that he used to leave his companions out of fear of being left behind. Leaving Sarah Jane meant running away from the torment of seeing her leave. But the reunion has taught him to welcome the consequences of travelling with a human being. He is free to have emotional attachments even if time heeds no pity to their growing relationship because he knows that every minute with his companions is worth it.

Brother Lassar also known as the Headmaster of Deffry Vale High School knew the Doctor’s weakness and tried to use it against him. The Krilitanes, however, didn’t seem to be a worthy opponent because they have no means of fighting the Doctor except to eat him and his companions. In effect, they turn to psychology and try to win him over. Aware of the loneliness that he faced, Lassar took this as the perfect opportunity to tempt him to be the good god who can save everyone. But Sarah Jane reminded him of the natural course of the universe, “The universe has to move forward. Pain and loss—the define us as much as happiness or love. Whether it’s a world, or a relationship…everything has its time. And everything ends”.

These lines introduce cowardice being a choice of lifestyle as its next theme as it clearly juxtaposed fear from cowardice. Fear is an emotion that every living being, alien or not, feels because they love. Even the last of the Time Lords feared the eternal experience of loss which momentarily blinded him on with the promise of another false god. Without Sarah Jane’s reminder, the Doctor might have unconsciously chosen to hide behind cheat codes like the Skasis Paradigm instead of facing life as he should. In my opinion, this line perfectly fit the character because it described her life with and after the Doctor. More than living the line, she is the Doctor’s good friend. Because the Doctor trusts and respects Sarah Jane, he found the truth behind her words thus empowering him to face the road ahead. On the other hand, the Krillitanes chose to cheat their way through life. They chose to be masters of the universe and controllers of time and space without experiencing the bits in between—pain and suffering. Despite this, their calm façade in their pursuit for immortality hides the anguish that they feel at the idea of experiencing loss in the same fashion that Blaine the Slitheen did.

On a lighter note, I found the over-all “missus and ex” dynamic charming and their first scene quite comedic. While the Doctor and Mickey were playfully bickering about Mickey’s girlish scream, Rose and Sarah Jane begin to bicker. It was funny to see the irony in Mickey and the Doctor’s friendship because they used to loath each other yet Sarah Jane and Rose can’t even stand each other. But what I like most is the computer laboratory scene where the two try to outshine the other by mentioning all the aliens that they’ve met. I particularly like the next bits where they laugh uncontrollably and the Doctor comes in confused and slightly annoyed. At this point, Rose and Sarah Jane became friends in an unsuspected turn of events similar to the unsuspected friendship between Captain Jack and the Doctor.

Rose and Sarah Jane bonded over the Doctor, the cause of their non-stop bickering. By the end of the episode, Sarah Jane tells Rose to stay with him because he is worth the heartbreak. I like the play on the characters’ dynamics as Rose finds her own companion in Sarah Jane, a friend who understands how she feels. Too bad Sarah Jane didn’t travel with them. It would have been interesting to see how the newly developed dynamic between the three characters would pan out.

One thing I found odd though was in the last scene. Sarah Jane and K9 MIII were walking in a park on a sunny afternoon yet no one took notice. No one found it weird that a tin dog was moving and talking without a remote control. I understand it’s meant to create the perfect ending but it cinematic appeal sacrificed the plausibility of the scene.

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