Timestamp #235: Asylum of the Daleks

Doctor Who: Asylum of the Daleks
(1 episode, s07e01, 2012)

Timestamp 235 Asylum of the Daleks

Eggs… Eggs… Eggs…

Prequel

The Doctor is enjoying an afternoon tea with scones, cream, and jam when he interrupted by a mysterious hooded figure staring at him. When he looks away, the figure is suddenly sitting at his table.

The hooded figure says that a woman wants to meet him, and when the Doctor tries to brush the figure off, he waves his hand and makes the tea room empty. Everyone is gone.

The Doctor is intrigued, but he can’t get much more from the mysterious figure than a name: Darla von Karlsen. The Doctor says he never heard of her and stands to leave, but he’s instantly in a dark room. The message is a psychic projection. The room is familiar, forcing the Doctor to try waking up. He ends up in a chair on a beach, but the figure tells him that it’s still a dream.

They end up in space. The figure gives him space-time coordinates and explains that Darla wants help saving her daughter. The Doctor is visibly shaken by the coordinates, but refuses to say the name associated with them. The figure pushes until the Doctor wakes up in the console room of the TARDIS. There he whispers the name…

Skaro.

Asylum of the Daleks

On Skaro, the Doctor meets with Darla von Karlsen in the eye of a giant Dalek statue. Darla doesn’t say who told her of the Doctor. She’s also cagey about how she escaped a Dalek prison camp because no one escapes from Dalek prison camps. She’s cold to the touch and the Doctor knows that this is a trap. Sure enough, an eyestalk emerges from Darla’s forehead and a gunstick from her palm. She blasts the Doctor and a Dalek saucer swoops into to take him prisoner.

We then see Amy Pond, supermodel, who refuses a call from her husband because she “no longer has one.” Rory has brought divorce papers to her dressing area and she signs them, only expressing regret when he leaves without a word.

In short order, both Amy and Rory are taken prisoner by the Daleks. They awaken in a cell with a view of Dalek saucers and are soon greeted by the Doctor and his Dalek escorts. Together, they are all taken to a vast circular auditorium filled with Daleks. This is the Parliament of the Daleks.

In view of the captured TARDIS, the Doctor spreads his arms wide, ready to be exterminated. It is Christmas for the Daleks… their greatest wish come true. Except they stun their prisoners with two simple words.

“Save us.”

After a new title sequence, we meet Oswin Oswald. It’s Day 363 of her confinement in a mysterious place besieged by Daleks and she’s having trouble with soufflés.

Back in the Parliament, the Doctor assesses the Daleks and the Ponds and Amy narrates his thought process. When they arrive at the destination, a Dalek in a transparent tube asks the Doctor about the Dalek Asylum. It is a place where outcast Daleks – the insane, the battle-scarred, and the uncontrollable – are exiled. They aren’t killed because the destruction of “Divine Hatred” is offensive to the Daleks, so the outcasts are sent to this automated planet surrounded by an impenetrable shield.

But the Daleks have detected a signal of unknown origin on the planet. Of course, they never considered tracing it to the source, but the signal is “L’amour est un oiseau rebelle” – an aria from Carmen in which the Doctor played the triangle – and it is coming from Oswin’s tiny apartment. Which, in reality, is the remnants of the crashed starliner Alaska upon which she served.

The Daleks plan to send their predator, the Doctor, to the surface to deactivate the planetary shield (which, conveniently, can only be done from the surface) so they can destroy the Oswin’s signal at the source. They send him and his companions on a gravity beam where they are promptly separated.

Amy awakens on a snowy mountainside next to a man named Harvey. She runs off in search of the Doctor and Rory. The Doctor comes to next to a Dalek eye stalk which is linked to Oswin (“soufflé girl”) because she found it easy to hack. Amy and Harvey find the Doctor and search for Rory, leading them to a giant hole in the ground. Rory wakes up inside that hole surrounded by dormant Dalek shells.

Harvey leads the Doctor and Amy to one of the Alaska‘s escape pods. Harvey claims that he’s been on planet for days, but that doesn’t mesh with Oswin’s story. In fact, all of Harvey’s crewmates are long dead. Harvey then remembers that he died out in the snow and that the planet’s nano-cloud transformed him into one of the Dalek puppets like the ones that trapped the Doctor and the Ponds.

The only thing stopping the travelers from transforming is the bracelets that the Daleks provided them.

Unfortunately, the cloud also transforms the dead so now we have Dalek zombies. Joy.

The Doctor and Amy take refuge from the Dalek puppets in the escape pod’s cockpit. Oswin engineers an escape path for them while the Doctor starts working on Amy’s marital problems. Before they descend into the mountain, they realize that the zombies have stolen Amy’s wristband so she’s now vulnerable to the nano particles.

Underground, Rory inadvertantly awakens the dormant Daleks who immediately focus on exterminating the intruder. Oswin opens a door for him and, after he escapes, makes introductions by flirting.

As the Doctor and Amy descend, he explains that the nanocloud will slowly reprogram Amy’s mind. In fact, it’s already started since they’ve repeated the same discussion four times. He encourages her to embrace her fear of what’s happening because Daleks don’t feel fear. Oswin coordinates with the Doctor to reunite him with Rory, but that means leaving Amy for a moment. That presents a moment for Amy to interact with what she things are people but are really the Daleks that Rory faced. Thankfully, they’re decayed enough that they cannot give chase for long. Unfortunately, they can still activate self-destruct.

