Timestamp #SJA10: The Mark of the Berserker

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

 

Clyde forgets everything he knew.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

 

 

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

 

 

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

 

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

 

 

Timestamp #SJA7: The Last Sontaran

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

 

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

 

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

 

 

Timestamp #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.

 

 

Timestamp #SJA5: Whatever Happened to Sarah Jane?

Sarah Jane Adventures: Whatever Happened to Sarah Jane?
(2 episodes, s01e05, 2007)

 

What would the world have been without Sarah Jane Smith.

Clyde introduces Luke to skateboarding, much to Sarah Jane’s chagrin. When Clyde tries and fails to ollie, Alan demonstrates the trick and then shows off his skills. The group takes some photos, prompting Sarah Jane to get the chills before they all head home.

Sarah Jane asks Mr. Smith about a meteorite that is heading straight for Earth, but she’s not worried since she can save the world without alerting a soul. Maria notes that without her the planet would be doomed, and Sarah Jane offers the young woman an alien puzzlebox. It came from a Verron Soothsayer with instructions to give it to the person she trusts the most and just to “remember.”

Maria heads home and works on the puzzle box while a cloaked figure stalks Bannerman Road. The mysterious figure gestures and everything about Sarah Jane disappears. The puzzle box glows blue and Maria jolts awake as if from a nightmare. The next morning, Alan shows off his old skateboard and talks about a woman named Andrea. Maria heads over to Sarah Jane’s house this Andrea in her friend’s place. Alan has no idea who Sarah Jane Smith is either, and she and Luke are missing from the photos from the previous day.

Maria calls Clyde, who doesn’t remember Sarah Jane either, and recalls that the meteorite is still headed for Earth. Maria bursts into 13 Bannerman Road and heads for the attic, but there’s no trace. Even Mr. Smith is gone.

Sarah Jane Smith has apparently been removed from existence along with the history of this entire show outside of Maria’s memory.

Even though Alan doesn’t believe her, Maria searches the internet for traces of Sarah Jane Smith. They eventually head to the library and discover that thirteen-year-old Sarah Jane Smith drowned in 1964 and Andrea Yates, the woman across the street, was her best friend. Maria faintly hears Sarah Jane’s voice as the names in the article flutter, but faced with the threat of being sent to the doctor for her delusions, Maria rolls with the new reality.

Maria apologizes to Andrea before reminding the woman of Sarah Jane Smith. Andrea doesn’t recall any of it until Maria presses the issue, but she then angrily pushes Maria out of the house. Andrea panics and rushes upstairs to find a puzzle box identical to Maria’s. She sees the cloaked figure in the mirror and is reminded of their agreement, and she begs to have Maria forget. The cloaked figure offers to make Maria disappear and Andrea agrees. All she has to do is separate Maria from Alan.

Meanwhile, Maria sees Sarah Jane in the mirror. As Andrea takes Alan to her house, Maria finds her puzzle cube and encounters a creature called the Graske that chases her out of the house. The Graske transmats Maria away and removes her from the timeline, but luckily Alan finds the puzzle cube and remembers her (even though Chrissie cannot).

Maria breaks free of the Graske and is deposited on a pier. The date is July 13, 1964, and Maria meets a young Sarah Jane Smith and Andrea Yates. Maria pleads with the girls not to go down the pier but they ignore her. The Graske arrives and transmats Maria back into captivity where she finds the adult Sarah Jane. They are the only occupants of a misty plane called Limbo.

The mysterious figure summons Sarah Jane and explains that he has removed her from the timeline in order to feed off the chaos that the meteorite will cause. This also removed the Bane, the Slitheen, the Gorgon, and Kudlak from recent history to perfectly craft his plan. He also plans to remove the Doctor in order to prevent any interference and sow an unlimited amount of chaos in the universe.

Alan, Chrissie, and Clyde attend Andrea’s party. Clyde gets word of the meteorite and turns on the news. That triggers Alan’s memory of Maria, and he pulls Andrea aside to get to the truth.

When Andrea and Sarah Jane were on a school trip in July 1964, they left to explore on their own. They went into the construction zone on the pier and Andrea tumbled over the side. Sarah Jane tried to save her friend, but Andrea wasn’t able to hold on. The mysterious figure told Andrea that she could switch places and she agreed, sealing Sarah Jane’s fate. The puzzle box was a gift to help her to forget on the condition that the mysterious figure would be with her forever.

