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.

Timestamp #SJA16: The Wedding of Sarah Jane Smith

Sarah Jane Adventures: The Wedding of Sarah Jane Smith
(2 episodes, s03e03, 2009)

 

Till death do they part.

Sarah Jane sneaks out of the house for a “traffic report meeting”. It’s the fifth time this month that she’s made an odd excuse like that, so Luke summons the gang and uses Mr. Smith to track her whereabouts.

She stops at a house and freshens her lipstick, nearly using her sonic instead. The gang follows her while K9 is left to verbally banter with Mr. Smith. What they find is a date in progress, but as they leave, they hear the straining engines of the TARDIS.

Sarah Jane returns home to find the gang acting strangely. Mr. Smith and K9 spill the beans and Sarah Jane is angry at first, but happily explains that she’s seeing Peter Dalton. She forgives the gang as she ushers out of the attic, briefly consulting K9 before saying goodnight to Luke. She jokes that she might have to tell Peter about aliens and her adventures, which was her barrier to finding love before.

As the lights go out, Luke hears the TARDIS engines again, but has no idea what it means.

Three days later, Peter stops by to meet Luke. Rani, Clyde, and Gita spy on the meeting as the gang saves her from an awkward parcel. The parcel opens to reveal a mischievous multi-eyed creature, and as K9 runs to wrangle the alien, Luke passes if off as a toy.

Sarah Jane, Luke, and Peter head to dinner. Rani and Clyde call for help with the alien – a Travast Polong – and Sarah Jane directs them on how to have Mr. Smith transmat the being home before returning to the table. Luke and Peter bond quickly.

Two days later, Clyde and Rani investigate Peter and find his home virtually deserted. Meanwhile, Peter proposes to Sarah Jane in a restaurant and she accepts. As the patrons applaud, the engagement ring glows red.

Clyde and Rani try to convince Sarah Jane that something is wrong, but the ring glows as Sarah rationalizes the information. She places Mr. Smith into shutdown as the computer detects an anomaly. She placates the gang as she starts planning. After all, the wedding is only two weeks away.

She shuts the door on the attic, perhaps for the final time, as a sinister laugh echoes.

The wedding day arrives and the guests assemble except for Maria, Carla Langer, and the Brigadier. Luke wonders why none of Peter’s family is in attendance, but Peter says that he has no living relatives. Sarah Jane arrives in a white limousine, bridesmaid Rani as her escort, and Luke walks her inside as the TARDIS chitters around them.

Clyde asks K9 to scan the area, which angers Luke because the robot dog should not be there. As the wedding commences, the officiant asks if anyone objects.

As the TARDIS lands, the door bursts open and the Doctor yells, “Stop this wedding now!”

The room shakes and spins as the Trickster arrives in angelic robes. As the Doctor protests, Sarah Jane, Peter, and the Trickster dematerialize. The assembled guests vanish moments later.

Luke, Clyde, and Rani regain consciousness and meet the Doctor. Along with K9, they are the only people left in the hotel. They have been left in a temporal bubble at precisely 15:23:23, with that one second repeating over and over again. They rush to the TARDIS, which is trapped between universes in a temporal schism and unable to materialize.

They’ve been left there to stop them from helping Sarah Jane. To use them to leverage against her.

The Doctor explains that the Trickster is the personification of the Pantheon of Discord, a group of aliens from a different universe thriving on chaos and trying to break into this universe. He starts following temporal traces as his sonic screwdriver starts blipping.

Sarah Jane wakes up with Peter, who asks her to say, “I do” so they can be together. She quickly realizes that the engagement ring has been controlling her and tosses it aside. She searches for the Doctor and discovers that the temporal bubble is split into two seconds. Sarah Jane and Peter are trapped in the other half.

As the inhabitants of both seconds run in search of each other, Peter explains that the Trickster came to him as an angel when he had been fatally injured after falling down the stairs at home. The Trickster offered him his life and the love he never had, but it was a ploy to capture Sarah Jane. If she marries Peter, she’ll forget her entire life in exchange for a life of paradise. If she doesn’t, she and her allies will remain in the void forever.

The Trickster shifts seconds to confront the Doctor. He speaks of ice and fire and the Key to Time. He also remarks that “the Gate” is waiting for the last of the Time Lords.

