Timestamp #SJA6: The Lost Boy

Sarah Jane Adventures: The Lost Boy
(2 episodes, s01e06, 2007)

 

Mr. Smith, the planet needs you.

After Alan Jackson discovered the truth about the Bannerman Road Gang, he and Maria discuss her adventures. He decides to keep it all secret by putting the house on the market and moving away. Across the street, Sarah Jane and Luke are stargazing when Maria breaks the news. Alan joins the conversation and eventually realizes that staying is the best option for his family. The group watches the Kalazian Lights fly through the night sky.

The next day, the group is startled by a televised press conference about a missing child who looks just like Luke and was last seen boarding the Bubble Shock bus. Sarah Jane has Mr. Smith scan Luke to determine reality and the supercomputer declares that Luke is the missing boy, Ashley Stafford. The lack of bellybutton is credited to the Bane, an egg-born species, being offended by its presence.

Chrissie Jackson calls the police and Sarah Jane reluctantly turns Luke over. The neighborhood watches as Ashley’s parents arrive. Tensions rise – Chrissie gloats at the drama she’s created – and Sarah Jane is taken into custody. She is later released, thanks to UNIT.

Luke is taken to his new home but as trouble fitting in with the expected lifestyle. He’s also dismayed that he’s locked into his room at night. Jay and Heidi Stafford contact a character named Xylok through their television, reporting that they have him in custody. Luke is also prohibited from seeing his friends or even attending school again.

Maria tries to console Sarah Jane but she’s convinced that the only path forward is to dissolve the Bannerman Road Gang, suggesting that Maria should move away. Sarah Jane holes up in the attic and Mr. Smith suggests that she needs a purpose. He points her toward the Pharos Institute, a research center where alien technology is being used to conduct experiments into telekinesis. There she meets an annoying child prodigy named Nathan Goss.

Clyde and Maria decide to skip school to see Luke. Maria is stopped by a teacher, but Clyde is able to sneak out. Unfortunately, Heidi refuses to let him in. She also claims that Ashley is a great skateboarder, which Clyde knows to be a lie. After Clyde leaves, Nathan arrives and tells the supposed parents that they have a problem. Luke tries to escape and is stopped. He learns the truth about his captors: They are the Slitheen from their failed revenge attempt, this time with improved skin suits.

Sarah Jane is directed by Mr. Smith to return to Pharos and steal one of the telekinetic headsets. After she leaves, Clyde heads to the attic and asks Mr. Smith to analyze a photo of Ashley and his parents. Mr. Smith reveals that he is the Xylok and that he faked the photo. He digitizes Clyde, TRON-style, and stores the boy in his memory banks with a fiendish laugh.

I didn’t see that twist coming.

Sarah Jane sneaks into Pharos with her sonic lipstick. She swipes the headset, which triggers an alarm, but escapes with secret agent flair.

Clyde wakes up inside the supercomputer. He watches as Sarah Jane turns the headset over to Mr. Smith and tries to figure out how to make contact. Meanwhile, Maria desperately tries to find Clyde. Alan decides to accompany Maria to the Stafford residence. When they find no one home, they decide to break in. Alan stumbles across a skin suit and Maria discovers what’s going on. They return home to find Chrissie and Maria sneaks away to tell Sarah Jane about the threat.

Clyde uses the internet to warn Alan through his laptop. Alan rushes to tell Sarah Jane just as Mr. Smith reveals himself and tries to kill Alan, Maria, and Sarah Jane. The humans escape and retreat to the Jackson house. Mr. Smith incapacitates Clyde as a result.

Sarah Jane tells the Jacksons about a crystal that she was sent from the Krakatoa volcanic eruption. It turned out to be a Xylok memory crystal, and Sarah Jane used it to build a supercomputer. She puts the pieces together that the Slitheen plan to harvest Luke’s telekinetic energy for sale on the open market, and she knows that they are probably at the Pharos Institute. They head out, stopping for vinegar at a chip shop along the way.

The Slitheen try to harvest the energy but Luke escapes after overloading the system. He dodges the Slitheen and leaves just before Sarah Jane and the Jacksons arrive. The Slitheen take Maria hostage to disarm Alan, then explain how Mr. Smith contacted them with a promise of revenge. Sarah Jane determines that they are all being played by the Xylok to harness Luke’s powers.

Luke returns to Bannerman Road and is coerced into donning the headset. Mr. Smith channels the telekinetic energy to propel the Moon toward Earth in an effort to crack the planet and release the rest of the Xylok.

Sarah Jane strikes a bargain with the Slitheen by asking Alan to stop the supercomputer. She uses the Slitheen teleporter to return to the attic and confront Mr. Smith. He thanks her for helping him to execute his plan, showing mercy by returning Clyde. Sarah Jane distracts the Xylok long enough to release K9 from his black hole mission. K9 fires on the supercomputer while Sarah Jane uploads a virus that wipes Mr. Smith’s memory. The supercomputer shuts down and K9 returns to the safe.

The Bannerman Road Gang, now with a forgiven Chrissie, watch the Slitheen fly away. Mr. Smith reboots with a renewed purpose to safeguard the Earth while Sarah Jane reflects on her newfound family.

 

The first series of The Sarah Jane Adventures ends with style as this adventure touches on almost the entire lifespan of this family’s story so far. It also throws the audience a nice twist by revealing that a powerful ally has been scheming against our heroes this entire time.

The entire gang gets involved to not only save Luke, but to also save the world.

 

Rating: 5/5 – “Fantastic!”

 

UP NEXT – Sarah Jane Adventures: Series One 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.

 

 

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Timestamp #SJA1: Invasion of the Bane

Sarah Jane Adventures: Invasion of the Bane
(1 episode, New Year Special, 2007)

 

The triumphant return of Sarah Jane Smith.

Maria Jackson and her family are moving into their new home on Bannerman Road. After watching an advertisement for Bubble Shock soda, Maria briefly meets Sarah Jane Smith and finishes moving boxes into the house. It turns out that Maria’s mother has recently divorced her father, so it’s just Maria and her father Alan in the house.

Later that night, Maria sets up her room while the soda commercial plays again. She turns out the lights and goes to bed, but she awakens around 2:30 am to a bright pink light pulsing from Sarah Jane’s residence. Maria investigates and finds Sarah Jane communing with a floating alien that gives her a glowing stone device. Maria runs home in fear.

The next morning, she obliquely asks her father about seeing strange things. Their neighbor Kelsey Hooper stops by to say hello, and the girls decide to go into town after brief introductions with Alan. Further introductions are made as Alan meets Sarah Jane, but Sarah Jane seems rather intrigued by the girls and rushes off.

Kelsey gives Maria the lowdown on Sarah Jane: She’s a journalist who rushes around like a madwoman. The girls board a bus dedicated to the Bubble Shock soda and take a tour of the bottling facility. Sarah Jane rushes the gate and sneaks in behind them, taking some readings on a wristwatch device. The girls go through a supposed security scanner, but the data it takes is transmitted to a strange science experiment behind the scenes.

