"Oh mate, the missus and the ex! Welcome to every man's worst nightmare."The return of Sarah Jane Smith and K9 Mark III, who (on screen) last appeared in "The Five Doctors" in 1983. This episode pretty much singlehandedly spawned The Sarah Jane Adventures, giving another generation of children the gift of Elisabeth Sladen. It also holds significance as the first episode of the modern era of Doctor Who to absolutely, explicitly confirm that the new series was set in the same continuity as the 1963-89 original series (prior to its broadcast, fandom was split on this issue - though the producers never were).
— Mickey Smith
So there's a certain Perfectly Ordinary Comprehensive whose Perfectly Ordinary Students are absolutely whomping the competition in the school ratings, with enough time left over in the school day to calculate pi to infinity, invent time travel, etc. They're led by new headmaster Anthony Stewart Head, whose hobbies include looking Obviously Evil, cackling maniacally, Chewing the Scenery and chewing on the kids.Sensing high weirdness afoot, the Doctor has gone undercover as a Perfectly Ordinary Substitute Science Teacher, dragging Rose along to serve as a Perfectly Ordinary Dinner Lady. Rose is a bit miffed that she pulled kitchen duty, but consoles herself with the happy thought of all the chips she can eat. In fact — childhood obesity epidemic be damned — at this P.O.C., school lunches are not only free, but also mandatory.Somebody else's weirdness detector has pinged, too: Intrepid Reporter Sarah Jane Smith (Elisabeth Sladen), companion to the Third and Fourth Doctors, has turned up at the P.O.C. to see what's afoot. It's been thirty or so years since she left the Doctor, in her timeline, and several hundred years in his. He recognises her but doesn't give himself away, only to come clean when Sarah Jane sneaks into the school at night and finds where he's parked the TARDIS. Here the picture goes all swimmy and blurry for some reason.By the time it clears up again, the Doctor has provisionally identified the cafeteria's chips as the source of the kids' mysterious intelligence. K9 (pulled out of Sarah Jane's car boot, and fixed by the Doctor) identifies the frying oil as "Krillitane Oil", which identifies the baddies as Krillitanes, a bunch of nefarious shapeshifters.So, OK, villain identified — but what's up with making the kids smarter? Why, so they can solve the Skasis Paradigm, of course! The Skasis Paradigm is a grand unified theory of everything that can rebuild the universe and space and time. The Doctor is eye-rollingly annoyed at yet another group of beings who want to take over the universe and remake it in their image... but then the head Krillitane surprises the Doctor by offering him the top job.Also, Sarah Jane tells the Doctor that she spent the last few decades waiting for him, unable to fall in love again, unable to forget him, unable to trust and unable to live happily as a normal human. The Doctor mumbles something almost resembling an excuse as Rose looks on in horror at what apparently awaits her. Noticing what the Doctor now means to Rose, Sarah Jane gives Rose some pointers on having "a relationship" with the Doctor, and the two bond after some initial awkwardness. Meanwhile, Mickey gets acquainted with K9 and realizes that he's not much more than The Team's "tin dog".With the Villain of the Week appropriately vanquished by K9, having blown up the Krillitane oil and a portion of the school as well as himself, the Doctor prepares to once again make his departure without so much as a proper goodbye. Sarah Jane isn't having any, and finally gets the goodbye for which she's been waiting three decades.
Sarah Jane: No, say it. This time, please, say it.Here he picks her up off her feet in a hug for the ages, and for a moment, we catch a glimpse of a much younger Sarah Jane Smith....No, whacking the screen is not going to make it less blurry.He vanishes again, but leaves his beloved Sarah with two things: badly-needed closure, and a new K9 model. However, this isn't the last we've seen of Sarah Jane, and she'll return in series 4.
The Doctor: Goodbye — my Sarah Jane.
The Doctor: Goodbye — my Sarah Jane.
- All There Is to Know About "The Crying Game": This is "The One Where Sarah Jane Comes Back". Any other details are inconsequential.
- Arc Words: Torchwood block Mickey's investigation of the UNIT website.
- Badass: Sarah Jane has fought mummies, lots of robots and THE. LOCH NESS. MONSTER!
- Badass Adorable: K9 the toy-like robot dog with the lasers.
- Beware the Nice Ones: The Tenth Doctor effectively sums up the direction he will be taking this regeneration in a single sentence.The Doctor: I'm so old now. I used to have so much mercy. You get one warning. That was it.
