School Reunion

Region 1
box set

Region 2
box set
Region 2
plain 3-episode volume
(Doctor Who Story No. 174, starring David Tennant)
  • written by Toby Whithouse
  • directed by James Hawes
  • produced by Phil Collinson
  • music by Murray Gold
  • 1 episode @ 45 minutes
Story: Mickey calls the Doctor and Rose back to present day England to investigate an elementary school that works its students very hard and makes them unnaturally, extremely, suspiciously brilliant - when they are not disappearing entirely. Why has the new headmaster replaced most of the staff? What secret project are the students being made to work on hypnotically on the school computers? When these mysteries also attract the suspicions of former TARDIS crewmembers Sarah Jane Smith and K9, the reunion sparks jealousy and a troubled vision of the future for Rose.

DVD Extras (box sets only) include:

  • Audio commentary by David Tennant (The Doctor), writer Toby Whithouse, and executive producer Julie Gardner.
  • Doctor Who Confidential featurette: Friends Reunited (12 min.) with Tennant, Elisabeth Sladen (Sarah Jane Smith),
    Anthony Head (Mr. Finch), Noel Clarke (Mickey), director James Hawes, and executive producer Russell T. Davies.
  • David Tennant's Video Diaries
  • Billie Piper's Video Diaries (season total: 4 min.)
  • Deleted Scenes
  • Outtakes

In-Depth Analysis Review

by Martin Izsak

WARNING: This review contains "SPOILERS", and is intended for those who have
already seen the program. To avoid the spoilers, read the Buyers' Guide version instead.

Season 28 scores another big victory by crafting an adventure that brings back and heavily features two of the all-time favourite supporting characters of the original Doctor Who series: Sarah Jane Smith, and the robot dog K9. Add to that the first real lead humanoid-male adversary for the Doctor since the show re-started in 2005, played superbly by actor Anthony Head. Add to that the fact that Noel Clarke is back to give us more of Mickey, and the fact that we've now got a superb Doctor in David Tennant. That counts for so much excellence already, one can virtually guarantee another winner regardless of plot and setting.

And we are to an extent putting up with the setting. Well into the second season of new Doctor Who without getting to an alien planet that isn't copying Earth ad nauseum, and back in England again. But... it's giving us Sarah Jane and K9, in the most logical place we could find them. No complaints. We'll take it.

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.

Murray Gold whips his music up into a frenetic holy fury during scenes of the Krillotane computer experiment, which seems a bit over the top. This does, however, keep the tension together in later scenes, and remind one that there is a bit of a race on, in addition to all the running and chasing sequences. The rest of the score is wonderful, with the quieter, sneakier version of "Finding Jackie" from Bad Wolf (story no. 170) making a re-appearance, alongside the trusty "Seeking the Doctor" cue. A nice little march for the protagonists as they take initiative is reused from episode two of "The Empty Child" (story no. 168), and there are lots of new sinister motifs and cues for both more light-hearted times, and serious sneaking around. Not to mention a nice piece for K9 near the end.

But best of all are the instrumental versions and variations on "Song for Ten", which come into their own during the story's coda. Never one to be big on lyrics or singing, the whole debate about whether Neil Hannon's version on CD is better than the original one heard in "The Christmas Invasion" (story no. 171) is a bit of a moot point for me. Give me the instrumental only version heard in this story any day. It's the best.

Music by Murray Gold
"Seeking the Doctor",
and alternate versions of
"Finding Jackie" and
"Song for Ten" are available on:
Audio CD - Doctor Who by Murray Gold
Silva Screen SILCD1224

More info & buying options

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.

Bottom line: this story is crammed full of good stuff, and satisfies both old fans and new alike. Probably the best part of Season 28 so far, but there's more yet to come....

International Titles:

Deutsch: "Klassentreffen"

Magyar: "Osztálytalálkozó"

Français: "L'École des retrouvailles"

Русский: "Встреча в школе"

Italiano: "Una vecchia amica"

This story has become available on DVD.
Click on the Amazon symbol for the location nearest you for pricing and availability:

Region 1
14-episode boxed set
for the North American market:

Region 2
14-episode box set
for the U.K.
Region 2
plain 3-episode volume
U.K. format only

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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Read the In-depth Analysis Review for the next story: "The Girl in the Fireplace"

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