Rose: I thought you and me were — Well, I obviously got it wrong. I’ve been to the year 5 billion, right, but this… Now, this is really seeing the future. You just leave us behind.
Production Code: 2.3.
Doctor Who Season: S28 (Ep3).
Story Number: 170.
So, after the Daleks were “brought back” to Doctor Who in the Ninth Doctor’s “Series One”, the main elements of Doctor Who were in place: Doctor and companion; the TARDIS; the Daleks…
The remainder of the stories of that season were new monsters but familiar (for Doctor Who) situations. This season (broadcast a year after, in 2006) saw the return of the “number two” Doctor Who monsters, the Cybermen, but also, of the Classic companions: the “number one”, Sarah Jane Smith.
Sarah Jane Smith – played by Elizabeth Sladen who sadly passed away in 2011 – was THE Classic companion. This status was garnered by a combination of a myriad of reasons: the fact that the chracter was played and written with a new complexity beyond the template established by Vicky and Dodo and Polly of essentially asking “what’s that Doctor?”; that she appeared in what was regarded as a Golden Age for the show; the fact that she was the star of the very first Doctor Who television spin-off.
Season 28 is a curious one as it features not one but two “backdoor pilots” for the two Doctor Who spin-off shows that would follow. Actually, the elements for Torchwood are seeded across several stories – the last four episodes that feature Captain Jack of Season 27 plus Tooth and Claw and the finale of this season. This – School Reunion – is the one story that sets up the premise of The Sarah Jane Adventures although really all that’s changed from the end of K-9 and Company (the one-episode first spin-off from the main programme) is a shinier version of K-9 and some emotional “closure” for Sarah (though there was no emotional turmoil evident from that story or The Five Doctors broadcast soon after). The emotional scenes in this are very well realised, and this one story (and it’s not the only one) of this new version of Doctor Who in which the monsters are essentially the B-plot and the characters talking and emoting is the A-plot.
K-9 and Company (1981), The Five Doctors (1983), School Reunion (2006), the seasons of the The Sarah Jane Adventures (which began in 2007); this sequence of narratives spanning one spin-off, two Doctor Who stories decades apart and another spin-off have one major difference from the 1970s Classic Golden Age that features Sarah – and that’s K-9. Actually, for some, such as Kim Newman writing in the BFI book Doctor Who, K-9 is a symbol of the show’s decline after that Golden Age. I like the robot dog though, I think he’s cool.
Though there was K-9 and Company then The Five Doctors that shouldn’t diminish the power of the moving scene of the Doctor re-united with Sarah, a important element of which is the idea that she hasn’t had any meaningful contact with the Doctor since the Fourth Doctor ejected her abruptly from the TARDIS. (We can rationalise this as Sarah only really connecting with the from-her-past Third Doctor during that event, so the Fourth-or-beyond Doctor never did come back for her. Imagine if the original Doctor and Companion pairings had been realised for The Five Doctors – Fourth and Sarah – this would be a very different story perhaps.)
There’s her shock as she sees the TARDIS, and an epic and graceful camera-sweep round to the new Doctor.
“I thought you’d died” – it’s a powerful scene.
K-9 seems to integral to the plot as a metaphor for the relationship: rusty and falling apart at the start of the story; gradually mended in the cafe (as the Doctor and Sara have a proper heart-to-heart) as Rose looks on.
Rose’s reaction to Sarah provide two stand-out scenes: one in which she tries to one-up Sarah with which monsters featured in the their adventures with the Doctor; the other in which her idea of the special relationship with the Doctor is eroded by realisation of a string of companions before her.
“Say it this time”: Sarah wishes an actual end of a chapter to their relationship – and if we continue to think of K-9 as that metaphor, there is a definite end, and it’s the end of K-9 Mark III. The Doctor does actually say goodbye this time “Goodbye – My Sarah Jane”. There’s a new K-9 though, Mark IV, and new beginnings.