Alan is disgusted, doubly so since Andrea made the deal twice. The mysterious figure offers to send Alan away so Andrea bats the original puzzle box away and the Graske shows up to give chase. Alan outwits the Graske with his skateboard and uses the snare device to rescue Maria.

As the meteor bears down on the planet, Andrea realizes that Sarah Jane can save the world. Maria and Alan run for the attic and find Andrea begging the mysterious figure for help. Andrea sees Sarah Jane in the mirror and Maria tells Andrea to break off the deal. Together, they appeal to Andrea’s humanity in an amazing scene between Elisabeth Sladen and Jane Asher.

Andrea faces the mysterious figure (which Alan calls “The Trickster”) and rescinds the offer. With a final farewell to Sarah Jane, the proper timeline is restored. Without a second to spare, Sarah Jane activates Mr. Smith and stops the meteor from hitting Earth.

Of course, all of it was in full view of Alan Jackson. And he demands an explanation.

 

What a fun trip! The alternate timeline constructed by this story is a fascinating thought experiment, one that apparently keeps all of Sarah Jane’s victories with the Doctor intact but credits them to this Trickster entity. The Trickster’s threat to remove the Doctor from existence echoes the Master’s plan in The Five Doctors, and his intentions to undo every victory in the Time Lord’s adventures are perfectly clear.

Regarding our characters, the Sarah Jane/Maria friendship continues to grow beautifully, and the introduction of Alan to the Bannerman Road Gang is hilarious and welcome.

There was a nice reference here to the Church of the Tin Vagabond, as well as a clever nod to the Black Guardian and Turlough in Mawdryn Undead: “Waking or sleeping, I am always with you.”

 

Rating: 5/5 – “Fantastic!”

 

UP NEXT – Sarah Jane Adventures: The Lost Boy

 

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 #SJA4: Warriors of Kudlak

Sarah Jane Adventures: Warriors of Kudlak
(2 episodes, s01e04, 2007)

 

Be all you can be in the Uvodni army.

In a laser tag facility known as Combat 3000, a boy named Lance Metcalf goes down a side corridor and is transmatted away. An alien named Kudlak reports the new arrival to his superior – the Mistress – who then demands more… so many more.

Luke and Maria are sharing a day in London and receive vouchers for half-price admission to Combat 3000 from a shady Mr. Grantham. It seems that he is the human liaison for the child-snatching aliens. Meanwhile, Sarah Jane is investigating Lance’s disappearance starting with his widowed mother Carrie.

The Bannerman Road Gang is “bogging” around in the attic, much to Sarah Jane’s chagrin. She asks them about Lance and learns about his nickname – the Corporal – which infuriates her since Lance’s father was killed in Iraq. Luke unknowingly coined the nickname and therefore takes Lance’s disappearance to heart. Luke storms out and Clyde goes to talk to him while Maria and Sarah Jane look for Lance’s friend Brandon.

Brandon relays a story about a stormy day when the weather was perfectly clear everywhere else. Sarah Jane and Maria are baffled. Back near Bannerman Road, Clyde talks with Luke as Sarah Jane and Maria research the isolated storm. The short-lived storms are linked to disappearing children across the country, prompting the ladies to build a gadget to solve the mystery. The device extracts entanglement shells – terraforming seeds and residue of transmatting – from the atmosphere. With Mr. Smith’s help, they isolate the epicenter of the freak storm to Combat 3000.

Aliens: confirmed!

Luke and Clyde decide to visit Combat 3000 as a distraction (were Kudlak is taking his frustrations out on Grantham). Grantham takes interest in Luke based on his stellar performance during the game. Meanwhile, Sarah Jane and Maria investigate the facility – Maria makes Sarah Jane promise never to use slang again – as Luke and Clyde make their way through the increasingly difficult gaming levels. The ladies break into Grantham’s office and, when caught in the act, confront the man about the missing kids. He pulls a gun (from another planet) on them as a rainstorm begins. Sarah Jane tricks him with the sonic lipstick and they escape, set on finding the transmat device.

Meanwhile, Luke and Clyde make it through a surprise attack and enter what they think is the final room. The boys are trapped and transmatted away as Sarah Jane and Maria watch, finally meeting the mysterious Kudlak. They escape from Kudlak – Sarah Jane lightens the mood by quipping about her UNIT training – and return to Bannerman Road. Mr. Smith identifies Kudlak as an Uvodni, part of a planetary alliance that fought against the Malakh. After being injured, Kudlak was sent to recruit warriors from across the universe.