- Berserk Button: Never take the piss out of K9. Ever.
- Big Damn Heroes: K9, of all things, saves everyone by application of laser blasts.
- Blatant Lies: One of the cafeteria workers gets oil all over herself, and is quickly rushed off into another room. Rose is calmly informed by the head dinner lady that she's fine. Even as the worker starts billowing smoke and screaming.Cafeteria worker: It's ok... She does that.
- Brick Joke: A brick thrown thirty years ago finally lands; when we last saw Sarah Jane, she suspected the Doctor had left her in the wrong part of Britain. Turns out that, in fact, he had.
- Buffy Speak: "Forget the shooty dog thing." Said by Giles.
- The Bus Came Back: Sarah Jane Smith has been gone for thirty years.
- Butt Monkey: Lampshaded, as Mickey compares Rose to Sarah Jane, and himself to K9 in their relationship with the Doctor...Mickey: (realization dawns) I'm the tin dog.
- Captain Obvious:Mickey: Okay, no time to explain, we need to get inside the school. Do you have, like, I don't know, a lock picking device?
K9: We are in a car.
Mickey: Maybe a drill attachment?
K9: We are in a car.
Mickey: Fat lot of good you are!
K9: We are in a car.
Mickey Smith: Wait a second. We're in a car.
- Car Fu: As K9 so aptly put it...K9: We are in a car.
- Cargo Ship: Mentioned by Sarah Jane. Sarah Jane: Tell me, does he still...stroke parts of the TARDIS?
Rose: Yes, yes! I'm like, "Do you two want to be left alone?"
- Cat Fight: Not the physical Fanservice-type, but Rose and Sarah Jane engage in a verbal pissing contest through much of the episode. In the end, the girls come to a (very giggly) compromise when they start comparing the things about the Doctor that bug them which in turn makes the poor Doctor wonder if them getting along isn't even worse for him, since now they seem to be in conspiracy against him. As Mickey so aptly puts it:Mickey: Oh mate, the missus and the ex! Welcome to every man's worst nightmare.
- Continuity Cavalcade: Sarah Jane and Rose trying to one-up one another. Sarah Jane wins.Sarah Jane: I saw things you wouldn’t believe!
Rose: Try me.
Sarah Jane: Mummies.
Rose: I’ve met ghosts.
Sarah Jane: Robots. Lots of robots.
Rose: Slitheen. In Downing Street.
Sarah Jane: Daleks!
Rose: (smugly) Met the Emperor.
Sarah Jane: Anti-matter monsters!
Rose: Gas-mask zombies!
Sarah Jane: Real living dinosaurs!
Rose: Real living werewolf!
Sarah Jane: THE. LOCH NESS. MONSTER!
Rose: (stunned) Seriously?
- Creative Sterility: The Krillitanes require the human children to crack the paradigm because it requires imagination.
- Cut the Juice: After getting inside the school, Mickey finds all the kids typing away. After being unable to get their attention, he finds the plug, looks around as though expecting a more dramatic solution, and then just pulls it out. He gets a few sparks thrown at him, but that's it.
- Deadly Euphemism: "Taking an early lunch" indeed.
- Deadpan Snarker: K9 regularly snarks. It's made more awesome by the fact he's a robot dog and not meant to show emotion at all.Mr Finch: You bad dog.
- Evil Teacher: Mr Finch and the new staff are exploiting and eating the children.
- Evil Plan: One more villain with a god complex. After incorporating so many species, the Krillitane want to become gods.
- Failed a Spot Check: Mickey asks K9 for lock picks to get past locked glass doors.K9: We are in a car.
- Faux Affably Evil: Mr Finch is always so polite, and charming. Even as he's planning to eat orphans, or have his brethren eat the Doctor's friends. However, he does seem genuine in his desire to have the Doctor join him, if only slightly annoyed when the Doctor turns him down.
- The Good Old British Comp: Deffrey Vale. In a variant, it's not the students who are the problem. As The Doctor notes, none of the students are misbehaving. Literally, none.
- Heroic B.S.O.D.: Mickey upon realising that he's their "tin dog".
- Heroic Sacrifice: Poor K9 is lost to the explosion. Since he's a machine, The Doctor repairs him.
- Infant Immortality: Averted. Within the first two minutes of the episode, Finch kills and eats an orphaned girl no older than thirteen.
- The Knights Who Say "Squee!": Sarah and the Doctor's reaction to seeing the other once again. David Tennant admitted the reason he's grinning like a madman throughout the episode is because he got to act along side Elisabeth Sladen, who he grew up watching on the show.
