THE SARAH JANE ADVENTURES:
DEATH OF THE DOCTOR
DEATH OF THE DOCTOR
Turned the tables with our unity
They're neither moral nor majority
Wake up and smell the coffee!
Or just say "no" to individuality...
When we pretend that we're dead! When we pretend that we're dead!
They can't hear a word we said when we pretend that we're dead!
Torchwood really is the secret shame of the Whoniverse, isn't it? I mean, it's almost pitiful the way the franchise is being kept in a state of almost perpetual torment by those who purport to actually like it. Torchwood Magazine has folded - once it became clear Ianto wasn't coming back, the readership abandoned it in droves, leaving a mishmash of rather lame comic strips and increasingly bitchy comments from RTD (who out-and-out admits he despised the "21st century" monologue at the start of episodes and that the whole premise wasn't what he wanted for the show). Even worse, DWM has made it quite clear that the hallowed Who mag isn't going to lift a finger to help Torchwood, while at the same time producing whole issues for SJA!
Give RTD the chance to write for Torchwood and what does he do? Literally destroy the franchise, kill one of the major characters, lands another with a baby and has the other flee the show and vow never to return. In a story that has the audience identification figure saying that the Doctor would never turn up because he "turns away in shame" at the events of this spin-off.
Give RTD the chance to write for The Sarah Jane Adventures and what does he do? He has the Doctor guest-star in it. With UNIT. And Jo Grant. And the Graske. JUST to give the ratings a kick to keep it going over the mid-season hump. I'm sorry, is there ANY subtext left to my "disowning" argument any more? That's the equivalent of buying your favorite niece an inflatable castle for her birthday, and then kicking your cousin downstairs, then breaking his legs, injecting him with cholera and then posting him (third class) to the dude from the Saw franchise.
So... what has been happening in Bannerman Road since the Tenth Doctor gatecrashed the Trickster trilogy like Graham Chapman shouting "Right, this start out as a nice little saga about a godlike demon tricking small children, but now it's gone all wanky!"
Well, not much if we're honest. SJ still hangs around her Gabriel-Chase-style home, using her Mr. Smith computer to sabotage Mars robot probes before they encounter any pyramids. Rani Chandrah still lives across the road, struggling to find a third dimension even though she's been in three times as many episodes as Maria along with her 'take them to The Good Life and have them shot' retarded parents. Clive Langer is still giving his David McGhan style monologues at the start of the episode.
But what's this? Luke Smith is gone - the navel-less nerd has stolen a car and hauled ass to Oxford with K9 to enjoy a wild life of partying awesomeness that is clearly too adult and sophisticated for either this kid's show or Torchwood. (BTW, that has to be the first time any K9 has chosen to hang around a male smartarse than head off with the fittest chick he can get like Leela, Romana, Sarah... hell, even Susie-Jo in the DWADs! Mind you, would anyone choose the David Segal Doctor over a redhead supermodel? Or indeed anyone?) This I did regret, as the relationship between K9 and Mr. Smith had evolved from the initial Orac and Zen to Stewie and Brian. Ironic, what with Stewie not actually being a dog...
However, this is the heady world of the 21st century where everything changes and everyone discovers bissexuality... oh, wait, no they don't! INYERFACE, TORCHWOOD! Anyway, my point was that with the magical powers of the interweb, shoving a character onto a bus won't keep them away. Luke may be dealing with the naughtiness of Oxford, but he makes cameos in each story via his mighty K9-shaped webcam, having mastered the art of irony, satire and imitation. So if anyone finds the opening scene where he winds up Clyde to be rather unfunny, it's really something need to be seen in context. It's so out of character, you'd be forgiven for expecting SJ to go "My son now has a sense of humor! EVIL IS AFOOT!"
But, no, not today as 13 Bannerman Rd is now surrounded by a UNIT swat team who have but one thing to say to their rogue agent... (Um, yeah. SJ was a member of UNIT all along, even before she met the Doctor. It makes surprising sense. Ahem.)
"The Doctor's dead!"
It's just one of those odd coincidences that makes you wonder what the hell is going on with the "quality control" that stops Big Finish doing stories that are going to be done on TV - the latest release was A Death in the Family, where the Seventh Doctor is apparently killed on Earth and Ace and Hex team up with Evelyn Smythe to discover the truth in London with lots of UNIT action and a Buffyverse-style villain... This is sounding far too similar and I haven't even got past the opening credits yet!
