Timestamp #SJA12: Enemy of the Bane

Sarah Jane Adventures: Enemy of the Bane
(2 episodes, s02e06, 2008)

 

Double the trouble.

Rani’s mother Gita is working late on a special floral commission. Her mysterious client turns out to be Mrs. Wormwood, who ends up paralyzing Gita in an attempt to draw out Sarah Jane Smith. On Bannerman Road, Luke has been having nightmares about Mrs. Wormwood and his origins.

Sarah Jane consoles Luke about his nightmares, though he counters that he’s never dreamed before. They’re interrupted by Rani and news of Gita’s disappearance, which Sarah Jane decides to investigate despite zero evidence of alien interference. Luke, Clyde, and Sarah Jane visit the flower store and find Mrs. Wormwood’s check, an intentional clue that they take for Mr. Smith to analyze.

The supercomputer unravels an address masked in the check’s account and routing numbers. Sarah Jane leaves to investigate, reluctantly taking Rani with her and providing a history lesson for the teenager. Once they arrive, they find Gita and Mrs. Wormwood. The former Bane operative has extensive knowledge of the Bannerman Road adventures, and she asks for Sarah Jane’s help. Mrs. Wormwood took responsibility for the Bane’s previous failure and they’re hunting her.

The Bane attack and the group runs away, Mrs. Wormwood defending them with her phonic disruptor. Sarah Jane is briefly captured, but Mrs. Wormwood saves her life before they all escape to Bannerman Road. Gita recovers and Rani takes her home. Sarah Jane brings Mrs. Wormwood to her home, shocking Luke and Clyde.

In the attic, Sarah Jane asks Mr. Smith to watch the Bane operative while she explains herself. Mrs. Wormwood tells a tale of an ancient immortal, Horath, that tried to take over the galaxy but was defeated three thousand years ago. Unable to destroy him, Horath’s captors separated his body and consciousness and placed them at opposite ends of the galaxy. The Bane have located Horath’s consciousness, but to find the body, the team needs to find the Tunguska Scroll.

That artifact is located in UNIT’s Black Archive, a secure storehouse of dangerous alien artifacts.

Sarah Jane confines Mrs. Wormwood to a containment field before making contact with an old friend: Retired Brigadier Sir Alistair Gordon Lethbridge-Stewart. Sarah Jane and Rani ask the Brig if he can help them break into the Black Archive. He drives the women to the Black Archive and is intercepted by his UNIT liaison. Once he ditches the major, he gives Rani and Sarah Jane access while he stands watch. In short order, they make a Tooth and Claw joke, steal the scroll, and make a hasty escape despite tripping the alarms.

Clyde remains behind to keep Luke away from Mrs. Wormwood, but Luke’s temptation is too strong. He talks to her about his origins and his social isolation. The Bane attack the house and Luke sets Mrs. Wormwood free so they can escape. The boys are separated from Mrs. Wormwood, and she makes contact with Commander Kaagh. The Sontaran has Horath’s consciousness, and Mrs. Wormwood is overjoyed that her revenge against Sarah Jane Smith is at hand.

Luke and Clyde are surrounded by Bane. To Kaagh’s surprise, Mrs. Wormwood recharges her disruptor and blows the two attackers into goo just as Sarah Jane, Rani, and the Brig arrive. The entire lot takes refuge from UNIT in Gita’s flower shop and Luke’s two mother figures have a small heart-to-heart before tensions rise again.

Mrs. Wormwood summons Kaagh. The Sontaran destroys the sonic lipstick and Sarah Jane deduces that he is holding the consciousness. Mrs. Wormwood takes the scroll, threatening to kill all of them to get it. She also coerces Luke into joining them, using him as leverage to prevent Sarah Jane from interfering. Mrs. Wormwood knocks all of them out with her disruptor before leaving.

Mrs. Wormwood, Kaagh, and Luke arrive at yet another factory – this one shelters the Sontaran’s space pod – and activate the scroll with the consciousness. Mrs. Wormwood reveals that Horath is a cybernetic intelligence instead of a biological being, and suggests that Luke’s intelligence could make him a superior leader of the galaxy. Luke ignores the offer and swipes the scroll, getting only a short distance before being stopped. Kaagh nearly shoots him, but Mrs. Wormwood assumes her Bane form and steps in front of the Sontaran’s gun and stuns the soldier into submission.

Meanwhile, Major Kilburne snoops around Bannerman Road, posing as Sarah Jane’s nephew. The Bannerman Road gang arrives home and attempt to locate Luke and the villains, only to be ambushed by the major. The Brig uses a weapon in his cane to stun the officer, who is now revealed as a Bane agent. Sarah Jane and Clyde use Mr. Smith to track the Bane to a stone circle in Whitebarrow, and they borrow Gita’s van to drive there.

When Mrs. Wormwood and Kaagh arrive at the stone circle, they find it guarded by a force field that blocks offworlders from crossing into it. Mrs. Wormwood uses Luke to breach the perimeter and place the scroll at the heart of the circle. The portal to Horath begins to open, and Mrs. Wormwood attacks Kaagh before offering Luke unlimited power at her side.

The Bannerman Road Gang arrives as the portal opens. Clyde tends to Kaagh as Luke rejects Mrs. Wormwood. As Mrs. Wormwood turns on Sarah Jane and her friends, Kaagh asks Clyde for help to regain his honor. The Sontaran rushes the Bane, plunging them both into the portal as it closes, trapping them. Sarah Jane pulls her spare sonic lipstick and destroys the scroll, ending the threat.

Back at Bannerman Road, the team reflects on how amazing the universe can be as they bid farewell to the Brigadier, once again united as a family.

 

In one fell swoop, this finale knocks out two major SJA villains, reinforces the major theme of the show, and swings around mythology by bringing back a long-time favorite and adding a major component that will come back in a few years time.

The return of Brigadier Sir Alistair Gordon Lethbridge-Stewart was beautiful and is a great capstone to his forty-year legacy in Doctor Who, from The Web of Fear to Battlefield. Before this episode, it had been nineteen years since his last appearance, and this one is special because it is Nicholas Courtney’s final televised appearance in the role. He died in 2011, roughly two years after this story.

His views on UNIT say a lot about the evolution of the organization, as well as the views on the military and human rights between the 1970s and the early 2000s. Remember, good science fiction serves as a lens on the human condition, and Doctor Who is one of the best in that regard.

 

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

 

Keeping in mind that the Timestamps Project is following the franchise chronologically at this point…

UP NEXT – Doctor Who: The Next Doctor

 

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 #SJA11: The Temptation of Sarah Jane Smith

Sarah Jane Adventures: The Temptation of Sarah Jane Smith
(2 episodes, s02e05, 2008)

 

Sarah Jane Smith meets Sarah Jane Smith.

Courtesy of a mysterious fissure, a young boy materializes in a shopping center. Rani and Clyde give chase as he runs away while Sarah Jane and Luke investigate the time fissure. Sarah Jane plans to send the boy home and seal the rift, but young Oscar is afraid. So, Sarah Jane escorts him through the fissure.

Just as she’s about to leave, she sees a road marker: She’s near Foxgrove in the year 1951. She avoids the temptation and leaves, and the boy asks the Trickster if he did okay.

The Trickster vows that Sarah Jane will return.

With the job done, the Bannerman Road Gang returns home, but Sarah Jane is obviously haunted. She asks Mr. Smith about the history of Foxgrove, then looks at the photograph in her desk drawer. Luke interrupts her reflections and she explains that the photo is of her parents, Eddie and Barbara Smith. They died in a traffic accident, leaving Sarah Jane in her pram on the side of the road at only three months old. She was adopted by her aunt Lavinia, but the mystery of their death has haunted her throughout her life.

The time fissure leads to Foxgrove, one month before her parents died. Luke suggests going to see them, but Sarah Jane thinks that it’s a trap. She refuses the bait.

Or so she says.

She sneaks out of the house later that night, all dressed up for a trip to the 1950s. Luke catches her before she leaves, and she promises that it will be a quick trip. She opens the fissure, considers the ramifications one last time, and walks through to her own past. The fissure was supposed to remain open for an hour, but it fluctuates so Luke dives in after her. Together, they walk to Foxgrove, not noticing a triumphant Oscar hiding nearby.

