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TV Review: Doctor Who 2 – 3: “School Reunion”

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It's important to remember that Doctor Who isn't just for adults. There's a great deal for adults to enjoy, that's always been the case, but this is television that's not exclusively aimed at us so-called grown ups. Quite the opposite in fact. “School Reunion,” by grown up standards, isn't that great.

who3a.jpgBut that's missing the point, surely? Episode three of the second series of new Who clearly has the children in mind; Anthony Head plays an evil head master in a school where something odd is going on, and the unpopular child ultimately becomes the hero and saves a school that's over-run by bat-like aliens. Is this not a classic children's adventure story? But there's unquestionably something for the adults too – Elisabeth Sladen returns as Sarah Jane, and K9 isn't far behind – a creation which surely today's audience of children will find laughably poor. But then, did anybody ever really think that K9 was anything but poor?

This is an episode with much to enjoy if you can disengage your brain: Anthony Head is magnificently over-the-top, munching on all the scenery he can stomach, and having a fantastic time into the bargain.who3b.jpg He gets some delightfully crap lines ("Bad Dog!"), gets to run around screeching like a bat, and provides more than his fair share of giggles. While part of me still yearns for a Giles spin-off series (imagine the wondrous things that the combined might of Joss Whedon and Russel Davies could achieve) and finds parts like this to be beneath an actor of Head's calibre, I can't help but lap up any cheesy villain roles he takes. It's also nice to see Elisabeth Sladen back, even if Sarah Jane's part is a little underwritten. There's some nice companion banter between her and Rose, but that's really as far as it goes. Mickey makes a reappearance here too, and I've still not managed to warm to this character. There's just something about him that I can't overcome – perhaps it's the way we're supposed to accept that he's become some sort of master hacker since his early brush with The Doctor. Another nice Torchwood reference crops up during Mickey's scenes, a thread that's nowhere near as subtle as last season's Bad Wolf, but is nonetheless well executed. And K9 is back, sadly. Still, he provides the material for a fair few gags, and is on the receiving end of Head's aforementioned "Bad Dog" line, so I can tolerate his return. 

Tennant gives a good account of himself. This is the first time we've really seen the tormented side of his doctor, a side which Eccleston seemingly managed to cram into every episode, for better or worse. Tennant is clearly overjoyed at sharing screen-time with Sladen, and his "My Sarah Jane!" exclamation could be as much from the Who fan in him as The Doctor himself. There's a great clash between Anthony Head and Tennant which highlights The Doctor's unforgiving attitude towards this hostile alien race. This episode also starts to introduce some tension between The Doctor and Rose; is this an attempt to reduce Rose back to a simple side-kick role, and play down the romantic elements?

Effects-wise things are pretty poor in “School Reunion.” The bat creatures were nicely animated and fun, but they're just not really very creepy. Head and his pod-person teachers are actually more unnerving than the aliens are; it would have been nice to develop this aspect a little more. Still, hopefully any children watching will be convinced that at least a few of their teachers are actually aliens.

As Who goes, this is fairly average. I can't condemn it as being a terrible episode, because in fairness it's not – the entertainment provided by Head alone is worth an hour in front of the television, and that's before you factor in Tennant, Piper, and Sladen. And I'm sure the children will enjoy this particular episode far more than us, ever critical, adults. 

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