Timestamp Special #13: Farewell, Sarah Jane

Farewell, Sarah Jane
(Doctor Who: Lockdown: April 19, 2020)

Timestamp S13 Farewell Sarah Jane

On the ninth anniversary of Elisabeth Sladen’s untimely passing, in the midst of a global pandemic, we were offered a chance to say goodbye.


It was a beautiful and fitting tribute to the character and the woman who brought her to life. Russell T Davies did an amazing job, especially with his bridge between the classic and revival eras. He also put the cap on his vision for The Sarah Jane Adventures which had been considered impossible in 2011.

I, for one, want to experience that adventure with Ace, Sarah Jane, and the Diamond Wolf Clan.

Until then, farewell, Sarah Jane.


UP NEXT – Doctor Who: The Doctor, the Widow and the Wardrobe

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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 #SJA28: The Man Who Never Was

Sarah Jane Adventures: The Man Who Never Was
(2 episodes, s05e03, 2011)

Timestamp SJA28 Man Never Was

Slave trades and work simulations.

At Serf Systems, an office cleaner named Adriana Petrescu does her job as an advertisement for the new SerfBoard computer plays on overhead screens. A strange noise draws Adriana to the elevator. When she investigates, she’s pulled inside.

The Bannerman Road Gang is hard at work in the attic as Sky expresses her anxiety about meeting Luke for the first time. Luke notes that his room is no longer his and pops up to the attic for a reunion. He greets Clyde and Rani with the new pet name “Clani”, then has an awkward meeting with Sky. Luke had to leave K9 at the university as the robotic dog is backing up the entire Bodleian library. Mr. Smith is ecstatic at that news.

As the team muses about the SerfBoard launch, Sarah Jane breaks the news that she’s covering it as a journalist. Unfortunately, she only has enough passes for herself, Luke, and Sky. Once there, they meet Lionel Carson, Sarah Jane’s former editor and close friend. As the dress rehearsal begins, Sky tells Luke that she feels a strange buildup of electricity.

Each of the attendees gets a free SerfBoard, a device that sways the normally technophobic Lionel. Sky and Luke also note that Joseph Serf, the president of the company, glitches during his presentation. Luke stays behind after the rehearsal while Sarah Jane and Sky review the footage with Mr. Smith and the gang in the attic. Mr. Smith’s research indicates that, after an accident, Serf became a recluse. Serf also never holds anything.

Mr. Smith commences a deep scan of the SerfBoard while Sarah Jane arranges a rare personal interview with Joseph Serf. Sarah Jane takes Sky along as Clyde and Rani wait for the scan results. The interview is supervised by Mr. Harrison, Serf’s assistant, and Serf refuses to shake hands due to a supposed allergy.

The deep scan comes up with nothing special, so Clyde and Rani investigate the SerfBoard with a great deal of humor. What they find is a typical low-spec budget computer.

At Serf Systems, Luke and Sky discover a sub-basement occupied by Jawa-like aliens who are controlling Serf like an automaton. The controllers get overwhelmed by the complexities of the interview, eventually providing an opportunity for Sarah Jane to spot the glitches for herself. The controllers attempt to hypnotize her, but she sees right through it. As Harrison pulls a weapon on Sarah Jane, Luke and Sky are discovered and surrounded by the cyclopean controllers.

Luke and Sky are surprised when the aliens tell them to run. Sky saves Sarah Jane from being shot by manipulating the controls, but Harrison punishes the aliens. He also spots the intruders on the monitors as Sarah Jane is apprehended and has her sonic lipstick confiscated.

Harrison takes Sarah Jane to the sub-basement and punishes Plark, the lead alien. He reveals that the beings are Skullions that he bought on the black market in Central Asia. The Smiths are astonished at the slave trade, uncovering that Harrison’s plan is simply to make as much money as possible on the SerfBoard launch. Sarah Jane is locked in a storage room with Adriana while Luke and Sky are confined elsewhere. Sarah Jane and Adriana become friends and break out in short order.

Luke and Sky try to befriend a Skullion who brings them food and water, but the being is too fearful. We also learn that the Skullions are allergic to water and thrive on citrus juice. Sky devises a plan to use K9’s dog whistle to signal Mr. Smith. Meanwhile, in the attic, Rani comes up with a plan to crash the launch party as journalists. K9’s whistle, in Morse Code, signals Clani to steal Harrison’s pen.