Rani and Clyde take notice of their absence and consult Mr. Smith, but the supercomputer has no knowledge of their whereabouts. He theorizes that they used the fissure. They find the Verron Soothsayer box, which is now flashing, and they decide to investigate.

Sarah Jane and Luke end up at a town festival. Sarah Jane spots her mother and her infant self, and she decides to talk to her mother to determine why her parents would abandon her. The time travelers introduce themselves as Victoria and David Beckham, and Sarah Jane ventures off to help her mother out serving tea. Meanwhile, Luke spots Oscar and investigates the boy’s odd behavior.

Eddie and Barbara talk to Sarah Jane about their baby and her future. Sarah Jane’s emotions swell and she decides to leave. Luke follows with a newspaper, but Sarah Jane realizes that it is the day that her parents died. The temptation is strong to disable the Smith car with her sonic lipstick, and Luke lobbies her to avoid altering a fixed point in time.

Her emotions overrule her logic and she disables the car’s engine. They rush back to the fissure to see if anything significant changed as the world begins to crumble around them.

Clyde and Rani arrive at the site of the fissure. The box changes color as they try to open the rift. Oscar returns through the fissure and morphs into a Graske before chasing after them. The world changes as they take shelter.

Sarah Jane and Luke return home to find the world transformed into a complete wasteland. The Trickster reveals himself, gleeful that Sarah Jane has given the world over to him. Foxgrove rested on a weak point in the fabric of time and Sarah Jane’s actions smashed a fault line and allowed the Trickster to manifest and ravage the Earth.

Luke and Sarah Jane return to 1951 to set things straight. The storm is already in progress at Foxgrove, prompting the villagers to take their festival indoors. Sarah Jane wishes that the Doctor was there to help them, and her hopes are buoyed up by the sight of a police box. Unfortunately, the box is not the TARDIS and only contains a police officer. Sarah Jane and Luke find Eddie and Barbara. Barbara offers to help them look for anything odd.

Rani and Clyde, protected from the alternate timeline by the puzzle box, wander the wasteland. They spot the Graske and decide to follow it. They spot Rani’s mother in a group of slaves, and Rani tries to make contact. The Graske, who is the slavemaster, is apprehensive around the duo. Rani’s mother explains that they are forced to mine every resource from the planet, and she shares the legend of Sarah Jane Smith and how she gave the world to the Trickster. They also learn about the Abbot’s Gateway and decide to somehow get that information to Sarah Jane and Luke.

Rani and Clyde demand an audience with the Graske and learn about his history and how he was tricked by the Trickster. He was saved from death but became a slave as a result. Clyde offers to exchange the puzzle box – a way to free the Graske – for a way back to the past. The arrangement means that Rani can go to 1951 but Clyde must remain behind with the box.

Sarah Jane and Luke track the source of the disturbance while Rani hunts them down, sticking out like a sore thumb as a woman of color in the village. Rani delivers her message, confusing Barbara with information from the future. The Trickster begins to manifest as Eddie arrives to take Barbara away.

The elder Smiths return to the village hall. Everything they touch ages rapidly, from fruit to flowers, and Barbara realizes that the problem revolves around them. She knows that Sarah Jane Smith is the adult version of their own baby.

At the Abbot’s Gate, Luke tries to convince Sarah Jane to repair the car, even though it means that her parents will die. Sarah Jane fixes the car as her parents arrive. They leave their baby with Luke and Rani as Sarah Jane says her goodbyes. The family shares an embrace as they mend their bridges. Sarah Jane now understands why her parents had to die and why they left her behind.

Her parents bid both Sarah Janes farewell as they drive away. The future is safe as the Trickster writhes in pain and vaporizes in the restored timeline. Sarah Jane, Luke, and Rani take the infant to her rightful place.

With the timeline restored, Clyde gives the puzzle box to the Graske and frees him from his servitude. The time travelers return home and Sarah Jane smashes the device used to open the fissure. Rani finds her parents alive and well, and Sarah Jane reminisces over her parents.

Although she could not save them, she finally knows why they left. She is proud of them. She shares a hug with Luke over the photo of Eddie and Barbara.

On the back of the photo lies one last remnant of the whimsical love notes they used to share: “Mr. Smith, I need you”.

 

On its face, this is a very basic story about the circular paradox. In fact, it is almost a complete rehash of Father’s Day, from a child saving a parent from a fixed point death, the resulting fractures and destruction in the timeline, and a noble sacrifice to set things right. It also bears striking similarities to The Curse of Fenric.

But it has the benefit of being about one of the most beloved characters in Doctor Who history, and that emotional investment makes a considerable difference between a standard plotline and a great story in this universe. Sarah Jane thinks like the Doctor, rationalizing every break of the rules to satiate just one more piece of her curiosity, while Luke, Rani, and Clyde act as her anchors to help save the world.

That twist on the story, including Sarah Jane realizing that she doesn’t need the Doctor to save her – that she literally has all of the tools that she needs to fix her mistake – is amazing, and it serves to empower both her and her young companions, making them stronger both as characters and as a cohesive family in the end.

Rating: 5/5 – “Fantastic!”

 

 

UP NEXT – Sarah Jane Adventures: Enemy of the Bane

 

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 #SJA10: The Mark of the Berserker

Sarah Jane Adventures: The Mark of the Berserker
(2 episodes, s02e04, 2008)

 

Clyde forgets everything he knew.

A teenager named Jacob West is in detention. He has an elaborate mark on his hand, ignores his teacher’s guidance, and tells a bully in the room to shut up. The bully loses his voice. Jacob demands that they all stay where they are and remain quiet, then runs from the room as he notices Rani watching the entire affair.

The mark climbs Jacob’s arms and face, turning his eyes gray as he screams.

Rani runs to find Jacob as the young man begs a pendant to stop before he casts it aside. The spell is broken and Jacob runs, leaving Rani to find the pendant on the restroom floor.

Sarah Jane drops Luke off at Clyde’s house as she prepares to leave town for the weekend, supposedly heading to Tarminster. They start by cooking dinner. Meanwhile, Rani discovers the power of the pendant as she compels her father to do silly tricks, but she stops when a slip of the tongue almost compels her father to die. She tells him to forget about what happened, and she notices the mark on her hand as Jacob stops by. He tells her that the mark fades when the bearer stops using the power. The power is addictive, however, and it is hard to stop before it consumes the user.

Rani tries to consult Mr. Smith, but Sarah Jane has shut him down during her absence. Following the advice of Sarah Jane’s Post-It Notes, Rani leaves the pendant hanging in the attic.

Luke and Clyde bond as they go to sleep, but Clyde’s good mood is broken the next morning as his estranged father Paul appears on his doorstep. After an emotionally-charged discussion that upsets Clyde and his mother, Clyde decides to fulfill his father’s request to spend time together.

Rani decides to investigate the pendant, calling in Luke to assist. Clyde and his father have a rather awkward and testy discussion, but when he brings up his adventures with the Bannerman Road Gang, Clyde takes his father to Sarah Jane’s attic to prove his story. In the attic, Paul (who knows in passing about Daleks) pockets the pendant before they leave.

Outside, they meet Rani’s father who demands to know why they were in Sarah Jane’s house. Paul accidentally discovers the power of the pendant, and Luke and Rani arrive and challenge Paul. Clyde is compelled to leave and forget about his friends.

Rani’s father is still doing push-ups, by the way.

Paul immediately starts digging a deep hole as he compels Clyde to sever all of his ties, including with his mother. As he plans to take Clyde away, Luke and Rani try to call Sarah Jane while she’s hunting a Travast Polong (an adorable three-eyed caterpillar alien) but have no luck.

So, they call Maria and ask her father to hack into UNIT and find anything he can about the pendant. While Alan searches, Luke tries to call Clyde and is rebuffed. Moments later, Paul effectively steals a sports car.

UNIT’s archive turns up a link between the pendant and Norse warriors called the Berserkers who were powered by the alien devices. Alan uses the UNIT satellite network to track Clyde’s mobile phone as the Langers wreak havoc on the stores of London.

Clyde asks his father why he left him and his mother, and after a heart-to-heart, Paul commands Clyde to forget about both his mother and Paul’s betrayal. The whirlwind tour continues.

