The 2006 Round Table: Old School

Take eight Doctor Who fans with nothing to talk about but the 2006 series. Put them in a room, and watch as they deconstruct (or is that break?) Series 2. This is the 2006 Kasterborous Round Table, introduced last year as a way to fill the gap between series 1 and The Christmas Invasion; yet so successful was it, we had to do it again.

Joining us this year are: Brian Terranova – Kasterborous Associate Editor and US-based fan; Nigel Parry – artist responsible for some of the most striking images you’ll have seen on Kasterborous and other places; Simon Mills – the man behind the Doctor Who News Service; Barnaby Eaton-Jones – creative wunderkind best known as one of the OFFSTAGE Theatre Group; Gareth Kavanagh and Steve Preston of the legendarily rare Black Scrolls Doctor Who fanzine; Anthony Dry, artistic director of and all-round Scouser; finally we have Daniel Bohm of, one of many non-English language Doctor Who sites that have begun to materialise over the last few years…

Over the next couple of weeks sit back and relax, compare your own opinions to theirs; there was a lot to talk about in Series 2, so let’s get on with and start with a very leading question… was Russell T Davies right to bring back Sarah Jane Smith and K9 in School Reunion?

Anthony is straight in there: “Well I for one at first didn’t pay much attention to the hype of it; not being particularly enamoured with Tom’s era it didn’t hold the nostalgia value until I had actually seen it. I think it worked – much more than the actual alien plot which was quite weak in itself. Elisabeth did a very good job mind and I thought Tennant worked well, he was believable in a way you could see him and the Fourth Doctor or Third being the same man all those years ago. As for K-9 I’m going to be biased because I think he’s great. The kids would have loved him and I’m glad they brought back Leeson for the voice.” Barnaby is in agreement on this last point: “K9 is K9. For some reason, and I’m sure this is true of even his most ardent detractors, you can’t help loving the little tin doggie. Perhaps it’s John Leeson that gives some genuine character to what should just be a walking, emotionless computer, but K9 is a clever concept that appeals across the board.”

Nigel, meanwhile, has a confession… “I was actually fooled into thinking K9 might have been destroyed in the explosion. When the Doctor finally said goodbye to Sarah (her best scene) and she admitted she had always waited for him – and then the ‘new’ K9 appeared, I’m afraid I wept like a teething infant!”

“This was an all time high if you ask me,” suggests Brian, ” Putting an end to all the naysayers who said that the 2005 series was not the same show. The characters were handled with great respect instead of being treated as a joke, or even an in-joke as some other shows would do. As far as the story goes it was brilliant, however this is one of those episodes that could have benefited with a 60 minute format as opposed to a 45 minute.” Daniel is in agreement with Brian, adding “I very much welcomed the idea of bringing back Sarah Jane and K9. Elisabeth Sladen did a fine job again. Well she had recent experience playing the part in the Big Finish audio dramas so she should know how to play the role!”

What about the age gap between David Tennant and Lis Sladen? Nigel: “I was keeping an open mind about this. It seemed to me that these characters were the main selling point of Series 2, much as the return of the Daleks was the most reported event of Series 1.

To be honest, I find Elisabeth Sladen competent but nothing more. In fact, I felt she often over-played Sarah. Her blindness in Brain of Morbius, or her scaling the Tower of Rassilon or falling down the hill (!) in The Five Doctors are two shining examples.”

“Elizabeth Sladen slipped back into a role she’s never really left behind with consummate ease,” according to Barnaby… “Mind you, however young she still looks, it was still an interesting concept to have the genuine love between a younger man and an older woman. Yes, yes, I know the Doctor’s a Timelord and has lived longer than Bruce Forsyth, but on face value he’s a 30-year old man and she’s a 50-year old woman. It made it all the more touching, with the whole ‘age-gap’ idea being turned on its head in dialogue but playing out differently in the visuals.”

It seems that Simon meanwhile harbours his own love for Sarah Jane…”Of all the companions to bring back, the only one that really could have worked was Sarah Jane – arguably the most popular and most fondly remembered of the lot. Of course, I was over the moon. Is it coincidence that my daughter shares the same name?” He laughs, “I think her comeback alongside Rose and the Doctor made for some of the most watchable character interaction this season. The story itself was so-so, but the interplay was superb.”

Steve Preston of Black Scrolls feels – like Brian – that the timing of the episode let the story down: “The big problem about using recurring characters in the new series is that unless it’s done in a two-parter, there’s very little left for the actual story. This was very much the case with School Reunion, and maybe I shouldn’t ask for more plot as the story was at best silly and at worst tedious. The interaction between the Doc and the ex-Missus was great viewing, and hopefully for the viewing audience at large.” His Black Scrolls colleague Gareth Kavanagh agrees… “The ex and the missus again is a good dramatic concept, but it just lacks gravitas and believability for me – especially with Liz Sladen’s polished RP tones. The haughty Romana and urchin Rose would have made a much more spiky and credible pairing for me. That said, the jealous surge from Rose at the end of the episode towards Mickey as she realises it’s just the 3 of them from now on was far more effective.

Nigel concurs: “Their return was supremely handled – so good in fact, that the rest of the ‘School Reunion’ story tamed by comparison. If anything, I would have liked them both to have starred in a two part story.”

We’ll leave it to Gareth to sum up his feelings on the return of two such well loved characters.

“A very, very strange experience for me overall – a bit like bumping into a very old, very good school mate in the pub on Christmas Eve. You know, getting on again like a house on fire but with nothing really to say to each other after an hour ‘cause it’s all been said and you’ve both moved on in different ways.”

Next on the agenda is a discussion of the development of the main characters

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