The Smith family is soon reunited and they enter the Skullion control room. Sarah Jane signals Mr. Smith to arrange a rescue mission for the Skullions while Clyde and Rani snag Harrison’s pen. Sarah Jane and Adriana shepherd the Skullions to the roof while Luke and Sky monitor the control room. Unfortunately, Harrison retreives his pen so Luke and Sky have to drive the Serf simulation.

After some humorous Toy Story-infused hijinks, Luke and Sky use the hypnotic power to secure the pen and destroy it. They also tell everyone at the party that the SerfBoard is garbage before ending the simulation. Harrison arrives on the roof just in time for the Skullions to leave. Harrison inadventently jumps into the transmat beam and is taken for an intergalactic ride.

With the day saved (an Adriana referred to UNIT for a job), the Bannerman Road Gang retires to the attic. Luke has decorated Sky’s room with a custom banner, a signal that he fully accept her. Sarah Jane muses about the adventures she and her found family have shared in a farewell montage.

“I’ve seen amazing things out there in space, but strange things can happen wherever you are. I have learned that life on Earth can be an adventure too. In all the universe, I never expected to find a family.”

And the story goes on…. forever.


The story is a good take for a children’s show on slavery and greed and the cruelty associated with both. It also closes the loop on Luke and Sky, bringing the whole family together for one last adventure on Bannerman Road.

The discussion on slavery is not a new one for the franchise and this take still packs a lot of weight. I also really enjoyed the twists of the puppet president and the enslaved Skullions looking out for the Bannerman Road Gang.

The special epilogue was unexpected and brought several tears to my eyes. In its short span, it covered beautiful milestones of Elisabeth Sladen’s journey with Doctor Who, from The Time Warrior to Journey’s End and The End of Time, as well the scope of her wonderful adventures on Bannerman Road.

Rating: 5/5 – “Fantastic!”


UP NEXT – Sarah Jane Adventures: Series Five 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 #SJA27: The Curse of Clyde Langer

Sarah Jane Adventures: The Curse of Clyde Langer
(2 episodes, s05e02, 2011)

Timestamp SJA27 Curse Clyde

Where were you on the day of the storm?

Clyde shows Rani the superhero comic he created, The Silver Bullet, and she’s impressed. She’s less enthused about his idea for story starring an adventurer named Susie June Jones. Meanwhile, Sarah Jane and Sky meet with Haresh Chandra about enrolling in the school. They are interrupted by a storm of fish raining from the sky.

The Bannerman Road Gang consults Mr. Smith on the unusual storm. The supercomputer comes up with a possible link to a Native American totem pole on display at the Museum of Culture. Legend says that when the artifact was removed from its hiding place, a storm of fish soon followed.

The team arrive at the museum. After Clyde gives Sky a lesson about homelessness, they inspect the totem pole. Clyde gets a nasty splinter and tries to remove it while Doctor Samantha Madigan, an anthropologist, relates the tale of Hetocumtek. A scan of the totem pole shows no alien activity.

Clyde returns home and has dinner with his mother, after which he finishes his comic book and goes to bed. After he nods off, his name starts to glow on anything that bears it.

The next morning, he visits Sarah Jane to show her his comic. She praises it until Clyde says his name aloud, after which she becomes furious and forces him out of the house. Confused, he crosses the street and consults Rani, but after Haresh says Clyde’s name, the Chandras turn on him as well.

As Clyde retreats, Sarah Jane tears up all of the pictures from Clyde that she can find. Mr. Smith is concerned about Sarah Jane’s attitude, and Sky has a calming effect on her. Sky mentions Clyde and Sarah Jane bans her from seeing him ever again. She orders Mr. Smith to set an alert for Clyde’s presence, Sky seems unaffected by whatever is going on.

Clyde calls Luke only to find that he is affected too. Clyde’s old friend Steve offers to play football until he says Clyde’s name. The footballers turn into an angry mob who smash Clyde’s phone and chase him until Clyde hides.