The Trickster returns to the other second. Shortly after, the TARDIS partially materializes and the Doctor is able to get aboard before it vanishes again. In that moment, Clyde is charged with artron energy, which the Doctor explained can be used to fight the Trickster.

Clyde summons the Trickster and promises to join him. It’s a ploy, of course, which enables Clyde to attack the Trickster with his new power.

The TARDIS partially materializes in Sarah Jane’s second, and the Doctor confers with her. He reminds her that there is only one way to end the deal, and tells Peter that he is a good man. And that he’s sorry.

The Trickster and Clyde appear, and Sarah Jane takes advantage of her weakened enemy to plead with Peter. Although it will cost him his second chance at life, he needs to break the deal to save them all. It’s the same thing that happened with Andrea Yates.

Peter withdraws his agreement, throwing the ring at the Trickster and vanishing in a shimmer of light. As the temporal schism merges with the normal timeline, the Doctor vanishes as Sarah Jane and the Bannerman Road Gang return to the exact moment that they left. With Peter gone, Sarah Jane cancels the wedding with tears in her eyes.

The gang assembles in the attic to console Sarah Jane. The Doctor joins them, allowing everyone a look around the TARDIS, as he reminds Sarah Jane just how important she is to the universe.

She asks if this is the last time that she will see him. He doesn’t know, but asks her not to forget him.

She says that no one ever will.

 

This story was beautiful. It was fantastic to see Sarah Jane in love, even if it was all a dirty trick. While the gang tried their best to save her from yet another Trickster temptation, when it comes to temporal traps, you call in the Doctor.

The teenagers were still instrumental in saving the day, which is good because the last thing you want is the guest star sucking all the oxygen out of the room and dominating the story.

Of course, this being a story from 2009, it’s part of David Tennant’s farewell tour, so it lays hints about the road ahead while questioning if this is the last time that Sarah Jane and the Doctor will cross paths. The reflection on their first parting was beautiful.

Sure, the solution was a re-use of the first Trickster story, but the story itself more than made up for it.

The other nods to history aside, we also had a mention of Metebelis III and the return of the football rattle.

 

Rating: 5/5 – “Fantastic!”

 

UP NEXT – Sarah Jane Adventures: The Eternity Trap

 

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 #SJA15: The Mad Woman in the Attic

Sarah Jane Adventures: The Mad Woman in the Attic
(2 episodes, s03e02, 2009)

 

When wishes go haywire.

In 2059, the Bannerman Road house is in disrepair. The attic is abandoned, Mr. Smith is broken down, and an old woman lives alone in the attic. A boy named Adam finds the woman, and we discover that she is Rani Chandra. She is unkempt like the house, spending her time lingering over photographs and memories.

She begins to tell him her story…

In 2009, Rani brings a story about strange lights to Sarah Jane, but she and Mr. Smith have already decided that it was merely lightning. She’s annoyed because the group is talking about Maria Jackson, who she considers to be “the girl before her” and is now hiding aliens in America.

Hurt by the dismissive attitude, she leaves and finds an e-mail from an old friend. She meets up with Sam Lloyd and they end up at a deserted pleasure park. Sam knows about the Bannerman Road Gang and wants Rani to investigate the mystery of a demon at the park.

Of course, Sam deserts her, so she looks around on her own and soon finds Harry the caretaker. She works her way into his office. After they talk for a bit, she brings up the haunting, but Harry dismisses her with fear. A voice says, “Playtime is beginning,” and Rani witnesses people who had previously disappeared on the rides. Their eyes are red and they’re grinning maniacally. The voices says, “Playtime is over,” and the rides stop. Rani takes her investigation to the haunted house even as Harry protests.

Sarah Jane, Luke, and Clyde find the e-mail from Sam. Even though Sarah Jane is upset that Rani has told someone about their secrets, she decides to investigate. When they arrive, Sam is cold toward the trio but tells them where to find Rani. Luke stays with Sam while Sarah Jane and Clyde head for the park.

As Rani makes her way to the heart of the haunted house, she finds a red-skinned alien named Eve. Harry locks Rani in the room and the two talk, though Eve does so telepathically. Eve is able to manipulate time, seeing pasts and futures, and is presumably the last of her kind. She came to Earth in a spaceship as her people destroyed each other in a massive war. Harry found her and kept her safe.