The Doctor is able to override a Dalek’s motivators and send it back into the chamber with the others. The self-destruct eliminates all of them and the travelers are reunited. The Doctor has a brief conversation with Oswin, musing about how she was able to survive a year alone and where she gets milk for her soufflés.

The Doctor lays out four goals: Neutralize all of the Daleks in the Asylum, rescue Oswin, escape from the planet, and fix the Pond marriage. Luckily they are standing on a teleport pad, so they need to lower the planetary shield and beam out very rapidly. Oswin sends a map of her location to the Doctor, so the Doctor tasks Amy and Rory with keeping Amy from becoming a Dalek while he’s gone.

Rory assumes that he can give Amy his wristband because the transformation will be slower for him. Since the nanocloud transforms love into hate, he would last longer because he always loved her more than she loved him. After all, he spent 2000 years protecting her inside the Pandorica as an Auton. They argue, uncovering that the focal point of their conflict is children. The conflict at Demons Run left Amy sterile: Rory thought Amy kicked him out after deciding she didn’t love him, but she knew that he had always wanted children so she “gave him up” to give him a chance with someone else.

They then realize the Doctor put his bracelet on Amy while she was sleeping. Amy muses that he probably doesn’t need it and he used it to trick them into working out their relationship problems.

The Doctor reaches the Intensive Care area, the home for Daleks defeated in particular battles, all of which occurred during the Doctor’s first, second, and third incarnations. Once he realizes this, the Daleks revive and corner him. Oswin hacks into the Dalek Pathweb and erases all data on him, effectively making them forget the Doctor. The deranged Daleks quietly go back to their cells.

Oswin opens the door and invites the Doctor in, but he hesitates when he sees Oswin’s true form. She dreamed up her situation because the reality was too terrible. She was in the cockpit of the escape pod and climbed down the same ladder that the Doctor and Amy used. The Daleks need her genius, so they converted her in full.

Oswin Oswald is now a full Dalek.

The truth is indeed too much to bear. She asks why the Daleks hate the Doctor. He tells her that he beats them everytime. She says that the Daleks grow stronger in spite of him… because of their fear of him. She tells him to run – “Run, you clever boy, and remember.” – and lowers the planetary shield, ready to die as a human at heart.

The Doctor reaches the Ponds and teleports them to the Dalek Parliament ship just as the Daleks destroy the Asylum. Unfortunately for the Daleks, the Doctor has really good aim with a teleporter. Fortunately, for the Doctor, the Daleks have no idea who he is, so he escapes in the TARDIS as the Daleks scream “Doctor WHO!?” over and over again.

The Doctor drops the Ponds at their doorstep, leaving Rory overjoyed that Amy has welcomed him home. The Doctor flies on, reveling in his new anonymity, as he looks forward to the next adventure.


This story presents a good payoff for the previous season’s shenanigans, offering the “what happens next” scenario for the traumas that our main characters faced with the Silence. It also pays off Pond Life to a degree, answering the question of the rift in the Pond household.

Of course, Amy’s relationship problems still center on a lack of communication and unilateral decision making. It’s been a common theme for her: Despite loving Rory, of which I have no doubt, she still treats him poorly and doesn’t communicate with him until she’s forced to.

I did enjoy the visuals on the Asylum, particularly how the construction was much like the city from The Daleks. The Intensive Care Unit also offers a few nods to history, including SpiridonKembelAridiusVulcan, and Exxilon. The Daleks have asked for help before, leading us back to The Evil of the Daleks.

I’d also be remiss if I didn’t mention the Parliament of the Daleks, which offered a smorgasbord of Dalek history, including:

Really, all we’re missing are the Imperial Daleks from Revelation of the Daleks and/or Resurrection of the Daleks, the disc-backed units in silver-and-black-striped livery from The Dalek Invasion of Earth, the gold-ringed versions from The Chase, the gold units from Day of the Daleks and Frontier in Space, the Supreme Council Dalek from Planet of the Daleks, the “Skittles” units from Victory of the Daleks, the Supreme Red from The Stolen Earth, and (why not?) the variety of unofficial models from both Dr. Who and the Daleks and Daleks’ Invasion Earth: 2150 A.D.

That bit of fun aside, this story also ends on quite the question for the Daleks to ask. It’s a great place to leave everything as the Doctor’s biggest enemy can’t even remember their supreme rival’s name.

Rating: 5/5 – “Fantastic!”


UP NEXT – Doctor Who: Dinosaurs on a Spaceship

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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.

Timestamp #234: Good as Gold & Pond Life

Doctor Who: Good as Gold
Doctor Who: Pond Life
(6 episodes, pre-Series 7 Specials, 2012)

Timestamp 234 Pond Life

Catching up with the Ponds.

Good as Gold

The Doctor and Amy are traveling in the TARDIS. Amy notes that the Intrepid Universe Traveler Handbook says they need to have at least one adventure per week, so the Doctor turns on the “Adventure Setting” for the TARDIS. In short order, the Cloister Bell sounds and the TARDIS crashes.

After the crash, an athlete runs through the door holding the Olympic Torch. They’ve landed in the middle of the Olympic running track, but it’s a good thing since the athlete was being pursued by a Weeping Angel. The Angel wants to steal the Olympic flame and destroy the Pride of the Olympics, so the Doctor points his sonic screwdriver at the torch and fractures the Angel.

