Sarah Jane Adventures: Death of the Doctor
(2 episodes, s04e03, 2010)
The Doctor is dead. Long live the Doctor.
Luke is talking to the Bannerman Road Gang over webcam when UNIT arrive at Sarah Jane’s home. Colonel Tia Karim bears bad news: The Doctor is dead.
The Shansheeth discovered the body of a Time Lord and, upon confirming the DNA, organized a funeral. The Shansheeth delivered a holographic epitaph via Colonel Karim and Sarah Jane doesn’t believe the news, but Rani helps her to cope. Later that night, Sarah Jane muses with Luke that the Doctor cannot be dead. After all, she believes that she’d know somehow as though a piece of her was missing.
The Bannerman Road Gang take a road trip with UNIT to the funeral location at Mount Snowden, a massive UNIT base. While getting into the private car, Clyde experiences a jolt of energy, but he chalks it up to simple static electricity. When they arrive, they find out that the Brigadier is stranded in Peru and Liz Shaw is unable to leave the moon base in time for the service. They also see a group of Groske – a blue and tame version of the Graske – who tell Clyde that he smells like time. Clyde notices the energy on his hand and the Groske simply says that “he’s coming.”
The gang attend the gathering of remembrance where Sarah Jane requests that Karim open the coffin. The colonel replies that the Doctor was injured and a viewing is impossible. Sarah Jane notes that the last time that she saw the Doctor he was preparing for regeneration. He could have a completely different face now.
As the Shansheeth officiating the ceremony asks everyone to recollect their memories, Clyde recognizes the static as artron energy and a newcomer arrives. Enter: Jo Jones, previously known as Jo Grant. Sarah Jane recognizes her from the way that UNIT described her and they hit it off right away. Rani and Clyde meet Jo’s grandson Santiago who talks about the family’s globetrotting activism.
Jo is upset to learn that the Doctor returned for Sarah Jane. He never stopped in for her. But they share the belief that they’d feel it if the Doctor died (even on Metebilis III), so they start brainstorming his faked death. They also bond over their shared experiences on Peladon with the great beast Aggedor.
Meanwhile, Clyde pursues the mystery of the artron energy and we learn that the Shansheeth are trying to harvest the mourner’s memories of the Doctor using a memory weave that will kill the former companions. Clyde, Rani, and Santiago overhear the Shansheeth plot. They run back to Sarah Jane and Jo just in time for the Doctor to make contact through (and then exchange places with) Clyde.
Clyde’s on a red planet somewhere, but the Doctor is here. The companions catch up with the Doctor’s new face and the Time Lord confronts the Shansheeth. The Shanseeth reply with an energy beam and the sincerest wish that he rest in peace.
In the energy beam, the Doctor and Clyde swap places a couple of times. Once released, the Doctor runs with the assembled allies to safety behind a locked door. The Doctor grabs hands with Jo and Sarah Jane, spiriting “Smith and Jones” away to the red planet, the Crimson Heart. Clyde is left behind with Rani and Santiago in the locked room. They are soon rescued by the Groske and taken to his hiding spot in the ventilation system.
The Shansheeth, meanwhile, reveal that they have the TARDIS and are building a method to break in.
Sarah Jane and the Doctor work on the gadget that he used to swap places with Clyde while Jo muses about why the Doctor left her behind. After all, he did promise that he’d see her again. The Doctor reveals that, just before his regeneration, he visited every one of his former companions and is very proud of what Jo has done with her life.
Colonel Karim discovers where Rani, Clyde, and Santiago are hiding and locks them inside while turning up the heat. Luckily, the Doctor and his companions have fixed the device so they can return to Earth without leaving Clyde on the Crimson Heart. The Doctor saves the teenagers but Sarah Jane and Jo are captured by Karim and the Shansheeth.
The Shansheeth plan to use the memory weave to conjure a physical TARDIS key from the memories of the companions. They want to use the TARDIS to stop death on a universal scale and put an end to pain and suffering. Karim, on the other hand, merely wants to leave the planet and travel the stars.
The Doctor stops the memory weave’s operation by calling to the companions through the locked door and asking them to remember every adventure that he shared with them. Clyde and Rani also tell Sarah Jane to remember all of their adventures on Bannerman Road and Santiago prompts Jo’s memories of their Earthbound travels.
The memory weave overloads and begins a self-destruct sequence. Jo and Sarah Jane are trapped, but the Doctor reminds them of the lead-lined coffin. It provides just enough protection to shield the companions from the blast. The Shansheeth and Karim are destroyed and the Groske is amused by the smell of roast chicken.
Everyone hitches a ride home with the Doctor in the TARDIS. The companions say their farewells – Jo has no idea about the Time War, but why would she? – and the Doctor hies off to his next adventure. Rani and Clyde help Santiago figure out how to reunite with his parents, then Jo and Santiago say goodbye as they move on to Norway.
Sarah Jane tells her friends about the echoes of the Doctor around the globe: Tegan is fighting for aboriginal rights in Australia; Ian and Barbara Chesterton are Cambridge professors who are rumored not to have aged since the 1960s; Harry Sullivan is a doctor working on vaccines; Ben and Polly run an orphanage in India; and Dorothy McShane has raised millions through her company “A Charitable Earth”.
All of that from a simple Google search for “TARDIS”.
Long live the Doctor.
What a powerhouse story! Russell T Davies provided a story reflective of his years on Doctor Who, right down to the pacing and well-crafted prose. It’s also saturated with Doctor Who lore, including scenes from 36 adventures which I am not going to list here. Believe me, it’s tempting…
The attention to detail about regeneration – Jo knows about it since she met the First and Second Doctors – and the Last Great Time War is amazing. It’s also fun to watch the Doctor toying with Clyde about regeneration. The idea of 507 possible regenerations was a jest by this incarnation, but we know for a fact that regeneration can indeed result in changing into a form other than a white male.
I was amused by the Doctor musing about ventilation shafts, particularly in light of The Ark in Space, The Hand of Fear, and Planet of the Daleks. I also laughed about Amy and Rory’s marital adventures on the honeymoon planet. Ah, sentient planets.
Last but not least, the memory weave has a distinctive sound in science fiction history. It is unmistakably the activation sound for the proton packs in the Ghostbusters franchise. That takes me back.
Rating: 5/5 – “Fantastic!”
UP NEXT – Sarah Jane Adventures: The Empty Planet
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.