Rani and Luke enlist Clyde’s mother to help them find her wayward son. Clyde ignores her attempts to call, but the Jacksons are able to rig her GPS to track Clyde’s phone. They finally find Clyde and Paul at the marina as the pendant takes control.

Sarah Jane arrives, and since Clyde still recognizes her, he begs for her help. She tells him that Paul needs to see who he really is underneath the Berserker exterior. Clyde and his mother remind Paul of the good memories as Sarah Jane shows him his reflection in a mirror. The Berserker recedes and Paul throws the pendant on the ground, breaking the spell over everyone that was touched by it.

Clyde remembers his family and friends, the car salesman stands aghast at his expensive loss, and Rani’s father finally stops his exercising.

Sarah Jane reveals that the Jacksons told her about the trouble and where to find them. As they walk away, Clyde offers to help restore his family with the power of the pendant, but he’s reminded that such a family would not be real. In fact, he has a real family with the Bannerman Road Gang.

Clyde’s father leaves to pay his penance while Clyde uses the pendant to ask his mother to forget about aliens and what happened. He tosses the pendant in the water and goes home. Later, he visits Sarah Jane and apologizes for showing his father around her attic. She understands, and he confides how much she and their family means to him.

After he leaves, Sarah Jane pulls a photo of her long-deceased parents out of a drawer and gazes upon them, deep in thought.

 

What we find here is a clever allegory about addiction and the nature of family. The addiction aspect is obvious, from the allure of material objects to the desire for companionship, love, and power. The pendant was all about using addiction to enable the holder to overpower a target’s will. In the wrong hands – such as Paul Langer, who is selfish and obviously has no problem ignoring consent –  it becomes a dangerous vector for world domination. In the right hands – such as Clyde Langer, who used it to help keep his mother safe from the dangers in his life – it becomes a borderline dangerous but useful tool.

Paul Langer is a bad person, and Clyde Langer is a better man than I am for forgiving his father for the abuses he perpetrated in this story. And this exploration of Clyde’s character is what makes this tale a good one.

I was also impressed with how the kids were able to do the heavy lifting instead of relying on Sarah Jane to push the plot along. She popped in at the climax to nudge the kids toward the resolution, but the Bannerman Road Gang did this pretty much on their own.

It’s not the first time that Clyde has been forced to forget his friends. I’m okay with that repetition since it’s been a while since we walked that particular path. The big strike against this one is how it is the fourth story in a row to use mind control as the plot. That repetition is getting old.

 

 

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

 

 

UP NEXT – Sarah Jane Adventures: The Temptation of Sarah Jane Smith

 

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 #SJA9: Secrets of the Stars

Sarah Jane Adventures: Secrets of the Stars
(2 episodes, s02e03, 2008)

 

Luke’s horoscope says that he’ll save the world.

A woman named Cheryl is paying a regular visit to her astrologer, Martin Trueman, who has a change of heart when he realizes that Cheryl is burning her mortgage money to pay for his services. You see, he’s a con artist. While he explains himself, he stands in front of his window and is struck by a shooting star.

Suddenly, he’s found a new belief in astrology and lightning fingers.

Later, Rani, Clyde, and Luke attend an astrology seminar given by Trueman. They are joined by Rani’s parents and Sarah Jane as Cheryl asks each of them for their birthdays. Luke is troubled by this since he doesn’t have a true birthday. Meanwhile, Cheryl is confronted by her husband, but she rebuffs him.

Everyone takes their seats as the show begins. Luke thinks Trueman is a bit milky… or is it cheesy? Regardless, Trueman starts his seminar with a little showbiz, forcing each of the people he touched on his way in to stand and sit on command, including Clyde. He then starts focusing on people who dropped their birthdays in the box, which brings Rani to the spotlight.

Sarah Jane is skeptical throughout, but she’s soon called out. Trueman is able to discern the facts about her travels with the Doctor – including School Reunion and Journey’s End – and she is rattled. She tells Luke that Trueman is completely human, and as television host Lisa Trotter sets up an interview with Trueman on Paranormal Planet, the Bannerman Road Gang returns home to consult with Mr. Smith.

When Mr. Smith comes up empty, Sarah Jane visits with Trueman to figure out his trick. Before she leaves, she consoles Luke over his anxiety about birthdays and star signs. After all, she says, it’s not the day that they celebrate, it’s the person. Rani joins her for the surprise visit while Luke studies astrology on a universal scale.

Sarah Jane, Rani, and Trueman have a rather testy discussion. At the end, he threatens Sarah Jane that she shouldn’t stand in his way and demonstrates that he can shoot energy from his fingertips. As the ladies rush away, Trueman ambushes Clyde and enthralls him, forcing him to work against his friends.

Mr. Smith analyzes Rani’s burned jacket but cannot discern what was responsible. While Rani, Luke, and Sarah Jane brainstorm over the origins of the Ancient Lights, Mr. Smith pieces together that Trueman’s birth chart may hold the key.

Meanwhile, Trueman’s interview on Paranormal Planet is forcibly broadcast worldwide on every channel. He disables the host and production crew and addresses the world, and Sarah Jane specifically, as Clyde arrives and threatens to destroy his friends.

Sarah Jane is able to talk Clyde out of threatening them, allowing Luke to touch his shoulder and break the trance. Meanwhile, the thrall has extended to various neighbors on Bannerman Road who walk down the road in a haze. When the stars align and his power controls every person, Trueman will become king of Earth. To that end, the power extends around the world.

Sarah Jane theorizes that she was able to reach Clyde’s inherent goodness to override the programming. Luke and Rani also realize that if they block the transmission from the television studio, they’ll break the source of the power. But first, they’ll have to get past the enthralled circle that have joined hands to protect Trueman.

Clyde offers to pretend that he’s still enslaved as a member of the “inner circle” to get his friends past the blockade. As they breach the perimeter, Trueman sends Cheryl to find Clyde. She brings both Clyde and Sarah Jane to the stage where Trueman forces them to kneel before him. He explains that his ascension will pave the way for the Ancient Lights to take over Earth and the universe beyond.

Luke and Rani search for a way to interrupt the broadcast as the conjunction begins and a portal opens at the theater. As they try to switch off the main power, they find it shielded, and Rani’s sign comes up. Rani walks away in a trance and Luke (who has no sign) switches off the power.

But that doesn’t stop the power of the Ancient Lights.

Luke realizes the power he contains and breaks the inner circle, releasing the enchantment and stopping Trueman in his tracks. The conjunction passes, but Trueman refuses to give up his power. As the Ancient Lights depart, Trueman vaporizes into stardust and becomes one with them.

With the threat stopped, the Bannerman Road Gang returns home, leaving the neighborhood and the world grasping for the cause behind the event. Stuart and Cheryl are reunited, and the authorities begin what will be a fruitless search for Trueman.

Luke and Sarah decide, since Luke’s lack of a star sign and a birthday helped him to save the world, that today will be his birthday.

 

I’m a scientist and an engineer, but I have a soft spot for science fiction that mixes in the mysticism of astrology. Even with that in mind, this story was quite average with a superpowered omnipotent villain who enslaves the world in a quest for power and identity. There’s nothing new here. In fact, it’s the third story in a row to contain some degree of mind control as a plot point.

Even Sarah Jane says it: She knows how it feels to be possessed. As we’ve seen in Planet of the Spiders, The Masque of Mandragora, and The Hand of Fear.

 

 

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

 

UP NEXT – Sarah Jane Adventures: The Mark of the Berserker

 

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 #SJA8: The Day of the Clown

Sarah Jane Adventures: The Day of the Clown
(2 episodes, s02e02, 2008)

 

Sarah Jane’s worst fear come true?

A group of kids is playing football in a field when one of them kicks the ball into the forest. A boy named Tony goes for the ball, but he ends up getting snurched by a clown.

At the Smith house, Sarah Jane considers the three recently missing children as Luke reads an e-mail from Maria, obviously pining for her. Clyde arrives with news of new arrivals across the street. The boys head to school as Clyde leaves Sarah Jane with the idea that Maria might have left something behind.