The athlete grabs the torch before it hits the floor, then thanks the Doctor for his assistance by giving him a gold medal before running on to light the 2012 Olympic flame. As the Doctor prepares for the next adventure, the Weeping Angel reappears in the doorway. It is cracked and missing the arm that touched the torch, but it is still inside the TARDIS… a story fragment to probably never be resolved.

Pond Life: April 2012

The Doctor leaves a message on Amy and Rory’s answering machine about his recent adventures. He has fled Sontarans by surfing the firefalls on Florinall 9, had a risqué meeting with Mata Hari in Paris while roasting crumpets, sung the backups for an album, and crashed into ancient Greece due to a fault in the helmic regulator.

It seems that the TARDIS was hit by an arrow at the Battle of Hastings.

Pond Life: May 2012

The Doctor bursts into the Ponds’ house while they sleep. The world is endangered and the Ponds need to save the world! Except that it is the wrong time for them – helmic regulator! – so everything is fine. He wishes them a good night and leaves to find the right Ponds, leaving Rory to remark about how much he hates it when the Doctor does that.

Pond Life: June 2012

Rory steps into the bathroom only to be startled by the unexpected. While Rory collects himself, Amy checks things out. She finds an Ood on the loo who asks, “May I be of any assistance?”

Pond Life: July 2012

The Ood is no longer on the loo, but instead is acting as a butler for Amy and Rory by cleaning their windows, making food, and doing the wash. The Doctor explains that he rescued the Ood from the Androvax conflict and is planning on returning it to the Ood Sphere. Unfortunately, he misplaced the Ood on his last visit but plans to pick him up tonight.

Whenever that is.

Pond Life: August 2012

The Doctor has returned the Ood to the Ood Sphere. While changing the TARDIS light bulb, he recounts his recent adventures on the Ponds’ answering machine, including riding a horse through 11th Century Conventry, having invented pasta, and visiting their home (except that they were out).

He hopes that everything is okay, but he’s unaware that Rory stormed out of the house during a fight with Amy. He decides to delete the message just before Amy returns home. She checks the empty recording, then looks into the distance with a wish on her lips.

“We need you, raggedy man. I need you.”


Good as Gold written by The Children of Ashdene School in the same spirit as Death is the Only Answer. It also links back to the Olympic moments of Fear Her and provides a potential crossing of the Doctor’s timeline.

Good as Gold joins Pond Life to provide some fun filler while the show was away for nine months between the 2011 Christmas Special and the Series 7 premiere, but ultimately they are an average prologue to pass the time.

Even if they did give us “Ood on the loo.”

Rating: 3/5 – “Reverse the polarity of the neutron flow.”


UP NEXT – Doctor Who: Asylum of the Daleks

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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.

Timestamp #233: The Doctor, the Widow, and the Wardrobe

Doctor Who: The Doctor, the Widow, and the Wardrobe
(1 episode, Christmas Special, 2011)

Timestamp 233 Doctor Widow Wardrobe

Facing traumas and Christmas miracles.

Prequel

The Eleventh Doctor holds a button that, when released, will blow up a ship that’s about to destroy the Earth. He calls Amy Pond on the TARDIS phone to ask her to rescue him, but he realizes she cannot fly the TARDIS. He also doesn’t have the coordinates and, well, Amy is no longer with him.

The Doctor admits he just wanted to chat and wishes her a merry Christmas before triggering the explosion.

The Doctor, the Widow, and the Wardrobe

A spaceship approaches Earth in 1938, ready to destroy the planet, but it blows up from within courtesy of the Eleventh Doctor. The Doctor is ejected from the ship and plummets toward Earth as he struggles into a nearby spacesuit.

He plummets to the ground near a woman riding her bike in the dark. That woman, Madge Arwell, finds the Doctor in a crater, his helmet on backwards, and mistakes him for a space angel. Madge leaves an elaborate message with her son and takes the Doctor to town to find a police box. Unfortunately, they find the wrong box at first, but Madge is presumably successful by the time she returns home. The Doctor tells her that all she needs to do is make a wish and he’ll be there.

Three years later, her husband is lost in the war when his plane crashes. Madge Arwell now is a war widow with two kids. She makes a silent wish before taking the children to Uncle Digby’s abandoned country estate for the holiday. It is there that the family formally meets the Doctor, posing as the caretaker.

A whirlwind tour reveals a sitting room with moving chairs, a kitchen with a lemonade tap, the rumor of panthers, and a magical children’s bedroom complete with hammocks. Madge is beside herself and privately asks why the Doctor is doing all of this. He tells her that he knows the sadness that will come when she finally tells them the bad news.

The family adjourns to the main sitting room with a large Christmas tree and a giant glowing present. The Doctor wanders away as Madge promises the kids that this will be the best present ever. That night, Cyril sneaks down to investigate the present while Lily looks in on the Doctor. Lily finds the Time Lord fiddling with the TARDIS while Cyril discovers that the present leads to a Narnia-like world beyond its wrappings.

Once the Doctor realizes that Cyril has entered the package, he and Lily give chase. The Doctor tells Lily that it was supposed to be a portal to the safest planet he knew but it wasn’t supposed to be opened until Christmas. Meanwhile, Cyril has followed mysterious footprints from a creature that hatched from a silver ball to a tower in the woods.

