Timestamp #SJA25: Goodbye, Sarah Jane Smith

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

Timestamp SJA25 Goodbye Sarah Jane Smith

Who could ever replace Sarah Jane Smith?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Meanwhile, in orbit, Clyde records a goodbye message.

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

Travel well, Sarah Jane.

Rating: 5/5 – “Fantastic!”


UP NEXT – Sarah Jane Adventures: Series Four Summary

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

Timestamp #SJA24: Lost in Time

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

Timestamp SJA24 Lost in Time

It’s a good core with poor wrapping.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

Timestamp #SJA23: The Empty Planet

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

Timestamp SJA23 The Empty Planet

It’s a tale of loneliness and acceptance.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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


UP NEXT – Sarah Jane Adventures: Lost in Time

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

Timestamp #SJA22: Death of the Doctor

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

Timestamp SJA22 Death of the Doctor

The Doctor is dead. Long live the Doctor.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Long live the Doctor.


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

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

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

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

Rating: 5/5 – “Fantastic!”


UP NEXT – Sarah Jane Adventures: The Empty Planet

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

Timestamp #SJA21: The Vault of Secrets

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

Timestamp SJA21 The Vault of Secrets

Here come the Men in Black… um… again.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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


UP NEXT – Sarah Jane Adventures: Death of the Doctor

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

Timestamp #SJA20: The Nightmare Man

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

Timestamp SJA20 The Nightmare Man

You can’t get him out of your head.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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


UP NEXT – Sarah Jane Adventures: The Vault of Secrets

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

Timestamp #SJA19: The Gift

Sarah Jane Adventures: The Gift
(2 episodes, s03e06, 2009)

Eat your vegetables before they eat you.

The Bannerman Road Gang chases a disguised Slitheen with a stolen matter compressor into a warehouse. The plan is to compress the planet’s carbon into a giant diamond. When the Slitheen gets away, Sarah Jane calls K9 to act as a bloodhound.

The gang ends up in a standoff with the Slitheen agents, but the world is saved when two orange-skinned Slitheen materialize and apprehend the bad guys.

It turns out that they are Blathereen, another family from Raxacoricofallapatorius. The planet holds many families, but only the Slitheen are criminals. These two Bathereen, Tree and Leef, wish to show their appreciation with a dinner party, and Rani offers her home as a host.

The dinner party goes off without a hitch. The Blathereen talk about Raxacoricofallapatorius and how it was once the jewel of the Raxas Alliance until the Slitheen destroyed the reputation. They offer a gift, a pot of rakweed, which is supposedly a staple food on Raxacoricofallapatorius. They want Sarah Jane to act as an ambassador to end starvation on Earth with this single plant.

Sarah Jane and Rani are skeptical, and Clyde is suspicious. After the dinner, Sarah Jane asks Mr. Smith to analyze the plant but he finds nothing harmful. The gang heads to bed to prepare for their upcoming biology test. Clyde hasn’t studied, so he hatches a plan to borrow K9 to cheat on the exam.

The next morning, Luke searches for his tie in the attic and discovers that the rakweed has released harmful spores into the atmosphere. When he inhales the spores, he gets sick. That’s a first since the Bane made him the vision of perfect health. 

Luke stays home from school while Rani heads in and discovers Clyde’s plan. He has K9 transmitting him answers via an earpiece, and the plan makes Rani furious and fearful.

Sarah Jane and Mr. Smith discuss the rakweed’s mutation. The plant hunts its victims and drains their energy. The plant is spreading, and reports indicate that people are collapsing with black and red marks on their skin. At the current rate of propagation, the plant will have seeded the whole of London within hours, and the Earth within a week.

The rakweed issues another burst of spores and Mr. Smith saves Sarah Jane by using his cooling fans to divert the spore cloud. His energy is depleted as a result, but he’s still able to commence work on an antidote. Unfortunately, it won’t be ready in time. Sarah Jane puts the plant in her safe to block any further spores.

The rakweed spores infect Clyde and Rani’s teacher, sending the students into a panic. Clyde, Rani, and K9 are trapped in the school. By chance, while trying to escape the school, they determine that the sound of a bell causes the plant’s destruction.

Sarah Jane traces the Blathereen teleportation trajectory to Antarctica and follows them to their ship where they are gloating about their conquest of Earth. The trip is a one-way event, but Sarah Jane takes a Super-Soaker filled with vinegar and demands their help.

