Timestamp #SJA9: Secrets of the Stars

Sarah Jane Adventures: Secrets of the Stars
(2 episodes, s02e03, 2008)

 

Luke’s horoscope says that he’ll save the world.

A woman named Cheryl is paying a regular visit to her astrologer, Martin Trueman, who has a change of heart when he realizes that Cheryl is burning her mortgage money to pay for his services. You see, he’s a con artist. While he explains himself, he stands in front of his window and is struck by a shooting star.

Suddenly, he’s found a new belief in astrology and lightning fingers.

Later, Rani, Clyde, and Luke attend an astrology seminar given by Trueman. They are joined by Rani’s parents and Sarah Jane as Cheryl asks each of them for their birthdays. Luke is troubled by this since he doesn’t have a true birthday. Meanwhile, Cheryl is confronted by her husband, but she rebuffs him.

Everyone takes their seats as the show begins. Luke thinks Trueman is a bit milky… or is it cheesy? Regardless, Trueman starts his seminar with a little showbiz, forcing each of the people he touched on his way in to stand and sit on command, including Clyde. He then starts focusing on people who dropped their birthdays in the box, which brings Rani to the spotlight.

Sarah Jane is skeptical throughout, but she’s soon called out. Trueman is able to discern the facts about her travels with the Doctor – including School Reunion and Journey’s End – and she is rattled. She tells Luke that Trueman is completely human, and as television host Lisa Trotter sets up an interview with Trueman on Paranormal Planet, the Bannerman Road Gang returns home to consult with Mr. Smith.

When Mr. Smith comes up empty, Sarah Jane visits with Trueman to figure out his trick. Before she leaves, she consoles Luke over his anxiety about birthdays and star signs. After all, she says, it’s not the day that they celebrate, it’s the person. Rani joins her for the surprise visit while Luke studies astrology on a universal scale.

Sarah Jane, Rani, and Trueman have a rather testy discussion. At the end, he threatens Sarah Jane that she shouldn’t stand in his way and demonstrates that he can shoot energy from his fingertips. As the ladies rush away, Trueman ambushes Clyde and enthralls him, forcing him to work against his friends.

Mr. Smith analyzes Rani’s burned jacket but cannot discern what was responsible. While Rani, Luke, and Sarah Jane brainstorm over the origins of the Ancient Lights, Mr. Smith pieces together that Trueman’s birth chart may hold the key.

Meanwhile, Trueman’s interview on Paranormal Planet is forcibly broadcast worldwide on every channel. He disables the host and production crew and addresses the world, and Sarah Jane specifically, as Clyde arrives and threatens to destroy his friends.

Sarah Jane is able to talk Clyde out of threatening them, allowing Luke to touch his shoulder and break the trance. Meanwhile, the thrall has extended to various neighbors on Bannerman Road who walk down the road in a haze. When the stars align and his power controls every person, Trueman will become king of Earth. To that end, the power extends around the world.

Sarah Jane theorizes that she was able to reach Clyde’s inherent goodness to override the programming. Luke and Rani also realize that if they block the transmission from the television studio, they’ll break the source of the power. But first, they’ll have to get past the enthralled circle that have joined hands to protect Trueman.

Clyde offers to pretend that he’s still enslaved as a member of the “inner circle” to get his friends past the blockade. As they breach the perimeter, Trueman sends Cheryl to find Clyde. She brings both Clyde and Sarah Jane to the stage where Trueman forces them to kneel before him. He explains that his ascension will pave the way for the Ancient Lights to take over Earth and the universe beyond.

Luke and Rani search for a way to interrupt the broadcast as the conjunction begins and a portal opens at the theater. As they try to switch off the main power, they find it shielded, and Rani’s sign comes up. Rani walks away in a trance and Luke (who has no sign) switches off the power.

But that doesn’t stop the power of the Ancient Lights.

Luke realizes the power he contains and breaks the inner circle, releasing the enchantment and stopping Trueman in his tracks. The conjunction passes, but Trueman refuses to give up his power. As the Ancient Lights depart, Trueman vaporizes into stardust and becomes one with them.

With the threat stopped, the Bannerman Road Gang returns home, leaving the neighborhood and the world grasping for the cause behind the event. Stuart and Cheryl are reunited, and the authorities begin what will be a fruitless search for Trueman.

Luke and Sarah decide, since Luke’s lack of a star sign and a birthday helped him to save the world, that today will be his birthday.

 

I’m a scientist and an engineer, but I have a soft spot for science fiction that mixes in the mysticism of astrology. Even with that in mind, this story was quite average with a superpowered omnipotent villain who enslaves the world in a quest for power and identity. There’s nothing new here. In fact, it’s the third story in a row to contain some degree of mind control as a plot point.

Even Sarah Jane says it: She knows how it feels to be possessed. As we’ve seen in Planet of the Spiders, The Masque of Mandragora, and The Hand of Fear.

 

 

Rating: 3/5 – “Reverse the polarity of the neutron flow.”

 

UP NEXT – Sarah Jane Adventures: The Mark of the Berserker

 

The Timestamps Project is an adventure through the televised universe of Doctor Who, story by story, from the beginning of the franchise. For more reviews like this one, please visit the project’s page at Creative Criticality.

 

 

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