Luke and Clyde are forcibly placed in a wooden crate and rolled to a storage area. Luke uses the laser tag gear to break them out of the crate and free the other kids as well. Together they break out of the storage area and discover that they are on a spaceship orbiting Earth. They also meet Kudlak when he finds them and introduces them to the Mistress as good warrior stock. When they return to the storage room, Luke wires his mobile phone into the ship’s computer and locates a shuttlecraft. They are soon found by Kudlak and taken into custody.

Sarah Jane and Maria are interrupted by Grantham as he breaks into the house and tries to kill Sarah Jane. Maria uses an electrical circuit from the earlier device to incapacitate Grantham. Once they figure out that Luke and Clyde are in orbit, they take Grantham back to Combat 3000 to find the transmat device. Until the pressure of being sent to prison, Grantham transmats them to the orbiting ship.

Sarah Jane and Maria search for the kids, taking time for Maria’s breathtaking first look at the planet from orbit. They find the room where Kudlak communicates with the Mistress, but their discussion is interrupted by Kudlak and the missing kids. Luke shows Kudlak evidence that the war has ended while the solider was away, and Kudlak discovers that the Mistress is nothing more than a computer subroutine.

Kudlak destroys the computer and frees the humans, offering his life in exchange for his crimes against Earth. Sarah Jane pardons him and Kudlak offers to find the humans he previously sent away in exchange. The Bannerman Road Gang leads the missing kids back to Earth, and Luke gets a kiss from former fellow captive Jen as a reward.

They take Lance home and speculate about his future – perhaps he’ll be the first human man on Mars? – before Luke asks Clyde to explain the mysteries of girls.

 

This story was a step up with significant character development for Clyde and Luke. The continued friendship and deepening trust between Sarah Jane and Maria is also a great touch for the series. I was also impressed with the twist for Kudlak: The story’s enemy doesn’t die, despite his desire to sacrifice himself for the cause, and ends up seeking redemption in the end. That’s some classic-era-level storytelling.

The in-universe references were fun – background appearances include a Cyberman, Krillitane wings, and the Beast‘s horns – as were the cross-franchise references like Star Trek and Planet of the Apes, but the best one was musical. When Clyde jokingly identified as Luke’s Obi-Wan Kenobi, composer Sam Watts added a quiet nod to John Williams with a slice of the Force Theme.

The big distraction in this episode was Kudlak. Specifically, his eyes. Because they were all over the place. It echoes the classic era’s shoestring-and-ham-sandwich budget, but it really pulled me out of the story with modern television resolution.

 

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

 

 

UP NEXT – Sarah Jane Adventures: Whatever Happened to Sarah Jane?

 

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 #SJA3: Eye of the Gorgon

Sarah Jane Adventures: Eye of the Gorgon
(2 episodes, s01e03, 2007)

 

That moment when Alan Jackson gets stoned.

At the Lavender Lawns retirement home, a group of women claims to see a mysterious ghostly nun. Clyde tells Sarah Jane and Luke about this phenomenon as they go to investigate. While Sarah Jane interviews Mrs. Randall and the staff, Luke encounters Bea Nelson-Stanley, a woman with Alzheimer’s. She gives Luke a talisman that glows green but is unable to explain what it does or why she has it. Mrs. Gribbins, one of the caregivers, watches the exchange with interest. The trio leave, unaware of a creepy nun skulking amongst the trees.

Meanwhile, at the Jackson home, Chrissie decides to move back in with her ex-husband. In short order, she’s at odds with Maria over the Smiths and being abandoned. Alan tries to talk with Maria, but she storms off to Sarah Jane’s house in anger. Alan confronts Chrissie about her effect on him and Maria.

Sarah Jane and the boys return to her house and consult Mr. Smith about hauntings. The supercomputer detects the talisman and determines that it is an alien device. Sarah Jane takes Maria with her to follow up with Bea, taking the opportunity to have a heart-to-heart.

The nun, Sister Helena, disapproves of Bea passing the talisman to Luke and takes Mrs. Gribbins to a hooded woman in a wheelchair. There’s some screaming and such. Sister Helena then traces Luke and Clyde to Bannerman Road in search of the talisman. She nearly attacks the boys but Alan stumbles by in search of Maria and offers a donation to her cause. Sister Helena leaves and the boys decide to return to Lavender Lawns. While en route, the sisters kidnap Luke and Clyde alerts Sarah Jane.