Unfortunately, the Blathereen trick and restrain her. She finds out that the rakweed is addictive and the Blathereen intend to use Earth as a farm to corner the galactic market. Leef and Tree reveal that they are descended from both the noble Blathereen and the criminal Slitheen, products of an interclan marriage. 

Sarah Jane learns that the plants require communication to survive, then escapes and teleports home. While she checks in on Luke, K9 amplifies the school bell and eradicates the plants within the school building. Clyde connects with Mr. Smith via K9 and shares their knowledge. Mr. Smith uses every electronic device in the affected area to transmit a signal at 1421.09 Hertz. The plants are destroyed and the infected are cured.

Saved by the bell, eh?

Furious, the Slitheen-Blathereen teleport to the attic and prepare to murder Sarah Jane. Mr. Smith activates the signal again, causing the rakweed in the alien stomachs to react quite negatively. The aliens explode in a burst of orange goo, covering the entire attic.

Thank goodness that this is the season finale. Cleaning that set is going to be a pain in the ass.

Clyde cleans the attic and the gang settles in for a nice picnic lunch and Sarah Jane muses on the possibility that one day some alien races will want to help humanity. That through friendship, the Earth could become a shining example to the entire universe.


The idea of breaking the Raxacoricofallapatorian monoculture is great. All too often in science fiction and fantasy, the cultures that we meet are one-note. Doctor Who is no exception. The big failing here is that we don’t break that tradition, and while we see an open door for non-villainous Raxacoricofallapatorians to exist, we continue the stereotype that all of them are nefarious.

That’s a lot of lost potential. The story could have been a great analogy for accidental introduction of invasive plant and animal species, cultural miscommunication, or even imperialism and colonial politics. The Blathereen gift could have been a legitimate olive branch given Sarah Jane’s galactic reputation, a miracle for any other planet but Earth, and the door of friendship could have been opened by having these two disparate groups working together.

Alas, no. Instead we have the evil aliens trying to take over Earth and our heroes finding the solution completely by chance.

The story does play with established mythology again, introducing the Raxas Alliance with Raxacoricofallapatorius, Clom, Raxacoricovarlonpatorius, and Clix. We also get mentions of several UK locales including Ealing (first mentioned in Ghost Light and Survival, but returning throughout Series Four), Perivale (from Ghost Light and Survival), and Chiswick (first seen in The Runaway Bride, but featured in Series Four).

The discussion of Sarah Jane Smith’s tendency to improvise was a nice callback to the Third Doctor in The Five Doctors, as was her lament that there should have been another way aside from violence to save the world, ala Warriors of the Deep. A fun (but disgusting) callback was Clyde’s “why does this always happen to me” when splattered with goo, which happened twice in Revenge of the Slitheen and Enemy of the Bane.

Finally, I find the K9-Mr. Smith rivalry to be pretty humorous. Two supercomputers who cannot stand one another… wacky fun.

But really, this story ends up fairly average and a little disappointing given its lack of original thought the pure amount of luck involved. It could have been so much more.

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


UP NEXT – Sarah Jane Adventures: Series Three Summary

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

Timestamp #207: The Waters of Mars

Doctor Who: The Waters of Mars
(Autumn Special, 2009)

Is there any way to slake your thirst in the dust of the Red Planet?

Adelaide Brooke, the commander of Bowie Base One on Mars, tries to call home but loses contact. While her scientific teams have some fun on the planet’s surface, the Doctor arrives in the TARDIS.

He’s soon found and held at gunpoint by a flimsy robot named Gadget as a trespasser.

Once inside, Brooke demands to know his name, rank, and intention. He replies “The Doctor, doctor, fun,” before asking that she lower her gun and trust him. Brooks wonders if he’s a spy from a rival space agency, but the Doctor realizes that this mission is the one fated to end in a mysterious explosion with all hands lost. Unwilling to break the laws of time and subvert a fixed point in history, he apologizes with all of his hearts and tries to leave.

In the hydroponic farm, Andy Stone and Maggie Cain encounter a problem. Stone is infected by a mysterious life form and turns into a zombie-like creature that gushes water and attacks Cain.