Sarah Jane continues to sneak around, using her sonic lipstick to open a locked door. She’s captured soon after and taken to visit Mrs. Wormwood, the woman who was working on the Frankenstein experiment. Sarah Jane interviews Mrs. Wormwood, drawing parallels between Wormwood’s operation and the Book of Revelation.

Meanwhile, the girls continue their tour and receive free samples, but Maria rejects the soda. Sarah Jane is also offered a sample, and she also rejects it. The company is very aggressive about wanting every person on Earth to drink their product, adding special emphasis on the ingredient Bane.

Sarah Jane smells an alien influence. She’s also a bit put off when Wormwood suggests that Sarah Jane’s life alone has been wasted. If she only knew the truth. When Sarah Jane leaves, Wormwood signals her assistant to kill the journalist, but Sarah Jane escapes. Meanwhile, Kelsey leaves the tour group and tries to use her mobile phone, but the signals awaken a creature and set off alarms throughout the facility. As everyone evacuates the premises, Maria goes in search of her friend.

Kelsey is soon found by the tour guide. The man smashes her phone and declares that the creature is his mother. In fact, it is the mother of them all. Maria tries to make a call and sets off the alarms again, this time causing a feedback pulse that awakens and frees the young boy medical experiment, known as The Archetype.

The Archetype finds Maria and they work together to elude the factory personnel by hiding in the ladies’ restroom. Sarah Jane Smith finds them soon thereafter, but when Wormwood’s team arrives they are gone. Sarah Jane, Maria, and The Archetype escape, but Kelsey is left behind with Wormwood. Maria confronts Sarah Jane about the events at the factory and those of the previous night, but when Sarah Jane tells her to go home, she leaves in tears.

Wormwood reviews her scans of Sarah Jane Smith and finds residual artron energy, the results of traveling through spacetime. When Kelsey remarks that Sarah Jane lives on Bannerman Road, Wormwood reveals her true form and the girl faints. Wormwood analyzes Kelsey’s knowledge and sends Davey the tour guide (and a recently mindwiped Kelsey) to Bannerman Road.

Sarah Jane talks with The Archetype, who claims to be everyone, but their discussion is interrupted by a male voice from upstairs. Sarah Jane scans the boy to find that he is a human boy but is only 360 minutes old and has no bellybutton. Meanwhile, Kelsey arrives back at Maria’s house and Davey assaults Sarah Jane’s home. The girls find out that Davey is there and they rush to help only to find a tentacled creature that pursues them inside. Sarah Jane and the kids rush upstairs to safety. Sarah Jane uses some kind of aerosol to repel the creature and make it transform back into Davey. Davey runs off, Sarah Jane analyzes the remnants, and Kelsey snoops around in the attic.

Sarah Jane reveals her secret to the kids in the room surrounded by alien artifacts, pictures of the Brigadier and K9, and artwork depicting the TARDIS. She tells them of the Doctor and her travels, and how after she met him the second time, she dedicated herself to investigating alien influences on the planet Earth. Speaking of K9, the daft little metal dog, he’s working to seal a black hole before it destroys the planet. The portal between K9’s work and the attic is a concealed safe in the wall.

Back at the factory, Davey pays the price for his failure: He is eaten by the Mother. Sucks to be him.

Sarah Jane deduces that The Archetype is an alien experiment. As Sarah Jane and Maria develop a friendship, they discover that the soda (particularly Bane) is alien in origin. In fact, it is part of the creatures that they have been dealing with. Sarah Jane calls on Mr. Smith, her supercomputer, to hack into Wormwood’s office for a one-on-one video discussion. Wormwood is unwilling to bargain and declares war on humanity by using the Bane in everyone’s systems to transform them into the newborn Bane.

Sarah Jane, Maria, and The Archetype rush to the factory to find a solution. Sarah Jane sonics the gates to trap the soda zombies but the main gates to the factory are deadlock sealed, so she uses the Bubble Shock bus to break through the walls. Wormwood introduces Sarah Jane to the Mother and then explains that The Archetype is a combination of the strongest elements of each scanned visitor to the factory. The intent is to use the boy to fine tune the soda formula so that every human would drink it, but since he’s no longer needed, Wormwood issues a kill command in the boy’s DNA.

Maria fights back using her mobile phone, but the Mother swipes it away. The Archetype produces the communication device that Sarah Jane received the night before and programs it with the specific frequency of the Bane’s communications. Using that painful distraction, the humans run and the factory explodes behind them. The Mother is presumed dead, but Wormwood as escaped while vowing vengeance.

Everyone returns home to find that the world is restored. Alan meets The Archetype who Sarah Jane declares to be her adopted son. Sarah Jane and Maria reconvene later and deliberate over the boy’s future. Mr. Smith created official adoption documents, and Sarah Jane finishes them with a proper name: Luke.

There’s a nice touch here with nods to the Brigadier and Harry Sullivan while trying to name the newest member of the Smith family.

Sarah Jane waxes philosophically about her travels with the Doctor as the adventure comes to a close.

 

This is a wonderful pilot episode for the return of Sarah Jane Smith. It’s fantastic to see her continuing as a journalist with the added expertise of her travels with the Doctor. Knowing that this new series is designed with kids in mind, I find that the Bannerman Road Gang is easily relatable and adds a sense of innocence to the adventure. It’s almost as if Sarah Jane has become a mix of the Doctor and Torchwood, but with a much lighter tone.

It was nice to see Samantha Bond (Miss Moneypenny from the Pierce Brosnan era of James Bond, as well as Lady Rosamund from Downton Abbey) and I did love her turn as a villain, even with the over-the-top scenery-chewing performance. I also couldn’t help but draw a parallel between Luke Smith and Kyle XY, what with the lack of bellybutton as a tying characteristic.

One thing that I’m not a fan of is the tilted camera angles used in the factory. There are better ways to use the style and to inspire unease in the audience.

 

Rating: 5/5 – “Fantastic!”

 

UP NEXT – Doctor Who: Smith and Jones

 

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 #175: School Reunion

Doctor Who: School Reunion
(1 episode, s02e03, 2006)

 

The curse of the Time Lord is always having to say goodbye.

While walking the halls of Deffry Vale High School, Headmaster Finch notices a student waiting outside his office. She has a headache, but she can’t go home since she lives in an orphanage. Finch notes that no one will miss her and invites her into his office. The door closes, wings flap, and the girl screams.

The Doctor is posing as a teacher named John Smith. He asks a series of questions, each escalating in difficulty, and each answered by a student named Milo. Rose, on the other hand, is working in the cafeteria serving chips. She’s unhappy about the previous two days where they’ve been under cover based on a tip from Mickey. They note that the chips taste funny, but that the menu has been specially selected by the headmaster. Another teacher, Mr. Wagner, selects a student named Melissa for a top class. Another student, Kenny, is not allowed to eat the chips, and Finch is watching like a vulture from above.

