As I was telling Thomas, I’m not sure my reaction to “School Reunion” will count as traditional philosophy as much as it will a discussion of relationship dynamics, so bear with me. (Actually, I feel like a number of my colloquium posts aren’t so much traditional philosophy as much as they are Examinations Of Things I Feel Strongly About As Portrayed In Doctor Who. Still counts, right? Sorry, mysterious Blog-Grading Gods, but as you’ve failed to provide any kind of rubric I’m gonna continue to make this up as I go along.)
Right. Honestly, I never liked this episode. The cheesy effects and Scooby Doo-style mystery aren’t the issue — I mean, come on, this is Doctor Who. And I have absolutely no problem with the newly re-introduced Sarah Jane Smith, one of the Doctor’s old companions. She’s a truly lovely woman who really did deserve her own show, and I’ve always been fond of her. No, the thing I didn’t care for was the really forced tension between Sarah Jane and Rose Tyler.
The Doctor-Companion dynamic has always been one of my favorite aspects of the show, because it shows mixed-gender relationships that are very close without necessarily being romantic. And that’s really unusual in media! People tend to assume, as they often do in real life, that one cannot simply be good friends with a person of the opposite gender without ~romance~ factoring into the picture in some way, which is irritating and inaccurate. Though Rose and the Tenth Doctor do end up in a romantic-type relationship (I’m afraid time and space conspired to make their status the equivalent of “it’s complicated”), historically the Doctor and his companions have not. This latter category includes Sarah Jane.
So it never really made sense to me why Rose and Sarah Jane would spend most of “School Reunion” being catty towards one another and squabbling over the Doctor like jealous teenagers. Say you run into a friend who you haven’t seen in ages, and they introduce you to a new friend they’ve been traveling with recently. Are you immediately going to bristle and dislike the other person? I don’t know about you, but I wouldn’t. I think it does both Rose and Sarah Jane a disservice, character-wise, to reduce them to such petty arguments for the majority of the episode, and it re-enforces some unfortunate ideas about how women interact with one another.
There’s more to it than that, I know. I’m simply a bit frustrated with this whole “bitchy girlfriend/ex rivalry” trope — it shows up in fiction all the time, and it’s stale and obnoxious. For a show that likes to explore unconventional relationships in some very interesting ways, this episode was not a moment of particular brilliance.