- Manipulative Bastard: Mr Finch nearly talks the Doctor into joining him with just a few lines of temptation, almost succeeding in doing the same to Sarah Jane. She, however, snaps out of it and snaps the Doctor out of it too.
- Meaningful Echo: In "The End of the World", the Ninth Doctor said of Cassandra "Everything has its time, and everything dies." The line is repeated almost word-for-word by Sarah Jane to the Doctor in this episode.
- The Missus and the Ex: Trope Namer. Sarah Jane's is the Doctor's former companion, Rose is the current one. Both of them are in love with the Doctor.
- Oh Crap!: Discovering the TARDIS hidden in the school basement really knocks poor Sarah Jane for a loop.
- Poorly Disguised Pilot: Averted Trope. It's important to remember in the wake of The Sarah Jane Adventures that this wasn't a PDP for that show. In fact, Sarah Jane's appearance wasn't supposed to lead to a spin-off, but was more to link New Who with the old show (to show that it was an extension of the old show, not a new version of it). The fact that the episode was successful and RTD decided to create a Sarah Jane spin-off was just a very happy accident.
- Reality Warper: What Mr Finch seeks to become through the Skasis Paradigm because it will give him that power. He offers that power to the Doctor.
- Reveal Shot: When Sarah, stunned, backs out of the storage cupboard where the TARDIS is stashed and back into the gymnasium, there is a brilliant panning shot done to reveal the Doctor just standing there, waiting for her.
- Scary Black Man: One of the Krillitane poses as one of these. Notably, its true form is darker than the others.
- Screw Learning, I Have Phlebotinum!: The Krillitane oil doesn't just make the kids smarter, it also dumps a load of knowledge into their heads, such as how to travel through time. It's also possible that those computers they are mesmerized by are teaching them.
- Squee!: All over the Doctor's face when he first sees Sarah-Jane again.
- Stock Ness Monster: During the argument between Sarah Jane and Rose over who endured the most "space stuff", Sarah Jane mentions she went up against THE. LOCH NESS. MONSTER!!!! Rose couldn't top it.
- Stuff Blowing Up: A Krillitane doused with their own oil will explode. K-9 utilises this to blow up all of them, himself, and a good chunk of the school. Needless to say, the kids go wild.
- Trailers Always Spoil: Sarah Jane's reappearance was spoiled by the trailer at the end of the Christmas special.
- Utopia Justifies the Means: Mr Finch exploits this in his attempt to recruit The Doctor: how many more people he could save if he were a Reality Warper.
- Villain Respect: Finch has a healthy respect for the Doctor's intellect, and he is the only character that Finch actually treats as an equal, even a superior - as part of his temptation of the Doctor, he says, "The paradigm would give us power, but you could give us wisdom." Of course, Finch is a top class Manipulative Bastard, so he might just be playing on the Doctor's ego - either way, it almost works.
- We Can Rule Together: Mr Finch gives the Doctor a sales pitch Mephistopheles would be proud of - and when Sarah Jane intervenes, shifts gears like lightning, pinpointing her own regrets and insecurities and offering her a similar sales pitch as part of the Doctor's.
- What the Hell, Hero?: Rose, to the Doctor, re. leaving Sarah Jane.
- Wham Line: When Mr Finch catches the Doctor off guard, instead of planning to keep all the power for himself, he offers to share it with the Doctor:Mr Finch: Think of the changes that could be made if this power was used for good.
The Doctor: What, by someone like you?
Mr Finch: No. By someone like you.
- Who Wants to Live Forever?: This episode was the first time the series openly questioned why the Doctor leaves his companions (or lets them go):The Doctor: I don't age. I regenerate. But humans decay. You wither and you die. Imagine watching that happen to someone you...
Rose: What, Doctor?
The Doctor: You can spend the rest of your life with me. But I can't spend the rest of mine with you. I have to live on, alone. That's the curse of the Time Lords.
- You Have Failed Me: Any student who doesn't measure up goes missing.
- You Look Familiar: Anthony Head played warlord Grayvorn in the Big Finish Doctor Who "Excelis" Story Arc, meeting the Fifth, Sixth and Seventh Doctors (as well as Iris Wildthyme and Bernice Summerfield).
- Zeerust / Zeerust Canon: K9's dated look is lampshaded by Rose as "disco". The Doctor finds this very offensive.