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May 06, 2006

Friends Reunited

Almost didn't make it this week !

What would you do if YOU were a nine hundred year old alien with an almost infinite lifespan? Would you keep your "mortal" loved ones and friends around you, slowly watching them succumb to the ravages of old age until they died? Or would you take the Doctor's option and move on, leaving those you cared for behind in the prime of their life and always still alive in your memories? It's a difficult choice.

Even here in the mundane world, we all have had the experience of swearing we would keep in touch with a close friend, but, as the years rolled by, found we never actually did.


And it's a sense of the past - of loss and unfulfilled promise and longed-for opportunity's that pervades this episode of the new series. The point where Tennant's Doctor is first introduced to Sarah Jane is my favourite so far from his few stories. That goofy grin embodies all the same emotions I would have if I bumped into someone from my own past. The feelings he clearly shows of being nervous and excited and shy and happy all at the same time are just perfect and it's obvious from the outset that he cared deeply for Miss SJ Smith.

When Sarah discovers that this mysterious new teacher really IS the Doctor, her reactions are just as true. Was it my fault? What did I do wrong? Why didn't you come back? Liz Sladen has never really been away from the role of Sarah Jane, even when she wasn't on TV and it shows. I really can't fault her acting. The slight over theatrical edge has gone and we are left with a measured, real performance of someone who has moved on in some ways but at the same time never got over the first great love of her life. After all, who COULD compare to the Doctor?

For Rose, it's almost the opposite emotion. Here is the stark and painful realisation that you are NOT the first, you are NOT the only one - and even if you were, this guy is an alien and obviously doesn't think the same way you do. Rose needs this wake-up call to dampen down her cockiness. She was tolerable this week and I for one am glad Mickey "the Tin Dog" is aboard the TARDIS now - it's going to be an interesting dynamic.

Oh and there was a plot too amongst all this enjoyable emotional angst? Sure there was. It was a tasty bit of hokum about using kids as super computers and discovering the equation of matter control - hardly Shakespeare, but totally acceptable as a backdrop to the real meat of the story.


Tony Head gave a truly creepy performance as the leader of the Krillitanes. This is an actor who can turn his hand to anything. Bookish librarian, suave coffee man next door (even a trans-sexual from the planet Transylvania for any Rocky Horror fans like me) and now a slimy, hair-slicked-back conqueror of worlds. The standoff between him and the Doctor across the swimming pool could've come straight out of Once Upon A Time In The West - just replace Murray Gold's music with the classic theme by Ennio Morricone. I'm hoping we haven't seen the last of Mr Finch.

(By the way, ASH has performed with another Doctor Who actor prior to this - he was in a short-run play I went to see in the West End last year as the drunk best friend of Richard E Grant. It was great to see those two up really close and acting their socks off.).

I could waffle on about the great use of K-9, the pitch perfect goodbye to Sarah Jane which brought tears to my eyes, etc , etc - but this review is far too late and others have done it better already. Instead I will comment on a few random things which popped into my head whilst watching the episode:

  • Is the new Doctor's catchphrase actually just going to be a bad case of verbal diarrhoea? The whole "Physics, physics, physics..." thing at the start just went on far far too long. I was left screaming at the screen "You've only got 45 minutes, get a bloody move on!". It came up last week too with the "I like my thumb..." bit as they walked out of the TARDIS. It's not funny and it's not clever and I hate it.
  • Just how did K-9 get out of the car once Mickey had crashed it through the school gates? First he's stuck in the back seat giving advice and then suddenly he appears to save the day. What did I miss?
  • So the Krillitanes explode when hit by the oil do they? If not how do you explain the school blowing up at the end (apart from the excuse for a cool effects shot)?
  • Does the Doctor have a room in the TARDIS full of replacement K-9's? He whipped up a replacement pretty damn quick otherwise.


In the end, this was a great episode with some stellar performances and real closure on a decades-old partnership. We can only hope that the rest of the Doctor's rich history is treated with as much respect.

We all have our own Sarah Jane's. Would you want to meet yours again?


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Doctor Who: Series One
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The Sarah Jane Adventures: Series One
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