Eve says that the people in the carnival are her friends, but she cannot go outside because of her appearance. She assures Rani that she needs the Bannerman Road Gang and asks if Rani wants to see her future, but that future is of a mad, lonely woman. Rani wants nothing to do with that future, so she offers to help Eve escape.

Eve also shows Luke and Sarah Jane their timelines. Luke’s past contains memories of this very show while his future includes a graduation. Sarah Jane’s involves memories of her parents, The Five DoctorsThe Hand of Fear, The Time Warrior, and The Stolen Earth.

Her future somehow involves the TARDIS and the Tenth Doctor.

Sarah Jane and Clyde go in search of Eve. Simultaneously, Rani and Eve decide to go outside. The two teams eventually come together, but Rani’s feelings of rejection come to the surface. Back at the orphanage, Sam has departed with only a note to spare. It says that it wasn’t Eve who wanted Rani.

Once outside, Eve starts up the rides again, forcing them to spin wildly. When Rani gets upset, Eve possesses her as well. The mirror that showed Sarah Jane her future laments that Eve is outside, revealing that it is the artificial intelligence from the spaceship and needs Eve to return its control. Eve cannot control her power and is dying.

Sarah Jane returns to Eve, telling her that she must let everyone go, but Eve doesn’t know how to free them. After Sam arrives, he joins Sarah Jane and Clyde as they escort Eve back to the ship. The ship absorbs Eve’s excess energy, which frees her captives and saves her life. Rani runs for the beach with Harry in tow and rejoins her family.

Eve invites Sam and Harry to travel with her but needs the energy of a black hole to fuel the ship. Sarah Jane connects with K9 and they coordinate efforts to transfer the Switzerland singularity‘s energy to the ship. With that, K9’s mission is finished and he returns to the attic.

Unfortunately, as the ship departs, it grants Rani one wish. It chooses the wish she made earlier, that her friends would leave her alone, and erases the Bannerman Road Gang from existence. Rani protests but the ship takes off regardless.

Back in 2059, Adam reveals his true identity. He is the son of Sam and Eve, and he has come to reverse the wish because the ship was damaged and misinterpreted the wish. Given the opportunity, Rani wishes her family back into existence, deleting the timeline. Sam and Eve head into space and the Bannerman Road Gang heads home.

The adventure ends as Sarah Jane takes a photo of Rani, Luke, Clyde, and K9. K9 even says “Cheese!”

In a coda, we see the new future of 2059. Rani lives in the house at Bannerman Road, but it is well-kept and happy with three grandchildren and her son. Rani works with Luke and Maria, and the photo has a place of honor on the shelf nearby.

 

This one starts out as a tear-jerker in an era when Elisabeth Sladen is no longer with us. The part of Rani’s story about how magnificent Sarah Jane was, how much she meant to Rani and the Bannerman Road Gang, pulls at the heartstrings because Sarah Jane and Elisabeth Sladen were really one and the same.

What follows from there, however, is a paint-by-the-numbers alternate timeline tale with a misunderstood alien menace… who honestly isn’t that menacing. The story has a sweet aspect to it since the alien is innocent, acting out purely in loneliness and fear, but the mystery and menace are both pretty thin.

Couple that with Rani’s sense of rejection, which feels unfounded given her history in this show, and that leaves the story pretty average overall.

One note extends deep into the classic era: Sarah Jane mentions the Zodin, which were first brought up by the Second Doctor in The Five Doctors and blurted out in delirium by the Sixth Doctor in Attack of the Cybermen. It’s a running gag of sorts in the Doctor Who universe.

 

 

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

 

 

 

UP NEXT – Sarah Jane Adventures: The Wedding 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 #SJA14: Prisoner of the Judoon

Sarah Jane Adventures: Prisoner of the Judoon
(2 episodes, s03e01, 2009)

 

When law and order collides with body snatching.

Sarah Jane Smith provides a brief overview of her past, leading to how her life on Earth is just as exciting as traveling amongst the stars. She travels to Genetec Systems to interview Mr. Yorke about nanoform technology. She probes the threat they might pose if released into the environment and that the return on investment is not likely to appear. She gets tossed out and laughs about it.