In the kitchen, Rose watches the other kitchen staff bring in a barrel while wearing gloves and face masks. Mickey calls her with news of UFO activity in the area, but notes that he is being blocked by something called Torchwood. The barrel spills and one of the staff members is burned by the contents. The head cook stops Rose from calling an ambulance, even as Rose hears screams and smoke billows out of the side room.

In the mathematics classroom, Mr. Wagner subjects his top students to a Matrix-style computer program with alien symbols. Meanwhile, the Doctor is reunited with Sarah Jane Smith, now working as a reporter who is writing a profile on the headmaster.

I nearly cried at the reunion. I know it gets better.

Strange events are afoot: The students have taken a quantum leap in knowledge since Finch arrived; the day the headmaster arrived, several teachers disappeared under mysterious circumstances; and Kenny notices an alien creature snacking on a student. The Doctor, Rose, and Mickey investigate the school after hours, Sarah Jane finds the TARDIS, and the Doctor finally reconnects with his former companion.

She chastises him for not coming back after leaving her in Aberdeen (not South Croydon), and he reveals that all of the Time Lords are dead. The team comes together when Sarah Jane meets Rose and Mickey, and the two women clash while Mickey ruffles the Doctor’s feathers. They also discover that the teachers are actually bats that roost in the headmaster’s office. When the Doctor tries to take the oil sample back to the TARDIS, Sarah Jane shows him a faster way to analyze the sample.

K9! Mark III, to be exact! In Sarah Jane’s car!

She explains that the tin dog stopped working one day and she couldn’t repair the advanced technology. They don’t notice that they are being trailed by Headmaster Finch as they retire to a nearby café. The Doctor repairs K9, Mickey teases Rose about her jealousy, and Sarah Jane asks the Doctor if she did something wrong since he never came back for her after his visit home. The Doctor tries to brush it off, saying that she was getting on with her life, but Sarah Jane replies that the Doctor was her life. The hardest thing was adjusting back to mundane life after seeing the wonders of the universe.

K9 returns to life and recognizes the Doctor. He analyzes the sample and reports that it is Krillitane oil. The Krillitanes are a composite species who take the best physical parts of other species they conquer, and they’re doing something to the children.

As they leave the café, Rose is struggling with the realization that she’s not the first companion while Sarah Jane relates Mickey to K9, effectively the tin dog of the modern companion set. Rose is troubled that the Doctor has gone through so many companions, but the Doctor retorts that he doesn’t age. The curse of the Time Lords is regenerating and saying goodbye while everyone else ages around them.

The revelation of the Doctor’s identity frightens Mr. Finch, and everyone knows who everyone else is. The team returns to the school the next day. Rose and Sarah Jane investigate the computers, Mickey and K9 act as lookouts in the car, and the Doctor has a word with the headmaster, really a Krillitane named Brother Lassar. The human form is a morphic illusion, and Finch refers to the Doctor as a pompous, dusty senator, afraid of change and chaos and now all but extinct. The Doctor quietly replies that he had much more mercy when he was younger, and he offers a single warning.

Sarah Jane and Rose argue about who has had more experience with the Doctor – references include Pyramids of MarsThe Time WarriorRobot, The Sontaran Experiment, Revenge of the Cybermen, The Android InvasionThe Five Doctors, Death to the Daleks, Genesis of the Daleks, Planet of Evil, Invasion of the Dinosaurs, Terror of the Zygons, The Unquiet Dead, Aliens of London/World War Three, The Empty Child/The Doctor Dances, and Tooth and Claw – and Sarah Jane gets the upper hand with the Loch Ness Monster. They bond over their compared notes about the Doctor – he still strokes parts of the TARDIS! – and the Time Lord is confused by their laughter when he enters the room.

The Krillitanes are rallied to their final phase as Finch seals the school, recalls the students to their hyper-processing class, and offers the rest of the staff as a lunchtime snack. The Doctor finds that the mainframe is fixed with a deadlock seal which the sonic screwdriver cannot breach. Meanwhile, Kenny, the only student not enthralled by the computers, attracts Mickey and K9 for help. While Mickey looks for a way to break down the door, K9 reminds him they are in a car.

Oh, K9. I have missed you.

Rose, Sarah Jane, and the Doctor watch the symbols flash on a large screen. The Doctor works out that the Krillitanes are trying to solve the Skasis Paradigm, the Universal Theory. Whoever solves it can control the building blocks of the universe and all of time and space. The oil is boosting the children’s intelligence, focusing them as a giant processor. Finch arrives with an offer for the Doctor to join them, to change the universe, to save everyone, even restore the Time Lords. In true Sarah Jane fashion, she acts as his the Doctor’s conscience: Pain and loss define them as much as happiness or love; Everything has its time and everything ends, whether a world or a relationship. The Doctor smashes the screen and they all run as Finch rallies the Krillitanes.

Mickey crashes through the front doors with Sarah Jane’s car. K9 springs to the rescue and shoots down one of the bats with his blaster. The Doctor tells K9 to hold them off while they retreat, even though his battery is failing. The Krillitane ignore the “shooty dog thing” – hello, Joss Whedon – and pursue the Doctor. The Time Lord realizes that the oil is the solution, and the Krillitanes have changed their physiology so often that even their own oil is toxic to them now. Mickey goes for the kids while the Doctor stuns the bats with the fire alarm.

The barrels have been deadlock sealed, and K9 notes that he can destroy them with one shot from his blaster. Unfortunately, K9 must remain behind to strike the blow. The Doctor protests, but then bids his old friend farewell – “You good dog.” – and leaves. He takes Sarah Jane’s hand to stop her from going back for the robot dog and drags her to safety.

Finch and the bat brethren enter the kitchen in search of the Doctor. K9 shoots the barrel, and Finch snarls: “You bad dog.” K9 replies with, “Affirmative,” as the school explodes. The students cheer, hailing Kenny as the hero who saved the day as Sarah Jane weeps over K9’s sacrifice.

Later on, Sarah Jane finds the TARDIS in a park. The Doctor suggests that she join them, but Sarah Jane declines. It’s time, she says, that she found a life of her own. Mickey asks if he may join the TARDIS, ready to see the universe. Sarah Jane gives him her blessing, one Smith to another, and the Doctor agrees. Rose isn’t as pleased.

Sarah Jane wants to stay, but some things are worth getting your heart broken for. She tells Rose that if she ever needs to, Sarah Jane is there to talk. She thanks the Doctor for her time with him, and he asks if she ever found someone special. She tells him that there was one man with whom she traveled with for a while, but he was a tough act to follow. She asks him to say goodbye this time and he does – “Goodbye, my Sarah Jane!” – with a tight hug. She walks away as the TARDIS dematerializes, but when she looks back she finds a present: A brand new K9 with the Mark III consciousness installed.

Happily, Sarah orders her new companion home. They have work to do.

