Re: Reunion

Dear Johnny Fanboy,

Enjoyable though it was (nice to see Sarah and K-9 again), the recent Doctor Who episode School Reunion implies that the Doctor and Sarah Jane Smith haven't met each other since The Hand of Fear. This is not the case.

Since leaving the TARDIS in The Hand of Fear, Sarah met the Eighth Doctor in 1996 (in the two-part novel Interference) and the Seventh Doctor in 1997 (in the novel Bullet Time). She made her peace with him in the Seventh Doctor comic strip Train Flight (Doctor Who Magazine issues 159-161). Even if we dismiss these licensed products as unofficial and non-canonical, a post-Hand of Fear Sarah met the Third and Fifth Doctors in The Five Doctors, so why didn't she air her grievances then?

Why does she wait until she meets the Tenth Doctor before berating the Time Lord for never coming back for her, and why does the Doctor claim he has regenerated "half a dozen times since we last met"?

Adam Leigh

Johnny Fanboy replies:

Looking back at my previous Sarah Jane nit-pick, "Strangers on a train flight", I see that I have learned a few things since writing that. Rather than holding "no apparent bitterness towards the Seventh Doctor" in Train Flight, as I claimed then, she initially takes a distant attitude towards him. As the story progresses, the Doctor apologises for his treatment of her in The Hand of Fear and they make peace with each other. Evidently Sarah elects not to resume her travels in the TARDIS following this adventure.

The Doctor and Sarah's respective journeys (emotional, that is, rather than via public transport) in this comic strip are remarkably similar to what eventually takes place in School Reunion. So what happened to cause the repetition?

Chronologically, Sarah's first reunion with the Doctor post-Hand of Fear occurs in The Five Doctors. She may indeed berate the Third Doctor (off screen) for having left her behind, but this Doctor would no doubt point out that there is little point in discussing such matters, since the event has not yet taken place as far as he is concerned. Indeed, revealing information about his future might be dangerous. Sarah doesn't get much of a chance to interact with the Fifth Doctor, though there is a hint of bitterness and a possible reference to her having been "dumped" in her comment to the Brigadier: "Drag you through time and space without so much as a by-your-leave, then leave you out when things get interesting."

Sarah and the Third Doctor meet again in the 1993 Children in Need special Dimensions in Time. However, many fans have dismissed this story as a nonsensical pastiche, and in any case the "Sarah" that we see here is probably one of the Doctor's other companions (Ace or - according to The Discontinuity Guide - Romana) in an altered form.

In 1996, Sarah encounters the Eighth Doctor in Lawrence Miles's Interference. She is a little cynical, but appears not to have any great emotional issues with the Time Lord, possibly because she has embarked upon a relationship with a man named Paul (whose surname is probably Morley - according to the novel Christmas on a Rational Planet, by the same author, Sarah gets married around 1998 and becomes Sarah Jane Morley).

During most of Bullet Time, which takes place in Hong Kong in 1997, the Seventh Doctor pretends not to be the Doctor that Sarah knows. This denies her a chance to interact with her former travelling companion on a familiar basis. In the closing scene of the novel, it seems as though the Doctor is apologising to an imaginary Sarah - who, it appears, has died - for having deceived her. However, author David A McIntee leaves this open to interpretation, so it is also possible that Sarah survived and that the Doctor is actually recalling a real conversation, or is imagining a conversation that he wished they had had before Sarah left Hong Kong. In light of Big Finish's recent Sarah Jane Smith audio drama series and the episode School Reunion, we must accept that Sarah survived.

The Seventh Doctor's deception may explain some of Sarah's initial coldness towards him in Train Flight. The two make peace with each other during this story, which, in my view, probably takes place during mid- to late 1997, not long before Sarah's marriage (but before Bullet Time as far as the Doctor is concerned).

In fact, the Fourth Doctor himself also apologises to Sarah for the way they parted company - in the "Brief Encounter" story "Farewells" by Terrance Dicks (in the Doctor Who Yearbook 1993), in which the pair say a proper goodbye. For Sarah this story could take place at any point between K-9 and Company and the short story "Moving On" (from the anthology Decalog 3: Consequences). I choose to place it later rather than sooner, for reasons that will become clear...

It seems that, by the end of the 20th century, Sarah and the Doctor have well and truly cleared the air and she has absolutely no reason to be angry with him any longer. However, her life then takes a turn for the worse.

K-9 starts to break down in the short story "Moving On" and is inoperable by the early 21st century. The defunct robot is clearly the broken machinery that Sarah mentions keeping in a box in her attic in the audio drama Mirror, Signal, Manoeuvre - electronic equipment that is presently beyond repair because suitable replacement parts have not yet been invented. This tallies with dialogue in School Reunion (in which K-9 resides in Sarah's car boot, possibly as a result of his being stolen in Mirror, Signal, Manoeuvre), though it is slightly at odds with Interference, which states that the robot's innards have been augmented by state-of-the-art contemporaneous devices (perhaps a few crucial components could not be replaced).

It appears that Sarah's marriage breaks up shortly prior to Big Finish's Sarah Jane Smith series (which probably takes place some time between 2002 and 2006, when the CDs were released). The break-up is possibly a result of the damaging allegations that also lead to her being fired from her job at Planet 3 Broadcasting in Comeback. Sarah reverts to her maiden name, Smith, throughout the Big Finish series and School Reunion.

Her renegade existence of running scared and living under false names during the audio series, all the while with no sign of the Doctor to miraculously rescue her, probably contributes to her accusatory tone in School Reunion. Sarah might have thought the Time Lord had abandoned her to her fate, which would explain her comments about having waited for the Doctor to return and believing that he must have died. The fact that the Tenth Doctor initially pretends not to be the Doctor she knows (just like the Seventh Doctor did in Bullet Time) cannot have helped matters.

The Doctor's evident pride in Sarah's achievements ("Good for you, Sarah Jane Smith!") could be a reference to her having regained her journalistic status following her recent difficulties.

Sarah's response to the Doctor's question about relationships ("There hasn't been anyone... you know...?") is nicely non-specific and need not negate her brief marriage to Paul Morley. She simply admits that the Time Lord was "a tough act to follow". It could be that the Doctor isn't certain whether or not Sarah's timeline has been altered by the recent Time War, which is why he asks the question.

And the Doctor is being literally accurate when he claims to have regenerated "half a dozen times" since he and Sarah last met, if we assume that their most recent meeting from Sarah's point of view was in the "Brief Encounter" story "Farewells", when the Doctor was in his fourth incarnation!

Alternatively, it could be that Sarah's timeline has been changed by the Time War, and that this now really is her first meeting with the Doctor since The Hand of Fear, though that theory isn't much fun, is it?

Rather more fun is the possibility that the events in the Comic Relief skit The Curse of Fatal Death are canonical, and that David Tennant's Doctor is in fact his fifteenth incarnation rather than his tenth, having somehow managed to extend his regenerative cycle following his Joanna Lumley incarnation. That would make it just it over half a dozen regenerations since the Doctor, then in his eighth body, last met Sarah Jane (from his point of view) in Interference!

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