Bea tells Sarah Jane tales about Sontarans – “the silliest looking race in the galaxy” – and the Gorgon, part of adventures with her archaeologist husband Edgar. He unearthed the talisman in Syria and Bea protected it to keep the Gorgon at bay. Sarah Jane and Maria return to Bannerman Road to research the myths of Medusa and the Gorgons.

Sarah Jane tracks the nuns to St. Agnes Abbey while Clyde and Maria sneak around back. Sarah Jane is reunited with Luke and the kids as the nuns spring their trap, bringing the Gorgon before the team. The Gorgon is the last of an original group of three, and after 3,000 years, she wants to use the talisman to open a portal to her planet and return home. The boys are left at the abbey and the ladies are escorted back to Sarah Jane’s house. Sarah Jane threatens to use her sonic lipstick to destroy the talisman, but Alan arrives at the wrong time and ends up turned to stone as the nuns snatch the talisman.

The nuns retreat to the abbey as Maria lashes out at Sarah Jane in anger. Sarah Jane comforts her and offers a promise that everything will be okay. After consulting with Mr. Smith, it seems that reversal is possible but not entirely realistic. Maria returns to Lavender Lawns to talk to Bea while Sarah Jane returns to the abbey.

Meanwhile, Luke and Clyde do some research at the abbey and find a secret passage. It leads them out to the garden where they find a large collection of statues. The nuns return and start their work to open the portal, intent on allowing the Gorgon species to invade Earth. Luke and Clyde stage a distraction and steal the talisman, soon rescued by Sarah Jane before being surrounded by chanting nuns and tossed into the cellar. The nuns return for Sarah Jane with the intent of making her the new vessel for the Gorgon’s essence.

Faced with a difficult task, Maria eventually breaks through to Bea. The elderly woman was once petrified herself, but was able to survive through the power of the amulet. She offers Maria a mirror for her quest to defeat the Gorgon.

While everyone is away, Chrissie skulks around Sarah Jane’s house and mistakes Alan’s petrified form as an object of obsession over her ex-husband. After Chrissie bares her soul to the “statue,” it sheds a single tear as she walks away.

Luke fashions a lockpick from a garden spade and the boys escape from the cellar. They find Sarah Jane and the nuns as the portal opens and the Gorgon tries to transfer into Sarah Jane. Maria bursts in and uses the mirror to reflect the Gorgon back at its vessel, turning it into stone. She pulls the amulet and closes the portal, and the team rushes back to Bannerman Road to save Maria’s father.

Alan doesn’t remember the incident and Maria makes amends with both of her parents. Chrissie tries to reveal the statue to Alan, but without evidence, she has nothing to claim. Chrissie returns to her own home and bids her daughter farewell, both of them promising to look out for each other.

Maria and Sarah Jane speculate about the power of the amulet and wonder if it can save Bea from her Alzheimer’s. They return to Lavender Lawns and give it a try, but all the device can offer is a last word from Edgar: “I will always love you, Bea.” Bea smiles and thanks Sarah Jane and Maria. They pair leave Lavender Lawns with the knowledge that Bea has found peace, intent on returning home in time to watch the Viszeran Royal Fleet pass through the solar system.

After all, despite taking only a few seconds, it is the most magnificent light show this side of the galaxy.

 

Purely paint-by-numbers, this adventure was entertaining enough. It introduced a new enemy based on classic myths, as well as calling back to Sarah Jane’s early adventures with the Sontarans. Remember that her first adventure with the Third Doctor introduced everyone to the Sontarans, and she encountered them again in her extended first adventure with the Fourth Doctor.

Otherwise, the characters and story were straight down the middle of the road average. We get a nice bundle of references to Star Trek and 1964’s The Gorgon, but no callbacks to the Medusa-like encounter back in The Mind Robber.

 

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

 

UP NEXT – Sarah Jane Adventures: Warriors of Kudlak

 

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 #SJA2: Revenge of the Slitheen

Sarah Jane Adventures: Revenge of the Slitheen
(2 episodes, s01e02, 2007)

 

They’re back, and this time they brought a kid.

Maria Jackson offers a brief recap of the characters and their last adventure as she heads to her first day of school. She meets up with Luke Smith – dropped off by Sarah Jane, who doesn’t want to be called “mum” – and they head toward the newly-built school building. Meanwhile, some familiar-looking aliens with familiar gas problems take over a teacher’s body.

Luke and Maria meet with new student Clyde Langer – Kelsey Hooper has conveniently disappeared, but not for reasons pertaining to this plot – and they join the assembled students for an orientation tour by the Slitheen-assimilated headmaster. Clyde notes that the building smells like metal and batteries, and a later lunch also proves strange.