The Doctor recognizes that the voices around him are the trees talking to each other. There is something wrong in the forest. As they search for Cyril, Madge finds the package and enters the portal as well, soon encountering three harvest rangers who hold her at gunpoint. The forest is private property and an acid rain storm is about to melt the trees for fuel. The stress of the entire encounter is too much as Madge breaks down in tears.

Cyril enters the tower and finds a wooden being on a throne. It comes to life as Cyril climbs the stairs behind it. When he reaches the top of the tower, he finds a throne with another wooden statue. The Doctor and Lily enter the tower and recognize the Wooden King and that the tower is made from trees. It is a trap, but the Doctor questions why the forest needs people. Above them, Cyril is forced to sit in the throne and is crowned by the Wooden Queen. This forces the Wooden King to rise and ascend the stairs.

The harvest rangers are from Androzani Major and they lower their weapons, believing that Madge is no harm. Unfortunately for them, she pulls out a gun. After all, there’s a war on. The men are bound as the female ranger tries to scan for the Arwell children. Unfortunately, she can’t pilot the ranger vehicle and the rangers are teleported away as the final warning is announced.

The Wooden King and Queen speak through Cyril, passing along the news that they are shepherding the lifeforce of the forest away before it is melted. They are using Cyril as a lifeboat, but the boy is too weak to hold forest’s lifeforce. The Doctor is also not compatible, but Lily is. Unfortunately, she’s also too young.

Then the rain begins.

Madge can hear the children and the Doctor over an open channel, motivating her to drive the ranger harvester to the tower. It topples over as it reaches the tower but Madge makes it inside safely. After she chastises the children, she is crowned by the Wooden Queen. Madge is strong enough to save the forest.

The Doctor is perplexed by Madge’s ability to house the entire forest in her head, then realizes that weak and strong are code for male and female. The geodesic sphere atop the tower lifts off and plunges into the temporal vortex to remain safe while the forest is converted. The Wooden Queen tells the Doctor that Madge can pilot them home with a single thought.

Using the telegram that announced her husband’s death, she focuses on her family and plots a course home. On the way, she sees her history with her husband, including his death over the Channel, revealing the truth to her children.

The transit ends with the forest finding a new home among the stars. They have returned to the estate and the family shares a moment over the tragic news. The Doctor leaves them for a moment and makes a life-changing discovery.

Madge’s husband died because there were no stars to light the way home. Because of what Madge did for the forest, the light of the temporal vortex became his beacon home. He landed with them and survived the war after all, given the Arwells a Christmas miracle.

Later on, Madge discovers that the Doctor is her spaceman angel. She thanks him and asks him to stay for Christmas. He declines and readies to leave, and she tells him that no one should be alone for Christmas. He should go see his family, even though they think that he’s dead.

If Madge needs him again, all she needs is to make a wish.

The TARDIS dematerializes, taking the Doctor to the Pond home. Amy answers the blue door, ready to spray annoying carolers, and expresses her annoyance at the Doctor’s two year absence. She reveals that River told them about the Doctor’s survival, and after a brief standoff, the two hug once again. Rory and Amy also tell him that they always set a place for him at Christmas dinner.

The Doctor steps inside and smiles as he wipes a tear from his eye.


This story embodies the positives of the holiday specials. They typically meld the science fiction elements of the franchise with a feel-good story to life viewers up in the season, and this was a prime example of their magic.

The story handled the trauma of loss and the family left behind in war quite well, allowing the family to heal from the obvious friction that started their Christmas holiday. I admit that I was crying as Madge faced that which she did not want to, and I kept crying as her family found their miracle in saving his life.

The plot plays a wonderful parallel to the Doctor’s own life, resulting in a payoff as he realizes that he needs other people in his life after all.

Reg Arwell as played by Alexander Armstrong, whom we have heard before over five series as the supercomputer Mr. Smith in The Sarah Jane Adventures. It’s good to put a face to the voice.

The parallels to the C.S. Lewis Narnia tales is quite obvious, as are several of the ties back to this show’s mythology from the Magna Carta to the Doctor’s respiratory bypass system to survive in space. Oh, and the entire Androzani link for the Fifth Doctor’s swan song.

And the sonic screwdriver being used as a tool and rendered inoperative because of all the wood. That was a nice touch.

Rating: 5/5 – “Fantastic!”


UP NEXT – Doctor Who: Good as Gold and Doctor Who: Pond Life

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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.

Timestamp Special #13: Farewell, Sarah Jane

Farewell, Sarah Jane
(Doctor Who: Lockdown: April 19, 2020)

Timestamp S13 Farewell Sarah Jane

On the ninth anniversary of Elisabeth Sladen’s untimely passing, in the midst of a global pandemic, we were offered a chance to say goodbye.


It was a beautiful and fitting tribute to the character and the woman who brought her to life. Russell T Davies did an amazing job, especially with his bridge between the classic and revival eras. He also put the cap on his vision for The Sarah Jane Adventures which had been considered impossible in 2011.

I, for one, want to experience that adventure with Ace, Sarah Jane, and the Diamond Wolf Clan.

Until then, farewell, Sarah Jane.


UP NEXT – Doctor Who: The Doctor, the Widow and the Wardrobe

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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.

Timestamp: Sarah Jane Adventures Series Five Summary

Sarah Jane Adventures: Series Five Summary

Series Five was a strong finale dedicated to the show’s roots.

