Sarah Jane Adventures: Lost in Time
(2 episodes, s04e05, 2010)
It’s a good core with poor wrapping.
The Bannerman Road Gang is chasing a report of aliens in a local shop. While looking around, the team meets a parrot and finds both a music box and a bloodstained arrow. They also encounter Mr. Smalley, the shop’s proprietor. He tells Sarah Jane that the news article was a ruse to draw her team into a quest for three pieces of chronosteel, metal forged in the time vortex.
You see, the Shopkeeper is a guardian of time, the chronosteel can reshape Earth’s destiny, and the Bannerman Road Gang has no choice. They have until the Shopkeeper’s hourglass runs out to save the world.
Clyde awakens in a grassy field, Sarah Jane in a box, and Rani in a candlelit chamber with Mistress Ellen, all of them in unknown times. Rani is the Tower of London’s royal chambers and has assumed the role of lady-in-waiting for Queen Jane Grey. Clyde finds himself on a beach in 1941 with a boy named George Woods as they watch Nazi spies land a short distance away. Sarah Jane, released from her box in a spooky mansion, meets a ghost hunter named Emily Morris in 1889.
As each traveler makes way through their respective time periods, the Shopkeeper observes them through a crystal ball.
Rani changes into period-specific clothing and makes a good impression on Queen Jane by speaking to her as a person, not as a royal. Rani presents the queen with the music box from the Shopkeeper’s establishment. Rani also hints again at her budding relationship with Clyde. The mood is broken as Mistress Ellen brings word of Lady Mary and her armies arriving in London to claim the crown. Queen Jane is ready to relinquish her crown as an unlawful claimant.
Clyde and George confirm that the spies are Nazis – the uniforms are a dead giveaway – and scurry off to warn the Home Guard. The phone in the nearby church is dead, and the boys are forced to hide as the Nazis arrive and start setting up a base of operations. They’re discovered and taken prisoner in short order. The Nazis set up a device with a core they call Thor’s Hammer, which Clyde recognizes as the chronosteel object he needs to secure.
Sarah Jane scans the mansion with her wrist scanner. There’s a lot of energy in the house, and while Emily believes that the house is haunted, Sarah Jane remains skeptical. As the clock strikes eight, the haunting begins with howls, rattles, and voices from events gone by. Well, the events seem to be linked to the past at first, but Sarah Jane determines that the voices are actually from the future. Sarah Jane explains that she’s a time traveler as they approach a room where the voices have converged. The room is warm, which Sarah Jane determines is due to an inferno in the future as the children accidentally set a fire with a candle.
As the first half comes to a close, Rani overhears Lady Matilda plotting to kill Queen Jane, Clyde and George escape the church, and Sarah and Emily decide to save the children trapped in the burning room. The Shopkeeper worries that they are taking too long and if they do not get back soon, they will all be trapped in the past forever. As the hourglass runs out, the Shopkeeper and Captain the parrot believe that all is lost. They are buoyed up by the fact that the time portal has not yet closed. Unfortunately, the planet now runs the risk of being torn apart by the time window.
Rani saves Lady Jane from assassination. Lady Matilda claims that the queen’s death would have inspired thousands as a martyr, but now Lady Jane will be condemned to die forgotten and alone. Rani recognizes the dagger as the chronosteel MacGuffin. Matilda is confined, but the castle is surrounded by Mary’s forces. Lady Jane offers Rani the chance to return home, but Rani decides to stay behind in friendship. Queen Mary assumes the crown and Lady Jane is taken into custody. Rani promises that Lady Jane is never forgotten, then picks up the dagger as she bids the lady farewell. As Rani vanishes, Mistress Ellen believes it to be witchcraft but Lady Jane claims that she is an angel.
Clyde and George escape the Nazis. They encounter Miss Wyckham, George’s schoolteacher, who brings news that the village is under siege. She also has a handgun amongst her parcels. As they storm the church, Clyde and George find out that Miss Wyckham is really a Nazi double agent and that an invasion of the British isles is underway. Clyde stages a diversion by pretending that his mobile phone is a bomb, opening the way for George to grab Thor’s Hammer. They sound the church bells to alert the Home Guard. As the Nazis run, George wants to give chase and fight, but Clyde encourages him to stay behind. Clyde grabs the Hammer and returns to the Shopkeeper.
Sarah Jane consoles Emily, who is experiencing a bout of PTSD since her mother also died in a fire. As they leave the room, Emily laments that they will have to wait until 8 pm the next day, but Sarah Jane dials the grandfather clock back and starts the events all over. This time, however, the events are stronger and include a visual component. They discover that the woman they were following decided to lock the children in their room for the night, but continue upstairs to look for the chronosteel. The door to the children’s bedroom changes shape as the time fields begin to merge, revealing the key as the quest item. The children briefly detect the women as Emily’s fear rises, and Sarah Jane convinces Emily to harness that power to grab the key and unlock the door in the future. The children are saved and Sarah Jane takes the key, but Emily grabs it as well. Sarah Jane vanishes but the key does not follow.
With everyone back in the right time, the Shopkeeper places the first two objects into perfectly sculpted slots in a suitcase. As the room rumbles, a woman enters the shop and hands Sarah Jane the key. The Shopkeeper adds it to the collection, scoops up the Captain (who apparently was in charge the whole time), and vanishes.
The woman explains that she is Angela Price, Emily’s granddaughter, who told Angela to pass on the key. She and Sarah go for a cup of tea and a chat about her family. Later on, Clyde researches George and discovers the man was recently knighted by Queen Elizabeth II, and Rani reads about Lady Jane and finds she was happy in her final moments, assured of immortality.
On the one hand, each quest and story are well played between the writing and acting, focusing on the core strengths of each character. The pacing is good, though Rani’s quest seems to run out of steam well before Clyde’s and Sarah Jane’s. Clyde’s story also has a rather quick twist with the treacherous schoolteacher.
On the other hand, the framing story is lacking. It’s obvious that the Shopkeeper and the Captain know what items to look for, but they refuse to disclose that information or even explain the details of the overall adventure. They literally abduct the team and throw them into a life and death scenario with scant data.
Even the Doctor eventually explains the situation to keep the companions on track.
I initially wondered if the Shopkeeper and the Captain were Time Lords – or maybe even a Time Lord and companion, ala Frobisher – but the rules of the universe at this point are pretty clear: The Doctor is the last of the Time Lords. So, this pair remains a rogue but powerful duo with vague motivations.
Overall, the whole framing story is frustrating but the individual quests more than make up for it.
In trivial matters, this story links up with two classic Seventh Doctor adventures. First, Clyde’s quest included Norse mythology and Nazis, which echoes The Curse of Fenric. Second, the grandfather clock reset to make the “haunting” start again hearkens back to events at Gabriel Chase in Ghost Light.
Rating: 4/5 – “Would you care for a jelly baby?”
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