As the crew investigates the mystery, the Doctor is forced to help Brooke when she locks up his spacesuit. As the crew walks to the hydroponic dome, the Doctor muses about robots – Gadget is controlled by Junior Technician Roman Groome – and asks Brooke if the mission is worth it. She says yes, with what the Doctor calls “starlight in her soul.”

They discover Cain and call for medical help. She is alive and taken to isolation while Brooke, physician Tarak Ital, and the Doctor look for Stone. Cain has no idea what happened to her, but she’s required to be isolated for twenty-four hours. Meanwhile, Ital finds Stone and is infected. Cain turns soon afterward.

Cain, controlled by the mysterious lifeform, discovers that Earth is mostly water. They should like that world.

Brooke and the Doctor find Stone and Ital. Talking to them fails, so they run for the airlock. Stone shoots a stream of water at the airlock door but none enters the chamber. Instead, both infected crewmen start probing the airlock door with water. They break through and continue the chase through the tunnels, hijacking Gadget along the way to act as a supercharged go-kart. The three of them return to the central base, but the Doctor warns her that water is patient and always wins.

Back in the base, they check in with Cain in the infirmary. The Doctor tries speaking in ancient North Martian, to which Cain reacts positively. He surmises that the ice fields, the source of the colony’s water, is contaminated. El Gold convinces Brooke to evacuate the base and the remaining crew start preparations. The Doctor reminds her that, since they’ve all been drinking from the same supply, they may all be infected already.

Swayed by his argument, Brooke leaves to investigate the ice fields. The Doctor debates leaving again, but joins her. Cain is left alone in the medical dome and immediately starts breaking out. With a scream, she sends a message to her infected comrades.

At the ice fields, the Doctor muses about the Ice Warriors and hypothesizes that they may have frozen the virus as a means of defeating it. Brooke asks why the Doctor is so keen to leave and he explains what a fixed point in time is. Brooke tells him about her inspiration: When she was ten years old, the Earth was stolen and moved across the universe, and she saw the Daleks from her window. She knew that she would follow them to the stars.

The Doctor tells her that, in doing so, she has created history. Brooke’s granddaughter, Susie Fontana Brooke, will be inspired by her story to pilot the first lightspeed craft, paving the way for generations of her descendants to explore the galaxy, with one even falling in love with an alien prince and creating a whole new species.

But the tale is only a consolation.

The moment is broken by a log entry from Stone. A filter was broken earlier in the day, allowing the virus to enter the water supply. Since the water isn’t available yet for the crew, the survivors are able to leave for Earth. While they continue preparations, the Doctor debates whether or not he should leave.

The crew discovers that Stone and Ital have scaled the base, surviving the elements, and are burrowing into the ceiling. It’s now a raise against time, and the Doctor knows that the fixed point has not changed.

He considers leaving. After he’s suited up and standing in the airlock, Brooke locks the system until he explains what happens next. He asks her to imagine Pompeii and how any action she took would only precipitate the event. He tells her about her destiny, how she destroys the base for reasons unknown but her sacrifice saves Earth, but Brooke refuses to die. She asks for help to change the future, but the Doctor refuses. He wonders if the Dalek knew when it saw her so many years ago.

Brooke releases him with a whispered “Damn you” and rushes away as the water enters the base. The Doctor listens as the crew tries to fight it… as Steffi Ehrlich plays a message from her daughters as she succumbs to the virus… as the shuttle is prepped for departure but fails as Cain breaks through… as Roman falls from one drop on his face… as Ed destroys the shuttle to prevent an incursion on Earth…

It’s the tragedy of a Time Lord. Of knowing everything and being powerless to change it.

But the Time Lords no longer exist. Their rules are gone forever. Nothing remains to restrain the Doctor. He can make his own rules.

So he decides to change it.

Knowing that the end of his song will be heralded by four knocks, he returns to save the crew, proclaiming that the laws of time are his and that they will obey him.

The environmental controls are destroyed. The spacesuits are damaged. The infected are breaking the ice. But the Doctor has a funny robot.

Using Gadget, the Doctor tries to bring the TARDIS to the crew as Brooke starts the self-destruct countdown. Gadget enters the TARDIS and sets the controls, piloting the time capsule to the base as the nuclear device explodes.

The TARDIS materializes on a snow-covered street. Brooke, Bennett, and Kerenski, and Gadget have survived, but the robot shuts down as it loses its control signal. Bennett can’t handle the stress and runs off. Kerenski follows while Brooke confronts the Doctor with the consequences of his actions. The future the Doctor told her about will be broken, but she tells him that no one should have that much power.

