Sarah Jane Adventures: Prisoner of the Judoon
(2 episodes, s03e01, 2009)
When law and order collides with body snatching.
Sarah Jane Smith provides a brief overview of her past, leading to how her life on Earth is just as exciting as traveling amongst the stars. She travels to Genetec Systems to interview Mr. Yorke about nanoform technology. She probes the threat they might pose if released into the environment and that the return on investment is not likely to appear. She gets tossed out and laughs about it.
When she returns home, the Bannerman Road Gang sees an orbital re-entry overhead and they ask Mr. Smith about it. He’s been tracking it for 45 minutes, which is who long it took to cross the solar system, and reveals that it is a Judoon craft. UNIT has dispatched to the crash site, but they haven’t found the lifepod that was ejected.
Enter Sarah Jane and the gang.
As they get ready to leave, Rani’s mother Gita asks if Sarah Jane can help her network to get her new flower shop moving. They eventually get to the pod crash site and find a Judoon chasing an escaped prisoner. Sarah Jane explains that the Shadow Proclamation barely acknowledges Earth and have authorized the Judoon to execute anyone who stands in the way of justice.
The Judoon is knocked out by his prisoner. The fugitive escapes as Sarah Jane and the teenagers arrive. They help the Judoon, one Captain Tybo, recover and join the investigation to help minimize the damage as he searches for Androvax the Annihilator, a “Destroyer of Worlds”.
Tybo really lacks in the humor department.
After hearing a young girl scream, Sarah Jane and Clyde try to comfort her while asking Luke and Rani to distract the captain. The girl claims that the “monster” took her mother, but Sarah Jane’s scanner betrays the Androvax. Unfortunately, the fugitive steps out of the girl’s body and into Sarah Jane’s before placing Clyde into a trance.
It seems like Clyde is always getting the whammy.
Captain Tybo figures out that Luke and Rani were distracting him, and he smashes their mobile phones to prevent any further “mistakes”. They track down Clyde, revive him with a spray bottle, and discover that Sarah Jane is now a hostage of a Veil lifeform.
Sarah Jane returns to Bannerman Road and surveys the attic before summoning Mr. Smith. Meanwhile, Tybo commandeers a police car with inadvertently humorous effect and pursues the intruder. While Sarah Jane tries to gauge the depths of Mr. Smith’s programming – we’re reminded that he’s a Xylok, the only remnant of his previous alien identity – the Judoon and our heroes enforce local noise ordinances and finally reach the attic.
The possessed Sarah Jane has moved on, setting her sights on Genetec Systems. Unfortunately, Mr. Smith has been set to self destruct. In sixty seconds, Bannerman Road will be nothing more than a crater.
Oh, and Rani’s parents? They’ve been busy using guerilla tactics to promote Bloomin’ Lovely, and they’ve targeted Genetec Systems.
Luke uses logic to disable the self-destruct, reasoning that the detonation would harm the Earth. Mr. Smith directs the team to Genetec System Labs after detailing the Roswell crash of 1947 and a base called Dreamland.
(More on that on this site in a couple of months.)
Androvax plans on using the nanoforms to build a spacecraft to escape Earth. The fugitive doesn’t care what happens after that, so the nanoforms will be unleashed on the planet. As the building enters a security lockdown, Gita and Haresh use the distraction to escape from the guard who detained them.
The Bannerman Road Gang arrives with Tybo, but decide to lock the Judoon in a shielded room to prevent him from harming Sarah Jane (or Rani’s parents) during his hunt for Androvax. Meanwhile, Mr. Yorke ends up getting entranced by the Androvax after he lifts the lockdown.
Oh, and then there’s the Judoon retrieval force that just arrived and transmitted reinforcements to Genetec. That complicates matters.
The team finds Sarah Jane and, in the process of sparring with the Androvax, Luke is captured. Androvax attacks Clyde and Rani with the nanoforms, but they stun the wee beasties with lowered temperatures via convenient fire extinguishers.
Captain Tybo is released by the Judoon reinforcements in a clever subversion of the lawful good personality trope, and it’s almost Clyde and Rani’s undoing when they are threatened with execution for violating several regulations. Luckily, they are fast runners.
Androvax takes Luke to the now-complete spacecraft. Sarah Jane takes advantage of a momentary distraction to fight for control of her body while Clyde and Rani run aboard. Luke steals the power core and bargains for his mother, insisting that he’ll let Androvax leave if Sarah Jane is set free. Androvax agrees, but is captured by the Judoon moments later.
As the nanoforms begin to devour the building, Luke is able to use the spacecraft to send a shutdown command. Rani’s parents are safe and Androvax is in custody. Tybo takes the circumstances into account and commutes the sentence against Rani and Clyde. Instead, they are confined to the planet permanently.
Sarah Jane and the Bannerman Road Gang arrive home as the spacecraft rockets to the stars. Rani’s parents arrive moments later, promising to tell a story that the group will not want to miss.
The one thing that I really enjoyed in this story was the humor, particularly with the Judoon acting as an overexaggerated straight man. Which is something considering how much the Judoon really freak me out as villains.
When it comes to any other villain, be it the Daleks or the Cybermen or even (most times) the Master, the evil is obvious. These villains have a plan and it’s a fairly direct path for the forces of good to stop it. The Judoon, on the other hand, are lawful good characters to the extreme, and that’s what makes them dangerous.
Down to basics, the Judoon believe that justice is absolute. There’s good and there’s evil and there are no shades of gray. Anyone who stands in the way of justice – of the perceived good – is the enemy, and thus, disposable.
Since the rest of the universe (dare I say, the multiverse) operates in a spectrum between the light and dark, this absolute lawful good mentality makes the Judoon one of Doctor Who‘s scariest villains for me.
That’s what makes stories with them so good in my estimation.
There’s also a nice subversion of the lawful good when the reinforcements have to rescue Captain Tybo. I laughed out loud at that moment.
Other highlights include the main cast. First, the teenagers really carry this story from bow to stern. Second, evil Sarah Jane is cheeeesy as hell, and that is magnificent. I just hope she had plenty of lozenges because that voice had to hurt after a while.
The one downside I can see going forward is Clyde’s recap. If it’s attached to every episode going forward, it’s going to get tiresome.
Rating: 4/5 – “Would you care for a jelly baby?”
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.