Handling the news surprisingly well (certainly in comparison to the last couple of times she was sobbing over Tennant), SJ is nevertheless suspicious about a bunch of intergalactic celebrity undertakers who just happened to come across the Lonely God's corpse 100 light years away without any sign of the TARDIS. The fact they look like very unconvincing giant animatronic vultures doesn't help. Ah, pointles animal monsters - Rusty, I... haven't really missed that particular aspect of yours at all, if I'm honest.
The rubbish puppetry immediately makes SJ suspect a trap but, still struggling to show an identity, Rani tells her off for judging an alien on its incredibly cheap and unconvincing appearance. Oh, you go girl. Then she goes home to emote over her dad (since he's much more convincing as a human being than her mother, who acts like a nun with perpetual concussion and calls everyone "my darling"). I still prefer Maria, though. And NOT just because she's willing to get naked into a bath with Emma Watson. No. That's completely coincidental... Why am I even denying this?
Ahem. Replacing the increasingly pointless Magambo as UNIT liason is Hispanic Babe. She has a proper name, but it's hard to hear and I never said you should come to this blog for detailed info. What the hell is wikipedia for?! Anyway, HB invites SJ and her posse to UNIT HQ... mind you, thanks to all them damn alien invasions, the only one still working is buried in Mt. Snowden beneath all the tourist resorts and Vinvocci crap scattered down the hill. Clearly the idea of reusing a monster painted a different colour appeals to RTD, so just as Zocci have Vinvocci, the Graske has the Groske, who even get worked up in the exact same way when they get mistaken for the other aliens. Hmm, it's actually the same joke as the Absorbaloff and the Slitheen actually... oh well, as recycling goes, it's not as bad as the last DW/SJ crossover. Right, Gareth?
SJ isn't stupid and knows that even RTD isn't so bitter and twisted he'd fuck up Moff's masterplan, but to everyone else appears so firmly in denial that even her nakama are calling her batshit crazy. Clyde meanwhile is slightly worried about the disturbing thing happening to his palm... what? No, get your mind out of the gutter! He's still glowing and sparking from that high-five he gave the TARDIS last time obviously! You filthy readers you...
UNIT intends to give the Doctor the same treatment as Scotty from Star Trek and strap his body to a rocket and fire it into space. That, the closed coffin that no one is allowed to look in because apparently the Doctor has been reduced to some zombie entrails saving lots of little orphans, makes SJ suspicious. And sad. Well, borderline hysterical, anyway. Then the LSD flashbacks kick in, giving us the three-second clips of the Third, Fourth and Tenth Doctors that we expect, nay demand. I was expecting RTD to crack and shove in some Five Doctors footage though...
The turnout for the Doctor's funeral is pretty pathetic... though slightly MORE dignified than Mad Larry's "bury him over a dead dog and then fire a nuke" method. The Brigadier ain't leaving the crazy shit of Peru, Liz Shaw is on the moon (hah! In your FACE, New Adventures!), and clearly some kind of quality embargo is stopping Mike "Asshole" Yates from getting anywhere near the place. As for the others? Ian and Barbara are probably dead by now, no one remembers Dodo, Ben and Polly are probably too busy being awesome, Victoria's not allowed near UNIT without an escort and an exorcist, Tegan's dead by now, no one can agree what happened to Ace, and Grace wasn't even invited! It's just some non-descript old soldiers who don't have any dialogue. Darn. I have to admit I was kinda hoping for John Benton to gatecrash it and scream things like "WHERE IS YOUR GOD NOW, PRIEST?!?" a lot before trying to pull Rani.
But don't worry, there's plenty of embarrassment as Jo Jones-nee-Grant pops by with her grandson Santiago (played by a hunk who probably has countless drooling emails written by RTD), immediately starts tripping over things, breaking others, calling everyone "babe", and frankly acting in such a manner I'm honestly not sure if its supposed to be Jo or just Katy Manning in an outtake. Having met her a few times, I can honestly say she's like that in public. How does Barry Crocker cope? Oh wait, I forgot: I don't care. On with the motley.
