Sunday, April 30, 2006

Me & Sarah Jane

Prefect SlogWe go way back, we do. Surely my earliest crush, and unlike the girls my age at school, she'd come round to my house every Saturday - even though she was busy fighting monsters or peering around corners and whispering 'Doc-tor' in that irresistibly timorous way of hers. She had that perfect balance of fearful and fearless, she was an intrepid investigator who knew when to be afraid. She was a bona fide, 100% real Doctor Who companion and, damn it, I lurved her. It was wonderful to see her return in School Reunion last night and no wonder at all that the Doctor greets her with the boyish excitement and delight of a fan. I'd be the same.
Quite simply, *every* moment of that story was exquisitely judged, beautifully performed and everything it needed to be. And by 'that story', of course I mean the 'Reunion' part. The 'School' part - the vampire-like Krillitane (surely a food additive?) taking over the school, feeding the kids brain-enlarging chips and trying to crack the something paradigm or the Da Vinci Code or whatever - was like the narrative equivalent of the musical score - mostly incidental, sometimes intrusive. There was nothing terribly wrong with that side of things - apart from the dreadfully convenient fact that the aliens' own oil was lethal to them, which is probably just another product of having to tell these stories too fast. When I saw the trailer the week before, I was mildly concerned that they were attempting to cram too much into their usual 45 minute slot: Sarah Jane, K9, Mickey, Anthony Head, aliens invade Grange Hill etc - and to a certain extent that turns out to be true. A fair bit of the "tell don't show" principle, and no real development on offer. And, not that its relevant, a lot of kids tapping away at keyboards according to the Space:1999 school of possessed computer programming - as a result of which I envisaged a Krotons-style scenario, where the aliens were skimming off all the High Brains for their own devices. Curiously, the bat-creatures are a tad too reminiscent of the Reapers from Father's Day, last year's Doctor Who blub-fest, but it might have been one continuity-dredge too far to explain that they had evolved thus as a result of an encounter with those particular monsters. But the 'School' part is anyway, let's face it, there for the kids - what better setting to rope in the younger audiences, especially with the obligatory blowing up of the school at the end. And the rest of it, the 'Reunion', was so absolutely perfect, that it didn't matter what was going on in the background. Actually, that played in its favour, because equally it didn't matter much if there were flaws with the alien menace plot.
The emotion in every scene that counts is played out beautifully - from that first meeting, to Sarah's encounter with the TARDIS, all the way through to that heart-warming and heart-wrenching goodbye. It's all played out naturally too - it's like they know the heartstrings are going to be playing themselves, especially for us sad old fans who know what it all means, so there's no need to pull on them. Even K9's return is handled deftly, with gently mocking humour, while at the same time allowing him to do what made him such a story liability in the first place - i.e. to save the day.
Then there's the emotional angle between Sarah and Rose - "the ex and the missus" as Mickey says, and you won't often find me quoting him. Sheer brilliance, and again there's a progress to it that feels perfectly natural, all the way up to and including that touching farewell, where Sarah tells Rose to look her up if she ever feels the need. Of course, when bickering they could have thrown names of visited planets at each other, but we know how that would have looked. Sarah Jane: "Earth, Peladon, Mars, Karn, Zeta Minor, Skaro, Voga etc." Rose: "Earth, Earth, Earth, a station orbiting the Earth, Earth, Earth, and an alien planet called New Earth." Compared to SJS, Rose's list reads like the Monty Python Spam song. With the monsters thing, they at least achieve the illusion of a balance they can work from. Although Rose all but blows her game by playing the Slitheen card. :)
But see, even though it gives me the chance for some evil humour, that Rose-Sarah Jane scene was, like so many other aspects of this very human story, pitch perfect. And to have the Doctor walk in and find them laughing about him is pure magic.
Even Mickey, dear God I can't believe I'm going to say this, is bearable here. Although he's perhaps one character too many in this all too short 45 minutes, he does serve a purpose and it's worth it for the aforementioned line and his comparison of himself to the 'tin dog'. Cue my first real Metal Mickey joke opportunity.
Obviously I am going to have to watch this one again. In part, to remind myself of the 'School' part of the story, which I'm afraid may remain forgettable even after a second viewing. But chiefly, just to savour that 'Reunion' again. I mean, I know I'm a married man and all, but - between you and me - you have to envy the Doctor that ecstatic final hug. :)

8 comments:

Stuart Douglas said...

Pitch perfect review too, Simon.

I'm married too and Julie commented after I'd watched School Reunion that she better never see me looking quite so doe-eyed and adoring at an actual woman as opposed to the wonderful Miss Smith.

SAF said...

Lol. Luckily, Zoe was just as understanding. I'd hate to see last night's episode become the cause of a spate of divorces :)

TimeWarden said...

Terrific review of a terrific episode.

A shiver went down my spine, for the first time this season, when Sarah stumbles across the TARDIS. And Tony Head was as oily as the chips his dinner ladies were serving!

Tim

Stuart Douglas said...

If anyone wants more SJS/K9 fun, there's a dvd of K9 and Company (complete with extras) available for download on Demonoid just now - http://www.demonoid.com/files/details/334338/

SAF said...

Ah yes, K9 & Company. I'm sure it was the titles that killed that show, more than anything else. :)

Stuart Douglas said...

It's the music which is worst - didn't Ian Levine have a hand in writing the theme(in which case, after Doctoin Distress, we shouldn't really be surprised at the awfulness of it)?

SAF said...

Nyeeeargh, yes, that music. For once, the wheezing and groaning sound was just the audience reaction. I had no recollection of who was responsible, but now that you have put forward a name, I think a firing squad should be assembled. :)

Stewart M. said...

SJS causing a spate of divorces? Hilarious!