 

This was a magnificent episode. We get to reunite with two classic companions, we get connections between the revival series and the classic series that officially link the mythology together, and we get David Tennant getting comfortable in his skin as the Doctor. The first time I saw this episode, I also was very pleased with guest star Anthony Stewart Head, who I had only seen as Giles on Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

I love him as a bad guy.

I especially loved seeing Elisabeth Sladen once again. Her performance brought tears to my eyes, and I really do miss her as the incomparable and irreplaceable Sarah Jane Smith. I’m looking forward to The Sarah Jane Adventures when they roll up in this project.

 

 

Rating: 5/5 – “Fantastic!”

 

UP NEXT – Doctor Who: The Girl in the Fireplace

 

The Timestamps Project is an adventure through the televised universe of Doctor Who, story by story, from the beginning of the franchise. For more reviews like this one, please visit the project’s page at Creative Criticality.

 

 

Timestamp Special #11: Shada (Eighth Doctor)

Doctor Who: Shada (Eighth Doctor)
(6 episodes, 2003)

 

A new look on a once unfinished classic.

The story opens on Gallifrey with the Eighth Doctor paying a visit to Romana and K9. Romana has been elected Lord President and has not regenerated since taking her second incarnation, and the Doctor has intentionally breached the transduction barriers to steal his former companion away for an adventure from their past. He talks of their travels together four of his regenerations ago – collecting the Key to Time, defacing da Vinci’s artwork, and punting on the River Cam – and Romana mentions their bout in stasis during their trip to Cambridge. It seems that neither Romana nor K9 remember the visit to Professor Chronotis, and together they believe that they landed in Cambridge, sailed the river, were put in stasis, and then immediately set course for Brighton.

It was only because of a vision… a dream… that the Doctor even thought of this point in his history, and now he wants answers.

Across the universe, the Institute for Advanced Scientific Studies drifts through space under quarantine. The station has suffered an accident, and scientists Skagra and Caldera discuss the situation and a familiar sphere. Skagra demonstrates the sphere’s ability to consume minds, much to Caldera’s horror.

On Earth, Chris Parsons visits Professor Chronotis (who is housing the TARDIS in his office) to borrow books on carbon dating. Parsons picks up a book with mysterious writing, gathers the carbon dating references, and departs in a hurry. Chris travels to his lab to meet a woman named Claire, and when he analyzes it, he calls Claire right away to seek her advice.

Elsewhere, the Doctor and Romana wander the university’s grounds on their way to the professor’s office. Romana hears a babbling of voices as Skagra and his sphere lurk in the shadows. They also meet Mr. Wilkin, who still remembers the Doctor and the honorary degree in 1960. Wilkin remembers the Doctor’s three visits (1964, 1960, and 1955), but has no recollection of the fourth visit thanks to the events of The Five Doctors. The Time Lords arrive in Chronotis’s office, and this time it is no surprise that the professor is also a Time Lord. The Doctor tells the professor that they came at his summons, but the professor says that he didn’t send the signal. After a little prodding, the professor remembers that he summoned the Time Lords to help find the missing book.

Skagra, having spoken to Wilkin, follows his previous actions: He hitches a ride with a stranger (in a Ford Prefect in honor of Shada writer Douglas Adams), assaults the stranger with the sphere, and steals the car. The event echoes to our Time Lord trio as they hear voices.

The professor explains that the missing book is The Worshipful and Ancient Law of Gallifrey, dating from the era of Rassilon. The Doctor is beside himself: The book is one of the powerful artifacts, and the professor stole it from the Panopticon Archives upon his retirement. As Time Lords past and present continue to search the professor’s library, Skagra absorbs massive amounts of data about the Doctor, continuing the same path as before.

Skagra’s ship is beautiful in this incarnation, and he’s not wearing the sun hat and flowing silver cape from 1979-80 which is a plus. Also, despite it being pompous, I did like the expanded mythology of the Time Lord Academy and their induction oath: “I swear to protect the ancient Law of Gallifrey with all my might and brain. I will to the end of my days, with justice and with honor, temper my actions and my thoughts.”

Carrying on, the Doctor and Romana briefly discuss Salyavin, a Gallifreyan criminal and one of the Doctor’s heroes. When the Doctor asks Chronotis about Salyavin, the professor scrounges up Chris Parsons’s identity from his spotty memory. The Doctor goes to find Parsons while Romana stays with the professor.

In the laboratory, Claire (who no longer resembles Sarah Jane like she did in the original Shada) and Chris are analyzing the book. As they puzzle over it, Skagra returns to Cambridge and pesters Wilkin for directions to the professor’s office. The professor runs out of milk (after brewing his tenth pot of tea), and as Romana looks in the TARDIS for some, Skagra arrives in contemporary clothes and demands the book. When Chronotis refuses to yield, Skagra’s sphere attacks.

Chris returns to the professor’s office as Romana and K9 (after a brief discussion of milk in the console room) examine Chronotis. The professor has had part of his mind extracted, resulting in severe mental trauma. Romana sends Chris into the TARDIS for a medical kit while she tends to the professor, placing him on life support with the kit Chris retrieves.

After the Doctor arrives at the lab, he and Claire analyze the book and determine that it is 20,000 years old. Meanwhile, in his ship, Skagra analyzes the professor’s mental data. After it doesn’t pan out, he pursues the Doctor. In office, K9 and Romana tend to the professor. Sadly, he is in a vegetative state, but he does send a message in Gallifreyan morse code (via his heartsbeat) warning them of the spheres, Skagra, and Shada before dying.

Skagra intercepts the Doctor and the book. The Doctor is pursued through Cambridge by the sphere, losing the book in the chase. Skagra retrieves the book, but the Doctor is captured by the sphere and it starts to drain his mind. This version of the chase loses the situational humor and impact of the original version, which is just as well given the limited visual effects of the animation.

Romana arrives in the TARDIS and rescues the Doctor. They return to the professor’s offices just after the retired Time Lord disappears – no regeneration or anything, which makes the Doctor think that Chronotis was on his last life – and the Doctor vows vengeance. K9 scans for the sphere as the Time Lords and Chris wait in the TARDIS.

Claire heads to the professor’s offices with a printout just as the TARDIS dematerializes in pursuit of the sphere. The capsule arrives in the field where Skagra’s ship is located – K9 is displeased about navigating the pasture – and Skagra welcomes the group aboard before taking them prisoner. Skagra reveals that he was only interested in the professor’s mind, not his life, and he demands that the Doctor decode the book. When the Doctor stalls and delays, the sphere attacks him. In their cell, Romana, K9, and Chris look for a way out. They can find nothing, and K9 cannot blast out. The robotic dog does detect the voices, including a new addition in the Doctor’s voice. Romana is transmatted from the cell and forced by Skagra to pilot the TARDIS.

Claire, in search of the professor, finds Wilkin and explains that the book is absorbing energy. She returns to the office while Wilkin looks for Chronotis, and as she looks about, she inadvertently sets off an explosion that results in a time vortex filling the space.