Clyde notes that his finger still hurts and makes the connection back to the totem pole. He asks Doctor Madigan about Native American curses but he’s soon cut off as Sarah Jane arrives to research the totem pole. He finds out that anyone who mentions his name becomes affected by the curse. That includes his own mother who kicks him out of the house.

Now homeless and begin pursued by the police, Clyde tries to get some money from an ATM, but the screen only fills up with his name. As night falls and a thunderstorm begins, Clyde seeks refuge in a doorway. He breaks down in despair but finds solace as the homeless girl he helped earlier beckons him to join her.

After a bit of sleep in a “cardboard city” under a bridge, the girl introduces herself as Ellie Faber. Clyde, inspired by a discarded pizza container, takes the name of Enrico Box. Ellie’s been on her own for two years after her father died and her mother remarried. She tells him of the “Night Dragon”, a threat that causes homeless people to disappear without telling anyone.

Sky investigates the new hatred of Clyde, but Sarah Jane and Rani aren’t forthcoming. At the museum, an electrical storm surrounds the totem pole, so Doctor Madigan calls Sarah Jane to help. The artifact appears to be alive and teeming with alien energy. Sarah Jane urges the anthropologist to close the exhibit.

Clyde and Ellie try panhandling but fail, so Ellie decides to find something to eat. They visit a soup kitchen and meet Mystic Mags, a woman who sees things in tea leaves. She warns that the something worse than the Night Dragon is coming and has put its mark on Clyde. He runs to save Ellie, but she pursues calling him her lucky charm.

Sarah Jane tells Mr. Smith that the totem is no longer dormant. Additionally, Sarah Jane, Rani, and Clyde’s mother are aware that they’ve lost something special but can’t quite figure out what. Sky visits Clyde’s mother and notes the glowing name on an envelope. She connects the dots as, back at the museum, one of the totem pole’s faces starts to move.

Once again sheltering from the rain, Clyde decides to light a fire with his Silver Bullet artwork. They discuss the fish storm, signs, and portents. Ellie tells Clyde that she had lost hope of ever reclaiming her life. Clyde has given her hope again.

Sarah Jane and Rani discuss their feelings of loss in the attic while Sky consults Mr. Smith about the splinter and Clyde’s curse. She forces them to be analytical and they realize that Hetocumtek needs Clyde to be isolated in order to gather power and break free. To break the curse, Sky encourages Sarah Jane and Rani to say Clyde’s name aloud. Acting against their instincts, they do so, break the curse, and resolve to get Clyde back.

Clyde shows Ellie a sketch he made of her, offering to draw for money. Ellie kisses him and leaves to get them a coffee. After she departs, the Bannerman Road Gang arrives and reunites with their missing family. Clyde resolves to find Ellie when the crisis is over.

They return to the attic where Mr. Smith transmats the totem pole. It fights as Clyde confronts it, yelling his name into the artifact until it dissolves into dust. The gang celebrates, then Clyde returns home to an emotional reunion with his mother.

Clyde then embarks on a mission to find Ellie, worried that she’ll think that he abandoned her. He finds out that she took the name from a famous singer’s poster. He also spots a truck labeled “Night Dragon Haulage” which works with a shipping company. A nearby homeless man explains that the drivers often take the homeless to different locations, offering a new chance in a new location.

That night, Clyde lies in his own bed and thinks of Ellie. He hopes that she’s found a better life. All he has left of her is the picture that he drew.


This story digs deep on so many levels.

First is that, as a children’s television series, it is legitimately tackling the subject of homelessness. Moreso, it puts a human face on the epidemic, both from a Clyde’s new perspective and Ellie Faber’s long-term view. It’s a subject that I’m keenly aware because of where I live and where I grew up. Atlanta, Georgia has a huge epidemic of homelessness, driven by a lack of affordable housing, unemployment, and poverty, and much of it can be linked back to the strings of financial crises in the United States. The State of Utah put a different spin on it in the 1990s and 2000s with religion and homosexuality, particulary among the teenage population who came out to their Mormon parents and were promptly disowned and disavowed.

It amazes me that this episode exists, especially as one in a children’s television program, and is hardly mentioned in today’s era of (shall we say?) vigorous discourse about political and social justice topics in Doctor Who. It’s also worth noting that one of the executive producers on this show was Russell T Davies, a man who is no stranger to political and social topics in science fiction.

