DVD Extras (box sets only) include:
The plot is not without a few minor holes, and feels a bit rushed at times, but writer Toby Whithouse delivers scene upon scene of excellent content, well-utilizing the excellent elements he is given to work with.
Character introductions are unusual, probably better suited to regular viewers than casual ones. No mysteries about who the bad guy is, that is revealed in scene one. One fully expects such standard teaser fare to lead into the title sequence, but something far more unusual squeezes in first. The Doctor reveals that he's already on the scene, posing as someone who belongs there. Of course, if you don't recognize this new Doctor, the impact is lost, and the title sequence is of little help in this matter.
The next couple of scenes remain highly entertaining, as Rose and Mickey are established and the role they and the Doctor are playing with the school is laid out amongst several more suspicious clues and a few sinister characters. Sarah Jane then makes her entrance, and with all the major cards in play, the story can really start rolling.
Doing this entire story all in one 45 minute episode is in many respects an exercise in cramming, and "School Reunion" might well have been able to benefit from being a longer story offering us more of Sarah Jane, K9, and Anthony Head, not to mention allowing Eugene Washington's creepy teacher character and half of the student characters time to display the depth that only gets hinted at in the finished version. It also would have been nice to see David Tennant finally start one of his stories off with a proper materialization for the police box. But, having only 45 minutes to do it in, they were wise to start things off with the Doctor, Rose and Mickey already deeply involved. It is also refreshing to see the Doctor and all his friends sinking their teeth into these challenges out of their impulses of heroism and curiosity. They've all caught the bug that took so long to develop during the William Hartnell Era. Nicely done.
Not surprisingly, K9 is left in his owner's vehicle - not the TARDIS this time but Sarah's car - until he is needed later in the story. But not to worry, unlike most of his appearances in his final year on Doctor Who (season 18), K9 gets his due later on. John Leeson returns to make K9's voice perfectly as we remember it.
Elizabeth Sladen also gives a magical performance while recapturing her role as Sarah Jane, bringing back all the wonderment and enterprise of the original character, while adding another more modern dimension that hadn't previously been explored. It seems to be a complete reversal of policy now to have all the Doctor's fellow female travellers fall in love with him, and the new team makes this change retroactive with Sarah Jane. Strange policy. But no argument as far as Sarah's concerned. She could replace Rose any day as far as I'm concerned and the show would be better for it - which did help me relish all those wonderful scenes where Rose's insecurity comes out, and Mickey gloats and teases away. Fun stuff.
And Anthony Head is an exquisite choice for guest villain. Here's someone who knows how to turn on the kind of sophisticated, high-class villainy one would want from an arch-rival of, say, the Master's calibre, and Head is an absolute joy to watch on screen. David Tennant gets to square off against him in many scenes, with the swimming pool being my favourite. There must have been an interesting encounter between the two when Finch first hired the Doctor - too bad the story was too short to either show or reference the event, as it may have informed their relationship to a good degree. Perhaps the memory of the Doctor joining the school fuels Finch's belief that he will also join the Krillotane cause.
The later "temptation" scene in the computer room falls a bit flat in my opinion, particularly in letting Sarah's speech about letting go of things that are past their time "win" the debate. Sarah proves she's not past her time, especially now that she's been spun off into her own series, and could obviously kick Rose's butt any day. And then there's the whole confusion of what Gallifrey's time may have been - whatever that matters when you travel in a time machine all the time. Heroics are the Doctor's currency, not idly letting things fade away before their time. And when he's ready to figure out which parallel universes have Gallifrey in existence, which don't, and which interpretations he chose that flipped him over into the wrong one, all will be right again. The only thing that's really important is to realize how unnecessary Finch's Krillotanes and their criminal eating habits are to that picture.
Everyone gets a bit of something to do near the end to help wrap things up, although you have to listen attentively to remember that it's the Doctor who comes up with the plan to save the day, as K9 steals much of the thunder in the final moments. And why not, he deserves the spotlight once in a while, and now is as good a time as ever.
The Doctor's defining "planning" scene starts so abruptly though, you'd think the first part of it had been deleted for time. If so, it's not amongst the DVD footage. It does fuel the feeling that the story is a bit rushed, and might work even better as a two-parter.
"I preferred it as it was...."The TARDIS finally gets its due at the end, during the good-byes, superbly showcasing the interior/exterior relationship and offering us a dematerialization. Sarah's apologetic commentary on the interior design is appropriate - it was better before. Of course, we don't know if she's comparing it to the old main white console room, or the dark secondary one. They were both better, of course, but you can't beat the original from 1963, or the one we saw from seasons 15 to 25, both of which convincingly look the same.
As for the 2005 version.... "It'll do" is the best Sarah can offer. She's being too kind.
A lot of good things happen in the final sequence. The park in springtime is a wonderful location, and the Doctor and Sarah have a lovely, satisfying sequence together. K9 pulls a cosmetic stunt reminiscent of the end of "The Invasion of Time" (story no. 97), but his "exit" and rebirth here make more sense and have greater emotional weight. The fade out to black and back in again also indicate that some time has passed, giving the Doctor a chance to do some work on him as well.
Perhaps best of all, because of its lasting impact, is the fact that Mickey joins the TARDIS crew. It's about time. Too bad Sarah and K9 didn't follow suit. Oh well. I found myself wishing that Mickey would outlast Rose. Then the series would get really good.
This story has become available on DVD.
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Note: The full season sets contain commentaries, behind-the-scenes featurettes, and other extras. The smaller volumes only feature the plain episodes.
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