Those expecting some kind of girl fight ala Sarah and Rose or some secret women's business like Donna and Martha (so, basically EVERYONE, right?) will be surprised when the first thing Jo does to her successor is... kiss her. A lot. While telling SJ how beautiful she is. I swear, if this scene was done back in the 70s it would be the sci-fi equivalent of... I dunno. Some epic porno. No doubt the fact that both ladies are now in their 60s won't stop certain fans getting uncontrollably aroused at the sight, but I can safely say I was not one of them. SJ's awkward "OK, how to tell her I'm straight" expression is hilarious though.
Jo cheerfully babbles on about her hormone-fueled years at UNIT and her even more hormone-fueled years afterwards (she's got SEVEN kids and TWELVE AND A HALF grandchildren - it's only her clan's eco-warrior lifestyle that's stopping them breeding out the human race!), making SJ feel a bit of a prude in comparison, especially when Jo assumes that the lack of boyfriend means SJ is "playing the field". "Good on ya, girl!" Jo drawls in an American accent. No jokes, I honestly can't quite convey how freaking awesome this is, and full fist to RTD for not having Jo the broken-hearted cynical spinster that the books all tried to sell us and give us the two-tortillas-short-of-a-picnic party girl we wanted! GO YOU GOOD THING!
Oh, and revelation that Jo recently handcuffed herself to Robert Mugabe as a protest?
You recieve MAN OF FIST!!
Alas, RTD is nothing if not a bastard and immediately stabs a knife into this zany les yay fest - Jo is DEVASTATED (and that word justifies the capitals) when she finds out that the Doctor came back for Sarah. But not her. Especially since she kept writing him letters and stuff. "He must really have liked you..." she sighs, tears filling her eyes.
Cue more cuddles and what my dad would affectionately term "double bumpers".
While Clyde, Rani and Santiago go on the prowl for the Groske (who seem to know why Clyde's glowing with artron energy) the Shansheeth vulture dudes prove as dodgy as they always were going to be, intending to harvest the memories of the Doctor from "the wise women of the tribe" who are both convinced he's still alive. Armed with a harp... OK... and unwittingly our heroines provide. Jo recalls that prequel to Timelash no one is brave enough to write, SJ thinks of The Masque of Mandragora (oddly enough leaving out the fact it spawned a doomsday cult lead by Servalan and Travis... are you saying that BF saga wasn't canon, RTD?!) and of course they have to swap stories about Peladon and Aggedor. It's just the right side of fanwank, since they could be completely new anecdotes for all it matters - and anyway they happen to link to stories already out on DVD for newbies to watch. Oh, the big Welshman is indeed a towerin' intelligence...
The kids overhear the Shansheeth plotting evilly to suck SJ and Jo's brains clean, leading to an inevitable chase through air vents and suddenly Clyde is seemingly possessed by an evil from the dawn of time... no, wait, it's the Eleventh Doctor, who is using the "artron stain" to body-swap, dropping the Time Lord in UNIT HQ and leaving Clyde in a quarry on the other side of the galaxy. He's also wearing an eye-searingly white shirt and his floppy forelocks are flipped backwards, making him look more like Christopher Isherwood than Christopher Eccleston Twice Removed. Oh, well, you can't have everything, can you?
While Rani's mind shatters like glass at seeing the new Doctor, SJ is relieved to see him alive while Jo isn't exactly impressed. She knows about regeneration, but doesn't buy the Doctor can turn "into a baby". The Doctor cheerfully retorts that Jo looks like "someone's baked her" since they last met some forty years prior. But before things can get serious, the space vultures arrive and then zap the Doctor with their evil red CGI lightning and in a tribute to the Pertwee era, Matt Smith gurns like his skeleton's being forcibly removed through his nostrils. It goes on a little bit too long for the cliffhanger to work, but presumably they're stringing this appearance by Smith in order to legally claim it isn't a mere cameo, like last year with David Whatisname...
Onto part two! "Come along, Smith!"
Flipping back and forth between Clyde Lord and Time Lord, our heroes make a... rather unimaginate escape, of running slightly further up the corridor and closing a door after them. Oh well, the climax of The Wheel in Space is absolutely identical, so can I complain? Probably, knowing me. Points, though, for the Doctor opening said door to apologize to his pursuers for the rudeness of slamming the door in their faces, before slamming it in their faces once again.
