Sarah Jane Adventures: The Vault of Secrets
(2 episodes, s04e02, 2010)
Here come the Men in Black… um… again.
A teenage girl searches an abandoned asylum for something called the Vault of Secrets. Her arrival sets off alarms and awakens guardians. When she finds the vault she’s stopped in her tracks because the container requires two keys and she only has one. A door opens behind her and reveals three black-suited figures with guns for hands. We last saw them in Dreamland.
The girl escapes but twists her ankle. She falls unconscious and Androvax the Veil emerges from her.
Meanwhile, in the Attic, the Bannerman Road Gang (with Luke calling in via video) watch a livestream from a recent NASA Mars rover landing. As the rover crests a hill, Sarah Jane disables the machine. NASA believes that they’ve lost another one, but Sarah Jane knows the truth: She’s just prevented the probe from discovering an ancient and deadly civilization.
Rani’s parents, Gita and Haresh, attend a meeting of the B.U.R.P.S.S. – the poorly-named British UFO Research and Paranormal Studies Society – after their recent encounter with Androvax. On the way home, Gita spots Androvax in Sarah Jane’s driveway, but Sarah Jane talks Haresh down from searching for the alien. Androvax takes over Rani’s body and leads a chase to the attic where the alien stages a tense reunion with Sarah Jane, Rani, and Clyde. Surprisingly, he asks for their help.
Androvax claims to be dying, poisoned by a swamp viper from a Judoon prison facility. He wants to free one hundred survivors from his otherwise dead planet that crashed on Earth forty years ago. The Alliance of Shades placed the ship in the Vault of Secrets, of which Androvax possesses a key. The Bannerman Road Gang head for the asylum after a short diversion by B.U.R.P.S.S.
Once inside, the gang finds the resting pods for the Men in Black – along with evidence that Ocean Waters, the leader of B.U.R.P.S.S., was abducted at some point – and the suits themselves. When the MiBs threaten incineration, the gang runs after discovering that the androids are sonic-proof. Arriving back in the attic, they learn about the Alliance of Shades and their mission to cover up alien incidents on Earth. Sarah Jane decides to visit Ocean Waters, and Androvax asks to go along to learn more about her knowledge of the Alliance of Shades. Androvax takes over Clyde for the trip which proves fruitful when Ocean is almost effervescent about her experience with Mr. Dread.
Ocean also has the second key, which Androvax immediately steals. On cue, the Men in Black break down the door and threaten to incinerate everyone. They explain that any attempt to release the Veil ship will destroy the planet. Androvax uses the distraction to escape and switch bodies from Clyde to Gita and make haste for the asylum.
The Bannerman Road Gang pursues, taking a moment to disable Mr. Dread’s can with a pulse of the sonic lipstick. When they arrive, they split up to search the building. Rani and Clyde rescue Gita-Androvax from one of the Men in Black while Mr. Dread confronts Sarah Jane at the Vault. When Mr. Dread decides to confiscate Sarah Jane’s technology and process her, she runs.
Meanwhile, Rani uses diplomacy to extract Androvax from Gita, then tricks the alien so they can all run away. Rani confides in her mother that aliens are real and she’s helping to fight them. Clyde runs interference with the Men in Black while Rani and Gita escape. He manages to catch two of the androids in a crossfire, destroying both of them and winning a cool new pair of shades in the process.
Sarah Jane finds Androvax and ends up being possessed by the Veil while Rani and Gita are taken prisoner by Mr. Dread. The android takes them back to the charging pods where Clyde ambushes him and locks him away. The gang catches up with Sarah Jane-Androvax at the Vault and opens it, revealing an extradimensional space beyond filled with spacecraft.
Androvax leaves Sarah Jane and enters the Vault, sealing himself inside. While Androvax powers up the Veil stardrive, the gang awakens Mr. Dread two minutes before the planet is destroyed. They use a transmat device coupled with the android’s power source to move the Veil ship into orbit. At the cost of 450 years of Dread’s energy, the Veil leave without destroying Earth. Mr. Dread then erases Gita’s short-term memory and, with his mission over, settles in for a long nap.
The team arrives home to find B.U.R.P.S.S. waiting for them. Gita no longer believes in aliens and Sarah Jane denies any knowledge of the Men in Black. As the comedic support group walks away dejected, Androvax flies through space in search of a second genesis for his people.
This was an exciting story where a couple of recent enemies came together with completely different motivations. It was a fresh take with plenty of humor to go around in the first post-Luke adventure.
Among this story, Rose‘s whoisdoctorwho.co.uk, Love & Monsters, and The End of Time‘s Silver Cloak, it’s really interesting to me how the normal civilians build communities around the things that they cannot explain. Be it the Doctor’s presence throughout human history or alien abductions, we keep seeing support groups and conspiracy theorists popping up, mostly with humorous and dysfunctional results.
It’s easy to lose track of that human element in the vastness of time and space, but just like my admiration of Rose’s mother and Martha’s family, I think it adds a nice touch to ground things a bit. After all, at its core, science fiction is the art of discussing the human condition through metaphor.
Doctor Who and its spinoffs keep doing a fantastic job with that.
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.