The Time Lord Victorious is wrong.

Brooke enters her house, but as the Doctor walks away, she commits suicide with her laser pistol. Bennett and Kerenski will still tell the tale of how she bravely saved Earth. The future is saved.

The Doctor realizes that he’s gone too far, witnessing a vision of Ood Sigma as he wonders if his time has come.

The Cloister Bell sounds. His time is near. But with a defiant “No”, the Doctor sets the TARDIS in motion once again in an effort to outrun his destiny.


What we see here are the depths of the Doctor when unrestrained by neither the conservatism of the Time Lords nor the humanity of the companions. We’ve seen the darkness of the Doctor before – the Tenth Doctor’s rage manifested in The Runaway Bride, the Sixth Doctor let it slip through in post-regeneration psychosis, and the Fourth Doctor displayed how easily he’d wield absolute power in the absence of companions – and we know just how important it is that the Doctor be tempered.

The maxim is true: Power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.

That is one of the Doctor’s weaknesses. Another is love and compassion, which is played in concert with the temptation of power, resulting in this excellent character study of someone who wants to do so much.

It certainly earned that 2010 Hugo Award. The story was competing against its own, of course, but I’d side with this one.

Taking a look at the franchise’s history, this is the second time that the TARDIS has heralded the Doctor’s regeneration through the Cloister Bell. It did this in Logopolis, but in that instance, the Fourth Doctor was willing to wait for the inevitability whereas the Tenth Doctor pretty much fears the coming milestone.

The nod to K9 was amusing, owing to the Doctor’s long-standing love for his canine companion.

We also have quite the focal point in the mythology here. By live action standards in 2009, the next story is Tennant’s finale, The End of Time. Come 2013, The Day of the Doctor would get wedged in between the two, and if we expand to the animated specials (which we do on the Timestamps Project), Dreamland is also on the table.

This story’s placement gets even more complicated this year with the Time Lord Victorious multimedia event, which (naturally) incorporates this story into its narrative.

Finally, there’s an important companion note related to this story and actress Lindsay Duncan. As of this story, she became both the oldest actress and oldest individual to travel in the TARDIS. She’ll forfeit the latter title to Bernard Cribbins in The End of Time.

Rating: 5/5 – “Fantastic!”


UP NEXT – Sarah Jane Adventures: The Gift

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

Timestamp #SJA18: Mona Lisa’s Revenge

Sarah Jane Adventures: Mona Lisa’s Revenge
(2 episodes, s03e05, 2009)

Timestamp SJA18 Mona Lisa Revenge

The art is so lifelike.

The Bannerman Road Gang is enjoying a moment in class while Clyde sketches K9. Mr. Chandra comes in with an important announcement, revealing that Clyde has won a chance to see the Mona Lisa at the National Gallery. Clyde never entered the competition, but Luke did it for him secretly. Clyde doesn’t mind given the occasion.

At the gallery, Lionel Harding and Phyllis Trupp examine the newly arrived painting. Phyllis longs for Harding, but as he ignores her overtures, the panting comes to life.

Luke arrives home to a furious Sarah Jane. She’s upset about the state of his room, and Luke is upset because she expects perfection just like the Bane did.

The next day, the class arrives at the gallery. Per the rules, they turn in their phones before perusing the facility. Luke confides his troubles in his friends and they start the tour. Luke picks up a Chinese mystery box and Clyde chastises him for handling the exhibits. They’re soon introduced to Harding and Trupp. Phyllis finishes preparing the exhibit hall and, upon confessing her feelings to the painting, is attacked by the Mona Lisa.

Clyde finds his own work in the gallery and his classmates celebrate. Harding praises his work, which Clyde later admits to his friends is inspired by their adventures. When the class is taken to see the Mona Lisa, they find Phyllis in the picture instead. After the class is ushered out of the exhibit, the gang sneaks back in to investigate.

Back at Bannerman Road, Mr. Smith checks in with Sarah Jane and her distracted state. She’s feeling depressed because Luke is growing up so quickly and that she’ll be alone again. Mr. Smith notifies her that the Mona Lisa has been stolen, and despite a lack of obvious alien activity, she decides to investigate because the kids are involved and the circumstances are so weird.

