The Sarah Jane Adventures
Season 4 Episodes 5 & 6:
The Death of the Doctor
Airdate: October 25th and 26th 2010. UK. BBC1
Woohoo! And now I get to review a kinda historical event because these two episodes of the show features two different Doctor Who companions (gosh... I really miss the days when we used to refer to them as assistants) who have never met each other in the history of the show before and, to top it off, they both get to meet an incarnation of The Doctor they’ve never met before. How cool is that?
Ok... so this episode started off with a bang right from the start with a load of military U.N.I.T types led by Colonel Karim converging on Sarah Jane’s house to inform her that The Doctor has been found dead and that there will be a funeral held for him at a secret U.N.I.T base at the foot of Mount Snowdon... Now before I go any further I just want to have a bit of a rant here!
When the hell will these people stop getting U.N.I.Ts abbreviations all wrong? U.N.I.T has stood for, since the sixties and until recent years, the following: United Nations Intelligence Taskforce! What the hell is all this UNified Intelligence Taskforce? It doesn’t even make sense properly as an acronym! When are the modern writers going to admit they’ve got it all wrong, stop fooling with a bedrock term of Doctor Who history which has been around since Patrick Troughton’s time and get the damn thing right!
OK. I feel so much better now. Vented.
Anyway, Sarah Jane obviously doesn’t believe in The Doctor’s death but she attends the funeral with the kids anyway and, of course, one of the guests who turns up at the funeral is none other than... the incredible and fabulous Jo Grant! Yes people, Katy Manning is back. Remember her from her white suits, fur waistcoats and thigh high boots? Of course, she’s Jo Jones now... remember when she went off to be with Professor Jones at the end of The Green Death back in 1973? Anyway, she’s back and, woohoo, Russel Davies who wrote these two episodes (good thing too, it needed a defter touch than the regular series of Doctor Who has been giving us just recently methinks... but don’t get me started... we just need to give Moffet a bit more time) has written her like the throwback to the hippy she always was. Thank goodness some things never change.
The funeral is being held by the Shansheeth, a race of Undertaker Vultures (which is a neat way of reinforcing the death motif) and it doesn’t take long for Sarah Jane and the kids to realise that The Doctor is still very much alive and that Sarah Jane and Jo have been targeted so that their memories of The Doctor can be harvested and harnessed to make a new key to gain access to the T.A.R.D.I.S which the Shansheeth have stolen from The Doctor... That’d be Time And Relative Dimensions In Space, by the way. Does any writer feel the need to have a go and alter that particular acronym while they’re at it? Oops. Sorry. Forgot I wasn’t supposed to be ranting anymore. :-) They want to use the T.A.R.D.I.S to travel around the history of the universe obliterating death... which is a fairly bird-brained scheme if you ask me... but they are giant vultures so I suppose that’s acceptable.
And then, of course, who should pop up but Who himself... err... that is to say The Doctor, played by Matt Smith himself as his 11th incarnation. The lack of companions is quickly explained away with the explanation that he’d left Amy Pond and Rory on their honeymoon before getting his T.A.R.D.I.S nicked. After The Doctor arrives, of course, the pacing of the episode gets even more frenetic (which is playing to Matt Smith’s strengths) but, you know what? For a little while there everyone pauses to take a few minutes and we have an absolutely beautiful scene played between Matt Smith and Katy Manning which is somewhat similar to the one between David Tennant and Elisabeth Sladen in Tennant’s second season where The Doctor explains to Jo how things are when he leaves a companion behind. It’s played very movingly and it continues to maintain the slightly darker edge The Doctor seems to have these days. Matt Smith gets much more of a chance to shine here when he’s not being too overshadowed by the ever brilliant Karen Gillan. Really great stuff and Katy Manning more than holds her own in contrast to him... as does Elisabeth Sladen of course.
There’s some nice stuff in this story. The plot concerning the harvesting of memories allows for a few fair flashbacks of old Doctors and their enemies. David Tennant, Tom Baker, Jon Pertwee, Patrick Troughton and William Hartnell (the last two from the Jo Grant story The Three Doctors) all get a look in although I didn’t spot Peter Davison... who Sarah Jane would have met in The Five Doctors.
The only real let down in this episode (and thanks to Gullane 2 for the reminder), is that the character of Colonel Karim (who is in league with the Shansheeth) seems to hint at a deeper connection to the Doctor Who universe via a previous untold tragedy and with her (seeming?) death at the end of the story, it looks like it was a bit if an unnecessary throwaway for someone who is actually a quite good character.
Anyway, what does it matter? Jo Grant is back. Rejoice and let’s hope that they give her some future appearances on either Doctor Who, Torchwood or The Sarah Jane Adventures at some point in the future... preferably all three!