The Doctor awakens on the ship and reveals to the vessel’s computer that since he was playing dumb, the sphere only copied his mind. He convinces the ship that he is dead to secure freedom for him and his companions, and it replies by shutting off the air supply.  When Chris and K9 are transmatted into the corridor, the ship promptly restores life support. Just as it was in the original, this moment was a cheap cliffhanger.

Following the original story closely, the TARDIS travels and Skagra reveals that he is after the criminal Salyavin. Thus, he needs Time Lord technology to find him. They materialize on the Krarg carrier ship, and Romana discovers that only a Time Lord can decipher the book. Back on Earth, the Doctor pilots Skagra’s ship into space, setting the course for Think Tank, and it dematerializes just like a TARDIS as he boosts the power. There’s also a Krarg on the ship.

Claire awakens inside the professor’s office to discover Professor Chronotis. The office is a TARDIS, Claire has activated it, and the capsule restored him in the accidental temporal convergence. Oh, and the book… yeah, the book is revealed to be the key to Shada, a Time Lord prison.

Back on the carrier, Skagra plows through the Doctor’s memories but is unable to crack the code. As the Doctor’s ship arrives at the Think Tank, he and Chris board the ship while K9 holds the Krarg at bay. On the carrier, Skagra and Romana retreat to the Doctor’s TARDIS. As Skagra turns the pages and continues his study, the TARDIS operates, and he deduces that turning the last page will unlock the code.

The Doctor and Chris discover the aged members of the Think Tank, and the Doctor connects Chris to the machine. This restores the Think Tank members, and the lead scientist, Caldera, explains the group’s history with Skagra. The evil scientist intends to use his intellect to dominate humanity by merging everything into himself, but needs Salyavin to do so. The Doctor is interrupted by K9, who has no choice but to release the Krarg, and the crystalline creature attacks the group. In the process it destroys the central computer column. In the smoke, the Doctor, K9, and Chris escape to Skagra’s ship and escape just in time. Sadly, the Think Tank members die as their ship explodes. The Doctor feels guilty, but K9 assuages him by reporting that only the Doctor and Chris were still alive when the Krarg attacked.

The professor’s TARDIS is wedged between two irrational time interfaces, and Chronotis and Claire attempt to fix the capsule (with a sonic screwdriver!). The retired Time Lord telepathically focuses on Claire’s mind and transfers his knowledge into her. Meanwhile, Skagra’s ship arrives at the carrier, and in the attempt to rescue Romana, the Doctor, Chris, and K9 end up inside the professor’s newly repaired TARDIS. While everyone catches up, Skagra pilots the Doctor’s TARDIS to Shada using the book and start searching for Salyavin. The Doctor and Chronotis soon follow in the professor’s TARDIS, and when they arrive, they leave Chris and Claire in the time capsule while they search for Skagra.

Skagra starts the revival process in the prison, but Salyavin’s not there. The other two Time Lords arrive and Chronotis reveals that he is Salyavin. Chris and Claire come to the same conclusion and leave the TARDIS to confront him.

Skagra drains Salyavin’s mind, and not even K9 can slow it down. The sphere deposits fragments of all the minds it holds into the Krarg army, starting Skagra’s plan of the universal mind. The sphere attacks Chris and adds him to the collective. K9 builds a wall of ricocheting laser blasts, and the Doctor uses the distraction to escort Romana, Claire, and K9 to the professor’s TARDIS. As the Doctor attempts to find a solution, Romana reminds him that all of the captured minds are in the melting pot, including the Doctor’s.

Romana is wearing a TARDIS key around her neck like a choker. How interesting.

Skagra takes his legion to the Doctor’s TARDIS, preparing to dispatch them throughout the universe. The Doctor, Romana, and Claire use the professor’s TARDIS to generate a force field as they pursue Skagra, capturing the phone box in the time vortex. The Doctor attempts to pass across to his TARDIS, but the force field fades, threatening to toss the Doctor into the vortex. The professor’s TARDIS ends up a shambles, but the Doctor is dumped into his workshop. He formulates a plan, including a helmet with familiar markings and the Second Doctor‘s hat.

Both TARDISes arrive on the carrier ship as the Doctor struggles for control of the joint mind. The Krargs self-destruct, restoring Chris’s mind, and Romana teams with K9 to destroy the Krarg generators. Seeing that he has lost, Skagra retreats to his ship, but the computer incarcerates him after deciding to serve the Doctor. The heroes travel to Shada and restore Salyavin’s mind to his body. The Doctor tries to decide Salyavin’s fate, deducing that Salyavin covered his escape by erasing the memory of Shada from the collective Time Lord memory, including stealing the key. Romana uses her executive authority to sentence Salyavin to Earth, acting once again as Professor Chronotis.

The TARDISes return to Earth. The return of the professor’s offices stumps Wilkin, who has summoned a policeman to report the “stolen room,” as the professor entertains his guests to tea. The Doctor and Romana depart, stymieing the policeman as the TARDIS dematerializes.

 

My feelings on Shada in its entirety are complicated. When I first covered the story, I gave it a solid four out of five rating, calling it an enjoyable romp. Even here, the story remains solid, and it is only amplified  by including Paul McGann, bringing back K9, and advancing the story of Romana following her last appearance in E-Space. Romana’s story is even more special as she has finally surpassed her mentor in nearly every way.

But, while it’s entirely possible to do so, I have a hard time acknowledging it as part of the continuity. I would love to, but this makes the story of Shada so much more complicated than it needs to be. I mean, look at it on the real world timeline:

  • 1979-80 – Shada is intended to serve as the Season 17 finale, but a production strike stops the completion of the story.
  • 1983 – The Five Doctors premieres, in which each incarnation of the Doctor is pulled from (and replaced within) their respective timelines except the Fourth Doctor because Tom Baker didn’t want to participate. Using footage from the unfinished Shada, the Fourth Doctor and Romana are removed from the story during the river punting scene.
  • 1992 – Shada premieres, completed with narration by Tom Baker (sort of in character) over the missing segments. A reasonable viewer could conclude that the events of Shada took place regardless of The Five Doctors: The Doctor and Romana arrived in Cambridge, got abducted by President Borusa, were returned, and then completed the Skagra/Salyavin mission without a hitch.
  • 2003 – This version of Shada premieres. It acknowledges that the Fourth Doctor and Romana arrived in Cambridge, but after their abduction by Borusa, they immediately left Cambridge for Brighton. Presumably, since Skagra couldn’t get access to the Time Lords – assuming that he didn’t have the fortitude to invade Gallifrey and none of the other traveling Time Lords in Doctor Who mythology were available to be brain-sucked by the sphere – the ability to open Shada was lost and the threat was stopped. But, the Eighth Doctor found the hole in his memories and responded to the (what seems to be a fixed constant) call from Chronotis/Salyavin to find the Shada key and stop Skagra, so that means that the threat is still serious enough.

So, why not just stick with the assumption from 1992, especially considering that Shada was finally completed with animation in 2017?

