This past week brought a surprise treat for Doctor Who fans in the form of a new, 13 minute story written by Russell T. Davies, performed on YouTube by several Who and Sarah Jane Adventures actors. Sort of a radio show with visuals, featuring actors in quarantine, the short film observes the anniversary of Elisabeth Sladen's death by finally providing (presumably) canon closure for her character, Sarah Jane Smith. The video is below and it is very sweet:
Interesting there's not one hint of a reference to the newest Doctor Who episodes.
Watching the video prompted me to go back and watch "School Reunion", the Russell T. Davies era episode--actually written by Toby Whithouse--that marked Sarah Jane's first appearance in the revived series.
I'm always amazed when going back to Ninth and Tenth Doctor episodes by how adult the show was. It was kind of an exciting time for grown ups and Doctor Who, both in terms of the show and the Big Finish audios, which were both exploring more adult themes at the time. I suppose the theory was that all the Doctor Who fans were grown up now and the show should follow them into adulthood. Now maybe it's skewed more towards a new audience of kids, though it still manages to feel more infantilised than episodes from the 70s that were ostensibly for kids. "School Reunion" tackles subjects that kids would likely find difficult, boring, or impenetrable. Many of those things are also things adult programming isn't generally allowed to be about anymore, particularly the episode's central source of dramatic tension--the fact that Sarah Jane's age has changed her and that the Doctor (David Tennant) clearly prefers to travel with young, beautiful women like Rose (Billie Piper).
It was really refreshing that the show, in the early Davies era, had the guts to acknowledge and admit what was perfectly clear. From Liz Shaw onward, the Doctor's always had a young, extraordinarily beautiful woman with him, barring a few very brief interludes like The Deadly Assassin. It's silly not to acknowledge it means something. The Eleventh Doctor era kept it up a little while but then things took a turn with the Twelfth Doctor which I wonder now if it wasn't a reaction to a speech Ten has in "School Reunion".
When Rose confronts the Doctor on his evident predilection for picking up young women and abandoning them, he makes a really moving speech about how Rose can spend the rest of her life with him but he can't spend the rest of his life with her--if he stays with any companion, he'll be forced to watch them, as he says, "wither and die." Not so the Twelfth Doctor, with his running gag about being unable to tell how old people are. And this culminated with the Christmas episode that was originally supposed to be Clara's last, when he met her old and on her death bed and, of course, to him, she looked as young as she always had. It's a sweet moment, possibly sweeter if you consider whether Steven Moffat was saying the Doctor subconsciously rewrote his own perceptions so he wouldn't have to face the problem he talks about in "School Reunion."
Of course, needing young people doesn't explain why he needs beautiful young people. But that really shouldn't require explanation, should it?
Twitter Sonnet #1348
A broken step disturbs the spiral case.
Ascending dancers rectify the ghost.
A pilot placed a pillow 'neath the base.
The crackers claimed a flavour like the host.
Neglected hose abandoned mail for night.
Acquired helms contract the head for plays.
Decisive gloves constrict the fingers tight.
Demanding boots can stomp the grass for days.
In craving bread the yeast reserved rewards.
The open store contained a can of Coke.
Behind a shuttered eye were sight accords.
The twisted arm an ancient record broke.
When silver dogs return the bats invade.
In plastic coins are hazard debts repaid.