On their way to the exhibit, Rani notices that one of the guns is missing from Clyde’s painting. Hardin arrives to retrieve the kids and  Mona Lisa emerges from the shadows, armed with a Sontaran blaster. After a brief discussion with her hostages, she declares that she wants to have fun and opens fire, sending the gang running.

They find the police officers and museum staff trapped in the museum’s paintings. Meanwhile, Mona Lisa remembers Harding from his multiple trips to the Louvre and requests his help to free her brother from a painting of her same vintage. It so happens that the painting is in the museum.

The gang spots Sarah Jane’s car in the parking lot. While they look for her, Sarah Jane finds her way to the Mona Lisa exhibit gallery and hides as Harding and Mona Lisa arrive. Sarah Jane is taken hostage by Mona Lisa, who recognizes her from Luke’s discussion with his friends. Mona Lisa nearly shoots Sarah Jane, but stops when she hears a grumbling from her brother.

Mona Lisa puts Sarah Jane in a picture, drawing the gang to the gallery. They demand that Sarah Jane be released, but Mona Lisa refuses. Luke tackles Mona Lisa and the gang runs with Sarah Jane’s painting, so Mona Lisa releases William Bonneville’s Dark Rider from the painting of the same name.

And the chase commences. Mona Lisa and Harding continue their search while the Dark Rider pursues the gang with unlimited ammunition.

During their search, Mona Lisa sees a window and asks to go outside. When she reaches beyond the building, her arm reverts to its painted form. Furious that she’s trapped in the museum, she storms into a unfinished section. Clyde overhears as Mona Lisa details her plan to release her brother and conquer the world, but he is soon captured by the Dark Rider.

Clyde is forced to join the hunt for The Abomination, a painting by Giuseppe di Cattivo crafted from paint derived from sentient rocks that fell to Earth. The same paint was used to craft the Mona Lisa. The painting drove the artist insane and he crafted a puzzle box to make sure no one ever saw the painting again. Luke and Rani find this same information in a book from the gift shop.

The quest takes Mona Lisa and her group to the museum’s vaults. They find the painting, but the case is locked and the puzzle box is missing. In the gallery above, Luke realizes that the puzzle box he examined earlier is the key, but Mona Lisa arrives moments later to retrieve it. Harding tries to stand up against her, but after he smashes the box, Luke saves his life by promising an alternate method of opening the lock.

Everyone is unhappily reunited in the vaults. Luke asks Clyde to draw a new puzzle box so Mona Lisa can manifest it in the physical world. When she tries to, however, she also manifests K9 from Clyde’s sketchbook. When Mona Lisa opens the lock, K9 blasts the Abomination and destroys the alien pigment. This breaks Mona Lisa’s link on the physical, forcing all of her manifestations to revert to their true forms.

The world is saved once again.

The gang reunites with Sarah Jane and Luke makes amends while Sarah Jane praises his ingenuity. Meanwhile, Harding reunites with Trupp, but Trupp wants nothing to do with him after his dalliance with Mona Lisa.


The Mona Lisa is not a stranger to Doctor Who, having appeared before in City of Death alongside a Chinese puzzle box. There’s also another link with faces and time: An artist in City of Death painted Romana’s face as a clock, and one of the paintings in this story’s classroom setting was titled Face of Time.

That classic callback aside, this story was not particularly engaging. The villain had simple motivations, but the acting and thin plot were not compelling. The character moments with Sarah Jane and Luke felt forced for the story and didn’t seem to naturally evolve.

On the plus side, it was good to see Clyde happy about his craft. His joy was palpable, both in seeing his work in an actual museum and in his friend secretly submitting him for consideration.

I also like how he adores K9. I do too.

Rating: 2/5 – “Mm? What’s that, my boy?”


UP NEXT – Doctor Who: The Waters of Mars

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

Timestamp #SJA17: The Eternity Trap

Sarah Jane Adventures: The Eternity Trap
(2 episodes, s03e04, 2009)

Timestamp SJA17 The Eternity Trap

Spooky fun.

Professor Rivers has returned, this time with the story of a haunted house. In 1665, Ashen Hill Manor was inhabited by magician Erasmus Darkening, who promised to replenish Lord Marchwood’s fortunes through alchemy. Marchwood’s two children, Elizabeth and Joseph, spied on the magician one night and vanished for eternity.