By chance, the boys meet Rani, one of the new residents of Bannerman Road. They all head to class and meet the new headmaster, Mr. Chandra, a rather humorless chap. Clyde gets in trouble off the bat and Rani keeps seeing the mysterious clown.

Sarah Jane brings a welcome gift of tea and biscuits to her new neighbors. She meets Gita, Rani’s mother, and scans the house for alien residue. The coast is clear.

Oh, and the humorless headmaster? He’s Rani’s father.

Also, Sarah Jane prefers to be called Sarah Jane, even though the Doctor has nearly always called her Sarah.

By accident, Clyde hits Mr. Chadra in the head with a basketball, so he’s called to the headmaster’s office. While waiting for his talking-to, he encounters the clown and gives chase. He finds the clown in a restroom mirror and is inadvertently saved from doom by the headmaster.

Their discussion doesn’t go well and Clyde resolves to consult with Sarah Jane. He spots the clown with Luke after school, but Luke can’t see it. The boys try to locate it but only find a red balloon. Rani arrives in the nick of time to stop them from touching it, expressing a deep interest in the phenomenon. They all walk to Bannerman Road where the Chandras meet Clyde and the Smiths.

In the attic, the team develops a plan: Luke decides to keep an eye on Rani while Clyde and Sarah Jane investigate the missing children. Both teams eventually come to Spellman’s Magical Museum of the Circus, home of a clown who was handing out tickets to the attraction. Only children with tickets were seeing the clown apparition.

At the museum, we meet the strange Elijah Spellman and learn that Sarah Jane suffers from coulrophobia (the fear of clowns). During their tour, Clyde spots a watercolor picture that resembles their mysterious clown. Sarah Jane identifies it as the Pied Piper, a legendary figure of folklore that stole children from Hamelin. When Luke and Rani arrive, the clowns in the museum come to life and give chase. Sarah Jane disables them with the sonic lipstick and leads the kids out, but the doors are locked.

Spellman reveals himself as the clown, the Pied Piper, and he is intent on having the kids. The entity feeds off of their fear. Rani’s phone rings and somehow freezes Spellman, and the team is able to run back to Bannerman Road. Once they arrive, Sarah Jane offers Rani the Matrix choice between going back to her normal life and seeing how far the rabbit hole goes.

She chooses to explore Sarah Jane’s world.

She’s a bit overwhelmed by the truth and Mr. Smith, but sticks around as the alien “supercomputer” researches clowns and missing children. The clown, also known as Odd Bob, is traced back to a meteorite from the Jeggorabax Cluster that landed on Earth in 1283. It’s currently at the Pharos Institute, and Sarah Jane resolves to get a sample.

Sarah Jane offers Rani a device to keep her safe, trying to temper the young woman’s expectations. Later, while researching clowns, Luke asks her why she’s afraid of clowns. She explains that, as a child, she was frightened of a clown marionette owned by her Aunt Lavinia. It was one of the few times she missed having parents she could call on for comfort.

As the morning comes, Sarah Jane visits the Pharos Institute and secures a sample of the meteorite. Spellman arrives and rattles her, promising that families will perish at the deaths of a nation of children. At the school, a batch of red balloons fall from the sky, and those children that touch them lose free will. They mindlessly march, like rats to a piped tune, to Spellman’s museum.

Mr. Smith analyzes the meteorite and determines that Odd Bob is one of a species that feeds on emotion. Luke calls to alert her to the marching children and she meets the team at the museum’s front doors. She uses Mr. Smith to dial every student’s mobile, releasing them from Spellman’s thrall.

Unfortunately, the clown steals Luke, so Sarah Jane enters the museum and locks Rani and Clyde out. She heads to the Hall of Mirrors and tries to navigate the maze to Luke. Using the sonic, she shatters a mirror and uncovers a door.

Clyde and Rani sneak in through an open window as Sarah Jane confronts the clown. He tells her that he’s amassed a lot of children over the last 700 years, even though they fade away over time. He refuses to return them because to do so would eliminate his power.

Clyde and Rani figure out how to defeat fear: They start telling jokes, weakening Spellman with humor. As he weakens, Rani notices that the meteorite sample is glowing. Sarah Jane holds it out and pulls Spellman back into the vessel in which he came to Earth. Luke returns and all is well.

The rest of the children return home with no memory of their time away. Sarah Jane puts the meteorite into a safe box. Clyde makes amends with Mr. Chandra with the team’s help.

And Rani becomes a full-fledged member of the Bannerman Road Gang.

 

I like to think that her close relationship with the Doctor is why Sarah Jane prefers others to call her by both names. Only the Time Lord gets the special privilege.

That aside, this is a creepy and well-told story, hinging on a loose historical connection and playing off of a popular phobia. Bradley Walsh was phenomenal, channeling completely different (but each incredibly unsettling) personas for each face that he wore. Spellman’s robot clown army echoes the Nestene Consciousness (which we know from Spearhead from SpaceTerror of the Autons, and Rose), and the clown aspect provide a similar level of unease as The Celestial Toymaker and The Greatest Show in the Galaxy, in the latter of which the clowns were also robots.

I really admire Rani’s forthright zeal for the unknown. She’s completely enamored by the life that she could only speculate about, and I think she’ll bring a lot of energy to the team. I did keep looking for the Rani, but I’ll get used to the name in short order.

It’s also fun seeing the first Doctor Who-related meeting between actors Bradley Walsh and Anjli Mohindra (Rani). They’ll flip the roles in the Thirteenth Doctor’s era when Walsh plays a companion and Mohindra dons the villainous makeup in Nikola Tesla’s Night of Terror.

 

 

Rating: 5/5 – “Fantastic!”

 

UP NEXT – Sarah Jane Adventures: Secrets of the Stars

 

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 #SJA7: The Last Sontaran

Sarah Jane Adventures: The Last Sontaran
(2 episodes, s02e01, 2008)

 

Earth’s mightiest potato meets Bannerman Road’s exemplary half-forms.

Sarah and Maria gaze at the night sky, talking about their adventures together and everything that lies on the path before them. That next adventure materializes at the Tycho Project’s radio telescope in Goblin’s Copse as Professor Nicholas Skinner and his daughter Lucy search for alien life. Strange lights buzz about in the night sky, but upon investigation, the Skinners disappear.

The night lights intrigue Sarah Jane, who asks Mr. Smith about them in the morning. This interrupts Luke and Clyde, who have been learning about battle strategies using a computer game. Mr. Smith believes that the lights are meaningless.

Meanwhile, Alan has received a job offer. He and Maria have a lot of thinking to do.

The Bannerman Road Gang heads to Goblin’s Copse to investigate the lights. The space is large and they feel like they’re being watched. The facility is abandoned, which piques Sarah Jane’s interest. Lucy bursts in and tells them that something is in the woods before collapsing. When she comes to, she tells Sarah Jane her story. She believes that the mysterious being has her father, and both Clyde and Luke go to investigate. They are pursued by a familiar (but cloaked) figure and eventually find his spacecraft.

Lucy falls asleep, so Sarah Jane talks to Maria about the news that is bothering her. Alan’s job offer will take them to the United States, and while Sarah Jane readily accepts the news, Maria doesn’t want to leave.

Chrissy visits Alan and receives the news. Alan is apprehensive, but Chrissy says that he must take the job.

When Lucy awakens, she tells Sarah Jane and Maria about the lights. Sarah Jane believes that they are drones. Professor Skinner returns, though he’s not quite himself, and says that the lights were merely ball lightning. He kicks Sarah Jane and Maria out, but Sarah Jane knows that something is wrong.

Luke and Clyde call Sarah Jane and show her the spacecraft. She disables the cloak with her sonic lipstick, revealing a shape that she knows from her encounter with Linx and Styre. Before she can contact UNIT, the Sontaran returns and captures them. He is Commander Kaagh, but his superior warrior prowess doesn’t stop Maria from distracting him so they can all escape.

Sarah Jane tells Clyde that they need to return to the telescope. They attempt to reason with Skinner, but find him under the control of the Sontaran and meddling with satellites. Before Sarah Jane can disable the mind control device, Kaagh captures them. Meanwhile, Luke and Maria sneak in via the ventilation system.