It’s an odd position to be in with three stories and an unexpected finale, but those three showcased the found family heart of The Sarah Jane Adventures. That’s really what this series and Sarah Jane herself were all about. The Bannerman Road Gang came together under a common cause and ended up becoming a family bound by purpose instead of blood, from Luke and Maria to Clyde, Rani, and Sky.

It’s a philsophy that so many of my friends (who are like family) live every day, and one that so many  more could learn a lesson from.

Series Five comes in at an average of 4.7. That’s the highest rated set for the show, and in comparison to Doctor Who, it would be second place behind the Ninth Series from the classic era.

Sky – 4
The Curse of Clyde Langer – 5
The Man Who Never Was – 5

Sarah Jane Adventures Series Four Average Rating: 4.7/5


Sadly, this ends The Sarah Jane Adventures on television. After decades of watching television, I understand that endings are inevitable. But the premature ending here is tough. The series overall was quite enjoyable and is something that I would readily recommend to Doctor Who fans, especially if they want something lighter than the normal fare.

Series 1 – 4.3
Series 2 – 4.1
Series 3 – 3.3
Series 4 – 4.3
Series 5 – 4.7

The Sarah Jane Adventures Weighted Average Rating: 4.11/5.00

The premature end of this spinoff meant that several story ideas were left behind. In fact, three more stories were planned for Series Five and a set of four Halloween specials were planned after that to bridge the gap leading into Series Six.

The first was Meet Mr. Smith, written by Gareth Roberts and Clayton Hickman. It would have seen Mr. Smith transformed into a human by an alien called the Ozmo. Mr. Smith’s human form would have been played by the supercomputer’s voice actor Alexander Armstrong.

The next story was The Thirteenth Floor, written by Phil Ford. This tale would have finally united Rani and Clyde as a couple after hinting at the relationship over the course of the series. It would have also potentially featured Amy and Rory. The story was repurposed by Phil Ford for Wizards vs Aliens, another show on the CBBC.

The final story of the Series Five set was The Battle of Bannerman Road, which would have returned the Trickster to the series. The plan was to reveal that he had instilled his essence into Sky at the moment of her creation and manipulated events to leave her on Sarah Jane’s doorstep. The Trickster would have used Sky to take over Bannerman Road and the world, but Sky would turn on him and eventually supervise his imprisonment. Jo and Santiago Jones, Professor Rivers, and the Shopkeeper would also return to help.

The first Halloween story was scheduled to be Full Moon, written by Clayton Hickman. The Bannerman Road Gang would have been pitted against the Pagan gods Gog and Magog, escapees from an alien ship.

The second Halloween story was to be The Station, also written by Clayton Hickman, which would have thrown the Bannerman Road Gang back in time to 1911 and 1934.

The third Halloween tale was also penned by Clayton Hickman but was unnamed at the time. It would feature our heroes encountering a Gargoyle-like creature.

Finally, the last Halloween tale was The Night of the Spectre, written by Phil Ford. It would have been an animated story and featured the return of Alan and Maria Jackson. The team would have faced off against an enemy called the Spectre.

The Sarah Jane Adventures also featured ten audiobooks between 2007 and 2011. The first eight – The Glittering Storm, The Thirteenth Stone, The Time Capsule, The Ghost House, The White Wolf, The Shadow People, Deadly Download, and Wraith World – were read by Elisabeth Sladen. The ninth book, Children of Steel, was read by Daniel “Clyde” Anthony. The final book, Judgement Day, was read by Anjli “Rani” Mohindra.

I think it fair to assume that I’ll eventually get to those audio adventures.

The Sarah Jane Adventures finally came to an end in April of 2020 during the global COVID-19 pandemic. During the Doctor Who: Lockdown series on YouTube, Russell T Davies crafted a celebration of Elisabeth Sladen’s life and a capstone for the iconic character of Sarah Jane Smith in his short story Farewell, Sarah Jane.

UP NEXT – Farewell, Sarah Jane

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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.

Timestamp #SJA28: The Man Who Never Was

Sarah Jane Adventures: The Man Who Never Was
(2 episodes, s05e03, 2011)

Timestamp SJA28 Man Never Was

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!”


UP NEXT – Sarah Jane Adventures: Series Five Summary

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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.

Timestamp #SJA27: The Curse of Clyde Langer

Sarah Jane Adventures: The Curse of Clyde Langer
(2 episodes, s05e02, 2011)

Timestamp SJA27 Curse Clyde

Where were you on the day of the storm?

Clyde shows Rani the superhero comic he created, The Silver Bullet, and she’s impressed. She’s less enthused about his idea for story starring an adventurer named Susie June Jones. Meanwhile, Sarah Jane and Sky meet with Haresh Chandra about enrolling in the school. They are interrupted by a storm of fish raining from the sky.

The Bannerman Road Gang consults Mr. Smith on the unusual storm. The supercomputer comes up with a possible link to a Native American totem pole on display at the Museum of Culture. Legend says that when the artifact was removed from its hiding place, a storm of fish soon followed.

The team arrive at the museum. After Clyde gives Sky a lesson about homelessness, they inspect the totem pole. Clyde gets a nasty splinter and tries to remove it while Doctor Samantha Madigan, an anthropologist, relates the tale of Hetocumtek. A scan of the totem pole shows no alien activity.

Clyde returns home and has dinner with his mother, after which he finishes his comic book and goes to bed. After he nods off, his name starts to glow on anything that bears it.

