November 12, 2010

Doctors and Companions

WARNING: Minor spoilers
"Ventilation shafts! That takes me back...or perhaps, forward..."
One of the advantages of being ill and laying around the house is that I have ample time to catch up on television watching. Yes, I had read numerous hype around the Death of the Doctor two-part episode of The Sarah Jane Adventures. Granted, unlike many fans, I don't watch the show - it's enjoyable, to say the least (although I thought last year's The Wedding of Sarah Jane seemed an unnecessary stop on the David Tennant Farewell Tour® - good, but not enough to warrant a non-Doctor watch).

But Death of the Doctor is a lovingly crafted ode to 1970's Doctor Who, especially at a time when both 60s and 80s Who are celebrated.

Much of it could be seen as Russell T Davies' version of School Reunion - only with the added bonus of a second companion, Jo Jones (formerly known as Jo Grant, portrayed by Katy Manning). If School Reunion served as a meditation on what happens after leaving the TARDIS,  Death of the Doctor provides another perspective - that instead of waiting for the Doctor's return, some companions may choose to run in the opposite direction.

Granted, there is not much of a plot, but then again, that really isn't the point of this episode. It may be geared towards the younger set, but quite frankly, I think (in a non-ironic way) this is one "for the dads" - the ones who may have seen reruns of classic Who long before the 2005 revival, and who remember these characters in a way that many other fans might not. There are even some great "resonating concrete" talks (as per Chip of the Two Minute Time Lord podcast), that allow Matt Smith to develop layers of the 11th Doctor.

(Speaking of which, there's been some controversy on the Interwebs about whether RTD is retconning the Doctor's ability to know, that line. Seriously, dudes, it's done in such an offhanded, obviously jokey way that to even debate it is an act of a desperately lonely individual. Honestly, get over it. It's a TV show. Nobody cares except you).

Except for the last five or so minutes, Davies' script is a mixture of grand adventure and extremely touching moments. (I thought the whole "companion" speech at the end was slightly over the top), but otherwise, this is one episode worth watching.

When it comes out on DVD, be sure to rent the disc with this on it. Or at the very least, does anyone know if BBC America shows this?

Because quite frankly, I would rather a young person watch this than anything currently on television. It's that good.


Richard said...

It's not being shown on BBC America, nor on PBS, nor the channel that insists on calling itself "Syfy" either. American viewers have to wait for the DVDs or resort to illicit means.

Also, I agree about this episode. The closing speech was so "on the nose" it became cringe-inducing, and reflects his tendency for scripts that feature one ending after another, wallowing in the leave-takings until you just want it all to be over. (See also his need to have a prophetic alien knowingly intone "he is coming" even when it adds nothing to the plot.) But the idea of how Jo Jones has lived her life all these years was exactly right for the character, and Manning handled it perfectly.

Gordon D said...


First, kind of a bummer about SJA not having an American outlet other than DVDs - this would make some really good viewing for older kids and teens.

And yes, RTD does tend to lay it on a bit thick in his endings, doesn't he?