The second level that I admired was the power of names. Across many cultures and time periods on this planet – spanning Muslim, Jewish, Egyptian, Vedic, Hindu, Christian, ancient and primitive, and more – there is a belief that knowing the name of something or someone gives one power over it. I have met people in recent years that weren’t comfortable telling me their full names until we had gotten to know each other because, in their beliefs, I could use that power for evil. It’s a fascinating belief and it is given life here since the curse of Hetocumtek doesn’t fully engage until Clyde signs his comic. After that, the use of his name sparks the senses of dread, anger, and pain, eventually leaving Hetocumtek as the one who controls it.

The third level was Native American curses. In particular, the mention of the Curse of Tippecanoe. It’s also known as Tecumseh’s Curse, the 20-year Curse, and the Zero Curse, but the basic idea is that Presidents of the United States who were elected in years that end with the digit 0 and are divisible by 20 are cursed to die in office. The curse references then-Major General William Henry Harrison’s military expeditions, specifically when defeated Native American tribes led by Tecumseh and Tenskwatawa at the Battle of Tippecanoe on November 7, 1811.

Historians claim that the curse is coincidental, but adherents will point to the presidents who followed the pattern: William Henry Harrison (elected in 1840), Abraham Lincoln (1860), James A. Garfield (1880), William McKinley (1900), Warren G. Harding (1920), Franklin D. Roosevelt (1940) and John F. Kennedy (1960) constitute seven of the eight American Presidents who have died in office. The presidents who meet the criteria and were elected after 1960 – Ronald Reagan (1980), George W. Bush (2000), and Joe Biden (2020, incumbent) – did not (or have not) met the curse’s destiny.

It’s a fascinating piece of Americana.

To wrap this up, the obvious bit of Doctor Who trivia is Pyramids of Mars. After all, it’s not the first time that an alien has posed as a god, is it?

Rating: 5/5 – “Fantastic!”


UP NEXT – Sarah Jane Adventures: The Man Who Never Was

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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 #SJA26: Sky

Sarah Jane Adventures: Sky
(2 episodes, s05e01, 2011)

Timestamp SJA26 Sky

Welcome back to the attic.

Sarah Jane observes the star-filled sky and reminisces about all of the wonderful things that she’s seen. In that night sky, a meteor crashes into a nearby junkyard, startling a homeless man as a metalloid creature emerges from the wreckage. The newcomer scans the area before cloaking and walking away.

Sarah Jane muses about her found family as the Bannerman Road Gang talks to Luke via video. Sarah Jane misses her son, but finds solace in Rani’s assurance that he’ll be home soon. The next morning brings a doorbell in the early hours. Sarah Jane finds a baby girl abandoned on her doorstep, a baby girl who has the power to blow every light on the street with a cry.

Sarah Jane calls in Rani and Clyde, asking for her help as the Chandras muse about ley lines and electrical disruptions. The teens are hesitant, as is Mr. Smith, but Clyde soon settles the infant with a bottle and a cuddle.

At the Summerwell Nuclear Power Station, an orb of energy appears amidst arcs of electricity around the switchgear – an emergency that the nearby nuclear worker should have called away immediately! – and delivers a mysterious woman onto the plant floor. She is Miss Myers, she is looking for her child, and she enraptures the power plant workers. Miss Myers finds out that the baby is on Bannerman Road.

The Bannerman Road Gang attempt to get away but are intercepted by Gita Chandra. They find out about the meteor strike and inadvertantly name the baby Sky. Rani and Sarah Jane investigate while Clyde remains with Sky at the house. With the help of Professor Rivers, they find the homeless man and an eyewitness account of the metalloid creature.

By the way, that being is also headed for Bannerman Road.

The conflict reaches Clyde and Sky as the the metalloid being attacks them. They are rescued by Miss Myers and taken to the power plant. Rani and Sarah Jane chase after them with help from Mr. Smith. Miss Myers tells Clyde about the conflict between Metalkind and Fleshkind, but his skepticism forces him to run.