The next morning, he visits Sarah Jane to show her his comic. She praises it until Clyde says his name aloud, after which she becomes furious and forces him out of the house. Confused, he crosses the street and consults Rani, but after Haresh says Clyde’s name, the Chandras turn on him as well.

As Clyde retreats, Sarah Jane tears up all of the pictures from Clyde that she can find. Mr. Smith is concerned about Sarah Jane’s attitude, and Sky has a calming effect on her. Sky mentions Clyde and Sarah Jane bans her from seeing him ever again. She orders Mr. Smith to set an alert for Clyde’s presence, Sky seems unaffected by whatever is going on.

Clyde calls Luke only to find that he is affected too. Clyde’s old friend Steve offers to play football until he says Clyde’s name. The footballers turn into an angry mob who smash Clyde’s phone and chase him until Clyde hides.

Clyde notes that his finger still hurts and makes the connection back to the totem pole. He asks Doctor Madigan about Native American curses but he’s soon cut off as Sarah Jane arrives to research the totem pole. He finds out that anyone who mentions his name becomes affected by the curse. That includes his own mother who kicks him out of the house.

Now homeless and begin pursued by the police, Clyde tries to get some money from an ATM, but the screen only fills up with his name. As night falls and a thunderstorm begins, Clyde seeks refuge in a doorway. He breaks down in despair but finds solace as the homeless girl he helped earlier beckons him to join her.

After a bit of sleep in a “cardboard city” under a bridge, the girl introduces herself as Ellie Faber. Clyde, inspired by a discarded pizza container, takes the name of Enrico Box. Ellie’s been on her own for two years after her father died and her mother remarried. She tells him of the “Night Dragon”, a threat that causes homeless people to disappear without telling anyone.

Sky investigates the new hatred of Clyde, but Sarah Jane and Rani aren’t forthcoming. At the museum, an electrical storm surrounds the totem pole, so Doctor Madigan calls Sarah Jane to help. The artifact appears to be alive and teeming with alien energy. Sarah Jane urges the anthropologist to close the exhibit.

Clyde and Ellie try panhandling but fail, so Ellie decides to find something to eat. They visit a soup kitchen and meet Mystic Mags, a woman who sees things in tea leaves. She warns that the something worse than the Night Dragon is coming and has put its mark on Clyde. He runs to save Ellie, but she pursues calling him her lucky charm.

Sarah Jane tells Mr. Smith that the totem is no longer dormant. Additionally, Sarah Jane, Rani, and Clyde’s mother are aware that they’ve lost something special but can’t quite figure out what. Sky visits Clyde’s mother and notes the glowing name on an envelope. She connects the dots as, back at the museum, one of the totem pole’s faces starts to move.

Once again sheltering from the rain, Clyde decides to light a fire with his Silver Bullet artwork. They discuss the fish storm, signs, and portents. Ellie tells Clyde that she had lost hope of ever reclaiming her life. Clyde has given her hope again.

Sarah Jane and Rani discuss their feelings of loss in the attic while Sky consults Mr. Smith about the splinter and Clyde’s curse. She forces them to be analytical and they realize that Hetocumtek needs Clyde to be isolated in order to gather power and break free. To break the curse, Sky encourages Sarah Jane and Rani to say Clyde’s name aloud. Acting against their instincts, they do so, break the curse, and resolve to get Clyde back.

Clyde shows Ellie a sketch he made of her, offering to draw for money. Ellie kisses him and leaves to get them a coffee. After she departs, the Bannerman Road Gang arrives and reunites with their missing family. Clyde resolves to find Ellie when the crisis is over.

They return to the attic where Mr. Smith transmats the totem pole. It fights as Clyde confronts it, yelling his name into the artifact until it dissolves into dust. The gang celebrates, then Clyde returns home to an emotional reunion with his mother.

Clyde then embarks on a mission to find Ellie, worried that she’ll think that he abandoned her. He finds out that she took the name from a famous singer’s poster. He also spots a truck labeled “Night Dragon Haulage” which works with a shipping company. A nearby homeless man explains that the drivers often take the homeless to different locations, offering a new chance in a new location.

That night, Clyde lies in his own bed and thinks of Ellie. He hopes that she’s found a better life. All he has left of her is the picture that he drew.


This story digs deep on so many levels.

First is that, as a children’s television series, it is legitimately tackling the subject of homelessness. Moreso, it puts a human face on the epidemic, both from a Clyde’s new perspective and Ellie Faber’s long-term view. It’s a subject that I’m keenly aware because of where I live and where I grew up. Atlanta, Georgia has a huge epidemic of homelessness, driven by a lack of affordable housing, unemployment, and poverty, and much of it can be linked back to the strings of financial crises in the United States. The State of Utah put a different spin on it in the 1990s and 2000s with religion and homosexuality, particulary among the teenage population who came out to their Mormon parents and were promptly disowned and disavowed.

It amazes me that this episode exists, especially as one in a children’s television program, and is hardly mentioned in today’s era of (shall we say?) vigorous discourse about political and social justice topics in Doctor Who. It’s also worth noting that one of the executive producers on this show was Russell T Davies, a man who is no stranger to political and social topics in science fiction.

The second level that I admired was the power of names. Across many cultures and time periods on this planet – spanning Muslim, Jewish, Egyptian, Vedic, Hindu, Christian, ancient and primitive, and more – there is a belief that knowing the name of something or someone gives one power over it. I have met people in recent years that weren’t comfortable telling me their full names until we had gotten to know each other because, in their beliefs, I could use that power for evil. It’s a fascinating belief and it is given life here since the curse of Hetocumtek doesn’t fully engage until Clyde signs his comic. After that, the use of his name sparks the senses of dread, anger, and pain, eventually leaving Hetocumtek as the one who controls it.