Kaagh is intrigued as to how Sarah Jane knows his people. He is the sole survivor of the fleet that the Tenth Doctor defeated. He has vowed vengeance on Earth for the humiliation of their defeat. His plan is to use the Tycho radio telescope to steer Earth’s satellites into nuclear reactors, therefore triggering nuclear annihilation.

Clyde protests and Kaagh says that he will make a good experimental subject. When Sarah Jane steps in front of Clyde, Kaagh shoots her. Luckily, she’s only stunned because she is to be taken back to the Sontaran homeworld to stand trial for the Doctor’s crimes.

Luke and Maria rescue Clyde, prompting Kaagh to give chase through the complex. They narrowly escape through a hatch to the woods beyond. Sarah Jane awakens, locked in a room with Lucy without her tools. Sarah Jane convinces Lucy to help her rig up a tool to escape.

While Alan and Chrissy talk over the job offer, Maria calls her father and asks him to visit Mr. Smith. Of course, Chrissy crashes the party as the gang learns about probic vents, and Alan covers by saying that it’s a live-action roleplaying game. Chrissy sees through the lie and learns that the Bannerman Road Gang fights aliens. She’s eager to help save Maria.

The kids break into the Sontaran ship and scavenge for anything they can use to defeat Kaagh. Clyde runs interference as Luke mixes chemicals. Maria reveals her news to Luke, leaving Luke distraught over losing his friend. She focuses him back on task as Clyde leads Kaagh back to the telescope.

At the telescope, Sarah Jane and Lucy jam the dish’s transmissions as the program nears completion. Professor Skinner investigates and is trapped in the room as the ladies escape. They reunite with Clyde and Lucy tries to disable the program.

Chrissy and Alan arrive as Kaagh frees Professor Skinner. Elsewhere, Clyde and Sarah Jane find Luke and Maria on the run from the Sontaran drones. Sarah Jane disables the drones with her newly-recovered sonic lipstick, then dispatches Clyde and Maria to disable the telescope dish while Luke helps Lucy. Luke stops the countdown at 3:33 after figuring out that the program was constructed in base 6 notation. Because, you know, six fingers.

It’s a good thing that Kaagh doesn’t count using his toes.

Clyde and Maria are trapped by Kaagh and Skinner. They are returned to the control room where Kaagh activates Lucy as a sleeper agent. Lucy restarts the program as Kaagh holds them all at gunpoint. Kaagh is only stopped by Chrissy as she jams her designer shoe in his probic vent. Sarah Jane disables the Sontaran devices in the Skinners while Maria drugs Chrissy so she won’t remember the event.

The Bannerman Road Gang forces Kaagh back into his ship, which no longer has weapons, where he returns home to Sontar. When Maria asks if that’s last they’ve seen, Sarah Jane tells her that she hopes so. However, no matter how far someone goes away, she never considers them gone.

Chrissy wakes up in the Jackson house. Maria tells them that she’s decided they should follow the job offer. Six weeks later, Maria stops by to take one last look at the attic and to say farewell. Sarah Jane says that it’s like she’s saying goodbye to her daughter, but she’s happy for the Jacksons.

The Bannerman Road Gang says goodbye to one of their own. Chrissy tells Sarah Jane that she remembers everything, but promises not to say anything. Later that night, Clyde, Luke, and Sarah Jane gaze upward at the night sky, hoping for the best for their friend.

Sarah Jane consoles them with a few words of advice: “I learned a long time ago that if you’re missing somebody, just… look up at the night sky. Whoever it is, wherever they are, chances are they’re looking at the stars just like you. Sometimes, for all its size, the universe isn’t such a big place after all.”

 

One of the things I admire about Sarah Jane Smith is that she recognizes her limitations. As soon as she understood that the threat was a single Sontaran, she was ready to call in the cavalry. Luckily for us, she didn’t get the chance because this story provided a wonderful chance for the team to work together. Especially the kids, who really carried the bulk of the plot.

Sarah Jane seems lighter of heart this time around, and Mr. Smith has developed a personality and a sense of humor. That was helpful because it lightened the tone of the show while still bringing a meaningful story to bear. It bridged the gap between Doctor Who and Sarah Jane by bringing a mutual monster to the table, but it didn’t forget to explore the characters and their relationships.

The farewell to Maria was touching, and the impact on our team is noticeable. I felt for each of them as they lost part of their tight-knit family.

Internal references to the last season of Sarah Jane aside, this episode also made use of franchise callbacks such as the green Sontaran blood and the Marie Celeste.

I also admired how this Sontaran was less comical and more menacing. He’s also been hiding in Goblin’s Copse for a while fixing that ship because it’s been a while since they tried to poison the Earth. The only thing I wasn’t sure about was the plot device of trying to destroy the planet by smashing satellites into nuclear power facilities. The kinetic energy alone from all of Earth’s satellites impacting the planet would be devastating, but trying to use inherently stable nuclear power plants as fuel for the fire doesn’t cause a bigger boom. Just a messier one.

 

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

 

 

UP NEXT – Sarah Jane Adventures: The Day of the Clown

 

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: Series Four Summary

Doctor Who: Series Four Summary

 

The Doctor-Donna adventures were molto bene.

The story of Donna Noble was an amazing and heartbreaking journey. Her first meeting with the Doctor displayed their beautiful chemistry, and their adventures together this season showed us just how magnificent they were together.

Her humanity and his experience made a great pair, and they helped save one another in the course of their relationship: The Doctor needs a companion to counter his vast knowledge and challenge his limits, and Donna needed to see that there was a universe beyond her own self.

The fact that their relationship wasn’t romantic – countering the Rose Tyler arc and defusing the tension developed in the Martha Jones arc – was the icing on the cake.

The heartbreak, of course, is that Donna doesn’t remember her travels at the end of her time with the Doctor. The consolation is that the universe remembers her and every life she saved.

In that respect, she is indeed the most important person in the universe. A legend in her own right.

 

Series Three comes in at an average of 4.6. That’s second, only coming in behind the Ninth classic season. That is good company to keep.

 

Time Crash & Voyage of the Damned – 5
Partners in Crime – 5
The Fires of Pompeii – 5
Planet of the Ood – 4
The Sontaran Stratagem & The Poison Sky – 5
The Doctor’s Daughter – 4
The Unicorn and the Wasp – 4
Silence in the Library & Forest of the Dead – 5
Midnight – 5
Turn Left – 4
The Stolen Earth & Journey’s End – 5

Series Three (Revival Era) Average Rating: 4.6/5

 

The path forward takes a few twists and turns from here as David Tennant’s era comes to an end. Looking ahead from now to the end of the year, the Timestamps Project will proceed in airdate order and visit the second year of The Sarah Jane Adventures, the third year of Torchwood, and the third year of The Sarah Jane Adventures, with five remaining Tenth Doctor adventures interspersed throughout.

It is one great way to spend the back half of 2020.

Allons-y!

 

UP NEXT – Sarah Jane Adventures: The Last Sontaran

 

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 #204: The Stolen Earth and Journey’s End

Doctor Who: The Stolen Earth
Doctor Who: Journey’s End
(2 episodes, s04e12-e13, 2008)

 

The return of a long-dead enemy and the rise of a family.

 

The Stolen Earth

The Doctor and Donna race back to Earth to find that everything is fine. It’s a calm Saturday, but the Doctor knows that the walls of the universe are breaking down because Rose has been able to travel between realities. When they return to the TARDIS, the planet begins to shake. When the violent tremors subside, the Doctor and Donna look outside to find themselves in space.

The TARDIS is in the same place, but the Earth has been stolen.

Far across the universe, Martha Jones wakes up in New York with her UNIT team. In Cardiff, Torchwood Three are picking up the pieces. On Bannerman Road, Sarah Jane Smith and Luke dust themselves off before Mr. Smith tells them to look outside. Sylvia and Wilfred look upward as well.

The planet Earth is among twenty-six other stolen planets, all of them visible in the sky above, and Rose Tyler has just arrived with a big freakin’ gun.

Back in Earth’s orbit, the Doctor and Donna puzzle over the mystery before setting a course for the Shadow Proclamation. On Earth, Torchwood Three discovers that the planet still maintains atmosphere and heat. Both Torchwood and Mr. Smith detect a space station and a fleet of ships. UNIT spools up their alert status as the two hundred ships enter orbit.