To me, that makes this version an alternate telling of events.

The highlights were having more Paul McGann and furthering the Romana/K9 story. I was a bit put off by the animation and its limits, particularly in the chase sequences and some of the narrative shortcuts that were more powerful visual sequences in the original. Overall, though, it’s still a good tale.

 

With this post – excluding future revisits to Power of the Daleks, The Enemy of the World, The Web of Fear, and Shada thanks to their recovery and reconstruction – the Timestamps Project has covered the entirety of the classic era of Doctor Who. This leg of the journey has taken approximately four and a half years to complete, but the adventure is far from over.

It’s time to revisit the modern era with the understanding of the classic era in my mind.

 

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

 

 

UP NEXT – Doctor Who: Rose

 

The Timestamps Project is an adventure through the televised universe of Doctor Who, story by story, from the beginning of the franchise. For more reviews like this one, please visit the project’s page at Creative Criticality.

 

Timestamp Special #7: Dimensions in Time

Doctor Who: Dimensions in Time
(2 episodes, 1993)

 

Celebrating thirty years.

Starting off with a little backstory, this was shown as part of the 1993 Children in Need telethon over two nights. Both parts were bracketed by host Noel Edmonds, and the first part involved a short intro sketch with Jon Pertwee in character as the Doctor. Sadly, this was his last on-screen performance before his death.

On to the story…

The Rani is traveling with her companion, previously having captured (busts of) the First and Second Doctors in an attempt to assemble a menagerie of sentient life-forms to control the universe. That’s kind of her thing, really. Her companion checks off a Cyberman and a Time Lord from Gallifrey, noting that they need a human from Earth to complete the collection.

Elsewhere, the Fourth Doctor (in his Eighteenth Season garb) issues a warning to all of his other incarnations. It appears that he’s too late as the Rani takes aim on the TARDIS and knocks the capsule off course. Instead of landing in China, the Seventh Doctor and Ace materialize on the docks at the Cutty Sark Gardens, circa 1973. As Ace calls for help, the Seventh Doctor transforms into the Sixth Doctor, and both of them are instantly transported to (the fictional) Albert Square. The Sixth Doctor remarks that they have “slipped a groove” in time, and somehow he knows who Ace is.

This timey-wimey-wibbly-wobbliness will drive the rest of the adventure.

As Ace spots a clothing stand and a discount on a jacket from Sanjay and Gita (of The EastEnders), the Sixth Doctor discovers that they are now in 1993. The slipped groove has also slipped them two decades into the future. Just as he begins to question things, the slip happens again, leaving behind the Third Doctor and Mel. The Third Doctor believes that someone is rooting through his timeline and extracting previous incarnations and companions. The pair stop and ask two shop owners (Pauline Fowler and Kathy Beale from The EastEnders) what year they are in, and they are shocked to discover that they are in 2013.

The slips come fast and furious now, bouncing between 1973, 1993, and 2013, all in an attempt to separate the Doctor from the TARDIS and seal all of the Doctors together. One slip occurs, revealing the Sixth Doctor and Susan Foreman, the latter of whom is eager to find her grandfather, Ian, and Barbara. Another slip brings Sarah Jane and the Third Doctor back together. The next reunites the Fifth Doctor, Nyssa, and Peri, and this time they’re under attack from the Rani’s menagerie because our heroes (in all their guises) are too close to the truth.

They face off against a host of villains from the last thirty years (including an Argolin, a biomechanoid, a Cyberman, a Mentor, an Ogron, a Sandminer robot, a Sea Devil, a Tetrap, a Time Lord, a Tractator, a Vanir and a Vervoid, and even Fifi), and after they attempt to warn Pat Butcher (The EastEnders) of the danger – a futile effort, it seems – they are trapped by the Rani outside the Queen Victoria (once more, The EastEnders).

The Fifth Doctor psychically summons the Third Doctor in his place, an act that replaces Nyssa and Peri with Liz Shaw. Liz attempts to disarm the Rani, but then flees after Mandy (The EastEnders) distracts the villain. Mike Yates arrives in Bessie and shoots the gun out of the Rani’s hands, offering the Doctor a way out. Together they flee to a helicopter and the Brigadier.

Another slip occurs, exchanging the Third Doctor for the Sixth as they reach safety. As another slip occurs, the Rani and her companion set course for the Greenwich Meridian to find their missing human specimen. In a garage, the second Romana is flushed out of her hiding spot by Phil and Grant Mitchell (you guessed it, The EastEnders), who point her to their doctor, Harold Legg. As she passes the Queen Victoria, the Rani captures her.

In 1973, the Third Doctor and Victoria Waterfield discuss the nature of the Rani as they return to the TARDIS. Time slips once again, and the Seventh Doctor lands in 1993 and encounters Leela, who has escaped the Rani after being cloned in the form of the second Romana. This is the key that the Doctor needs, since the Rani now has an extra Time Lord brain imprint instead of the human one she needed. The Seventh Doctor, Ace, and K9 rig up a device to overload the time tunnel, capturing the Rani inside while breaking the other Doctors free.

Triumphant, the Seventh Doctor and Ace board the TARDIS for their next adventure, confident in the fact that the Doctor(s) are difficult to get rid of.

 

This was fun but chaotic, and a decent nod to the franchise on its thirtieth anniversary.

 

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

 

UP NEXT – Doctor Who: Death Comes to Time

 

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 #130: The Five Doctors

Doctor Who: The Five Doctors
(Twentieth Anniversary Special, 1983)

 

“I am being diminished, whittled away piece by piece. A man is the sum of his memories you know, a Time Lord even more so…”

After a heart-touching introduction by the First Doctor, we find the Fifth Doctor – To save on confusion, I’m going to call them by number right out of the gate – putting the finishing touches on a brand new control console, and I actually kind of like it. The team is relaxing at the Eye of Orion, taking some time away from the rush of their recent adventures. The tranquil atmosphere has something to do with a bombardment of positive ions, and the Doctor agrees with Tegan that they can vacation for a little while.

Elsewhere, a black-gloved hand fiddles with controls and activates a scanner. On the screen is none other than the First Doctor (though not quite the genuine article due to an obvious need for recasting). A black Phantom Zone-like two-dimensional triangle swoops down and scoops up the Time Lord, an act that causes the Fifth Doctor considerable pain. The First Doctor is reduced to an Eaglemoss figurine and placed on a crystalline display.

Next up, we’re taken to UNIT HQ where Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart is talking to his replacement, Colonel Crighton, when the Second Doctor arrives. The Time Lord has arrived to attend the Brig’s farewell speech and is unhappy with the renovations at UNIT HQ. He and the Brigadier take a walk, reminiscing over the Yeti, the Cybermen, Omega, and the Terrible Zodin (okay, not so much that one) before they too are swept into the Phantom Zone and turned into toys.

On to the Third Doctor, who is trying to outrace the spinning triangle in Bessie. He fails.

