The Sarah Jane Adventures episode 40: Death of the Doctor – Part One (25/10/2010)

‘The Claw Shansheeth of the 15th Funeral Fleet. I’ve been looking for you. Have you been telling people I’m dead?’ Tackling death and bereavement in a CBBC show is a tricky thing. The first half of this takes the notion of the Doctor’s death, a subject RTD previously tackled in Turn Left, but makes it personal. Sladen is magnificent in Sarah Jane’s stubborn denial, with the slightly mad pitch of her voice as she declares she’s fine despite all evidence to the contrary.

Which makes her very discreet but palpable breakdown when she finally sees the coffin genuinely upsetting. The direction here is superb – the Shansheeth,(an amusing concept executed probably as well as possible on the budget) move aside and the camera dwells on the solid fact of the casket. Thereafter, Sarah Jane barely takes her eyes off it. It’s a remarkably mature scene which continues the show’s refusal to condescend to its audience.

SJA Death Doctor 1

And then the reverie is shattered by the arrival of Katy Manning, crashing into this show just like she crashed into Doctor Who 40 years earlier. Jo’s lack of filters, unrestrained joy and garrulousness contrast with Sarah Jane’s self-control and discretion – Sarah Jane offers her hand and receives a massive hug. The last time she met one of the Doctor’s blonde companions it was fairly frosty first encounter, but Jo’s not Rose, and the only tension between them is when Jo realises the Doctor kept going back for Sarah Jane, but never looked in on her.

RTD has a field day with the classic Doctor references: Miss Shaw, Metebelis III, Peladon, Axons, Azal, Drashigs, Ogrons, even Karfel (what a treat to hear that from Katy Manning), but this works well as a direct sequel to The Wedding of Sarah Jane Smith, with most of the flashbacks coming from that episode, and Clyde’s artron energy providing the key to getting the Doctor back to Earth. In a couple of minutes, Matt Smith gives a gorgeous precis of his performance – eccentric, direct to the point of rude (but so innocently Jo can only splutter), with a hint of the Series Five swagger as he strides down the hall to confront the Shansheeth.

Next Time: Death of the Doctor – Part Two


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