When she returns home, the Bannerman Road Gang sees an orbital re-entry overhead and they ask Mr. Smith about it. He’s been tracking it for 45 minutes, which is who long it took to cross the solar system, and reveals that it is a Judoon craft. UNIT has dispatched to the crash site, but they haven’t found the lifepod that was ejected.

Enter Sarah Jane and the gang.

As they get ready to leave, Rani’s mother Gita asks if Sarah Jane can help her network to get her new flower shop moving. They eventually get to the pod crash site and find a Judoon chasing an escaped prisoner. Sarah Jane explains that the Shadow Proclamation barely acknowledges Earth and have authorized the Judoon to execute anyone who stands in the way of justice.

The Judoon is knocked out by his prisoner. The fugitive escapes as Sarah Jane and the teenagers arrive. They help the Judoon, one Captain Tybo, recover and join the investigation to help minimize the damage as he searches for Androvax the Annihilator, a “Destroyer of Worlds”.

Tybo really lacks in the humor department.

After hearing a young girl scream, Sarah Jane and Clyde try to comfort her while asking Luke and Rani to distract the captain. The girl claims that the “monster” took her mother, but Sarah Jane’s scanner betrays the Androvax. Unfortunately, the fugitive steps out of the girl’s body and into Sarah Jane’s before placing Clyde into a trance.

It seems like Clyde is always getting the whammy.

Captain Tybo figures out that Luke and Rani were distracting him, and he smashes their mobile phones to prevent any further “mistakes”. They track down Clyde, revive him with a spray bottle, and discover that Sarah Jane is now a hostage of a Veil lifeform.

Sarah Jane returns to Bannerman Road and surveys the attic before summoning Mr. Smith. Meanwhile, Tybo commandeers a police car with inadvertently humorous effect and pursues the intruder. While Sarah Jane tries to gauge the depths of Mr. Smith’s programming – we’re reminded that he’s a Xylok, the only remnant of his previous alien identity – the Judoon and our heroes enforce local noise ordinances and finally reach the attic.

The possessed Sarah Jane has moved on, setting her sights on Genetec Systems. Unfortunately, Mr. Smith has been set to self destruct. In sixty seconds, Bannerman Road will be nothing more than a crater.

Oh, and Rani’s parents? They’ve been busy using guerilla tactics to promote Bloomin’ Lovely, and they’ve targeted Genetec Systems.

Luke uses logic to disable the self-destruct, reasoning that the detonation would harm the Earth. Mr. Smith directs the team to Genetec System Labs after detailing the Roswell crash of 1947 and a base called Dreamland.

(More on that on this site in a couple of months.)

Androvax plans on using the nanoforms to build a spacecraft to escape Earth. The fugitive doesn’t care what happens after that, so the nanoforms will be unleashed on the planet. As the building enters a security lockdown, Gita and Haresh use the distraction to escape from the guard who detained them.

The Bannerman Road Gang arrives with Tybo, but decide to lock the Judoon in a shielded room to prevent him from harming Sarah Jane (or Rani’s parents) during his hunt for Androvax. Meanwhile, Mr. Yorke ends up getting entranced by the Androvax after he lifts the lockdown.

Oh, and then there’s the Judoon retrieval force that just arrived and transmitted reinforcements to Genetec. That complicates matters.

The team finds Sarah Jane and, in the process of sparring with the Androvax, Luke is captured. Androvax attacks Clyde and Rani with the nanoforms, but they stun the wee beasties with lowered temperatures via convenient fire extinguishers.

Captain Tybo is released by the Judoon reinforcements in a clever subversion of the lawful good personality trope, and it’s almost Clyde and Rani’s undoing when they are threatened with execution for violating several regulations. Luckily, they are fast runners.

Androvax takes Luke to the now-complete spacecraft. Sarah Jane takes advantage of a momentary distraction to fight for control of her body while Clyde and Rani run aboard. Luke steals the power core and bargains for his mother, insisting that he’ll let Androvax leave if Sarah Jane is set free. Androvax agrees, but is captured by the Judoon moments later.

As the nanoforms begin to devour the building, Luke is able to use the spacecraft to send a shutdown command. Rani’s parents are safe and Androvax is in custody. Tybo takes the circumstances into account and commutes the sentence against Rani and Clyde. Instead, they are confined to the planet permanently.