Tegan and Turlough escort the Fifth Doctor to the TARDIS, where he tells them that he must find his older selves to stop whatever is chewing at his soul. Meanwhile, back on Earth, Sarah Jane and K9 puzzle over the danger that the robotic dog detects. Sarah Jane ignores his concerns and heads to the bus for her daily schedule. She’s later consumed by the mysterious triangle.

The Fourth Doctor and Romana are punting down the river at Cambridge, just like they did in Shada. It’s a clever re-use of footage, really. Anyway, they are also taken, which causes the Fifth Doctor to collapse, but not before he sets the coordinates. The Fifth Doctor fades in and out before the TARDIS lands, and the mysterious figure adds models of Tegan, Turlough, and the Fifth Doctor to the display.

On Gallifrey, the Inner Council has convened, comprised of a newly-regenerated President Borusa, High Chancellor Flavia, and the Castellan. Shockingly, they admit the Master for a conference. The Inner Council offer a pardon for his long list of crimes and a whole new regeneration cycle in exchange for one act: He is to rescue the Doctor.

Surprise!

The First Doctor wanders an angular cave of mirrors, joined in a surprise appearance by Susan. (There were cheers from this Whovian. I’ve missed her.) The pair run as a Dalek (we haven’t seen them in a while!) rounds a corner and opens fire. The place is known as the Death Zone, an arena-like place on Gallifrey where beings from across the universe were sent to battle for amusement before the time of Rassilon. The Council sent two representatives who did not return. They attempted to send the Doctor, but all of his incarnations have vanished from the timeline. All of them (except the Fourth because Tom Baker had reasons) have been deposited in the Death Zone. Inside the Zone, the First Doctor and Susan trick the Dalek into a mirrored dead end. It fires and the reflected beam destroys the creature, revealing the mutant within the armored casing. Through a hole in the wall, they see the tower of the Death Zone and decide to investigate.

Elsewhere, the Second Doctor and the Brigadier tangle with Cybermen and the Third Doctor reunites with Sarah Jane as he rescues her from a terrible fall. As the First Doctor and Susan wander, they find the Fifth Doctor’s TARDIS and meet Tegan, Turlough, and the Fifth Doctor. The First Doctor spearheads introductions all around and then tasks Tegan with fetching refreshments. She objects, but the Fifth Doctor asks her to humor the oldest of the Doctors. After all, he used to get a bit tetchy. Meanwhile, the Master is sent into the Zone with the Seal of the High Council (to prove his credentials) and a transmat recall device. He is soon found by the Third Doctor and Sarah Jane, but the reunion is broken up by laser fire. The Master runs one direction while the Third Doctor and Sarah Jane go another, but without the aid of Bessie who took a direct hit to the engine.

The Fifth Doctor sets the TARDIS coordinates for the Dark Tower, a place that supposedly holds the tomb of Rassilon and is the current destination for all of the Doctors and companions. The Fifth Doctor, Susan, and Tegan set out on foot to disable the force field around it so the First Doctor and Turlough can move the TARDIS to its doorstep. Meanwhile, the Second Doctor and the Brigadier go in through the cave system beneath the tower, the Third Doctor and Sarah Jane encounter Cybermen, and the Fifth Doctor’s team encounters the Master. The last event is watched by a squad of Cybermen, who rush the Time Lords and stun the Master. The Fifth Doctor sends Susan (who twists her ankle) and Tegan back to the TARDIS before using the transmat recall to return to the capitol. The First Doctor decides to take up the Fifth Doctor’s task, and Tegan joins him. Amusingly, the First Doctor still has a great deal of resentment at being addressed as “Doc.”

The Fifth Doctor confers with the Inner Council about who has control of the time scoop and the Cybermen. He uncovers a homing beacon inside the recall device, surmising that someone led the Cybermen to the Master to attack the Doctors. Borusa has the Castellan, who originally gave the device to the Master, arrested and his office and quarters searched. Meanwhile, the Master makes an arrangement with the Cybermen, who then converge on the TARDIS.

The Third Doctor and Sarah Jane encounter a Raston Warrior Robot, a perfect killing machine, halting their progress until it passes. Luckily, the Cybermen approach and engage the Raston, providing a diversion for our heroes to escape (with the Raston’s supplies). In the caves, the Second Doctor and the Brig find a Yeti, which they evade before finding a door to the Dark Tower. It is unlocked, so a trap must lie beyond.

In the Citadel, a chest containing Black Scrolls of Rassilon, forbidden knowledge from the Dark Times, is found in the Castellan’s quarters. The Castellan is taken away for interrogation but is shot dead (without regeneration) en route. The Fifth Doctor is forbidden by Borusa from returning to the Death Zone. Flavia is tasked with taking care of the Fifth Doctor, and they discuss the possibility that the Castellan was not the traitor.

At this point, all three entrances to the Dark Tower are in use. The Third Doctor and Sarah Jane zipline across to the upper entrance, the Second Doctor and the Brigadier are in the basement, and the First Doctor and Tegan use a biometric entry coder to open the front door. The Master follows through the main entrance with the Cybermen. Interestingly, the First Doctor does not recognize his former classmate. The Master tricks the Cybermen into a death trap, but the CyberLeader survives until the Master tricks and kills him with a Cyberman blaster. The Master passes the trap, followed by the First Doctor and Tegan who survive by using π. Stay in school, kids… math can save your life.

The Third Doctor and Sarah Jane descend toward the Tomb of Rassilon, but the closer they get, the more psychic energy pushes back on Sarah Jane. The Third Doctor scouts ahead and finds former companions Mike Yates and Liz Shaw. Similarly, the Second Doctor encounters Zoe Heriot and Jaimie McCrimmon, but in both cases, the former companions are only specters designed to impede progress toward the heart of the tower. Once the Doctors understand that the companions are mere illusions, they disappear with chilling screams. The First Doctor is unaffected since, at his age, he has nothing left to fear.

The First, Second, and Third Doctors, along with their current traveling companions, finally arrive at the tomb. After a series of reunions, the Doctors decipher the Old High Gallifreyan language of mathematical symbols to discover that whoever wears Rassilon’s ring shall achieve immortality. The First Doctor is troubled by the last line in the text: “To lose is to win and he who wins shall lose.” The Master arrives shortly afterward and threatens the Doctors, but he is sucker-punched by the Brigadier and tied up by Tegan and Sarah Jane.

The Fifth Doctor goes to confer with Borusa, but the president is nowhere to be found. The Doctor discovers that the Harp of Rassilon is a musical key. The key unlocks a chamber where the figurines (including one of the Master) are being overseen by Borusa, the true mastermind of this scheme. The president is not satisfied with leading Gallifrey for all of his lifetimes, but instead want to be immortal and President Eternal. He plans to use the Doctors to clear the path and traps, leaving the way open for him to claim the prize. When the Fifth Doctor refuses to help, Borusa uses the power of the Coronet of Rassilon to compel his cooperation.

Politicians, right?

