Top 7 New Doctor Who Episodes: No. 4

Sometimes, it's good to talk. And in Doctor Who, that rarely happens. Simon's been celebrating a classic new episode that lets the characters do just that...

Sarah-Jane and Rose. One of these was great

In Fourth Place: School Reunion 

There have been a few episodes in the revived Who where the action, we suspect for budgetary reasons, has had to slow down. And this has resulted in the episodes where the characters actually get to talk, and develop.

For me, the finest example of this – and I know some people favour Boom Town – was the wonderful School Reunion.

I’d talk about the plot here usually, but the story of kids being wired into some computers, dodgy school dinners and demonic headteachers isn’t really far enough removed from fact to properly assess. It all gels together well enough, but that’s not what’s elevated School Reunion so high up the list.

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No, this is the episode where a potential gimmick – the welcome return of Sarah-Jane and K9 – gets turned into something really quite special.

Because Sarah-Jane, arguably the Doctor’s most popular companion (save for Romana in her states of dress, and that one where Peri went swimming) actually gets to talk to Rose about the downsides of being a Doctor Who companion.

Kicking off with some neat sparring (“he never mentions you”, bites Rose), the dialogue soon switches to something that’s been part and parcel of the show for decades, but never discussed: the assistant inevitably gets dumped.

And Elisabeth Sladen is as grand as she always was, sadly showing up the limits of Billie Piper, while scaring the bejesus out of Rose by telling her that one day she’ll just be left behind.

What’s also nice is the Doctor’s reaction to seeing Sarah-Jane again, that part melancholic look and low key “hello”. We’ve all been there, seeing an ex where we least expect them, and yet School Reunion actually bothers to talk about it. There wasn’t any of those underground romance back in those early days of Who though. Oh no.

K9 slides through this episode purely on nostalgia to be fair, although there’s some neat comedy in there too, not least when Mickey realises that he’s the tin dog. But the total of School Reunion is an episode for the dedicated Who fan, the one who sat through those shitty episodes in the late 80s in the hope that some nugget of gold could be found.

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This is, after all, a show with a four decade heritage, even if the whippersnappers running round playgrounds shouting ‘Exterminate’ fail to realise it. And when you get episodes that not only respect the heritage, but dig into it and analyse it a bit, well – it’s enough to make a grown geek weep….

We’ll have number four in the countdown online later today…