Robert J. Sawyer

Hugo and Nebula Award-Winning Science Fiction Writer

Doctor Who made me cry

by Rob - October 24th, 2006.
Filed under: Uncategorized.

Yesterday’s Doctor Who episode (as shown here in Canada on the CBC) actually made me cry at the end, it was so moving. The episode was “School Reunion,” and featured the return of Sarah Jane Smith and K-9.

Sarah Jane had been the final companion for the Third Doctor (Jon Pertwee) and the first companion for the fourth (Tom Baker); K-9 was the robot dog. And Anthony Stewart Head (Giles from Buffy the Vampire Slayer) guest starred.

Now, I’ve often said that the job of good science fiction is to combine the intimately human and the grandly cosmic. Honestly, on the grandly cosmic part, this episode didn’t work for me; the plot about bat aliens who had arrived on UFOs and taken over a school to harvest the children’s minds and souls was over-the-top to the point of silliness (and structurally too much resembled “Father’s Day,” a Doctor Who episode from last season — people trapped in a place normally thought of as safe, while flying monsters swoop around, and important figures from one of the stars’ pasts are found and lost again).

But the intimately human part, which explored deftly both the Doctor’s psychology in having an endless string of companions that he ends up abandoning, and the companions’ psychology in following him on his adventures was brilliant and heart-breaking. I sobbed when Sarah Jane talked about missing out on having a family of her own, and sobbed again when she forced the Doctor to actually say goodbye this time.

Kudos, by the way, to Elisabeth Sladen, who was excellent. She was called upon to do subtle, sophisticated, emotionally true acting — something never demanded of her when she’d been on Doctor Who back in the 1970s — and she rose beautifully to the challenge; it’s a terrific performance. The new Doctor Who is almost as much of a re-imagining of its precursor as is the new Battlestar Galactica, but I can’t imagine Dirk Benedict from the old Battlestar fitting in on the new one, but Sladen is magnificent.

(On the other hand, Anthony Stewart Head is wasted in a rather silly part; he gives it his all, shrieking like a bat as required, but he’s capable of so much more when given a decent part to play.)

By the way, for those interested in more of my thoughts about Doctor Who, I am featured heavily in the six-part web documentary series produced by the CBC called The Planet of the Doctor.

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