“Everything has its time. And everything ends.”
So a couple of days ago I wrote a post about the Tenth Doctor episode Tooth and Claw, and how it was ridiculously silly yet still in some indefinable way better than anything the Capaldi Administration can come up with. Today I’m sort of trying to continue that line of thought with School Reunion, the episode directly following Tooth and Claw.
The plot of the episode is fairly standard Who fare – more SFnal than Tooth and Claw, but not much more sensible: it revolves around a school filled with preternaturally bright pupils whose teachers have all been replaced under suspicious circumstances. That’s not really where the point of the episode lies, however. School Reunion is first and foremost a nostalgia episode, one that ties new Who (for this is still early Tennant, of course) firmly to the old. It sees the return of the legendary Sarah-Jane Smith, companion to the Third and Fourth Doctors, and her clash with Rose, the Doctor’s new long-term, ahem, companion. Which gives the episode an opportunity to think about the long-term implications of being with the Doctor (in whatever sense), and what happens to all the companions the Doctor so unceremoniously dumps.
I think what works about this episode is that although the plot is paper-thin and as far as it goes utterly unconvincing (apparently monsters are using schoolchildren to crack the code to the universe or something), it’s secondary to what’s really happening here, which is in some ways a kind of closure – for Sarah-Jane, for old Who – and in others a beginning – to Ten’s character arc; to the Most Mournfull Tragedie of Rose and the Doctor. And that plot is allowed to be secondary. It is not obtrusively, CGI-edly flashy in its inadequacy, as Kill the Moon was; nor is it relentlessly insistent that it is The Most Important Thing in the episode. It just goes along in the background while everyone talks about something else. It’s an excuse for a conversation; which is, perhaps, lazy writing, but I’m inclined to think that actually having that conversation, even at the expense of plot, is better than a lousy plot with no coherent conversation.
Again, these are not fully-formed thoughts, and it’s quite possible that I’m just coming up with excuses for Doctor Who so I don’t have to admit that my favourite TV show is actually really terrible. But the conversation is worth having – isn’t it?