Follow TV Tropes


Recap / Doctor Who S28 E3 "School Reunion"

Go To
... awkwarrrrrd...

"Oh mate, the missus and the ex! Welcome to every man's worst nightmare."
Mickey Smith

The one where the old series meets the new series, and vice-versa. Also the one where every single fan ever starts crying in absolute glee.

Written by Toby Whithouse.

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).

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 Physics 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 containing delicious chips (French fries in North America) 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 done what she does best — stuck her nose in exactly where the bad guy does not want her to stick her nose, and turned up at the P.O.C. herself to see what's afoot. It's been thirty-three years since she left the Doctor in her timeline, at least several hundred years (and sixnote  regenerations) in his — she is, in case you're wondering, even more beautiful than she already was. He recognizes her — and has a very loud internal squee-fest — 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.
The Doctor: Goodbye — my Sarah Jane.

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.


  • Actor Allusion:
  • Arc Words: Torchwood blocks Mickey's search for pictures of the UFOs at Deffrey Vale.
  • The Assimilator: The Krillitane alter their DNA with DNA from races they conquer.
  • 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.
    • Sarah Jane's not exactly a pushover herself — don't forget, she came into this school armed with absolutely nothing functional to protect herself and came out with not even a scratch.
  • Berserk Button: Never take the piss out of K9. Ever. You will set Sarah Jane off.
  • Big Damn Heroes: K9, of all things, saves everyone by application of laser blasts.
  • Big Damn Reunion: More of a subdued reunion: the Doctor reunites with Sarah Jane Smith, although she doesn't know the guy is the Doctor... till later in the story when she sees the TARDIS.
    The Doctor: [wistfully and gently] Hello, Sarah Jane.
  • 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.
  • Cannot Spit It Out:
    The Doctor: Imagine watching that happen to someone that you–
    Rose: What, Doctor?
  • 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.
    K9: Affirmative.
  • Car Fu: Mickey needs to get inside a locked school taken over by aliens. He manages to reactivate K-9 and asks if he has some kind of lockpicking device, but K-9 just reminds him they're in Sarah Jane's car. Repeatedly. "Fat lot of good you are... wait a second. We're in a car."
  • Cargo Ship: Mentioned by Sarah Jane. invoked
    Sarah Jane: Tell me, does he still... stroke bits of the TARDIS?
    Rose: Yeah, yeah! I'm like, "Do you two want to be 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 women 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: [finally outclassed] Seriously?
  • Continuity Nod:
    • Sarah referring to the Doctor's companion as his "assistant". When Sarah met the Doctor he was stuck as UNIT's scientific advisor, hence he had lab assistants instead of (travelling) companions.
    • The Doctor tells Sarah that he couldn't take her to Gallifrey "because back then humans weren't allowed". This handwaves the fact that later episodes had the Doctor bringing his companions to his homeworld without issue.
  • Corpsing: To get authentic laughter from Billie Piper and Elisabeth Sladen, David Tennant scribbled on his face with a marker when he entered. The laughter from Rose and Sarah Jane is them corpsing over how ridiculous Tennant looked.
  • 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:
    • The scary black teacher informs a student she's moving up to the top class because "Milo's failed me." Milo, as in the student the Doctor was questioning in class at the beginning of the episode, and who isn't seen again...
    • "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.
    K9: Affirmative.
    • Then again, Four built K9. Are any of us actually surprised that the Snark Lord made his dog snarky too?
  • Death of a Child: Within the first two minutes of the episode, Finch kills and eats an orphaned girl no older than thirteen.
  • Disney Death: K9, although it is unclear if this is the same robot rebuilt (with the same personality and memories) or just another robot of the same model.
  • Does This Remind You of Anything?: The Doctor taking on a string of pretty young companions, only to discard them without regard to their feelings because they're getting too old, makes the Doctor look like a Dirty Old Man having a midlife crisis or an irresponsible Casanova. Not that David Tennant would ever play Casanova...
  • 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 lockpicks to get past locked glass doors.
  • 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.
  • Flanderization: Due to how Russell T. Davies tended to write most of the female companions during his run, Sarah Jane comes off more as a jealous ex than an old friend of the Doctor's, seemingly just to make Rose jealous, for no reason. Mercifully, after the immediate territorial pissing match, the two women get giggly over the Doctor's idiosyncrasies and Sarah Jane is nothing more than platonic with the Doctor forever after.
    • This gets a Call-Back in "The Sontaran Stratagem" when the Doctor prefaces his introduction of Donna to Martha with a "Please don't fight." Donna's response? "You wish," before going on to congratulate Martha on her engagement, and derisively refer to the Doctor as "Too skinny for words — you hug him, you get a paper-cut!".