Sarah Jane and the Bannerman Road Gang arrive home as the spacecraft rockets to the stars. Rani’s parents arrive moments later, promising to tell a story that the group will not want to miss.

 

The one thing that I really enjoyed in this story was the humor, particularly with the Judoon acting as an overexaggerated straight man. Which is something considering how much the Judoon really freak me out as villains.

When it comes to any other villain, be it the Daleks or the Cybermen or even (most times) the Master, the evil is obvious. These villains have a plan and it’s a fairly direct path for the forces of good to stop it. The Judoon, on the other hand, are lawful good characters to the extreme, and that’s what makes them dangerous.

Down to basics, the Judoon believe that justice is absolute. There’s good and there’s evil and there are no shades of gray. Anyone who stands in the way of justice – of the perceived good – is the enemy, and thus, disposable.

Since the rest of the universe (dare I say, the multiverse) operates in a spectrum between the light and dark, this absolute lawful good mentality makes the Judoon one of Doctor Who‘s scariest villains for me.

That’s what makes stories with them so good in my estimation.

There’s also a nice subversion of the lawful good when the reinforcements have to rescue Captain Tybo. I laughed out loud at that moment.

Other highlights include the main cast. First, the teenagers really carry this story from bow to stern. Second, evil Sarah Jane is cheeeesy as hell, and that is magnificent. I just hope she had plenty of lozenges because that voice had to hurt after a while.

The one downside I can see going forward is Clyde’s recap. If it’s attached to every episode going forward, it’s going to get tiresome.

 

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

 

 

 

UP NEXT – Sarah Jane Adventures: The Mad Woman in the Attic

 

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 #SJA13: From Raxacoricofallapatorius with Love

Sarah Jane Adventures: From Raxacoricofallapatorius with Love
(Comic Relief Special, 2009)

 

K9 looks adorable in a red nose.

This short story for Comic Relief’s annual fundraiser marks the first time that a Doctor Who spinoff has been featured for the charity event, and it’s also the first one to be considered part of the mainstream televised continuity.

It focuses on Sarah, Luke, Rani, and Clyde as they run a routine check on Mr. Smith. As they’re wrapping things up, an unknown force locks onto the attic. A man in a bowler materializes, declaring himself Ambassador Rahnius – Rahni, for short – of the Galactic Alliance.

In gratitude of their stellar efforts, he gives them each a set of sparkly red deeley boppers. (As an aside, I learned what those novelty headbands were actually called by watching this short story.) The visitor sits down to tell them a story, but he ends giving himself away with gas problems corresponding to a Slitheen. Our favorite robotic pooch K9 arrives and tries to stop the threat, but the Rahnius immobilizes the good boy before revealing himself and his mission: He’s there to steal Mr. Smith to corner the galactic financial markets.

He activates the deeley boppers, which are gadgets that prevent the humans from running, but Luke and Sarah Jane use the sonic lipstick to reverse the effect. Pinned in place, the Slitheen makes a ready target for Mr. Smith to teleport away.

With the threat ended, Sarah Jane declares this the bizarre five minutes of her life.

K9 agrees, red nose on his face and all.

So do I. There’s not much more to say about this fun little jaunt.

 

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

 

UP NEXT – Sarah Jane Adventures: Series Two 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 #SJA12: Enemy of the Bane

Sarah Jane Adventures: Enemy of the Bane
(2 episodes, s02e06, 2008)

 

Double the trouble.

Rani’s mother Gita is working late on a special floral commission. Her mysterious client turns out to be Mrs. Wormwood, who ends up paralyzing Gita in an attempt to draw out Sarah Jane Smith. On Bannerman Road, Luke has been having nightmares about Mrs. Wormwood and his origins.

Sarah Jane consoles Luke about his nightmares, though he counters that he’s never dreamed before. They’re interrupted by Rani and news of Gita’s disappearance, which Sarah Jane decides to investigate despite zero evidence of alien interference. Luke, Clyde, and Sarah Jane visit the flower store and find Mrs. Wormwood’s check, an intentional clue that they take for Mr. Smith to analyze.

