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.”
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