As rioters swarm the streets, Rose stops a pair of looters before using a stolen laptop to get an update.

Martha calls Jack as the planet intercepts a single repeated signal: EXTERMINATE! It rattles all of our heroes to their very cores as Dalek saucers open fire on Earth. The Supreme Dalek declares that they are now the masters of Earth.

The TARDIS touches down at the Shadow Proclamation and is greeted by a squad of Judoon. The Doctor meets with a member of the Proclamation and learns that twenty-four planets have been taken. Donna reminds the Doctor that Pyrovillia and Adipose 3 are missing. Adding the lost moon of Poosh, they have twenty-seven planets taken out of time and space and formed into an engine. The Doctor recalls that someone tried to steal the Earth a long time ago, but it can’t be…

The UNIT forces decide to activate Project Indigo, their top-secret project that Jack doesn’t think will work. Martha puts on a backpack apparatus, is handed something called the Osterhagen Key, and teleports away using Sontaran technology. Jack believes that she is scattered into atoms because the technology lacks coordinates and stabilization.

On the Dalek station, the Supreme Dalek orders the fleet to commence landing and rounding up of humans for “the Crucible”. A familiar-looking form asks about the Doctor, warning the Supreme Dalek about his pride and that Dalek Caan has an uneasy prophecy: The Doctor is coming.

Donna is deep in thought when a member of the Proclamation gives her sustenance. She knows that something was on Donna’s back and is sorry for the loss that’s about to come. The Doctor asks Donna what he’s not thinking of and she reminds him that the bees have gone missing. The Doctor says that it means that they were going home to the planet Melissa Majoria before the Earth vanished. The Doctor uses that to trace the planet’s course – an act that forces the Proclamation to order him to join their war fleet, which he declines – and the TARDIS is off to the rescue.

On Earth, the humans in Wilf and Sylvia’s neighborhood resist. The Daleks respond by destroying their homes. Wilf uses a paintball gun to try blinding a Dalek, but it doesn’t work. Before the Dalek exterminates Donna’s family, Rose rescues them by destroying the Dalek with her gun.

The TARDIS materializes in the Medusa Cascade, a place that the Doctor hasn’t visited since he was ninety years old. They’re in the middle of a rift in time and space, but there’s no trace of the missing planets.

Torchwood and Bannerman Road listen as the United Nations surrenders the planet to the Daleks. Their sorrow is interrupted by a mysterious (familiar sounding) signal from a “subwave network”. The caller is Harriet Jones (former Prime Minister) and she links Torchwood, Bannerman Road, and Martha Jones (who materialized at her mother’s house). Rose can only listen in since Sylvia considers webcams to be “naughty”.

Introductions are made around the table – Jack admires Sarah Jane’s work, but Sarah Jane has been staying away because of all the guns – and Harriet Jones warns that they will not use the Osterhagen Key under any circumstances. Rose is a bit jealous.

Using a sentient computer program from the Mr. Copper Foundation, the subwave network can boost the signal to reach the Doctor. Sure enough, the Doctor’s Army pools their resources and opens a channel, but the Daleks are hot on their trail. The TARDIS locks onto the signal as the Daleks blow a hole into Harriet’s home. She transfers control and faces them down before they exterminate her.

The TARDIS materializes in the middle of the missing planets, now one second out of sync with the rest of the universe. The Doctor opens a channel and makes contact with everyone but Rose. Moments later, Davros breaks into the signal and reintroduces himself to the Doctor. The Doctor saw him destroyed in the first year of the Time War, but Davros was rescued by Dalek Caan after the mad Dalek hybrid shifted through the time lock and rescued him. Davros returned the favor by donating his own DNA to rebuild the Dalek Empire.

The Doctor pilots the TARDIS to Earth while Dalek Caan predicts death for the most faithful companion. Jack uses Martha’s coordinates to fix his vortex manipulator and teleport to her location as the Daleks descend on Torchwood. Ianto and Gwen mount a defense.

Sarah Jane leaves Luke in Mr. Smith’s care as she races to the TARDIS’s landing point. Rose also teleports away with a wish of luck from Donna’s family, appearing behind the Doctor and Donna on a street full of abandoned cars. The Doctor and Rose race to each other, but a Dalek rounds the corner and shoots the Doctor. Jack appears and destroys the Dalek, but they’re too late.

Rose, Jack, and Donna take the Doctor back to the TARDIS. Rose and Jack know what’s coming, but Donna has no idea. The Doctor’s hand begins to glow.

Sarah Jane is trapped by Daleks. Torchwood is under assault.

The Doctor begins to regenerate.

 

Journey’s End

The Doctor channels the regeneration energy into the hand in the bubbling jar, leaving his companions baffled. Meanwhile, Sarah Jane is rescued by the surprise appearance of Mickey Smith and Jackie Tyler, and Torchwood’s certain doom is stopped by a strange bubble in time. It’s a time lock developed by Tosh before her death, but it means that Ianto and Gwen are trapped in Torchwood HQ.

The Doctor used enough regeneration energy to heal himself, but refused to change his face. The Daleks surround the phone box and place it in a temporal prison before transporting it to the Crucible. Sarah Jane warns her saviors to put down their guns before they all surrender to the Daleks, intent on being sent to the Crucible. Martha uses Project Indigo, but only makes it as far as Germany.

Rose tells the Doctor about the coming darkness and how all the timelines are converging on Donna. The loss of power on the TARDIS also means that the capsule is as fragile as the wooden doors that it resembles. These are, after all, the Daleks that fought the Time Lords. The TARDIS lands at the Crucible, but Donna is lost in thought once more. The Doctor and his companions exit the TARDIS, certain of their fate as they face the Supreme Dalek, but Donna doesn’t leave the ship.

The TARDIS door closes and the Daleks eject the time capsule into the heart of the Crucible. The Doctor fears that it will be destroyed and begs for Donna’s life. On the TARDIS, Donna is enthralled by the hand in a jar, and she reaches for it, it glows with regeneration energy and explodes into a fully formed duplicate of the Doctor.

The new Doctor – the Metacrisis Doctor – pushes a button and the TARDIS vanishes. Everyone in the Crucible above believes it to be destroyed and Jack opens fire with his revolver. The Daleks exterminate him and lead Rose and the Doctor away as Jack revives and plays possum.

The Metacrisis Doctor fixes the TARDIS and bonds with Donna, discovering that he only has one heart. He’s a human-Time Lord hybrid, and he believes Donna to be special. They’ve been heading to this moment from the very beginning, from the runaway bride to the convenient parking of Donna’s car near the TARDIS during the Adipose incident. But time or destiny or fate or whatever is not done yet.

Martha arrives at a castle, one of the Osterhagen bases. The caretaker threatens her by gunpoint not to go through with the plan, but Martha presses on.

On the Crucible, Jack escapes disposal and is free to find his allies. Meanwhile, Sarah Jane and her new friends arrive. The Doctor and Rose are put in confinement beams and converse with Davros, who the Doctor calls the Daleks’ pet. Davros reveals Dalek Caan, the last of the Cult of Skaro, and says that the Supreme Dalek is afraid of the mad hybrid’s prophecies about the Children of Time. Davros revels in the darkness with the Doctor, but the Time Lord puts it away as quickly as it surfaced when he learns about the secret weapon: A reality bomb.

As the prisoners are processed, Sarah Jane and Mickey escape with her sonic lipstick. The Daleks test their reality bomb on the prisoners, using the neutrino energy channeled through the aligned planets as a weapon. Just as it’s about to fire, Jackie’s teleporter recharges and she escapes as the prisoners are vaporized. They literally vanished from existence.

Davros plans to destroy the entirety of creation, every single corner of reality in every universe. The only thing to remain will be the Daleks.

Jack meets up with Sarah Jane, Mickey, and Jackie. Jack and Mickey share a manly hug as Sarah Jane produces a warp star – a warp fold conjugation trapped in a carbonized shell, or an “explosion waiting to happen”, gifted to her by a Verron soothsayer – to destroy the Crucible. On Earth, Martha makes contact with the other Osterhagen bases and opens a channel to the Crucible, threatening to use a chain of twenty-five nuclear warheads around the globe to destroy the planet. Jack also makes contact, threatening to use the warp star to destroy the Crucible, and Davros is pleased to see Sarah Jane once again.

Davros is pleased that the Doctor, a pacifist, has honed his companions into weapons ready to kill. He asks the Doctor – the man who keeps running because he dare not look back for fear of the shame – to consider how many others have died in his name. The drama is a distraction as the Supreme Dalek locks onto all of the Doctor’s allies and teleports them to the Doctor’s location.

The Daleks then initiate the reality bomb.

One the TARDIS, the Metacrisis Doctor and Donna rig a device to cause the reality bomb to backfire. The TARDIS materializes in the Crucible and the Metacrisis Doctor races out, but Davros strikes him with an electrical charge before trapping him. Donna picks up the device and is similarly dispatched before Davros destroys the weapon. Unfortunately for the Daleks, Donna stops the reality bomb, Davros, and the Daleks with knowledge that she shouldn’t have.

The creation of the Metacrisis Doctor was a two-way street. It created the Doctor-Donna, which was sparked by Davros when he shot her.

The Time Lords and humans send the missing planets home and round up the Daleks. Davros asked why Dalek Caan couldn’t see this coming, but the truth is that Dalek Caan put everything in motion to end the Dalek reign of terror. The Supreme Dalek tries to stop them, but Jack destroys it. As the Doctor rushes into the TARDIS, the Metacrisis Doctor decides to send a surge of energy into the entire fleet to prevent the Daleks from attacking the universe.

As the Daleks explode, the Doctor is appalled at the bloodlust of his duplicate, and he rushes his allies into the TARDIS. The Doctor offers sanctuary for Davros, but earns the name “Destroyer of Worlds” in return as his offer is declined. The TARDIS takes off but cannot break free of the time bubble, so the Doctor contacts Torchwood and Bannerman Road – including K9! – to break free with every companion on the console.

Just as the TARDIS is meant to be flown.

The time capsule tows the planet Earth back to its rightful place in our solar system. As they arrive, having saved the world in epic fashion, the console room erupts in a celebration that bleeds onto the planet below.

The Doctor bids farewell once again to Sarah Jane, who tells him that he has the biggest family on Earth. Mickey decides to stay behind in this reality as the Doctor disables Jack’s vortex manipulator. Jack and Martha walk away with Mickey in close pursuit.

The Doctor takes the TARDIS to Bad Wolf Bay in Rose’s parallel universe. Jackie tells the Metacrisis Doctor that she needs to find her husband and son, and the Doctor tells Rose that he’s leaving his clone with her. The Metacrisis Doctor is exactly how Rose found the Doctor, full of anger and fury, and he needs Rose’s influence to grow and change. The big difference is that he is part human and will grow old with her.

She asks the Doctor what he was going to say on the day he left her behind in Bad Wolf Bay. The Metacrisis Doctor whispers the answer to her and they kiss as the TARDIS vanishes from sight.

As the TARDIS flies, Donna’s Time Lord knowledge begins to overload her brain. She wants to stay with him, but if she does, the metacrisis will destroy her. She cannot be with him forever as she wanted. She begs him not to leave her behind, but he has no choice but to say goodbye as he wipes her mind.

He delivers her home and makes Wilf and Sylvia promise that she can never remember anything about her travels with the Doctor. If she remembers any thread of it, she will die. Wilf is understanding but angry, and he takes solace in the fact that she saved so many in her travels. For one shining moment she was the most important woman in existence. Sylvia says that she still is. The Doctor reminds her to tell Donna every once in a while.

Donna awakens and rushes in, but she doesn’t remember any of it. The Doctor bids her farewell as John Smith, and Wilf promises to look up to the stars on his behalf every night. The Doctor walks away in the rain takes flight in the TARDIS once more.

Time Lord victorious. Time Lord alone.

 

It is no secret that this story earns every last bit of a high rating.  The balance of action and dramatic tension as all of our heroes from the last four years come together to defeat one of the Doctor’s oldest enemies is masterful. They all bring strengths and weaknesses, and they leverage all of them together to save the world. The universe. All of creation.

The cinematography was quite impressive. I was blown away by the beautiful dichotomy between the close shots of the celebrating family and the long shots of the Doctor alone and somewhat defeated.

There’s also a great deal of attention paid to the franchise’s mythology, both old and new. It’s important for them to do so because, hey, it’s the Daleks. We met Davros in Genesis of the Daleks and watched him lose his hand in Revelation of the Daleks. UNIT gets another crack at the Daleks after their first encounter in Day of the Daleks. The Daleks tried to steal the Earth before in The Dalek Invasion of Earth, which is also where we first encountered a Supreme Dalek.

We last saw Davros and the Supreme Dalek in Remembrance of the Daleks as the Dalek Civil War came to a close, and that’s a really interesting dynamic: Davros commanded the Imperial Daleks and the Supreme Dalek commanded the Renegades. After the Time War, it seems that bygones are bygones as there is only one faction of Daleks now.

Of course, in the post-Time War era, we’ve seen the Cult of Skaro. Survivors of the Time War, it adds a twist as a hybrid helps give birth to the new Dalek empire before destroying it.

In more comical callbacks, we’ve seen Daleks disabled by attacking their eyestalks – The DaleksPlanet of the DaleksResurrection of the DaleksRevelation of the DaleksThe Parting of the Ways – often screaming, “My vision is impaired!” This time, the trope was flipped to both humorous appeal and heightened tension.

The Doctor has been shot by a Dalek before, but this is the first time it was effectively lethal. When the Third Doctor took a hit from a Dalek cannon in Planet of the Daleks, he was only paralyzed for a short time.

In terms of the missing planets, the theft of Earth is nothing new since it was stolen by the Time Lords (and renamed Ravolox) in The Trial of a Time Lord. Earth’s twin planet Mondas was moved and became home to the Cybermen.

We heard about Adipose 3, Pyrovillia, and the Lost Moon of Poosh through this series. We’ve never seen Shallacatop or Jahoo, but three others have been mentioned in one way or another: Clom was the home of the Abzorbaloff (Love & Monsters), Woman Wept was the site of an off-screen adventure for Rose and the Ninth Doctor (Boom Town), and Calufrax Minor could be in the same vein as the miniaturized Calufrax from The Pirate Planet.

Then we get to the Children of Time.

I know that Rose is a fan favorite, but I stand by my assessment that Martha was superior in every way. Rose is a liability to the Doctor, almost costing him his life in the middle of a war. Sure, the reunion was touching, but her jealousy was nearly intolerable.

It’s a little ironic that an avatar resembling her will be the key to saving the Doctors, the Time Lords, and Gallifrey down the road.

The consequences of the Rose and Doctor relationship also gives us the notion that Time Lords have some degree of control over their regenerations.

Martha, Sarah Jane, and Jack continue to bring their strengths to bear in a conflict, each tackling the problem with their unique skillsets. I had the biggest grin at Sarah Jane’s line about Torchwood using their guns too often, and Jack’s fanboy nature over Sarah Jane was adorable.

Gwen (who gets the callback to The Unquiet Dead) and Ianto holding down the fort at Torchwood makes sense, particularly since they’ve never encountered Daleks before. The same goes for Luke and Mr. Smith. I was also pleased to see Mickey (“Us Smiths gotta stick together!”) and Jackie following Rose through the breach and, in a natural evolution since their debut, fighting for their planet.

That leaves us with Donna. Oh, Donna. Her departure is heartbreaking, particularly since she wanted to travel with the Doctor for the rest of her life. She considered him to be her destiny, and she was correct thanks to Dalek Caan. Now she doesn’t remember any part of her adventures with the Doctor, even though the universe remembers her.

Donna Noble was the Doctor’s conscience, saving him with her direct nature and wide-eyed innocence more than once. She reminded him of his empathy, which Davros tries to use against him by reminding him of those who sacrificed themselves for him and those he couldn’t save – Harriet Jones, Ceth Ceth Jafe, the Controller, Lynda Moss, Sir Robert MacLeish, Angela Price, Colin Skinner, Ursula Blake, Bridget Sinclair, the Face of Boe, Chantho, Astrid Peth, Luke Rattigan, Jenny, River Song, and the hostess – and how easily any of his Earth family could join those ranks.

None of the Doctor’s companions physically died to save the world, but the Donna that he knew is gone. She didn’t love him, but she loved everything about him. She believed in him. She saved him.

And he saved her in turn.

I’m going to miss her.

 

Rating: 5/5 – “Fantastic!”

 

UP NEXT – Series Four Summary

 

 

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.

 

 

Culture on My Mind – WHOlanta’s Virtual TARDIS

Culture on My Mind
May 18, 2020

 

This week starts with news of a virtual convention.

This year was supposed to be our hiatus year from Wholanta. But current lockdown situation has provided a way for us to have a con after all! And basically, I have a slight problem and have had a difficult time letting this thing go. So another Wholanta is born!

WHOlanta, the Atlanta-area Doctor Who-centric convention, hung up the scarf and bow tie last year after their annual celebration of all things wibbly-wobbly and timey-wimey. But, as R. Alan Siler said, there was an opportunity so he jumped on it.

The convention will be hosting a virtual event on Saturday, May 30th from noon to 8:00pm EST. So far, they have character/creature actor Jon Davey, actress Sophie Aldred (who portrayed Ace), revival era director Rachel Talalay, and series composer Dominic Glynn. They also promise more guest announcements to come.

For the celebrity panels, there will be streaming Q&As where attendees can post their questions in the chat. They’ll also be supporting a virtual dealer room and cosplayers.

Keep an eye on their Facebook page for more information.

 

Culture on My Mind is inspired by the weekly Can’t Let It Go segment on the NPR Politics Podcast where each host brings one thing to the table that they just can’t stop thinking about.

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

Timestamp #203: Turn Left

Doctor Who: Turn Left
(1 episode, s04e11, 2008)

 

What could have been if not for a Noble companion?

The Doctor and Donna have stopped in a bustling marketplace on an alien world. While mixing it up with the locals, Donna wanders away to explore and finds herself in the company of a local fortuneteller. Offered a free reading since she’s a redhead, Donna takes a seat. The fortuneteller talks to her about the Doctor and Donna recounts her first meeting with the Time Lord.

While a mysterious scurrying occurs behind her, she flashes back to her time as a temp with H.C. Clements and the offer she turned down businessman Jival Chowdry. The moment of decision for her entire future was sitting at an intersection with her mother. She turned left…

…but what if she had turned right?

A large insect latches on to her back and the fortuneteller convinces her to turn right. She does.

The next time we see Donna Noble, she’s at a Christmas party celebrating her recent promotion with a round of drinks for her friends. One of her friends, Alice, almost sees the creature on her back, but they’re interrupted by the arrival of the Racnoss Webstar. The invading spacecraft is destroyed by UNIT and the Racnoss queen was killed, but the Doctor drowned in the assault. He was unable to regenerate.

Donna walks away by is soon met by none other than Rose Tyler. She came so far but was too late to meet with the Doctor, but she spots the insect on Donna’s back before vanishing into thin air.

Due to the closure of the Thames, Chowdry’s company has been losing money and Donna has been fired. Simultaneously, the Royal Hope Hospital has vanished into the sky. When it returns, there is only one survivor: Medical student Oliver Morgenstern. He was saved by Martha Jones, but she died as a result. Sarah Jane Smith and the Bannerman Road Gang were there as well, but they died while trying to stop the incursion. Wilfred is convinced that aliens are to blame, but Donna wants to hear none of it.

Donna takes a walk and finds Rose again as she emerges from loud flashes of light. The insect comes up again before Rose asks her about Christmas plans. She suggests that Donna and her family take a holiday, using the winnings from a future raffle ticket to afford it. Donna warns her to stay away and Rose vanishes again.

Sure enough, next Christmas, Donna’s family travel to the countryside. On Christmas Day, they watch as the Titanic smashes into Buckingham Palace. As a mushroom cloud rises over London – and Donna nearly spots the insect in a mirror – the terror and shock set in as they realize that everyone they know is dead.

Now refugees, her family is forced to relocate to Leeds to escape the radiation. Meanwhile, France has closed its borders to refugees, but the Nobles are allocated a house with two other families. The United States offers monetary assistance, but they are forced to withdraw their support when sixty million Americans are killed and converted to Adipose. Every major world city is affected as well.

The Nobles bond with their housemates, but they’re interrupted by soldiers firing at cars. The Sontarans have activated the ATMOS system and covered the planet in a poisonous fog. One of the soldiers spots the insect and takes aim at Donna, but he can’t find it later. Donna follows the flashing lights to find Rose in a nearby alley.

The two companions sit on a bench and talk about the crisis. The sky lights up as the gas burns away, courtesy of Torchwood Three. Gwen and Ianto died in the attempt, and Jack was taken to the Sontaran homeworld. Rose talks about the Doctor, how he saved the world from all of these events, and how Donna traveled with him in another reality. Had she been there to save him from himself under the Thames, the world would be in a better place. Rose has come to warn the Doctor of a darkness that threatens both of their universes, calling Donna the most important woman in the whole of creation.

Rose asks her to come along, finally settling on a time three weeks from now. She vanishes with an ominous prophecy: Donna Noble will die.

The Nobles bid farewell to their Italian housemates, courtesy of a new law that evicts all immigrants from England. They’re going to labor camps, which Wilf recognizes as the first step to fascism that he fought against before. Later that night, Wilf and Donna relax by the fire as he looks through his telescope. While trying to find Orion, the stars vanish from the night sky. Donna finds Rose and tells her that she is ready.

They hitch a ride with UNIT to a warehouse filled with computers, mirrors, and the TARDIS. The police box was salvaged from the Thames wreckage, and when Donna goes in, she finds it cold and dark even though she’s amazed. The ship is dying but still trying to muster the energy to help.

Using that energy, Rose is able to show Donna the insect with a circle of mirrors. The beetle feeds off time, specifically from decisions not made. By turning right instead of left, Donna has given the beetle a temporal smorgasbord. Rose recognizes that both the Doctor and Donna are necessary to stop the stars from going out. Scared out her mind, Donna asks what she can do to help.

Rose tells her that Donna needs to travel through time.

After a quick briefing, Donna steps back into the mirror circle – which is actually a homemade time machine – with the intent of changing her car’s direction. The machine is activated, but Donna has the revelation that she still has to die to save the world.

She materializes on a sidewalk in Sutton Court, half a mile and three minutes from her destiny. She starts running but soon realizes that she won’t make it in time. With the revelation echoing in her mind, she understands what she has to do.

She steps out in front of a truck, sacrificing her life to cause a traffic jam. As Donna dies, Rose whispers two words in her ear as a message for the Doctor, and Donna Noble turns left.

The insect falls off as the reset button is pushed. The Doctor comes in as the fortuneteller runs off, and Donna wraps him in a hug. They examine the insect as they talk about Donna’s adventure and her knack for finding parallel worlds. The Doctor wonders about the coincidences in their travels together, and when he calls her brilliant, Donna remembers Rose.

Except she never knew Rose’s name.

But she does know two words: Bad Wolf.

The Doctor rushes back to the TARDIS, seeing “Bad Wolf” everywhere. Inside, the console room is bathed in red light and the Cloister Bell is ringing.

The end of the universe is coming.

 

This “what if” story is a great dark tale that is really just a setup for the season finale. We get the greatest hits of the Tenth Doctor’s saves of Earth without seeing much of David Tennant at all. He was filming Midnight while Catherine Tate was engaged on this “Doctor-lite” adventure, one in a similar vein to Love & Monsters and Blink, but with a much darker direction.

It’s also a tease for the all-star cavalcade to come with nice touches for each mention: Martha’s theme and a pop of the Torchwood theme accompany their non-appearances, and the news report surrounding Sarah Jane’s heroic death mentions her employment with the Metropolitan, which is where she mentioned working to the Third Doctor in Planet of the Spiders. Rose obviously gets her theme throughout.

Catherine Tate sells this story, from Donna’s depression as the planet falls apart around her to her abject terror when she finally sees the time beetle on her back, which finally pays off the prophecy from The Fires of Pompeii. Her acting skill is just amazing and is showcased by not being overshadowed by or in competition with Tennant’s energy.

 

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

 

 

UP NEXT – Doctor Who: The Stolen Earth and Doctor Who: Journey’s End

 

 

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.