The supercomputer unravels an address masked in the check’s account and routing numbers. Sarah Jane leaves to investigate, reluctantly taking Rani with her and providing a history lesson for the teenager. Once they arrive, they find Gita and Mrs. Wormwood. The former Bane operative has extensive knowledge of the Bannerman Road adventures, and she asks for Sarah Jane’s help. Mrs. Wormwood took responsibility for the Bane’s previous failure and they’re hunting her.

The Bane attack and the group runs away, Mrs. Wormwood defending them with her phonic disruptor. Sarah Jane is briefly captured, but Mrs. Wormwood saves her life before they all escape to Bannerman Road. Gita recovers and Rani takes her home. Sarah Jane brings Mrs. Wormwood to her home, shocking Luke and Clyde.

In the attic, Sarah Jane asks Mr. Smith to watch the Bane operative while she explains herself. Mrs. Wormwood tells a tale of an ancient immortal, Horath, that tried to take over the galaxy but was defeated three thousand years ago. Unable to destroy him, Horath’s captors separated his body and consciousness and placed them at opposite ends of the galaxy. The Bane have located Horath’s consciousness, but to find the body, the team needs to find the Tunguska Scroll.

That artifact is located in UNIT’s Black Archive, a secure storehouse of dangerous alien artifacts.

Sarah Jane confines Mrs. Wormwood to a containment field before making contact with an old friend: Retired Brigadier Sir Alistair Gordon Lethbridge-Stewart. Sarah Jane and Rani ask the Brig if he can help them break into the Black Archive. He drives the women to the Black Archive and is intercepted by his UNIT liaison. Once he ditches the major, he gives Rani and Sarah Jane access while he stands watch. In short order, they make a Tooth and Claw joke, steal the scroll, and make a hasty escape despite tripping the alarms.

Clyde remains behind to keep Luke away from Mrs. Wormwood, but Luke’s temptation is too strong. He talks to her about his origins and his social isolation. The Bane attack the house and Luke sets Mrs. Wormwood free so they can escape. The boys are separated from Mrs. Wormwood, and she makes contact with Commander Kaagh. The Sontaran has Horath’s consciousness, and Mrs. Wormwood is overjoyed that her revenge against Sarah Jane Smith is at hand.

Luke and Clyde are surrounded by Bane. To Kaagh’s surprise, Mrs. Wormwood recharges her disruptor and blows the two attackers into goo just as Sarah Jane, Rani, and the Brig arrive. The entire lot takes refuge from UNIT in Gita’s flower shop and Luke’s two mother figures have a small heart-to-heart before tensions rise again.

Mrs. Wormwood summons Kaagh. The Sontaran destroys the sonic lipstick and Sarah Jane deduces that he is holding the consciousness. Mrs. Wormwood takes the scroll, threatening to kill all of them to get it. She also coerces Luke into joining them, using him as leverage to prevent Sarah Jane from interfering. Mrs. Wormwood knocks all of them out with her disruptor before leaving.

Mrs. Wormwood, Kaagh, and Luke arrive at yet another factory – this one shelters the Sontaran’s space pod – and activate the scroll with the consciousness. Mrs. Wormwood reveals that Horath is a cybernetic intelligence instead of a biological being, and suggests that Luke’s intelligence could make him a superior leader of the galaxy. Luke ignores the offer and swipes the scroll, getting only a short distance before being stopped. Kaagh nearly shoots him, but Mrs. Wormwood assumes her Bane form and steps in front of the Sontaran’s gun and stuns the soldier into submission.

Meanwhile, Major Kilburne snoops around Bannerman Road, posing as Sarah Jane’s nephew. The Bannerman Road gang arrives home and attempt to locate Luke and the villains, only to be ambushed by the major. The Brig uses a weapon in his cane to stun the officer, who is now revealed as a Bane agent. Sarah Jane and Clyde use Mr. Smith to track the Bane to a stone circle in Whitebarrow, and they borrow Gita’s van to drive there.

When Mrs. Wormwood and Kaagh arrive at the stone circle, they find it guarded by a force field that blocks offworlders from crossing into it. Mrs. Wormwood uses Luke to breach the perimeter and place the scroll at the heart of the circle. The portal to Horath begins to open, and Mrs. Wormwood attacks Kaagh before offering Luke unlimited power at her side.