The third level was Native American curses. In particular, the mention of the Curse of Tippecanoe. It’s also known as Tecumseh’s Curse, the 20-year Curse, and the Zero Curse, but the basic idea is that Presidents of the United States who were elected in years that end with the digit 0 and are divisible by 20 are cursed to die in office. The curse references then-Major General William Henry Harrison’s military expeditions, specifically when defeated Native American tribes led by Tecumseh and Tenskwatawa at the Battle of Tippecanoe on November 7, 1811.

Historians claim that the curse is coincidental, but adherents will point to the presidents who followed the pattern: William Henry Harrison (elected in 1840), Abraham Lincoln (1860), James A. Garfield (1880), William McKinley (1900), Warren G. Harding (1920), Franklin D. Roosevelt (1940) and John F. Kennedy (1960) constitute seven of the eight American Presidents who have died in office. The presidents who meet the criteria and were elected after 1960 – Ronald Reagan (1980), George W. Bush (2000), and Joe Biden (2020, incumbent) – did not (or have not) met the curse’s destiny.

It’s a fascinating piece of Americana.

To wrap this up, the obvious bit of Doctor Who trivia is Pyramids of Mars. After all, it’s not the first time that an alien has posed as a god, is it?

Rating: 5/5 – “Fantastic!”


UP NEXT – Sarah Jane Adventures: The Man Who Never Was

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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.

Timestamp #SJA26: Sky

Sarah Jane Adventures: Sky
(2 episodes, s05e01, 2011)

Timestamp SJA26 Sky

Welcome back to the attic.

Sarah Jane observes the star-filled sky and reminisces about all of the wonderful things that she’s seen. In that night sky, a meteor crashes into a nearby junkyard, startling a homeless man as a metalloid creature emerges from the wreckage. The newcomer scans the area before cloaking and walking away.

Sarah Jane muses about her found family as the Bannerman Road Gang talks to Luke via video. Sarah Jane misses her son, but finds solace in Rani’s assurance that he’ll be home soon. The next morning brings a doorbell in the early hours. Sarah Jane finds a baby girl abandoned on her doorstep, a baby girl who has the power to blow every light on the street with a cry.

Sarah Jane calls in Rani and Clyde, asking for her help as the Chandras muse about ley lines and electrical disruptions. The teens are hesitant, as is Mr. Smith, but Clyde soon settles the infant with a bottle and a cuddle.

At the Summerwell Nuclear Power Station, an orb of energy appears amidst arcs of electricity around the switchgear – an emergency that the nearby nuclear worker should have called away immediately! – and delivers a mysterious woman onto the plant floor. She is Miss Myers, she is looking for her child, and she enraptures the power plant workers. Miss Myers finds out that the baby is on Bannerman Road.

The Bannerman Road Gang attempt to get away but are intercepted by Gita Chandra. They find out about the meteor strike and inadvertantly name the baby Sky. Rani and Sarah Jane investigate while Clyde remains with Sky at the house. With the help of Professor Rivers, they find the homeless man and an eyewitness account of the metalloid creature.

By the way, that being is also headed for Bannerman Road.

The conflict reaches Clyde and Sky as the the metalloid being attacks them. They are rescued by Miss Myers and taken to the power plant. Rani and Sarah Jane chase after them with help from Mr. Smith. Miss Myers tells Clyde about the conflict between Metalkind and Fleshkind, but his skepticism forces him to run.

Everyone comes together at the power station. It turns out that Sky is a weapon, and as the baby primes herself, she transforms into a pre-teen. Sky then launches a lightning bolt at the Metalkind but refuses to finish off her oppponent. The girl is frightened and seeks solace in Sarah Jane’s arms.

Miss Myers reveals that she created the girl in a laboratory. Sarah Jane and the Bannerman Road Gang escape with Sky, returning to the attic. There, Mr. Smith determines that Sky – who enters the scene hesitantly, without fanfare, eager to protect his circuits – is a bomb designed to destroy all of Metalkind across the entire universe and end a centuries-long conflict, an act that would kill Sky in the process.

Sky remembers everything from the moment that she met Sarah Jane. She bonds with Rani as she learns about Sarah Jane, Luke, and what it’s like to be a girl. She later learns about her true purpose and returns to the power plant with the Bannerman Road Gang. Miss Myers is the only person who can defuse the bomb.

Sarah Jane confronts Miss Myers alone while Rani and Clyde shelter Sky at the car. Miss Myers has connected the Metalkind being to the station’s electrical systems to act as a beacon drawing the entire species to Earth. This will force Sarah Jane to surrender Sky to fulfill her destiny since the bomb is programmed to detonate upon contact with the Metalkind.

Sky, Rani, and Clyde enter the plant and find Sarah Jane. Sky believes that she must do what she was created to do in order to save Earth. Sky runs off and Sarah Jane gives chase, tasking Rani and Clyde with shutting down the reactor and removing power from the Metalkind beacon.

Rani and Clyde play a video game to operate the plant – which is not how any of it really works, but let’s roll with it… – while Sarah Jane tries to stop Sky. Luckily, they do the thing and shut down the beacon, forcing a blackout in the surrounding area because the UK apparently doesn’t have any other electrical power facilities.

