‘Sarah Jane Smith, 13, died after falling from the edge of Westport Pier yesterday in a tragic accident.’ Here’s a thing: a Sarah Jane lite episode, with Maria taking the lead with minimal support from the other regulars. True, Jane Asher is on hand as Sarah Jane’s replacement Andrea Yates (should have called her April Walker), but Andrea is a very different proposition to Sarah Jane, and with even Alan unable to remember a world where Sarah Jane lives at Bannerman Road, Yasmin Paige is front and centre.
She’s very good, as was clear as early as the pilot episode. I especially like her lapses into surly aggression as she pushes past Andrea to search for Sarah Jane and Mr Smith, and her Eccleston style speech, ‘I’m going to sort things out. I’m going to work out how time got changed, I’m going to find Sarah Jane and then I’m going to bring her back. And nothing is going to stop me.’
She’s also surrounded by great images: Sarah Jane fading from photographs; the Graske kidnapping Maria to an incredibly fitting fairytale bridge through time; a mysterious puzzle box (the story’s Chameleon Watch), and a sinister hooded figure drifting like a ghost through the dark streets and empty attic. It’s a bit of a shame the Gorgon a couple of weeks ago looked broadly similar, but it’s hard to see anyone paying more than the barest attention would fail to spot the difference in the Trickster’s methods.
With Sarah Jane both dead, and lost to memory, Maria similarly wiped from her own mother’s mind at the climax, and an apocalyptic meteor en route to Earth, this is pretty dark stuff (only lightened by Alan’s love of skateboarding) – although no more so than kid’s TV of old like Moondial or Century Falls. It’s also easily the best episode so far.
Next Time: Whatever Happened to Sarah Jane – Part Two