The Bannerman Road Gang arrives as the portal opens. Clyde tends to Kaagh as Luke rejects Mrs. Wormwood. As Mrs. Wormwood turns on Sarah Jane and her friends, Kaagh asks Clyde for help to regain his honor. The Sontaran rushes the Bane, plunging them both into the portal as it closes, trapping them. Sarah Jane pulls her spare sonic lipstick and destroys the scroll, ending the threat.

Back at Bannerman Road, the team reflects on how amazing the universe can be as they bid farewell to the Brigadier, once again united as a family.

 

In one fell swoop, this finale knocks out two major SJA villains, reinforces the major theme of the show, and swings around mythology by bringing back a long-time favorite and adding a major component that will come back in a few years time.

The return of Brigadier Sir Alistair Gordon Lethbridge-Stewart was beautiful and is a great capstone to his forty-year legacy in Doctor Who, from The Web of Fear to Battlefield. Before this episode, it had been nineteen years since his last appearance, and this one is special because it is Nicholas Courtney’s final televised appearance in the role. He died in 2011, roughly two years after this story.

His views on UNIT say a lot about the evolution of the organization, as well as the views on the military and human rights between the 1970s and the early 2000s. Remember, good science fiction serves as a lens on the human condition, and Doctor Who is one of the best in that regard.

 

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

 

Keeping in mind that the Timestamps Project is following the franchise chronologically at this point…

UP NEXT – Doctor Who: The Next Doctor

 

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 #SJA11: The Temptation of Sarah Jane Smith

Sarah Jane Adventures: The Temptation of Sarah Jane Smith
(2 episodes, s02e05, 2008)

 

Sarah Jane Smith meets Sarah Jane Smith.

Courtesy of a mysterious fissure, a young boy materializes in a shopping center. Rani and Clyde give chase as he runs away while Sarah Jane and Luke investigate the time fissure. Sarah Jane plans to send the boy home and seal the rift, but young Oscar is afraid. So, Sarah Jane escorts him through the fissure.

Just as she’s about to leave, she sees a road marker: She’s near Foxgrove in the year 1951. She avoids the temptation and leaves, and the boy asks the Trickster if he did okay.

The Trickster vows that Sarah Jane will return.

With the job done, the Bannerman Road Gang returns home, but Sarah Jane is obviously haunted. She asks Mr. Smith about the history of Foxgrove, then looks at the photograph in her desk drawer. Luke interrupts her reflections and she explains that the photo is of her parents, Eddie and Barbara Smith. They died in a traffic accident, leaving Sarah Jane in her pram on the side of the road at only three months old. She was adopted by her aunt Lavinia, but the mystery of their death has haunted her throughout her life.

The time fissure leads to Foxgrove, one month before her parents died. Luke suggests going to see them, but Sarah Jane thinks that it’s a trap. She refuses the bait.

Or so she says.

She sneaks out of the house later that night, all dressed up for a trip to the 1950s. Luke catches her before she leaves, and she promises that it will be a quick trip. She opens the fissure, considers the ramifications one last time, and walks through to her own past. The fissure was supposed to remain open for an hour, but it fluctuates so Luke dives in after her. Together, they walk to Foxgrove, not noticing a triumphant Oscar hiding nearby.

Rani and Clyde take notice of their absence and consult Mr. Smith, but the supercomputer has no knowledge of their whereabouts. He theorizes that they used the fissure. They find the Verron Soothsayer box, which is now flashing, and they decide to investigate.

Sarah Jane and Luke end up at a town festival. Sarah Jane spots her mother and her infant self, and she decides to talk to her mother to determine why her parents would abandon her. The time travelers introduce themselves as Victoria and David Beckham, and Sarah Jane ventures off to help her mother out serving tea. Meanwhile, Luke spots Oscar and investigates the boy’s odd behavior.

Eddie and Barbara talk to Sarah Jane about their baby and her future. Sarah Jane’s emotions swell and she decides to leave. Luke follows with a newspaper, but Sarah Jane realizes that it is the day that her parents died. The temptation is strong to disable the Smith car with her sonic lipstick, and Luke lobbies her to avoid altering a fixed point in time.

Her emotions overrule her logic and she disables the car’s engine. They rush back to the fissure to see if anything significant changed as the world begins to crumble around them.