Sky is knocked out from the effort, but she recovers after the energy backlash reprograms her genetic code. She’s no longer a bomb. The galactic politics removes itself from Earth as the Metalkind grabs Miss Myers, opens a portal, and teleports them off the planet.

The nuclear workers are released from their trance. The Bannerman Road Gang leaves without a word.

Returning home, they are greeted by the Chandras. In return, they get a story about a mix-up between two children at the foster agency. Sky Smith will be staying for the foreseeable future. The gang heads to the Attic where they find the Captain and the Shopkeeper, the servants of the universe who left Sky on the doorstep because she would be safest with Sarah Jane Smith. They teleport away leaving Sarah Jane confused.

The adventure ends with Sky’s introduction to pizza.


Doctor Who and its spinoffs are no strangers to nuclear power, spanning at least The Daleks, The Tenth Planet, Doctor Who and the Silurians, The Hand of FearBoom Town, The End of Time, and Exit Wounds. Science fiction, in general, takes a lot of shortcuts with nuclear power and the plants that generate it, and this story is no exception. It hits every trope in the sci-fi writer’s guide, from strolling around plants like a public park and being able to walk right into reactor containment to treating operations and control rooms like video games.

My nuclear operations background was screaming during this story. Electrical arcs would be called away as an emergency, access would be restricted by badge-locked doors, unauthorized personnel would be intercepted almost immediately by security officers wielding military-grade weaponry. Moving control rods is not like playing Super Mario Bros. and the electrical grid is powered from more than one power source.

At least the main gate guards were somewhat on the ball.

All of that to say this: Since the treatment of nuclear power and operations is so far off-base – it’s hardly ever in the same ballpark, really – I roll my eyes at it but don’t let it sour my opinion of a good story.

Thankfully, this story has a lot of heart. The ongoing theme of The Sarah Jane Adventures is found family, and it continues here with a new member in the Bannerman Road Gang. Sky picks up Sarah Jane’s nuturing, particularly compassion for everyone, and lets it shape her early on. Her wide-eyed innocence takes us back to the first series and almost pushes a reset button on the group dynamic. It suits the franchise well.

It was also supposed to bring the Eleventh Doctor back to the title in a story arc for Sky. Since he couldn’t balance this and A Christmas Carol, Matt Smith was replaced by the Captain and the Shopkeeper. Sadly, the story arc will be abandoned by the premature end of the series.

Rating: 4/5 – “Would you care for a jelly baby?”


UP NEXT – Sarah Jane Adventures: The Curse of Clyde Langer

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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.

The 2018 LEGO Star Wars Advent Calendar

The 2018 LEGO Star Wars Advent Calendar

Lego Star Wars Advent Calendar 2018

Day four of this look at our holiday tradition of LEGO advent calendars marks the last of this miniseries.

We’ve been doing these since 2015 and I have been chronicling the daily builds on Instagram. The 2019 and 2020 sets have been previously featured on this site, and to count down to this year’s builds, I’m taking a look back at the 2015, 2016, 2017, and 2018 sets.

These boxes contain twenty-four unique small builds, many of which are abstract, along with exclusive mini-figures and whimsical winter-themed spins on Star Wars staples. Among my favorites over the years are the winter Chewbacca, the rebel pilot snowman, and the AT-AT and R2-D2 pair with reindeer antlers. The 2018 box bounced all over the Star Wars franchise, including the original trilogy, The Force Awakens, and The Freemaker Adventures (which I haven’t seen yet, but plan to soon since it’s on Disney+).

The 2021 day-to-day images are posted on my Instagram account. Feel free to follow me there for whimsical observations, tons of pictures of my dogs, and this annual tradition. That adventure (and December itself) begins tomorrow.

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This post’s cover photo is a remix of a photograph by Matthias Kabel. The original represents Hellbrunn Palace in Salzburg, Austria and is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 2.5 Generic license.

For more creativity with a critical eye, visit Creative Criticality.

The 2017 LEGO Star Wars Advent Calendar

The 2017 LEGO Star Wars Advent Calendar

Lego Star Wars Advent Calendar 2017

Welcome to day three of the look back at one of the holiday season traditions in my household. We typically like the annual LEGO Star Wars Advent Calendar, though we have been branching out a bit over the last couple of years.

We’ve been doing these since 2015 and I have been chronicling the daily builds on Instagram. The 2019 and 2020 sets have been previously featured on this site, and to count down to this year’s builds, I’m taking a look back at the 2015, 2016, 2017, and 2018 sets.

These boxes contain twenty-four unique small builds, many of which are abstract, along with exclusive mini-figures and whimsical winter-themed spins on Star Wars staples. Among my favorites over the years are the winter Chewbacca, the rebel pilot snowman, and the AT-AT and R2-D2 pair with reindeer antlers. The 2017 box shifted the focus toward the Rebels television series, Star Wars: The Force Awakens, and a little bit of Rogue One: A Star Wars Story.

The 2021 day-to-day images are posted on my Instagram account. Feel free to follow me there for whimsical observations, tons of pictures of my dogs, and this annual tradition. That adventure (and December itself) begins in two days.

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This post’s cover photo is a remix of a photograph by Matthias Kabel. The original represents Hellbrunn Palace in Salzburg, Austria and is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 2.5 Generic license.

For more creativity with a critical eye, visit Creative Criticality.