The Third Doctor reverses the polarity of the neutron flow on the control console, and with the forcefields down around the Tomb of Rassilon, the TARDIS engages autopilot and moves to the tomb with Susan and Turlough. The movement is just in time as the Cybermen detonate a bomb to destroy the TARDIS, but they miss. Soon, the Fifth Doctor and Borusa arrive via transmat to claim the prize. The first three Doctors combine their psionic powers to break the telepathic hold, and as the Fifth Doctor is freed, the voice of Rassilon issues a challenge to Borusa. The First Doctor convinces Rassilon to surrender the ring to Borusa, and the president’s desire is granted: The faces that line the plinth come to life, for they are those who have previously sought immortality, and Borusa becomes one of them.

Rassilon offers immortality to the Doctors, but they decline in exchange for the chance to go back to their respective timestreams. The Fourth Doctor is restored to Shada, and the Master is restored with the promise that his sins will find their punishment in due time. As the Doctors says their farewells, the First Doctor (smugly) explains that he convinced Rassilon to give Borusa the ring because he finally understood the riddle: It was a trap set by Rassilon to weed out the more selfish of their people because they were a danger to civilization. Each set of Doctors and companions boards the TARDIS in order and the TARDIS splits through a form of temporal fission to return them their proper homes.

Chancellor Flavia arrives and tells the Doctor that he is due back to the Citadel. Since Borusa has been disqualified, the High Council has decided that the Doctor shall resume his duties as Lord President. He orders Flavia back to the Citadel, telling her that she has full authority until he arrives in his TARDIS. After ushering Tegan and Turlough aboard, he sets a course and dematerializes, stunning his companions by announcing his intention to not take office.

“You mean you’re deliberately choosing to go on the run from your own people, in a rackety old TARDIS?”

“Why not? After all, that’s how it all started.”

 

All in all, this was a wonderful story to celebrate a significant milestone. I was curious, so I looked at scripted entertainment television across the United States and United Kingdom and came up with a short list of shows to reach twenty years by 1983: Coronation Street, Guiding Light, As the World Turns, General Hospital, The Wonderful World of Disney, Romper Room, Search for Tomorrow, Captain Kangaroo, and The Edge of Night. There were also a couple of semi-scripted children’s shows like Blue Peter and The Sooty Show, but the fact remains that, in a world dominated by soap opera longevity, Doctor Who was the only science-fiction drama reach that mark.

Yeah, they deserved this party.

I was very pleased to see so many of the companions back in action, even if their cameos were short. While I would have loved to see Liz, Zoe, and Jamie get into the mix, the saying holds true that too many cooks spoil the broth. It was clever, however, to subvert nostalgia with the canonical circumstances of The War Games. I appreciate that level of attention to detail.

I did miss having Tom Baker in the mix, which would have drawn The Five Doctors down to four if it hadn’t been for Richard Hurndall. From what I gather in fan circles, his involvement as the First Doctor is sometimes disparaged, but I thought he did a fantastic job. Mixing his performance with the archival footage at the beginning (effectively bringing us two First Doctors) was a nice touch and a beautiful tribute to the beginnings of this franchise.

Finally, that wonderful musical mix over the end credits to tie the eras together: C’est fantastique.

 

Rating: 5/5 – “Fantastic!”

 

 

UP NEXT – Twentieth Series 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.

Timestamp Special #3: A Girl’s Best Friend

A Girl’s Best Friend
(1981)

timestamp-s3-a-girls-best-friend

 

After closing out the Tom Baker era of Doctor Who, it felt appropriate to spend another 1980s adventure with two of his iconic companions.

After a set of trippy opening credits, we come to a cult ceremony where two goat-headed figures are leading a chant against a heretic: Sarah Jane Smith’s aunt Lavinia. We last heard of her in The Time Warrior.

Lavinia is packing for a lecture tour in America, but has a box that arrived a long time ago addressed to Sarah Jane. Sarah Jane has been working abroad as a reporter and arrives too late to meet up with Lavinia, but luckily her aunt left the crate behind. She gets delayed by her aunt’s ward, Brendan Richards, and his surprise arrival at the train station. He reveals that Lavinia’s absence is awfully sudden. Suspicious, even.

Sarah Jane retrieves Brendan and returns to her aunt’s house to meet Bill Pollock, Lavinia’s partner in a local market garden who lives in the east wing of the house. The man is awfully standoffish and rude toward Brendan, and their discussion is interrupted by a suspicious call from Juno Baker, a friend of Lavinia’s. Pollock leaves shortly afterward, leaving Sarah Jane and Brendan a chance to open the crate.

Inside is K9. Mark III to be exact.

And since K9 joined the Doctor after Sarah Jane’s departure, she has no idea what it is. Luckily, K9 fills in the details: He was sent by the Doctor as a gift in 1978 with his fondest love. So, he’s been in the crate for two or three years.

I’d wonder where the Doctor found time during the search for the Key to Time to build and send K9, but he’s a Time Lord. He has nothing but time.

 

 

Brendan is very curious about K9’s workings and origins – “Who is the Doctor?” followed by the only logical response, “Affirmative” – and Sarah Jane follows the leads on her aunt. Lavinia was disliked in town because of her outspoken views on local witchcraft. While Sarah Jane talks with Juno, Brendan runs an analysis on the local soil and K9 thwarts an abduction attempt on the young ward by George Tracey and his son Peter, both of whom are tied to the coven. Of course, Tracey is Lavinia’s gardener, and he arrives the next morning to inspect the resultant damage in the garden. Later that night, Peter succeeds in abducting Brendan and cutting the phone lines.

Sarah Jane is suspicious of Tracey and hides K9 in the gardener’s house. The robotic dog overhears plans to sacrifice Brendan for the coven, forcing Sarah Jane and K9 to investigate. Of course, she is unable to involve the local police because she cannot explain her actions or K9’s presence, and none of the locals believe her story about witchcraft. While she continues to investigate, Peter is inducted into the coven, and K9 explains that they have only a few scant hours before the winter solstice occurs.

In the nick of time – the countdown was more annoying than tension-building – K9 and Sarah Jane save Brendan and unmask the cult members, revealing the leaders as Pollock and Lily Gregson, the postmistress of the village. The reason that Sarah Jane never got her aunt’s telegraphs was that the two of them stopped them from getting out, fueling Sarah Jane’s suspicions about Lavinia’s disappearance. Luckily, Sarah Jane gets a Christmas call from her aunt to sort things out while K9 learns how to sing We Wish You a Merry Christmas.

So, it’s not a terrible story, but not a great one. It was nice to see Sarah Jane once again and K9 one last time in the classic era, and it was a good way to close out the Fourth Doctor’s adventures. I think the stories would have gotten better if the series had been picked up, but as a pilot, this tale was cute but weak.

 

As with the other specials, this rating won’t count toward anything since this isn’t an official Doctor story, though it does provide me things to think about when I move into the multiple spinoff television series at some point.

 

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

 

UP NEXT – Doctor Who: Castrovalva

 

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.