Clyde and Rani arrive at the site of the fissure. The box changes color as they try to open the rift. Oscar returns through the fissure and morphs into a Graske before chasing after them. The world changes as they take shelter.

Sarah Jane and Luke return home to find the world transformed into a complete wasteland. The Trickster reveals himself, gleeful that Sarah Jane has given the world over to him. Foxgrove rested on a weak point in the fabric of time and Sarah Jane’s actions smashed a fault line and allowed the Trickster to manifest and ravage the Earth.

Luke and Sarah Jane return to 1951 to set things straight. The storm is already in progress at Foxgrove, prompting the villagers to take their festival indoors. Sarah Jane wishes that the Doctor was there to help them, and her hopes are buoyed up by the sight of a police box. Unfortunately, the box is not the TARDIS and only contains a police officer. Sarah Jane and Luke find Eddie and Barbara. Barbara offers to help them look for anything odd.

Rani and Clyde, protected from the alternate timeline by the puzzle box, wander the wasteland. They spot the Graske and decide to follow it. They spot Rani’s mother in a group of slaves, and Rani tries to make contact. The Graske, who is the slavemaster, is apprehensive around the duo. Rani’s mother explains that they are forced to mine every resource from the planet, and she shares the legend of Sarah Jane Smith and how she gave the world to the Trickster. They also learn about the Abbot’s Gateway and decide to somehow get that information to Sarah Jane and Luke.

Rani and Clyde demand an audience with the Graske and learn about his history and how he was tricked by the Trickster. He was saved from death but became a slave as a result. Clyde offers to exchange the puzzle box – a way to free the Graske – for a way back to the past. The arrangement means that Rani can go to 1951 but Clyde must remain behind with the box.

Sarah Jane and Luke track the source of the disturbance while Rani hunts them down, sticking out like a sore thumb as a woman of color in the village. Rani delivers her message, confusing Barbara with information from the future. The Trickster begins to manifest as Eddie arrives to take Barbara away.

The elder Smiths return to the village hall. Everything they touch ages rapidly, from fruit to flowers, and Barbara realizes that the problem revolves around them. She knows that Sarah Jane Smith is the adult version of their own baby.

At the Abbot’s Gate, Luke tries to convince Sarah Jane to repair the car, even though it means that her parents will die. Sarah Jane fixes the car as her parents arrive. They leave their baby with Luke and Rani as Sarah Jane says her goodbyes. The family shares an embrace as they mend their bridges. Sarah Jane now understands why her parents had to die and why they left her behind.

Her parents bid both Sarah Janes farewell as they drive away. The future is safe as the Trickster writhes in pain and vaporizes in the restored timeline. Sarah Jane, Luke, and Rani take the infant to her rightful place.

With the timeline restored, Clyde gives the puzzle box to the Graske and frees him from his servitude. The time travelers return home and Sarah Jane smashes the device used to open the fissure. Rani finds her parents alive and well, and Sarah Jane reminisces over her parents.

Although she could not save them, she finally knows why they left. She is proud of them. She shares a hug with Luke over the photo of Eddie and Barbara.

On the back of the photo lies one last remnant of the whimsical love notes they used to share: “Mr. Smith, I need you”.

 

On its face, this is a very basic story about the circular paradox. In fact, it is almost a complete rehash of Father’s Day, from a child saving a parent from a fixed point death, the resulting fractures and destruction in the timeline, and a noble sacrifice to set things right. It also bears striking similarities to The Curse of Fenric.

But it has the benefit of being about one of the most beloved characters in Doctor Who history, and that emotional investment makes a considerable difference between a standard plotline and a great story in this universe. Sarah Jane thinks like the Doctor, rationalizing every break of the rules to satiate just one more piece of her curiosity, while Luke, Rani, and Clyde act as her anchors to help save the world.

That twist on the story, including Sarah Jane realizing that she doesn’t need the Doctor to save her – that she literally has all of the tools that she needs to fix her mistake – is amazing, and it serves to empower both her and her young companions, making them stronger both as characters and as a cohesive family in the end.

Rating: 5/5 – “Fantastic!”

 

 

UP NEXT – Sarah Jane Adventures: Enemy of the Bane

 

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.