Sarah Jane Adventures: The Man Who Never Was
(2 episodes, s05e03, 2011)
Slave trades and work simulations.
At Serf Systems, an office cleaner named Adriana Petrescu does her job as an advertisement for the new SerfBoard computer plays on overhead screens. A strange noise draws Adriana to the elevator. When she investigates, she’s pulled inside.
The Bannerman Road Gang is hard at work in the attic as Sky expresses her anxiety about meeting Luke for the first time. Luke notes that his room is no longer his and pops up to the attic for a reunion. He greets Clyde and Rani with the new pet name “Clani”, then has an awkward meeting with Sky. Luke had to leave K9 at the university as the robotic dog is backing up the entire Bodleian library. Mr. Smith is ecstatic at that news.
As the team muses about the SerfBoard launch, Sarah Jane breaks the news that she’s covering it as a journalist. Unfortunately, she only has enough passes for herself, Luke, and Sky. Once there, they meet Lionel Carson, Sarah Jane’s former editor and close friend. As the dress rehearsal begins, Sky tells Luke that she feels a strange buildup of electricity.
Each of the attendees gets a free SerfBoard, a device that sways the normally technophobic Lionel. Sky and Luke also note that Joseph Serf, the president of the company, glitches during his presentation. Luke stays behind after the rehearsal while Sarah Jane and Sky review the footage with Mr. Smith and the gang in the attic. Mr. Smith’s research indicates that, after an accident, Serf became a recluse. Serf also never holds anything.
Mr. Smith commences a deep scan of the SerfBoard while Sarah Jane arranges a rare personal interview with Joseph Serf. Sarah Jane takes Sky along as Clyde and Rani wait for the scan results. The interview is supervised by Mr. Harrison, Serf’s assistant, and Serf refuses to shake hands due to a supposed allergy.
The deep scan comes up with nothing special, so Clyde and Rani investigate the SerfBoard with a great deal of humor. What they find is a typical low-spec budget computer.
At Serf Systems, Luke and Sky discover a sub-basement occupied by Jawa-like aliens who are controlling Serf like an automaton. The controllers get overwhelmed by the complexities of the interview, eventually providing an opportunity for Sarah Jane to spot the glitches for herself. The controllers attempt to hypnotize her, but she sees right through it. As Harrison pulls a weapon on Sarah Jane, Luke and Sky are discovered and surrounded by the cyclopean controllers.
Luke and Sky are surprised when the aliens tell them to run. Sky saves Sarah Jane from being shot by manipulating the controls, but Harrison punishes the aliens. He also spots the intruders on the monitors as Sarah Jane is apprehended and has her sonic lipstick confiscated.
Harrison takes Sarah Jane to the sub-basement and punishes Plark, the lead alien. He reveals that the beings are Skullions that he bought on the black market in Central Asia. The Smiths are astonished at the slave trade, uncovering that Harrison’s plan is simply to make as much money as possible on the SerfBoard launch. Sarah Jane is locked in a storage room with Adriana while Luke and Sky are confined elsewhere. Sarah Jane and Adriana become friends and break out in short order.
Luke and Sky try to befriend a Skullion who brings them food and water, but the being is too fearful. We also learn that the Skullions are allergic to water and thrive on citrus juice. Sky devises a plan to use K9’s dog whistle to signal Mr. Smith. Meanwhile, in the attic, Rani comes up with a plan to crash the launch party as journalists. K9’s whistle, in Morse Code, signals Clani to steal Harrison’s pen.
The Smith family is soon reunited and they enter the Skullion control room. Sarah Jane signals Mr. Smith to arrange a rescue mission for the Skullions while Clyde and Rani snag Harrison’s pen. Sarah Jane and Adriana shepherd the Skullions to the roof while Luke and Sky monitor the control room. Unfortunately, Harrison retreives his pen so Luke and Sky have to drive the Serf simulation.
After some humorous Toy Story-infused hijinks, Luke and Sky use the hypnotic power to secure the pen and destroy it. They also tell everyone at the party that the SerfBoard is garbage before ending the simulation. Harrison arrives on the roof just in time for the Skullions to leave. Harrison inadventently jumps into the transmat beam and is taken for an intergalactic ride.
With the day saved (an Adriana referred to UNIT for a job), the Bannerman Road Gang retires to the attic. Luke has decorated Sky’s room with a custom banner, a signal that he fully accept her. Sarah Jane muses about the adventures she and her found family have shared in a farewell montage.
“I’ve seen amazing things out there in space, but strange things can happen wherever you are. I have learned that life on Earth can be an adventure too. In all the universe, I never expected to find a family.”
And the story goes on…. forever.
The story is a good take for a children’s show on slavery and greed and the cruelty associated with both. It also closes the loop on Luke and Sky, bringing the whole family together for one last adventure on Bannerman Road.
The discussion on slavery is not a new one for the franchise and this take still packs a lot of weight. I also really enjoyed the twists of the puppet president and the enslaved Skullions looking out for the Bannerman Road Gang.
The special epilogue was unexpected and brought several tears to my eyes. In its short span, it covered beautiful milestones of Elisabeth Sladen’s journey with Doctor Who, from The Time Warrior to Journey’s End and The End of Time, as well the scope of her wonderful adventures on Bannerman Road.
Rating: 5/5 – “Fantastic!”
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