‘Hello, Sir Alistair. It’s been a long time.’ Series Two has been consistently stronger than Series One, and the opening episode of the finale gives every impression of a show that’s found its own style and forged its own corner of the Doctor Who universe. It’s redundant to point out what a joy Nicholas Courtney’s return is, and how lovely that it should be in The Sarah Jane Adventures, reunited with Elisabeth Sladen for one last battle. It’s an even smarter move to do this in a story that also features Miss Wormwood and the Bane, and the Sontarans (or at least Kaagh), returning villains from the past of this show rather than its parent.
‘It was scary and brilliant all at the same time.’ Essentially, this plays out like Doctor Who: Father’s Day, but it’s hard to see what other options there are. It’s unthinkable in The Sarah Jane Adventures that one of our heroes would try to convince Barbara and Eddie to sacrifice themselves. I suppose the Graske might have travelled back through the portal and done the deed, but that would have robbed Eddie and Barbara of their heroism (and been a bit bathetic). So, Barbara does a Pete Tyler, works out Sarah Jane’s her daughter, and does what is necessary to save a world already unravelling around an old religious site.
‘What if this is it? My reward?’ Father’s Day for Sarah Jane, as she’s offered the chance to travel back to 1951 to meet – and save – her parents. Except, of course, it’s all a ploy by the Trickster to tempt her into changing history and gifting the future to him.
‘Please help my dad.’ A remarkable episode for a children’s TV show, taking time to focus on relationships between parents and children and ending with a scene that shows both Sarah Jane and Clyde at their most vulnerable. Its both Sladen and Anthony’s best performances in the series so far, getting across its point more directly and with less cynicism than either Doctor Who or Torchwood would be able to.
‘I bet Sarah Jane never does anything like this.’ A Sarah Jane lite episode and already Anjli Mohindra is becoming her heir presumptive, investigating mysterious goings on at Park Vale Comprehensive. It takes no time at all for Rani to work out Jacob’s mind control powers are linked to a mysterious, alien amulet, and she immediately spots that Clyde’s ne’er do well father has nicked it. She’s great, leading the show in Elisabeth Sladen’s absence. I can’t wait to listen to her further adventures from Big Finish.
‘All the wasted years leading to this moment. But somehow I always knew I was different.’ The only problem with this is no fault of the script, but a sequencing failure that placed two stories that involved Michael Kerrigan directing crowds of zombified people to wander through the streets – even the doors to the theatre look like the doors to Spellman’s clown museum in The Day of the Clown.
‘What if astrology is true?’ This is almost entirely built around Russ Abbot’s performance as Martin Trueman, a fraudulent fortune teller given genuine powers by the Ancient Lights. It’s a stock Doctor Who villain role – Heironymous and Lucius Petrus Dextrus are other astrologers gifted with true abilities by powerful aliens – and in many respects this is the first Sarah Jane Adventure I could see working as an episode of the parent show with only minor tweaks (Cheryl would have to be a friend of the companion’s mother, I suppose). But the parent show probably would have got a bigger name than Abbot to play the villain, and there it would have missed a trick.
‘Today, just for you, Miss Smith, I will chill the blood of a nation. A thousand families will ache with loss.’ A surprisingly contemplative Part Two, with less running around than usual and a correspondingly more significant role for Elisabeth Sladen, who gets to play Sarah Jane’s fear and emotional vulnerability as she recalls her haunted childhood. In one sense this is just setting up a story later in the series, but it comes naturally from the drama here, and leaves this feeling a richer experience than Ford’s previous Sarah Jane Adventures.
‘I see clowns that don’t exist.’ Stephen King’s IT reimagined for a family audience, but there’s enough to make the parallel undeniable (the children being kidnapped; the sinister floating balloon; the clown’s ability to change shape; the old pictures and woodcuts depicting it through history; its identity as ‘Odd Bob’ which echoes Pennywise’s name Bob Gray; Clyde, as the ‘joker in the pack’ referencing the wolfman – the monster that menaced the similarly jokey Richie).
‘Try my size fives, Humpty.’ As usual in The Sarah Jane Adventures the pay-off involves a lot more running about than the set-up. For the CBBC audience I think that’s absolutely fair enough, but it does make it a bit more difficult to find things to talk about. Instead, my mind wanders to vague inconsistencies like why Kaagh with his high-gravity musculature can’t force open a door that the kids have just closed (or why he doesn’t just blast it open with the gun he’s just been liberally firing). There is one surprise: Lucy Skinner turns out not to be Maria’s replacement – with her warring parents and her science skills (and Clare Thomas’ CBBC acting credits), it looks like that’s the direction the show is taking.