Everyone comes together at the power station. It turns out that Sky is a weapon, and as the baby primes herself, she transforms into a pre-teen. Sky then launches a lightning bolt at the Metalkind but refuses to finish off her oppponent. The girl is frightened and seeks solace in Sarah Jane’s arms.

Miss Myers reveals that she created the girl in a laboratory. Sarah Jane and the Bannerman Road Gang escape with Sky, returning to the attic. There, Mr. Smith determines that Sky – who enters the scene hesitantly, without fanfare, eager to protect his circuits – is a bomb designed to destroy all of Metalkind across the entire universe and end a centuries-long conflict, an act that would kill Sky in the process.

Sky remembers everything from the moment that she met Sarah Jane. She bonds with Rani as she learns about Sarah Jane, Luke, and what it’s like to be a girl. She later learns about her true purpose and returns to the power plant with the Bannerman Road Gang. Miss Myers is the only person who can defuse the bomb.

Sarah Jane confronts Miss Myers alone while Rani and Clyde shelter Sky at the car. Miss Myers has connected the Metalkind being to the station’s electrical systems to act as a beacon drawing the entire species to Earth. This will force Sarah Jane to surrender Sky to fulfill her destiny since the bomb is programmed to detonate upon contact with the Metalkind.

Sky, Rani, and Clyde enter the plant and find Sarah Jane. Sky believes that she must do what she was created to do in order to save Earth. Sky runs off and Sarah Jane gives chase, tasking Rani and Clyde with shutting down the reactor and removing power from the Metalkind beacon.

Rani and Clyde play a video game to operate the plant – which is not how any of it really works, but let’s roll with it… – while Sarah Jane tries to stop Sky. Luckily, they do the thing and shut down the beacon, forcing a blackout in the surrounding area because the UK apparently doesn’t have any other electrical power facilities.

Sky is knocked out from the effort, but she recovers after the energy backlash reprograms her genetic code. She’s no longer a bomb. The galactic politics removes itself from Earth as the Metalkind grabs Miss Myers, opens a portal, and teleports them off the planet.

The nuclear workers are released from their trance. The Bannerman Road Gang leaves without a word.

Returning home, they are greeted by the Chandras. In return, they get a story about a mix-up between two children at the foster agency. Sky Smith will be staying for the foreseeable future. The gang heads to the Attic where they find the Captain and the Shopkeeper, the servants of the universe who left Sky on the doorstep because she would be safest with Sarah Jane Smith. They teleport away leaving Sarah Jane confused.

The adventure ends with Sky’s introduction to pizza.


Doctor Who and its spinoffs are no strangers to nuclear power, spanning at least The Daleks, The Tenth Planet, Doctor Who and the Silurians, The Hand of FearBoom Town, The End of Time, and Exit Wounds. Science fiction, in general, takes a lot of shortcuts with nuclear power and the plants that generate it, and this story is no exception. It hits every trope in the sci-fi writer’s guide, from strolling around plants like a public park and being able to walk right into reactor containment to treating operations and control rooms like video games.

My nuclear operations background was screaming during this story. Electrical arcs would be called away as an emergency, access would be restricted by badge-locked doors, unauthorized personnel would be intercepted almost immediately by security officers wielding military-grade weaponry. Moving control rods is not like playing Super Mario Bros. and the electrical grid is powered from more than one power source.

At least the main gate guards were somewhat on the ball.

All of that to say this: Since the treatment of nuclear power and operations is so far off-base – it’s hardly ever in the same ballpark, really – I roll my eyes at it but don’t let it sour my opinion of a good story.

Thankfully, this story has a lot of heart. The ongoing theme of The Sarah Jane Adventures is found family, and it continues here with a new member in the Bannerman Road Gang. Sky picks up Sarah Jane’s nuturing, particularly compassion for everyone, and lets it shape her early on. Her wide-eyed innocence takes us back to the first series and almost pushes a reset button on the group dynamic. It suits the franchise well.

It was also supposed to bring the Eleventh Doctor back to the title in a story arc for Sky. Since he couldn’t balance this and A Christmas Carol, Matt Smith was replaced by the Captain and the Shopkeeper. Sadly, the story arc will be abandoned by the premature end of the series.

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


UP NEXT – Sarah Jane Adventures: The Curse of Clyde Langer

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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.