Luke and Maria get a ride home with Sarah Jane. Alan Jackson and Sarah Jane talk for a moment about parenting and other new construction that smells like metal. While the Slitheen run electrical experiments, Sarah Jane does some research and counsels Luke on how to be a kid. The research reveals a company called Coldfire that has been building schools all across London.

Maria’s mother Chrissie stops by for a visit just as the Slitheen cut power to the entire city, including battery sources, Mr. Smith, and Sarah Jane’s wrist analyzer. Even candles refuse to stay lit. The Slitheen stop their experiment due to a faulty stabilizer and energy is restored, leaving the aliens with one step to go before destroying Earth.

The next morning, Sarah Jane talks to Alan as he gardens. She asks him about the school that he worked on – St. Cheldon’s Comprehensive – and investigates the connection. St. Cheldon’s has a new building just like Park Vale does, along with the same problems with electrical systems and spoiling food. All the while, someone is watching Sarah Jane on the school’s security cameras.

Meanwhile, Luke and Clyde bond over science class and the science-teacher-turned-Slitheen, Mr. Jeffery, wants to recruit Luke to help with the stabilizer problem. Luke unwittingly provides the answer while Sarah Jane asks Maria to snoop around the school while she checks out Coldfire Construction.

Luke and Clyde discover an unaccounted for space in the school while Maria is trapped by the Jeffery Slitheen in a computer lab. Sarah Jane encounters her own problems at Coldfire when the receptionist turns into a Slitheen as well. Sarah Jane, Clyde, and Maria are all hunted as Luke figures out how to enter the extra space behind the walls. There he finds the headmaster and the Slitheen science project.

Sarah Jane escapes by dousing her pursuer in perfume and using the sonic lipstick to open the door. She calls Luke and tells them how to escape. Luckily, Clyde has a can of Wolverine – think Axe body spray – and the kids escape with Sarah Jane just in the nick of time.

The Slitheen question how a human has a sonic device, but they determine that it’s too late to worry. Meanwhile, the kids and Sarah Jane convene at Bannerman Road. Sarah Jane learns about the Slitheen (and recalls something a friend once told her about Slitheen in Downing Street) before meeting Clyde and consulting Mr. Smith about Coldfire’s new constructions around the world. All of the ten cities have underground railways to act as a cooling system for the capacitor systems, and Luke reveals that he has provided the Slitheen with the key equation. The city of Los Angeles has just gone dark followed by China, and Washington, DC is up next.

Clyde also has a fascination with military operations.

Mr. Smith provides a biographical report on the Slitheen, but the city goes dark just before the supercomputer can deliver a weakness. Sarah Jane and her team head for the school, armed with Clyde’s information that the Slitheen were offended by his lunch. It seems that vinegar is the secret weapon. They hit the street as the sun goes dark.

The headmaster drops his human skin and greets the team as they arrive. The vinegar works, prompting the headmaster to explode, and the remaining two Slitheen call in reinforcements just in time to capture Sarah Jane and Luke.

Cue the villain exposition on the evil plan. The Slitheen want revenge against the Ninth Doctor.

Luke explains that the system can’t hold that much power. The rest of the team is captured as Luke makes adjustments, which requires a reset of the system. Sarah Jane and Luke use the newly restored sonic lipstick to break the system and the team escapes. Sarah Jane shows mercy on the younger Slitheen, allowing him to escape with the others who transmatted away.

The team arrives back at Bannerman Road as Sarah Jane informs UNIT of the escaped Slitheen with “love to the Brig.” Maria has a moment with her mother (who is skeptical of the events since Maria moved away) and Sarah Jane explains things to Clyde, including her adventures with the Doctor.

She also swears him to secrecy, and he tells her that she should be Luke’s mother. Sarah Jane has Mr. Smith put a rumor into the world to explain the strange happenings. She tells Luke that she’s proud of him and accepts her role as his mother.

 

Coming back ten months after the first episode, Sarah Jane returns with minor changes. The largest, of course, is changing Kelsey Hooper for Clyde Langer because the BBC thought that there were too many female characters on the show. That is a frustrating decision.

Otherwise, this story was a serviceable sequel to the Ninth Doctor’s adventures with the Slitheen. It was a good introduction to Clyde and a wonderful chance to grow for Sarah Jane. Motherhood looks good with her.

 

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

 

 

UP NEXT – Sarah Jane Adventures: Eye of the Gorgon

 

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 #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.