The professor tells this story to Sarah Jane, Clyde, Rani, and her assistant Toby. Sarah Jane is covering the story as Rivers studies the estate, and Luke remained home just in case something went wrong. They find out the estate has been plagued by other disappearances over the years.

It’s a beautiful home. It’s also haunted.

Sarah Jane doesn’t believe in ghosts. While the team roams the halls, they hear a series of church bells but cannot find the source. Clyde and Rani wander outside find a shed and a fountain while Sarah Jane examines a bookshelf. The books shuffle on their own, the fountain cycles on and off, and wet footprints appear in the shed as children giggle and music plays.

They hear a young girl crying, but it stops as Clyde pulls the sheet off of a mirror. The magician appears in the mirror and Clyde and Rani return to the house.

Everyone convenes around a lantern and talk about what they’ve all found. Toby gathers everyone’s mobiles after the gang calls home, and Rivers starts the experiment. The camera monitors flicker with the magician’s face before the nursery camera shorts out.

Meanwhile, Rani finds the magician’s face in the history book Sarah Jane was reading. The book had flipped itself to the right page. The gang returns to the control area as Rivers vanishes in the nursery and electromagnetic readings spike throughout the house.

The gang investigates only to find echoes of Marchwood’s children and the toys come to life. Rivers begs for help over the walkie-talkies, but the team can’t reach her. A message appears on the chalkboard: “GET OUT.”

Instead of getting out, the team tracks the energy and, against Sarah Jane’s better judgment, splits up.

Sarah Jane finds the echoes of Marchwood’s children. They warn her to leave before Erasmus takes her too. She ventures outside to discover a being with red eyes that is vanquished by the spirit of Lord Marchwood.

Rani and Clyde explore and find a secret passage to Erasmus’s lab. The discover a computer, which should not exist, along with Erasmus Darkening (who claims not to be a ghost). Before they are captured, they are rescued by Marchwood and his children.

Sarah Jane returns inside and hears the voice of Professor Rivers again, asking for help by name. She’s reunited with Rani and Clyde, then all three of them find Marchwood who beseeches them to leave. Sarah Jane reiterates that the curse doesn’t result in ghosts, and the gang meets up with Toby at the staircase in time to see all of the people who have disappeared in the house except Rivers. When Erasmus arrives, they all vanish.

Erasmus promises to come for the team and reveals that he is not exactly human. Sarah Jane and Toby seek out the computer while Rani and Clyde distract the so-called magician.

Toby tells Sarah Jane about a a creature that used to come into his room and watch him sleep. Meanwhile, Rani and Clyde are chased into the game room and watch as the pool table comes to life. They eventually run outside and are locked out of the house. They seek solace in the shed from the red-eyed being.

Sarah Jane and Toby find the computer and surmise that the house has been transformed into a portal to another galaxy, the pathway home for an alien who was stranded on Earth three centuries ago. The machine has malfunctioned and trapped the disappeared between dimensions.

Erasmus confronts Sarah Jane and Toby, preferring the eternal life of the accelerator over death in isolation. The red-eyed creature came through the portal, and Sarah Jane realizes that her friends are in trouble. After Lord Marchwood rescues Clyde and Rani, they are all reunited with Sarah Jane and Toby. Toby’s ghost-hunting technology inspires Sarah Jane.

After Erasmus took Marchwood’s children, the lord sought revenge and inadvertently damaged the device. Lord Marchwood uses that information to lure Erasmus into a trap that dissociates him into pure energy. The “ghosts” have all vanished and Rivers has returned, and Sarah Jane destroys the computer once and for all.

As the gang says farewell to Professor Rivers and Toby, they debate the existence of ghosts. Sarah Jane remains firm that ghosts don’t exist, but hesitates when she sees Marchwood’s family watching from the window.


This was a fun little romp that took advantage of actor Tommy Knight’s school exams to get the gang out of the house. For the first time, Luke, Mr. Smith, and the Bannerman Road house do not appear in the series.

The setting was quite beautiful. This location, Hensol Castle, was previously seen in Forest of the Dead and is used as a wedding venue in South Wales.

The story itself, which was quite relevant for the lead-up to Halloween for this publication, was an amusing ghost hunting expedition, but quite average otherwise. The spin on the haunted house story by making the menace a trapped malevolent alien was a good one.

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


UP NEXT – Sarah Jane Adventures: Mona Lisa’s Revenge

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