  • Freeze-Frame Bonus:
    • The school is papered with posters encouraging the students to "EAT MORE CHIPS".
    • In a rather charming split-second moment, pausing right at the end of the Doctor and Sarah's reunion shows both of them have the same "8D" grin.
  • Fully Absorbed Finale: The episode picks up on the partnership between Sarah Jane and K-9 first introduced in the failed Pilot K-9 and Company. Quite simply, K-9 eventually broke down. (But the Doctor fixed him.)
  • 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.
  • Grandma, What Massive Hotness You Have!: Sarah Jane, who basically hasn't changed in thirty years.
    • In fact she has. But most emphatically not for the worse.
  • Heroic Sacrifice: Poor K9 is lost to the explosion. Since he's a machine, the Doctor repairs him.
  • Hollywood Mid-Life Crisis: Sarah Jane gets in some snark at the Doctor.
    Sarah Jane: You can tell you're getting older. Your assistants are getting younger.
  • Instantly Proven Wrong: When Rose want to call the ambulance because one of the kitchen staff gets in contact with the mysterious oil, a woman assures her that this is not necessary because the victim is quite alright. Cue a scream coming from the other room.
  • I Will Wait for You: Sarah tells the Doctor rather reproachfully that she waited for him. He'd actually had no intention of coming back.
  • 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.
  • Long Neck: The Doctor mentions that the Krillitanes used to have extremely long necks, but due to the fact they constantly take on other species' traits, they now look like giant bats.
  • Made of Iron: K9 survives being smashed through a window. In a car. With no seatbelt on.
  • 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, courtesy of Mickey. Sarah Jane is the Doctor's former companion, Rose is the current one. Both of them are in love with the Doctor.
  • Mundane Solution: To get past a locked door, with coaxing from K9 Mickey just rams it with a car; then to shut down the alien-influenced supercomputer, he pulls the power plug.
  • Never Say That Again: The Doctor does it to himself:
    "Correctamundo! ...A word I have never used before, and hopefully never will again."
  • Oh, Crap!: Discovering the TARDIS hidden in the storage room off the gym really knocks poor Sarah Jane for a loop.
  • "Open!" Says Me:
    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.
  • 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 spinoff, 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 spinoff was just a very happy accident.
  • Powered by a Forsaken Child: They use children to crack the code because adults lack the imagination.
  • Punctuated! For! Emphasis!: "THE. LOCH NESS. MONSTER!"
  • 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.
  • Remember When You Blew Up a Sun?: Sarah Jane Smith and Rose try to outdo each other with their past adventures. Sarah Jane wins when she points out she's met...
    Rose: [beat] Seriously?
  • 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 Krillitanes 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 faster than light. It's also possible that those computers they are mesmerized by are teaching them.
  • Snark-to-Snark Combat: Sarah Jane and Rose, and a gentler version between Sarah Jane and the Doctor, and that's not even counting the shots Mickey, Finch, K9, and the Doctor all get in at each other.
  • 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. K9 utilises this to blow up all of them, himself, and a good chunk of the school. Needless to say, the kids go wild.
  • Super Intelligence: The Krillitane oil gives people this if consumed. The chips/French fries the school staff are so insistent on the children eating are cooked with the stuff. It also rubs off on Rose because she was eating a lot of the chips.
  • Teachers out of School: Subverted. When the main characters are sneaking around a suspicious school at night, Rose says that she used to think that teachers sleep at school. A moment later...
    The Doctor: [pointing at the ceiling, where "teachers" sleep in their true alien form] Well... They do.
  • Time Travel for Fun and Profit: The teacher the Doctor replaced resigned after winning the lottery... without playing. Someone posted the winning ticket through her door at midnight...
  • To Serve Man: The Krillitanes eat students they can get away with killing, as well as the human teachers.
  • Totally Radical: Parodied with "Correctamundo!", which the Doctor immediately swears off.
  • Trailers Always Spoil: Sarah Jane's reappearance was spoiled by the trailer at the end of the Christmas special.
  • Unwanted False Faith: The Doctor is sorely tempted by the idea of gaining the power of the Skasis Paradigm.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Wham Shot: It's not a surprise for the viewers, but Sarah Jane gets one when she sees the TARDIS.
  • What the Hell, Hero?:
    • Rose, to the Doctor, re. leaving Sarah Jane.
    • Sarah Jane to the Doctor on the same subject, particularly for never coming back and leaving her to assume that he'd died.
  • 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 that 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.
  • Zeerust Canon: K9's dated look is lampshaded by Rose as "disco". The Doctor finds this very offensive.

Alternative Title(s): Doctor Who NSS 2 E 3 School Reunion


Example of: