Timestamp #221: The Impossible Astronaut & Day of the Moon

Doctor Who: The Impossible Astronaut
Doctor Who: Day of the Moon
(2 episodes, s06e01-02, 2011)

Timestamp 221 The Impossible Astronaut

Welcome to the Silence.

Prequel

In the White House, President Nixon answers the telephone in the Oval Office. The line only clicks until he asks, “Is it you again?” A child’s voice tells him to look behind him for a threat that is everywhere but no one can see. When asked, the child says that the spaceman told her about them. President Nixon refuses to believe them.

He hangs up the phone and leans back. A mysterious alien stares at him, but neither the President nor his aide seem to notice.

The Impossible Astronaut

In the 17th century, Charles II storms into the painter Matilda’s room and demands to see the Doctor. Standing before a painting of the Time Lord, who is depicted wearing nothing but a strategically placed red cloth, Matilda replies, “Doctor who?”

She nearly gets away with it except for a sneeze from her skirts. The Doctor is naked, hiding under Matilda, with the explanation that the situation is really not as bad as it looks.

In 2011, Amy tells Rory about the incident as detailed in a history book. It, along with other incidents such as a World War II POW camp and a Laurel and Hardy film, seem to be signals to the Ponds. A TARDIS-blue envelope containing unsigned invitation arrives in the mail and they follow it to Utah.

They are greeted by the Doctor, wearing a Stetson that is soon shot off by River Song (who also got an invitation). They convene in a roadside diner and catch up. The Doctor tells them that he’s been running faster than ever before, but that it’s time to stop. They’re going to have a picnic and then he’s headed to space in 1969.

On the shores of Lake Silencio, the team shares wine, cheese, and fruit. Rory spots one of the creatures from the White House but after she looks away, she forgets about it. The discussion is interrupted by an old man arriving in a truck and waving to the Doctor. The Doctor looks to the lake and spots an astronaut in a full Apollo spacesuit. He tells his companions that, whatever happens, they are not to interfere, then walks to meet the astronaut.

He seems to know what is coming, but his companions are shocked when the astronaut shoots him with an energy weapon. The Doctor begins to regenerate, but the astronaut takes aim and fires again. The mysterious visitor retreats into the lake as the companions mourn the Doctor’s death. The old man brings a gas can, confirming the Time Lord’s identity and death, and River knows that they have to cremate the body.

After the service, the man introduces himself as Canton Everett Delaware III. He received an envelope as well, and he tells the assembled that he won’t see them again but that they will see him. Delaware leaves and the companions return to the diner. River notes that the envelopes are numbered so this was all planned in advance. The Doctor arrives shortly afterward, having held the first envelope, and it is determined that he is an earlier version of himself. He was invited the same as the others.

They all take a trip in the TARDIS to 1969. The team is upset with the Doctor and the companions try to reason through the puzzle, but they have no idea why the future Doctor recruited them all. They also cannot ask the Doctor himself, who nearly turns the TARDIS around when they won’t tell him the truth. After all, River is a convicted murderer and the Doctor does not trust mysterious summonses. Amy asks him to trust the team, swearing that she’s not lying about being under duress. The Doctor places his life in her hands.

Delaware is a former FBI agent who is summoned to the White House by President Nixon. The two men are in a meeting about the mysterious phone calls when the TARDIS materializes in stealth mode. The Doctor pops out of the phone box just in time to hear the recording and is spotted by the men. The President calls the Secret Service as the Doctor demands that River make the TARDIS visible.

In short order, the travelers are held at gunpoint but the Doctor persuades Delaware and Nixon to give him five minutes. As the Doctor helps the Americans to track the call to Florida – home of NASA and the spacemen – Amy spots the alien again. When she looks away, she forgets. She visits the restroom and spots the alien again. While she keeps an eye on it, another woman emerges from a toilet cubicle and is eventually killed after spotting it. Amy snaps a picture of the alien and rushes out to her Secret Service companion, promptly forgetting the encounter.

The phone rings again. On the other end, the child says that the spaceman is there and that she needs help. The travelers jet off in the TARDIS – Delaware tags along by accident – and find the call’s origin at the intersections of Jefferson, Adams, and Hamilton Streets, clues provided by the child.

The travelers find stolen NASA technology and alien residue leading into a tunnel network. River investigates and finds a group of the aliens. She rushes out, forgets the encounter, and decides to take another look. The Doctor asks Rory to follow her. As they investigate, they find a maintenance hatch that River picks open while they discuss her relationship with the Doctor. The two are a traveling different directions in time: Her past is his future.

They open the hatch and find a control room similar to the one hidden away in the house with Craig Owens. It sounds an alarm and Rory spots the creatures but forgets them. River learns that there are tunnels like the one they’re in all over Earth and that they’ve been here for thousands of years. Behind Rory, electricity crackles and something approaches.

Amy, Delaware, and Amy hear the child cry for help and they pursue. Amy reveals that she’s pregnant, Delaware is knocked unconscious, and the astronaut approaches them. Amy draws Delaware’s gun and shoots the astronaut, intent on saving the Doctor’s life, only realizing too late that the suit contains the young girl from the telephone.

Day of the Moon

Three months later, Amy is being chased through the Utah desert. Her pursuers, including Delaware, corner her on a cliff. Amy tries to help him remember their escape from the aliens in the warehouse, but he shoots her. She has a series of hashmarks on her arms.

Delaware travels to Area 51 to ask the Doctor, now his prisoner, about the marks. Meanwhile, River is in New York City with a similar set marks. When she spots one of the aliens, she adds a mark to her arm. Delaware arrives shortly thereafter and corners her, but she dives off the building.

Rory is also cornered and shot at the Glen Canyon Dam, and he and Amy are taken to Area 51 in body bags and placed with the Doctor in a cell constructed of dwarf star alloy. The room is impervious to signals and, once sealed, provides the perfect opportunity for Amy, Rory, and the Doctor to stage their escape. To seal the deal, the TARDIS is parked directly behind the Doctor in stealth mode. The travelers and Delaware board the TARDIS, catch River in mid-air, and materialize at Cape Kennedy and the site of Apollo 11’s historic launch.

The Doctor injects everyone with nano-recorders while they discuss the last three months. The marks were from each time one of the creatures were spotted, and it should be easier to find them with the recording devices. They test it with a holographic image extrapolated from Amy’s photograph, and also discover that even the image of the creatures induces the memory loss.

Later, Delaware and Amy arrive at Graystark Hall. They meet Dr. Renfrew and learn that the facility will close in 1967. Oddly, it is now 1969. The walls are also covered in messages to get out, but Renfrew has no idea how they keep appearing. Amy investigates the facility while Delaware meets with Renfrew. She discovers a message she left on her nano-recorder demanding that she get out. She sees her reflection, noting that her arms and face are covered in hashmarks. She looks up to see a bunch of the creatures hanging like bats, but moments later she’s leaving the room without any recollection.

The Doctor installs some type of transmitter in the Apollo spacecraft. He’s taken into custody but soon released under orders from Nixon in a rather humorous exchange. The Doctor asks Nixon to record everything that happens in the Oval Office.

Amy continues on, soon spotting a door with a sliding observation port. A woman with an eyepatch spots her through the slot, but the room beyond is a child’s bedroom. The woman is nowhere to be found. Amy finds photos of herself holding a newborn, then is met by the child in the spacesuit and two of the creatures.

Delaware and Renfrew are interrupted by one of the creatures. Delaware records a brief exchange with it then shoots the creature before running toward the sound of Amy’s screams. Rory, River, and the Doctor join him to find an empty spacesuit and Amy’s recorder. It’s a live transmission from wherever Amy is being held.

Renfrew summons the group to his office to tend to the wounded creature. It identifies itself as the Silence, which the Doctor recalls from the events of last year. They have been on the planet since the Stone Age. The travelers return to the warehouse while Delaware emerges from the dwarf star box after several days with President Nixon. The spacesuit is a perfect life support capsule, which explains how the child survived a gunshot. The Doctor also speculates that Apollo 11 traveled to the Moon because the Silence needed a spacesuit. After all, they don’t make their own technology.

Delaware tends to the wounded Silence in the dwarf star box and uses Amy’s phone to record a threatening message from the being. He transmits it to the Doctor. Meanwhile, the Doctor traces the nano-recorder signal to the console room in the tunnel system. Inside that room, Amy awakens to a room full of Silence, and the TARDIS arrives soon after. The Doctor recognizes the room as he brings a television in and orders River to keep the Silence covered while Rory frees Amy.

Here’s the twist: The Doctor has rigged Neil Armstrong’s spacesuit to transmit a message as soon as he touches the lunar surface. It is the threat from the wounded Silence, telling everyone in the sound of its voice to kill the Silence on site.

The whole planet is watching. The whole planet responds. Today is the day that the human race throws the Silence off the planet.

The Silence respond by attacking the travelers. Everyone runs for the TARDIS as River covers their escape, successfully killing every one of the creatures. The TARDIS takes off as Amy and Rory share an intimate moment, landing in the Oval Office so the Doctor can say farewell to Nixon and Delaware.

The Doctor evades Nixon’s queries about his future with the promise that the president will never be forgotten. After the Doctor leaves, Nixon almost grants Delaware’s request to be married… until he figures out that Delaware is homosexual.

The Doctor leaves River at Stormcage. He offers to take her along, but she declines. They share a passionate kiss, which ends up being the first for the Doctor… which makes it the last for her. As the TARDIS takes flight again, the Doctor asks about Amy’s pregnancy, which is news to Rory.

Amy assures her husband that she’s not pregnant. The Doctor runs a scan on Amy without her knowledge, but is concerned since the Amy is simultaneously pregnant and not pregnant.

Six months later, a homeless man on the streets of New York City finds the child from the spacesuit. The child coughs repeatedly, claiming that she’s dying. She soon solves that problem, however, as she begins to regenerate.


This story’s power comes from its frantic and almost disordered plot. It has the potential to confuse the viewer because it requires nearly complete concentration to keep track of the various narrative threads. That frenetic pace ties in beautifully with the nature of the Silence, from missing large pieces of the plot to having them filled in only when it was necessary.

Another potential pitfall is the Steven Moffat habit of being super clever for the sake of being so. This story could have easily done that, but the rewards were substantial enough to make it feel like a significant return on investment. We have a few threads laid down for the season, including eyepatch lady, the yes/no pregnancy, and the regenerating child.

(Of course, having seen all of this before, I know what’s coming. I’ll take a River Song approach and avoid spoilers for anyone reading this who hasn’t seen it.)

And, you know, the parallels with 1988’s They Live just make me smile. I do love that film.

I still have reservations about Amy and her treatment of Rory. She’s open with the Doctor about her pregnancy, but she’s willing to hide it from Rory while still claiming to love him. Her actions speak more of abuse than love. On the other hand, we see the tragedy of the Doctor/River relationship. They work so well together, but the crossing paths nature is heartbreaking at times.

The stories take time out to pay tribute to Elisabeth Sladen. She died four days before the initial broadcast of the first part of this story, and I’d expect nothing less from Doctor Who for one the most popular companions ever.

I loved the symmetry in casting the Delawares. William Morgan Sheppard, the older Delaware, is the real-life father of Mark Sheppard, the younger Delaware. This isn’t the first time that they’ve played older and younger versions of a character, and they have also portrayed father and son pairs. I love seeing both of them on screen from their copious amount of work in film and television.

I also loved seeing the Valley of the Gods and Lake Powell (“Lake Silencio”) on screen again. I grew up in Utah, so the landscape is easily recognizable. The Southern Utah deserts have been popular filming locations for decades. In terms of internal mythology, we last visited Utah in Dalek, though we didn’t see anything of the world outside at that point.

One thing that really intrigues me is the idea that multiple Doctors are in the same location at the same time. The Eleventh Doctor’s three-month-long incarceration at Area 51 coincides with the Tenth Doctor being stranded in Blink and the Second and Third Doctor’s adventures with UNIT (for reference, The Invasion, Spearhead from Space, Doctor Who and the Silurians, and The Ambassadors of Death). Neil Armstrong’s historic moonwalk also coincides with Blink and The Ambassadors of Death. It adds credence to the idea that we saw in Rose that the Doctor can be in so many places and times at once.

Last but not least, I laughed about River chastising the Doctor about using his sonic screwdriver in battle. The callback to The Doctor Dances was great, as was hanging a lampshade on the tendency to use the sonic as a magic wand instead of a scientific instrument.

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


UP NEXT – Doctor Who: The Curse of the Black Spot

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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 #220: A Christmas Carol

Doctor Who: A Christmas Carol
(Christmas Special, 2010)

Timestamp 220 A Christmas Carol

Three spirits, a Christmas miracle, and a sonic shark.

A passenger liner is plummeting toward the surface of an unknown turbulent planet. The captain cancels Christmas as she attempts to save the ship, and as she detects a distress signal from the honeymoon suite, Amy and Rory race in wearing their fun costumes of a kiss-o-gram cop and a centurion.

The distress signal they sent summons the Doctor who signals the ship with a simple text: “Come along, Pond.”

On the surface is a village in the throes of a Christmas Eve celebration. The planet and the artificial storm when the cruiseliner is trapped are owned by Karzan Sardick, a wealthy and heartless man who acts as a loanshark through a business he inherited. To secure the the loans, he cryogenically freezes family members of the borrowers as collateral.

As one family begs for their family to be thawed for a day, the Doctor arrives via chimney. Sardick has denied the cruiseliner permission to be rescued, and the Doctor’s attention bounces from the poor family to the storm machine and the frozen girl. Sardick says that the girl is not important, but the Doctor replies that he has never met anyone who wasn’t important.

The machine’s controls are isomorphic and coded to Sardick alone. The Doctor tries to appeal to his better nature, but Sardick ejects the family and the Doctor with a bout of violence. When Sardick refrains from striking the young boy as the family leaves, the Doctor sees a crack in Sardick’s façade.

The Doctor touches base with the Ponds before being warned to seek cover for the night. After all, the fish that swim through the clouds are particularly fervent tonight. The Doctor is inspired by a Christmas carol playing on the loudspeakers and launches a plan to save the cruiseliner.

Sardick awakens to find his dream projected on the wall of his study. When he was twelve, he wanted to film one of the sky fish, but his father punished him by striking the boy and sealing his window. The Doctor plumbs the depths of this memory, then boards the TARDIS and travels back in time to Sardick’s boyhood, right into the film being projected.

Acting as young Sardick’s babysitter, the Doctor decides to make the boy’s dream come true. Using the sonic screwdriver, the Doctor lures a sky fish in through the window while he and Sardick hide in the wardrobe. The boy is interested in seeing the fish because he missed his chance by being sick at school on the day his class got to see them. When the sky fish nibbles on the line, the Doctor leaves the wardrobe to investigate. He surmises that the fish travels on electrical currents generated in the atmosphere’s high water content. His investigation is cut short by a large shark that eats the little fish and chases the Doctor back into the wardrobe.

On the one hand, the Doctor is pleased because he has a better understanding of the clouds and can analyze the readings (once he retrieves his sonic screwdriver from the shark). On the other hand, the shark rams the wardrobe and pins its occupants against the wall. The Doctor bravely dives into the shark and retrieves half the sonic, but he and young Sardick lament the fact that the shark is dying after being out of the clouds for so long.

As a life support measure, the boy takes the Doctor to the vault where all of the collateral is kept. He travels forward briefly to get the code to the door from the older Sardick, then enters the vault with the boy in the past. The shark has followed them, lured by the fog emanating from the open vault. After a brief chase, the shark is lulled to sleep by the song of Abigail Pettigrew, one of the frozen who has been freed.

The Doctor realizes that singing induces a sympathetic harmonic that the fish like, which is the same principle that drives the cloud machine in the future. The Doctor puts the shark in Abigail’s box and takes his new companions on a ride in the TARDIS. Meanwhile, in the future, Abigail’s portrait has appeared on the elder Sardick’s wall. The shark is set free and Abigail is returned to her box with a promise that they will return every Christmas.

Sure enough, the Doctor and Sardick awaken Abigail one year later, unaware of the countdown on her box. They call the shark with the sonic and take a sleigh ride. The tradition continues as Sardick ages and his future self marvels over the new memories, ranging from New York to the Pyramids.

One year, Abigail asks to see her family again. She weeps as she watches her family have the life she can never have, and Sardick consoles her. The Doctor arranges a small celebration with Abigail’s family. Abigail explains her situation and vouches for Sardick’s character, and the group shares a holiday dinner before Abigail returns to her box with a kiss for Sardick.

The next year brings a Hollywood party for the trio. Abigail nearly reveals the truth about her life to Sardick, but they are forced to leave early since the Doctor has inadvertently become engaged to Marilyn Monroe. Abigail knows that there is nothing to be done, and as Sardick returns Abigail to her box, he tells the Doctor that he’d like to break the tradition in favor of working on the cloud machine.

The Doctor is sad that Sardick hasn’t evolved from his future attitudes, but gives the man his broken sonic screwdriver as he leaves. In the future, the portrait reverts from Abigail’s to Sardick’s father. One year later, the Sardicks complete work on the machine, and while the younger man considers calling the Doctor and resuming the tradition, he turns away.

The future Sardick digs the abandoned sonic out of his drawer, rejects another plea from the cruiseliner, and then meets the Ghost of Christmas Present… or rather, Amy’s hologram. She projects the crew and passengers into the vault, singing Silent Night as a further plea for their lives. The Doctor has told Amy about Abigail and Sardick tells her about Abigail’s terminal illness. The countdown has been tracking the number of days Abigail has to leave.

Amy and Rory reverse the transmission to bring Sardick’s hologram to the ship’s bridge. When Sardick is not swayed, he’s returned to the vault to face the Doctor. The Time Lord apologizes, but then brings the cruel man face to face with his twelve-year-old self. The elder’s heart is broken and he apologizes to his younger self.

The elder Sardick attempts to save the ship but the machine no longer recognizes him since he’s changed so much. Sardick flashes the sonic screwdriver and the Doctor realizes that the other half is still in the shark. Unfortunately, to lure the shark, they need Abigail’s song. The Sardicks release her, knowing that her death is imminent, but Abigail is overjoyed to spend one last Christmas with the man she loves.

Abigail’s song is broadcast into the clouds through the sonic screwdriver, drawing the two halves together. The resonance induces a Christmas snow to fall. High above, the cruiseliner stabilizes and everyone aboard celebrates. As the Christmas mood spreads through the village, the Doctor takes the younger Sardick home.

Some time later, the Ponds reunite with the Doctor. The Time Lord rejects a phone call from Marilyn Monroe, absolutely convinced that it wasn’t a real chapel after all. As the travelers depart for their next adventure, Sardick and Abigail sail the skies in a shark-drawn sleigh.


Steven Moffat promised that this holiday story would be the most “Christmassy Christmas special ever” and “all your favourite Christmas movies at once, in an hour, with monsters and the Doctor and a honeymoon.”

Mission accomplished.

There have been countless adaptations of Charles Dickens’s famous novel, and this one adds a Doctor Who flair to the timeless tale. Karzan Sardick takes the Scrooge journey courtesy of the Christmas Ghosts:  The Doctor takes the role of the Ghost of Christmas Past, Amy is the Ghost of Christmas Present, and Sardick himself becomes the Ghost of Christmas Future (or Christmas Yet to Come). In a sense, Abigail fills the roles of Jacob Marley and “Tiny Tim” Cratchit.

The redemption story is touching and drew me in because of the unique take. We get to watch Scrooge evolve and grow as the Doctor brings the trademark love and compassion to bear. The tragedy of the love affair is heartbreaking, played so well by both Michael Gambon and Danny Horn as both versions of Sardick live through the memories. Katherine Jenkins absolutely sells the empathetic Abigail.

I love the nods throughout this celebration. We’ve heard about the Doctor’s friendship with Albert Einstein before (Time and the Rani), the sonic screwdriver gets destroyed (The VisitationSmith and JonesThe Eleventh Hour), the psychic paper once again proves not to be infallible (Army of GhostsThe Shakespeare CodeThe Vampires of Venice), and the Fourth Doctor gets a beautiful yet subtle tribute with long scarves as Abigail’s clock ticks to 004.

I could have sworn that Silent Night had been in Doctor Who before now, but research says that I was wrong.

Finally, I’d be remiss not to note Dumbledore. Okay, okay, not quite the wizard, but definitely Michael Gambon, who was far more sinister here than in his five appearances in the Harry Potter films. I love seeing actors I know in productions and roles that are so different than what I’ve seen from them before, and this was no exception.

Rating: 5/5 – “Fantastic!”


UP NEXT – Doctor Who: The Impossible Astronaut & Doctor Who: Day of the Moon

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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 Four Summary

Sarah Jane Adventures: Series Four Summary

Series Four was a strong showing for a season of change.

The series started with the departure of another series regular, Tommy Knight as Luke, leaving Elisabeth Sladen as the only remaining member of the cast that started with the show. As it progressed, the chemistry between Sladen, Daniel Anthony (Clyde), and Anjli Mohindra (Rani) carried this block of adventures even when the gaps in the writing were evident.

In a great set of stories, the strongest focused on the most established Doctor Who characters associated with The Sarah Jane Adventures: Death of the Doctor introduced Sarah Jane to the Eleventh Doctor and brought Jo Grant… rather, Jo Jones back to the screen, and Goodbye, Sarah Jane Smith focused on Sarah Jane and the natural ravages of time while giving her young co-stars the chance to really shine.

Death of the Doctor also brought Russell T. Davies back to the writing desk for the Doctor, and that was a tour de force that we never quite got from Steven Moffat.

I can’t speak highly enough of this series.

Series Four comes in at an average of 4.3. That’s on par with the first series of The Sarah Jane Adventures and tied for the top spot. In comparison to Doctor Who, that’s equivalent to the revival era seasons One, Three, and Five, which are at fifth place in the Timestamps Project.


The Nightmare Man – 4
The Vault of Secrets – 4
Death of the Doctor – 5
The Empty Planet – 4
Lost in Time – 4
Goodbye, Sarah Jane Smith – 5

Sarah Jane Adventures Series Four Average Rating: 4.3/5


The Timestamps Project is moving into Series Six with Matt Smith. As that series comes to its halfway point, Torchwood will return with Miracle Day. The two will merge for a bit until Torchwood ends, and then we’ll finish off Series Six around the first part of October.

That plan kicks off with a taste of Christmas in April.

UP NEXT – Doctor Who: A Christmas Carol

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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 #SJA25: Goodbye, Sarah Jane Smith

Sarah Jane Adventures: Goodbye, Sarah Jane Smith
(2 episodes, s04e06, 2010)

Timestamp SJA25 Goodbye Sarah Jane Smith

Who could ever replace Sarah Jane Smith?

A meteor hurtles toward Earth. Mr. Smith redirects the threat into the forest and the Bannerman Road Gang rushes to the scene to deal with a potential pathogen. When they arrive, they find the pathogen neutralized by a stranger who dresses and acts like Sarah Jane Smith.

The team returns to Sarah Jane’s house to discover that the woman has moved in across the street. Clyde sets the car’s hand brake (which Sarah Jane apparently forgot) and the gang confronts the new arrival. She doesn’t receive them well, but we find out that her name is Ruby White. She came to Ealing after hearing about the alien activity, including the Trueman incident, the Bubble Shock! factoryrhinos driving police cars, and alien plant life. Sarah Jane tries diplomacy, but Ruby shows her the door.

Sarah Jane mentally drifts as the team discusses Ruby. She also forgets that Luke is away at university, leaves the front door open, and forgets K9’s name upon calling Luke only two hours after the last time. Rani stops by to check on her friend and suggests Sarah Jane take a break to visit Luke. A red alert interrupts their discussion as the Dark Horde fleet heads for Earth.

Mr. Smith redirects their teleport beam to an uninhabited area. Since transmissions are jammed and UNIT is unreachable, Sarah Jane hands weapons to her teammates and they confront the intruders. Unfortunately, Sarah Jane forgot her sonic lipstick so the weapons are useless. Just before the Horde kills the group, Ruby arrives and saves the day with alien technology and her own AI supercomputer. Sarah Jane and Ruby reconcile from their first meeting and the new arrival joins the gang in the attic.

Clyde and Rani depart as Sarah Jane and Ruby express their pleasure at having adult friends to share alien encounters with. Sarah Jane recalls meeting the Doctor when she was 23, but had trouble with the Time Lord’s name. She later thinks about the memory lapse and asks Mr. Smith for a full medical scan. He determines that she has brain tissue deterioration. She believes that she’s finally too old to defend the Earth, and Ruby slowly moves into her position on the team.

Sarah Jane offers leadership of the Bannerman Road Gang, along with the house and its contents, to Ruby. Ruby accepts and Sarah Jane transfers Mr. Smith’s command to Ruby. Once it is done, Ruby reveals that she is responsible for Sarah Jane’s condition. Sarah Jane is teleported to a secret cellar which houses Ruby’s stomach, since the new arrival is a Qetesh, a creature that devours peoples’ thrills and emotions. Ruby was fascinated by Sarah Jane’s exciting and adventurous life.

Ruby has her AI spoof a farewell message from Sarah Jane while the Qetesh’s stomach begins devouring our hero. Ruby gloats as the planet is undefended. It will make an excellent feast for alien species across the universe.

Clyde and Rani watch the spoofed video and lament the news. Clyde storms out and calls Luke after blaming Rani for putting the idea of a vacation in Sarah Jane’s head. Later, Mr. Smith tries to warn Clyde, but Ruby shuts down the computer and teleports Clyde to her orbiting ship. The ship was her prison until she reprogrammed the game console what was her only entertainment. That console took her from planet to planet as she consumed each one. She decides that Clyde is too smart for his own good and leaves him to suffocate in her prison cell.

After talking to her mother, Rani tries to call Clyde. She opens her door to find Luke (with K9 on video conference). K9 tracks Clyde to the orbiting ship and analyzes the Qetesh. Together, they discover that the Dark Horde invasion and the meteor strike were holographic simulations and they devise a plan to reboot Mr. Smith.

Meanwhile, in orbit, Clyde records a goodbye message.

Rani distracts Ruby as she puts the plan into motion. Ruby realizes that it is a ruse, but she’s too late. Mr. Smith is restored, Clyde is teleported to the attic, and Ruby is trapped in a containment vortex. The team locates Sarah Jane and as Clyde and Rani rush to the rescue, Luke arranges for Ruby to be trapped on Earth. Ruby breaks free of containment and confronts the team as they release Sarah Jane.

Luke enters the cellar and warns Ruby to leave Earth. When Ruby refuses, Luke tells her console to initiate his own custom distraction. The console broadcasts a simulation of meteor strikes to the entire world, overwhelming the Qetesh with a meal she cannot handle. The stomach overloads, restoring Sarah Jane’s mind and splurting Clyde in the process (as is customary).

Sarah Jane returns Ruby to her prison cell. The Qetesh vows revenge as the ship rockets into the deep dark. Back in the attic, the team finds that Mr. Smith and K9 have finally become friends. Sarah Jane cherishes her friends and treats them all to a night off in celebration of their victory.


This story is bittersweet. It was the last serial of the series to air before Elisabeth Sladen passed away from cancer, making the title and the plot ironically poetic. The question presented in this story – “Can Sarah Jane Smith be replaced?” – is answered by the giant hole Elisabeth Sladen’s absence has left in the Doctor Who universe. She’s still sorely missed.

I understand that her daughter, Sadie Miller, has taken up her character in the recent Big Finish line. I may need to track down that story.

As far as this story is concerned, I really enjoyed it. I love stories where the companions get a chance to shine, and the Rani-Clyde team did not disappoint. I especially loved how Luke and K9 came back as well to help save Sarah Jane. If there is a fault to be found, it would be the overdramatic scenery-chewing from Ruby’s side of the house, but there is a certain charm in an over-the-top melodramatic performance in an otherwise solid story with a fun villainous twist.

The two big franchise mythology ties that I loved in this serial were Clyde’s anger and anxiety over Sarah Jane abandoning him like his father did and the use of “Contact!” when K9 and Mr. Smith link up, echoing back to The Three Doctors.

All told, this was a great way to end Series Four, and a fitting episode to mark Elisabeth Sladen’s departure from this plane.

Travel well, Sarah Jane.

Rating: 5/5 – “Fantastic!”


UP NEXT – Sarah Jane Adventures: Series Four 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 #SJA24: Lost in Time

Sarah Jane Adventures: Lost in Time
(2 episodes, s04e05, 2010)

Timestamp SJA24 Lost in Time

It’s a good core with poor wrapping.

The Bannerman Road Gang is chasing a report of aliens in a local shop. While looking around, the team meets a parrot and finds both a music box and a bloodstained arrow. They also encounter Mr. Smalley, the shop’s proprietor. He tells Sarah Jane that the news article was a ruse to draw her team into a quest for three pieces of chronosteel, metal forged in the time vortex.

You see, the Shopkeeper is a guardian of time, the chronosteel can reshape Earth’s destiny, and the Bannerman Road Gang has no choice. They have until the Shopkeeper’s hourglass runs out to save the world.

Clyde awakens in a grassy field, Sarah Jane in a box, and Rani in a candlelit chamber with Mistress Ellen, all of them in unknown times. Rani is the Tower of London’s royal chambers and has assumed the role of lady-in-waiting for Queen Jane Grey. Clyde finds himself on a beach in 1941 with a boy named George Woods as they watch Nazi spies land a short distance away. Sarah Jane, released from her box in a spooky mansion, meets a ghost hunter named Emily Morris in 1889.

As each traveler makes way through their respective time periods, the Shopkeeper observes them through a crystal ball.

Rani changes into period-specific clothing and makes a good impression on Queen Jane by speaking to her as a person, not as a royal. Rani presents the queen with the music box from the Shopkeeper’s establishment. Rani also hints again at her budding relationship with Clyde. The mood is broken as Mistress Ellen brings word of Lady Mary and her armies arriving in London to claim the crown. Queen Jane is ready to relinquish her crown as an unlawful claimant.

Clyde and George confirm that the spies are Nazis – the uniforms are a dead giveaway – and scurry off to warn the Home Guard. The phone in the nearby church is dead, and the boys are forced to hide as the Nazis arrive and start setting up a base of operations. They’re discovered and taken prisoner in short order. The Nazis set up a device with a core they call Thor’s Hammer, which Clyde recognizes as the chronosteel object he needs to secure.

Sarah Jane scans the mansion with her wrist scanner. There’s a lot of energy in the house, and while Emily believes that the house is haunted, Sarah Jane remains skeptical. As the clock strikes eight, the haunting begins with howls, rattles, and voices from events gone by. Well, the events seem to be linked to the past at first, but Sarah Jane determines that the voices are actually from the future. Sarah Jane explains that she’s a time traveler as they approach a room where the voices have converged. The room is warm, which Sarah Jane determines is due to an inferno in the future as the children accidentally set a fire with a candle.

As the first half comes to a close, Rani overhears Lady Matilda plotting to kill Queen Jane, Clyde and George escape the church, and Sarah and Emily decide to save the children trapped in the burning room. The Shopkeeper worries that they are taking too long and if they do not get back soon, they will all be trapped in the past forever. As the hourglass runs out, the Shopkeeper and Captain the parrot believe that all is lost. They are buoyed up by the fact that the time portal has not yet closed. Unfortunately, the planet now runs the risk of being torn apart by the time window.

Rani saves Lady Jane from assassination. Lady Matilda claims that the queen’s death would have inspired thousands as a martyr, but now Lady Jane will be condemned to die forgotten and alone. Rani recognizes the dagger as the chronosteel MacGuffin. Matilda is confined, but the castle is surrounded by Mary’s forces. Lady Jane offers Rani the chance to return home, but Rani decides to stay behind in friendship. Queen Mary assumes the crown and Lady Jane is taken into custody. Rani promises that Lady Jane is never forgotten, then picks up the dagger as she bids the lady farewell. As Rani vanishes, Mistress Ellen believes it to be witchcraft but Lady Jane claims that she is an angel.

Clyde and George escape the Nazis. They encounter Miss Wyckham, George’s schoolteacher, who brings news that the village is under siege. She also has a handgun amongst her parcels. As they storm the church, Clyde and George find out that Miss Wyckham is really a Nazi double agent and that an invasion of the British isles is underway. Clyde stages a diversion by pretending that his mobile phone is a bomb, opening the way for George to grab Thor’s Hammer. They sound the church bells to alert the Home Guard. As the Nazis run, George wants to give chase and fight, but Clyde encourages him to stay behind. Clyde grabs the Hammer and returns to the Shopkeeper.

Sarah Jane consoles Emily, who is experiencing a bout of PTSD since her mother also died in a fire. As they leave the room, Emily laments that they will have to wait until 8 pm the next day, but Sarah Jane dials the grandfather clock back and starts the events all over. This time, however, the events are stronger and include a visual component. They discover that the woman they were following decided to lock the children in their room for the night, but continue upstairs to look for the chronosteel. The door to the children’s bedroom changes shape as the time fields begin to merge, revealing the key as the quest item. The children briefly detect the women as Emily’s fear rises, and Sarah Jane convinces Emily to harness that power to grab the key and unlock the door in the future. The children are saved and Sarah Jane takes the key, but Emily grabs it as well. Sarah Jane vanishes but the key does not follow.

With everyone back in the right time, the Shopkeeper places the first two objects into perfectly sculpted slots in a suitcase. As the room rumbles, a woman enters the shop and hands Sarah Jane the key. The Shopkeeper adds it to the collection, scoops up the Captain (who apparently was in charge the whole time), and vanishes.

The woman explains that she is Angela Price, Emily’s granddaughter, who told Angela to pass on the key. She and Sarah go for a cup of tea and a chat about her family. Later on, Clyde researches George and discovers the man was recently knighted by Queen Elizabeth II, and Rani reads about Lady Jane and finds she was happy in her final moments, assured of immortality.


On the one hand, each quest and story are well played between the writing and acting, focusing on the core strengths of each character. The pacing is good, though Rani’s quest seems to run out of steam well before Clyde’s and Sarah Jane’s. Clyde’s story also has a rather quick twist with the treacherous schoolteacher.

On the other hand, the framing story is lacking. It’s obvious that the Shopkeeper and the Captain know what items to look for, but they refuse to disclose that information or even explain the details of the overall adventure. They literally abduct the team and throw them into a life and death scenario with scant data.

Even the Doctor eventually explains the situation to keep the companions on track.

I initially wondered if the Shopkeeper and the Captain were Time Lords – or maybe even a Time Lord and companion, ala Frobisher – but the rules of the universe at this point are pretty clear: The Doctor is the last of the Time Lords. So, this pair remains a rogue but powerful duo with vague motivations.

Overall, the whole framing story is frustrating but the individual quests more than make up for it.

In trivial matters, this story links up with two classic Seventh Doctor adventures. First, Clyde’s quest included Norse mythology and Nazis, which echoes The Curse of Fenric. Second, the grandfather clock reset to make the “haunting” start again hearkens back to events at Gabriel Chase in Ghost Light.

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


UP NEXT – Sarah Jane Adventures: Goodbye, Sarah Jane Smith

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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 #SJA23: The Empty Planet

Sarah Jane Adventures: The Empty Planet
(2 episodes, s04e04, 2010)

Timestamp SJA23 The Empty Planet

It’s a tale of loneliness and acceptance.

Mr. Smith detects an alien energy trace but it vanishes into Earth’s own energy signals. Sarah Jane asks for a deep scan to locate it while Rani and Clyde look on. Sarah Jane reminds her teammates that it is a school night and they should head to bed. As they leave, Rani reminds Clyde of a pending school assignment. Clyde rebuffs the advice because, hey, they might just be invaded tomorrow.

As Rani reads Great Expectations, her father stops by for a quick chat before turning in. Clyde, on the other hand, is working on his artwork rather than his reading, but his mother compliments his creativity and genius.

They both go to sleep. The world goes quiet. All signals cease.

When they wake the next morning, they seem to be alone in the world. Rani’s parents, Clyde’s mother, Sarah Jane, and even Mr. Smith are gone. Rani snags Sarah Jane’s sonic lipstick as she runs the streets to investigate. She returns home and Clyde stops by. Together, they head into town to look for people, but they don’t find anyone.

They also remark that there are no crashed planes or cars, so whatever took the humans did not want to cause harm or damage. Rani and Clyde continue their discussion over breakfast. They decide to head back to the attic, but discover another living person. They give chase on bicycles and follow him to his apartment. His name is Gavin, and he has been living with his aunt and uncle since his mother died and his father ran off.

Gavin is skeptical of the newcomers, so Rani tells him about aliens to gain his trust. A loud trumpeting and rumbling sound distracts them and Gavin slips away. Clyde and Rani pursue but Gavin has disappeared. Clyde wonders why he doesn’t seem like a normal kid but Rani doesn’t believe him. They return to the restaurant and hash out their relationship. While they talk, the planet’s broadcasts light up with a single signal. It’s a black screen with a red triangle and yellow alien text.

When they investigate, they find giant yellow and red robots who seem intent on blasting them both. Luckily, Gavin saves the day and the trio escape into the nearby shops. The robots prove that they aren’t very robust by completely missing Clyde posing as a mannequin. The trio reunites at the electronics store as they discuss the signal then return to the restaurant.

They try to figure out the common link between them, ranging from time fissures and the TARDIS to their restriction to Earth by the Judoon. That doesn’t quite explain Gavin, but the ruminations are interrupted by the robots. They scatter and the robots pursue.

Both Rani and Clyde end up being cornered and scanned by the robots. They reunite at the restaurant, robots in tow, and begin the time-honored science fiction tradition of trying to communicate. In Short Circuit fashion, they use a newspaper as input, resulting in the translation of the alien signal. It’s a countdown, and the robots reveal that they are in search of a heir who is hiding on Earth. Humanity has been blipped into a sub-universe and will return if they can find the young prince in time.

And, believe it or not, Gavin is the errant heir. His father was an alien king, and since the king is dead, the robots have come to take their new ruler home. The energy trace was a signal calling him home.

After a bit of quick detective work, Rani and Clyde track Gavin to a nearby nature area. The robots can’t see Gavin because of a bio-dampening ring that shields his alien half. Gavin believes Rani and Clyde, removes the ring, and takes his place as the rightful heir.

The prince orders that the people of Earth are restored as he jets off to his new home. Before he leaves, he names his benefactors Lady Rani and Lord Clyde. As the timer hits zero, everyone returns to the planet as if they were never gone save losing ninety minutes somewhere.

Rani’s parents thought she was missing. Haresh asks where she was and she tells him the truth: She was with Clyde. Sarah Jane walks in, thus reuniting the Bannerman Road Gang. Later that night, the team celebrates Rani and Clyde’s victory as Mr. Smith scrubs the official records to hide the truth. Sarah Jane springs for pizza in honor of their good work.


I liked the core moral here, which is that everyone has worth, value, and a place. We see it with Rani and Clyde as they become more than just “hangers-on” and save the people of Earth, and we see it with Gavin as he realizes that he is important on a scale that he never imagined.

As a scientist and engineer, it took me a few minutes to adapt to the dampening effect. It seemed to be limited to broadcast signals since electricity was still available, but it made me wonder for a while exactly how it worked. I had a similar problem with Revolution, a sci-fi series with the premise that all electricity ceases one day. “Yeah, but,” I said, “what about the electrical signals in the human nervous system?”

After a while, you just let it go as pure handwavium, kind of like the concept that the seemingly peaceful seeker robots would consider obliterating an entire species if they didn’t find their target. I mean, that is a whole new level of hide and seek.

One thing that did throw me for a while was Clyde’s use of “honest injun” to describe his integrity while paying for a soda. The phrase supposedly originated in the 1850s (or earlier) and gained popularity when used by author Mark Twain in the 1890s. By the mid-twentieth century, however, it fell into obsolescence, probably due to its prejudicial overtones. The slur “injun” is a corruption of the term Indian, as in Native American, and the honesty part is said to stem from the idea that white people “spoke with a forked tongue” while the tribesmen were considered to be forthright and sincere in their dealings.

Given the stereotypes and prejudices that still exist to this day about Native Americans (at least in the United States), it shouldn’t surprise me that a television program from 2010 worked one of them in. What did surprise me is how far they’ve reached, considering that The Sarah Jane Adventures is a UK production.

Among the minor things that I found fun, Clyde’s still working on his art and our remaining teenagers are still toying with a relationship. I’m glad that the latter is developing organically instead of being created out of the ether.

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


UP NEXT – Sarah Jane Adventures: Lost in Time

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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 #SJA22: Death of the Doctor

Sarah Jane Adventures: Death of the Doctor
(2 episodes, s04e03, 2010)

Timestamp SJA22 Death of the Doctor

The Doctor is dead. Long live the Doctor.

Luke is talking to the Bannerman Road Gang over webcam when UNIT arrive at Sarah Jane’s home. Colonel Tia Karim bears bad news: The Doctor is dead.

The Shansheeth discovered the body of a Time Lord and, upon confirming the DNA, organized a funeral. The Shansheeth delivered a holographic epitaph via Colonel Karim and Sarah Jane doesn’t believe the news, but Rani helps her to cope. Later that night, Sarah Jane muses with Luke that the Doctor cannot be dead. After all, she believes that she’d know somehow as though a piece of her was missing.

The Bannerman Road Gang take a road trip with UNIT to the funeral location at Mount Snowden, a massive UNIT base. While getting into the private car, Clyde experiences a jolt of energy, but he chalks it up to simple static electricity. When they arrive, they find out that the Brigadier is stranded in Peru and Liz Shaw is unable to leave the moon base in time for the service. They also see a group of Groske – a blue and tame version of the Graske – who tell Clyde that he smells like time. Clyde notices the energy on his hand and the Groske simply says that “he’s coming.”

The gang attend the gathering of remembrance where Sarah Jane requests that Karim open the coffin. The colonel replies that the Doctor was injured and a viewing is impossible. Sarah Jane notes that the last time that she saw the Doctor he was preparing for regeneration. He could have a completely different face now.

As the Shansheeth officiating the ceremony asks everyone to recollect their memories, Clyde recognizes the static as artron energy and a newcomer arrives. Enter: Jo Jones, previously known as Jo Grant. Sarah Jane recognizes her from the way that UNIT described her and they hit it off right away. Rani and Clyde meet Jo’s grandson Santiago who talks about the family’s globetrotting activism.

Jo is upset to learn that the Doctor returned for Sarah Jane. He never stopped in for her. But they share the belief that they’d feel it if the Doctor died (even on Metebilis III), so they start brainstorming his faked death. They also bond over their shared experiences on Peladon with the great beast Aggedor.

Meanwhile, Clyde pursues the mystery of the artron energy and we learn that the Shansheeth are trying to harvest the mourner’s memories of the Doctor using a memory weave that will kill the former companions. Clyde, Rani, and Santiago overhear the Shansheeth plot. They run back to Sarah Jane and Jo just in time for the Doctor to make contact through (and then exchange places with) Clyde.

Clyde’s on a red planet somewhere, but the Doctor is here. The companions catch up with the Doctor’s new face and the Time Lord confronts the Shansheeth. The Shanseeth reply with an energy beam and the sincerest wish that he rest in peace.

In the energy beam, the Doctor and Clyde swap places a couple of times. Once released, the Doctor runs with the assembled allies to safety behind a locked door. The Doctor grabs hands with Jo and Sarah Jane, spiriting “Smith and Jones” away to the red planet, the Crimson Heart. Clyde is left behind with Rani and Santiago in the locked room. They are soon rescued by the Groske and taken to his hiding spot in the ventilation system.

The Shansheeth, meanwhile, reveal that they have the TARDIS and are building a method to break in.

Sarah Jane and the Doctor work on the gadget that he used to swap places with Clyde while Jo muses about why the Doctor left her behind. After all, he did promise that he’d see her again. The Doctor reveals that, just before his regeneration, he visited every one of his former companions and is very proud of what Jo has done with her life.

Colonel Karim discovers where Rani, Clyde, and Santiago are hiding and locks them inside while turning up the heat. Luckily, the Doctor and his companions have fixed the device so they can return to Earth without leaving Clyde on the Crimson Heart. The Doctor saves the teenagers but Sarah Jane and Jo are captured by Karim and the Shansheeth.

The Shansheeth plan to use the memory weave to conjure a physical TARDIS key from the memories of the companions. They want to use the TARDIS to stop death on a universal scale and put an end to pain and suffering. Karim, on the other hand, merely wants to leave the planet and travel the stars.

The Doctor stops the memory weave’s operation by calling to the companions through the locked door and asking them to remember every adventure that he shared with them. Clyde and Rani also tell Sarah Jane to remember all of their adventures on Bannerman Road and Santiago prompts Jo’s memories of their Earthbound travels.

The memory weave overloads and begins a self-destruct sequence. Jo and Sarah Jane are trapped, but the Doctor reminds them of the lead-lined coffin. It provides just enough protection to shield the companions from the blast. The Shansheeth and Karim are destroyed and the Groske is amused by the smell of roast chicken.

Everyone hitches a ride home with the Doctor in the TARDIS. The companions say their farewells – Jo has no idea about the Time War, but why would she? – and the Doctor hies off to his next adventure. Rani and Clyde help Santiago figure out how to reunite with his parents, then Jo and Santiago say goodbye as they move on to Norway.

Sarah Jane tells her friends about the echoes of the Doctor around the globe: Tegan is fighting for aboriginal rights in Australia; Ian and Barbara Chesterton are Cambridge professors who are rumored not to have aged since the 1960s; Harry Sullivan is a doctor working on vaccines; Ben and Polly run an orphanage in India; and Dorothy McShane has raised millions through her company “A Charitable Earth”.

All of that from a simple Google search for “TARDIS”.

Long live the Doctor.


What a powerhouse story! Russell T Davies provided a story reflective of his years on Doctor Who, right down to the pacing and well-crafted prose. It’s also saturated with Doctor Who lore, including scenes from 36 adventures which I am not going to list here. Believe me, it’s tempting…

The attention to detail about regeneration – Jo knows about it since she met the First and Second Doctors – and the Last Great Time War is amazing. It’s also fun to watch the Doctor toying with Clyde about regeneration. The idea of 507 possible regenerations was a jest by this incarnation, but we know for a fact that regeneration can indeed result in changing into a form other than a white male.

I was amused by the Doctor musing about ventilation shafts, particularly in light of The Ark in Space, The Hand of Fear, and Planet of the Daleks. I also laughed about Amy and Rory’s marital adventures on the honeymoon planet. Ah, sentient planets.

Last but not least, the memory weave has a distinctive sound in science fiction history. It is unmistakably the activation sound for the proton packs in the Ghostbusters franchise. That takes me back.

Rating: 5/5 – “Fantastic!”


UP NEXT – Sarah Jane Adventures: The Empty Planet

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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 #SJA21: The Vault of Secrets

Sarah Jane Adventures: The Vault of Secrets
(2 episodes, s04e02, 2010)

Timestamp SJA21 The Vault of Secrets

Here come the Men in Black… um… again.

A teenage girl searches an abandoned asylum for something called the Vault of Secrets. Her arrival sets off alarms and awakens guardians. When she finds the vault she’s stopped in her tracks because the container requires two keys and she only has one. A door opens behind her and reveals three black-suited figures with guns for hands. We last saw them in Dreamland.

The girl escapes but twists her ankle. She falls unconscious and Androvax the Veil emerges from her.

Meanwhile, in the Attic, the Bannerman Road Gang (with Luke calling in via video) watch a livestream from a recent NASA Mars rover landing. As the rover crests a hill, Sarah Jane disables the machine. NASA believes that they’ve lost another one, but Sarah Jane knows the truth: She’s just prevented the probe from discovering an ancient and deadly civilization.

Rani’s parents, Gita and Haresh, attend a meeting of the B.U.R.P.S.S. – the poorly-named British UFO Research and Paranormal Studies Society – after their recent encounter with Androvax. On the way home, Gita spots Androvax in Sarah Jane’s driveway, but Sarah Jane talks Haresh down from searching for the alien. Androvax takes over Rani’s body and leads a chase to the attic where the alien stages a tense reunion with Sarah Jane, Rani, and Clyde. Surprisingly, he asks for their help.

Androvax claims to be dying, poisoned by a swamp viper from a Judoon prison facility. He wants to free one hundred survivors from his otherwise dead planet that crashed on Earth forty years ago. The Alliance of Shades placed the ship in the Vault of Secrets, of which Androvax possesses a key. The Bannerman Road Gang head for the asylum after a short diversion by B.U.R.P.S.S.

Once inside, the gang finds the resting pods for the Men in Black – along with evidence that Ocean Waters, the leader of B.U.R.P.S.S., was abducted at some point – and the suits themselves. When the MiBs threaten incineration, the gang runs after discovering that the androids are sonic-proof. Arriving back in the attic, they learn about the Alliance of Shades and their mission to cover up alien incidents on Earth. Sarah Jane decides to visit Ocean Waters, and Androvax asks to go along to learn more about her knowledge of the Alliance of Shades. Androvax takes over Clyde for the trip which proves fruitful when Ocean is almost effervescent about her experience with Mr. Dread.

Ocean also has the second key, which Androvax immediately steals. On cue, the Men in Black break down the door and threaten to incinerate everyone. They explain that any attempt to release the Veil ship will destroy the planet. Androvax uses the distraction to escape and switch bodies from Clyde to Gita and make haste for the asylum.

The Bannerman Road Gang pursues, taking a moment to disable Mr. Dread’s can with a pulse of the sonic lipstick. When they arrive, they split up to search the building. Rani and Clyde rescue Gita-Androvax from one of the Men in Black while Mr. Dread confronts Sarah Jane at the Vault. When Mr. Dread decides to confiscate Sarah Jane’s technology and process her, she runs.

Meanwhile, Rani uses diplomacy to extract Androvax from Gita, then tricks the alien so they can all run away. Rani confides in her mother that aliens are real and she’s helping to fight them. Clyde runs interference with the Men in Black while Rani and Gita escape. He manages to catch two of the androids in a crossfire, destroying both of them and winning a cool new pair of shades in the process.

Sarah Jane finds Androvax and ends up being possessed by the Veil while Rani and Gita are taken prisoner by Mr. Dread. The android takes them back to the charging pods where Clyde ambushes him and locks him away. The gang catches up with Sarah Jane-Androvax at the Vault and opens it, revealing an extradimensional space beyond filled with spacecraft.

Androvax leaves Sarah Jane and enters the Vault, sealing himself inside. While Androvax powers up the Veil stardrive, the gang awakens Mr. Dread two minutes before the planet is destroyed. They use a transmat device coupled with the android’s power source to move the Veil ship into orbit. At the cost of 450 years of Dread’s energy, the Veil leave without destroying Earth. Mr. Dread then erases Gita’s short-term memory and, with his mission over, settles in for a long nap.

The team arrives home to find B.U.R.P.S.S. waiting for them. Gita no longer believes in aliens and Sarah Jane denies any knowledge of the Men in Black. As the comedic support group walks away dejected, Androvax flies through space in search of a second genesis for his people.


This was an exciting story where a couple of recent enemies came together with completely different motivations. It was a fresh take with plenty of humor to go around in the first post-Luke adventure.

Among this story, Rose‘s whoisdoctorwho.co.uk, Love & Monsters, and The End of Time‘s Silver Cloak, it’s really interesting to me how the normal civilians build communities around the things that they cannot explain. Be it the Doctor’s presence throughout human history or alien abductions, we keep seeing support groups and conspiracy theorists popping up, mostly with humorous and dysfunctional results.

It’s easy to lose track of that human element in the vastness of time and space, but just like my admiration of Rose’s mother and Martha’s family, I think it adds a nice touch to ground things a bit. After all, at its core, science fiction is the art of discussing the human condition through metaphor.

Doctor Who and its spinoffs keep doing a fantastic job with that.

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


UP NEXT – Sarah Jane Adventures: Death of the Doctor

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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 #SJA20: The Nightmare Man

Sarah Jane Adventures: The Nightmare Man
(2 episodes, s04e01, 2010)

Timestamp SJA20 The Nightmare Man

You can’t get him out of your head.

Luke starts the story with a warning that the end of the world is approaching, that it is his fault, and the Nightmare Man is coming for him.

One year earlier, Luke confides in Sarah Jane that Mr. Chandra has given him permission to take his A-level exams early. This will enable him to go to Oxford University. Their discussion is interrupted by the fact that they are chained to a bomb, but fortunately Rani, Clyde, and K9 arrive to defuse the bomb and stop the Slitheen behind it.

Of course, in show tradition, everyone ends up covered in exploded alien goo.

Some time later, Luke passes his exams with flying colors. Some time after that, Luke watches Rani head to school while he packs his room and confides his nervousness in Sarah Jane. Sarah Jane tries to console him with scrambled eggs for breakfast, but ends up setting the kitchen on fire. Rani and Clyde hear about this on their way to school as they lament Luke’s departure.

Sarah Jane presents Luke with her old VW Beetle. She tells Luke that he gave her something to live for in an existence of loneliness. She promises him that Bannerman Road will always be his home and that she will miss him.

Later that night, Luke is awakened by laughing and overheads Sarah Jane and K9 talking about how they can’t wait for him to leave. Turns out that it was a nightmare, and as Luke startles awake he hears laughing. Luke shouldn’t be able to dream due to his genetic makeup, and while Rani suggests that he tell Sarah Jane, he decides against it. He also confides that he hasn’t seen Clyde for a while, and Rani pressures him to visit Luke.

Luke has another nightmare, this time with Clyde and Rani at the school. He meets the Nightmare Man, an entity that feeds on fearful dreams. He tells Sarah Jane about his nightmare and Mr. Smith scans Luke but finds nothing. He receives a text from Clyde and ends up at a surprise farewell party. The friends have a quick chat and Luke suggests that Clyde dance with Rani. After that, he inadvertently falls asleep and comes face-to-face with the Nightmare Man, but is told that he cannot speak the entity’s name. He is woken up by Rani and Clyde and taken back to the dance floor.

Later that night, Luke is sending a message to Maria but still cannot tell anyone about the Nightmare Man. He falls asleep and dreams about Sarah Jane replacing him with a new boy named Josh. His family throws all of their memories of him into a barrel and lights it on fire. The Nightmare Man tells him that one more nightmare will allow him to enter the real world and terrorize everyone.

On the final day before Luke leaves for Oxford, the Bannerman Road Gang throws him a farewell bash. Clyde and Rani keep Luke company but they fall asleep. Luke records the video that we saw in the opening sequence, sidestepping the rules by speaking to the camera and not to a particular person. He orients the camera to capture the events as he falls asleep. The Nightmare Man materializes shortly thereafter, but Luke is trapped in an echoing empty void.

The entity disappears as Sarah Jane enters the room and picks up the video camera. It materializes next to Rani and Clyde and begins to attack Rani as Sarah Jane watches Luke’s recording. Rani’s nightmare involves being pulled into the television by the BBC’s (completely fictional) Louise Marlowe. The Nightmare Man moves on to Clyde as Sarah Jane summons K9 and Mr. Smith to help combat the threat.

Mr. Smith identifies the entity as a Vishklar from the Seretti dimension as Clyde has a nightmare about being a fry cook and being berated by Sarah Jane for his lack of success. Rani’s dream continues as she takes the role of a newscaster being forced to tell the secrets about Sarah Jane Smith.

Sarah Jane and her cybernetic companions use a sentient concrete and a power boost to connect Luke with K9 inside his dream. Luke is able to connect with Rani and Clyde through the dream universe and rescues them through their focus. The Nightmare Man extends his influence onto the rest of Bannerman Road, but Luke, Rani, and Chandra stifle his power so he materializes in the attic, disables K9 and Mr. Smith, and turns his attentions on Sarah Jane.

Sarah Jane isn’t afraid of the Nightmare Man, but the entity is unwilling to send her into the dream. Instead, he materializes in the dream and threatens the team. Luke confronts him, emphasizing his love for Sarah Jane and his friends. The power of their friendship overwhelms the Nightmare Man and pushes him into a nightmare of his own. A nightmare where the elderly Sarah Jane Smith tells him all about Luke’s successes for all time.

The trio awakens as Sarah Jane brings K9 and Mr. Smith back online. Sarah Jane decides to send K9 with Luke. The next morning, they all gather to say farewell to Luke and K9. After hugs and tears, Luke leaves Bannerman Road in the yellow Beetle, eager to face the adventure ahead.


This is a pretty straightforward story, told in a fractured style, that has ties within both its series and year of production. Alongside Amy’s Choice, this was the second story in 2010 to involve a dream universe. It was also the second premiere to serve as a farewell for a series regular, the former being Maria’s departure in The Last Sontaran.

Tommy Knight had previously reduced his involvement in the show to focus on his schoolwork, but when his studies became much more demanding he decided to bow out. The other character to leave the show, the very good boy K9, was written out due to the Australian K9 spin-off. Thus, only Elisabeth Sladen remains from the roster of original full-time regulars that started the show.

This episode played well on both of those fronts. The anxiety and apprehension surrounding Luke leaving the nest is scripted nicely, and is sold by Elisabeth Sladen’s performance. Similarly, I loved the talent exercise of elderly Sarah Jane. We also got a touching and humorous farewell between Mr. Smith and K9, adding a beautiful dimension to their friendly rivalry.

All told, the story was good as both a welcome back and as a farewell.

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


UP NEXT – Sarah Jane Adventures: The Vault of Secrets

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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: Series Five Summary

Doctor Who: Series Five Summary

Timestamp Logo Eleventh

Series Five shifted gears with a new Doctor and a new showrunner.

Having seen the Matt Smith episodes before, I haven’t looked back fondly upon them. I think part of it was my mindset, especially after binging the episodes from Series One. I’m also a big fan of David Tennant and the paradigm shift from Russell T Davies and David Tennant to Steven Moffat and Matt Smith was a shock.

There’s a lot later in Steven Moffat’s tenure as showrunner to be critical about, but Series Five is much better than I remember.

The big stumbling blocks were Amy’s Choice and The Lodger. In the former case, the issue was presenting a mystery for the audience to solve but leaving out a critical puzzle piece to make the Doctor the smartest man in the room. In the latter case, the story was obviously a filler episode. The season also had a hard time selling me on the love between Amy and Rory. He obviously adores her, but she treats him like refuse far too often.

But it’s hard to be angry with such a fun and interesting slate otherwise, from the “I’m the Doctor” moment in The Eleventh Hour to the Daleks winning the battle in Victory of the Daleks, the return of the Silurians in The Hungry Earth & Cold Blood, and the time-traveling epic that is The Pandorica Opens & The Big Bang.

Lest we forget the most beautiful story in this batch: Vincent and the Doctor. It makes me cry every time.


Series Five comes in at an average of 4.3. That leaves it in a three-way tie for fifth place for the Timestamps Project, coming in behind the classic Ninth Series, the new era’s Series Four, the Eighth Doctor’s run, and the Tenth Doctor’s specials. It’s on par with two other revival groupings – Series One and Series Three – and just ahead of the classic Eleventh Series.

The Eleventh Hour – 5
The Beast Below – 5
Victory of the Daleks – 4
The Time of Angels & Flesh and Stone – 4
The Vampires of Venice – 4
Amy’s Choice – 3
The Hungry Earth & Cold Blood – 5
Vincent and the Doctor – 5
The Lodger – 3
The Pandorica Opens & The Big Bang – 5

Series Five (Revival Era) Average Rating: 4.3/5


Next up, we head back to Bannerman Road with the fourth series of The Sarah Jane Adventures.

UP NEXT – The Sarah Jane Adventures: The Nightmare Man

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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.