Using the mighty powers of reverse-canonicity, the Doctor returns to quarry planet with the only two regulars in the room (that's Sarah and Jo... please tell me you hadn't forgotten that...) and they all marvel at being allowed to be on another planet. Unique for the SJAs, and still pretty special for DW if we're honest. The fact this alien world is based on the exact same principal as the Cheetah Planet in Survival - some CGI moons above a sand pit - do make me boggle that if the 2010 audience can swallow 1989 alien worlds, just why the hell couldn't we have done this sooner? Look me in the eye and tell me that stories like Fear Her wouldn't have worked better on alien planets! You can't, can you!
Back on Earth, Rani concludes that UNIT Babe is actually evil - a brilliant deduction slightly undermined by the fact that said evil Babe is right outside their room, overhears their deductions and decides to stop pretending being in any way subtle or deceptive and just get More Dakka on the arses of "two batty pensioners and a bunch of ASBO kids"! Blimey, are there ANY non-evil UNIT commanders nowadays? The only ones we know of are all mysterious absent or in Peru! What's wrong, Rusty, can't you vent all your cynacism into Torchwood any more?
No sooner has evil UNIT Babe sealed off the base, trapping Rani, Clyde and Santiago with no chance of escape when... well, they escape. They have the help of the pesky Groske (TM Patent Applied For) and escape through the Anderson Tubes (ventilation shafts to the plebs) and Clyde and Rani fight down their own rising sexual tension by being forced to look at each other's bums for long periods of time. Right. Brings back memories of The Satan Pit (which we now know RTD wrote) and feels no more wholesome. Thank god no one's crapping themselves with terror this time...
Onto deeper territory as the Doctor and SJ start rewiring some macguffin that allows them to swap places with Clyde. "That last body of yours," SJ asks eventually, seemingly aware of the whole 'death-of-self' business. "Was he all right? Did it hurt? Regenerating?" The Doctor pretends to be really, really interested in wiring the gizmo. "It always hurts," he mutters.
But the heartache doesn't stop there. Jo's numb at the realization the Doctor let a couple of Leadworth sweethearts travel with him when they got married - she never thought her and Cliff would be allowed on the TARDIS. Or did she not meet the "only takes the best" bullshit? In The Green Death, the Doctor promised to see her again, and seemingly six months later changed his face, quit his job and left no forwarding address: kinda suggests they weren't as close friends as she thought.
The Doctor is for once rendered mute. "Did you think I was stupid?" Jo asks quietly. "I was a bit dumb. Still am, I suppose..."
"Oh, you're an idiot," the Doctor agrees. "Don't you see? How could I ever find you?! You've spent the past forty years living in huts, climbing up trees, tearing down barricades! You've done everything from flying kites on top of Kilamanjaro to sailing down the Yangtzee in a tea chest! Not even the TARDIS could pin you down!"
Turns out the Doctor's kept an eye on his little blonde friend's past present and future - hmmm, was that perhaps the reason the Fourth Doctor got so sick of UNIT? Mmm. Maybe not... - even knowing that Jo's unborn grandson will be a dyslexic world-class swimmer! "I don't look back," he tells her. "I can't. But the last time I was dying, I looked back on all of you. Every single one. And I was so proud."
(What? Even Adam?)
SJ at this point blows a whistle and tells everyone to stop fanwanking. No, seriously, honest-to-God, that's what she does.
But now some background. The Doctor dumped Amy and Rory on a Honeymoon Planet (the actual planet has just married an asteroid) and was kicking back on quarry planet, admiring all the smashed up spaceships and stuff when the unconvincing vulture people ambushed him, nicked his TARDIS and screwdriver and... If only this macguffin could work! Oh wait, some of that new age candle oil crap Jo's peddling will be just perfect to fuel it! YAY! Our heroes zap into the ventilation shafts to find out what's happened to the others...
Speaking of which, the Groske has revealed his cunning plan: hide in a broom cupboard and chow down on some Jubilee Pizza. Cowabunga. While Santiago bitches that his family is so busy fighting the good fight across his globe, he hasn't seen his parents for almost a year, "the Brady Bunch" are sealed off in a room that then turns red hot! Groske reveals his second cunning plan: "We die like rotissary!"
But UNIT Babe isn't some retarded evil genius - knowing the Doctor can easily safe our under-twenties (snigger) heroes, but will be distracted long enough for the vulture Shansheeth to catch "the staggeringly pious" Jo and SJ and suck out their memories! Specifically the memory of the TARDIS key, which will allow the Shansheeth to somehow break into the police box and make mischief!
Never fear, as SJ and Jo unleash the mighty youtube clipshow - and Doctor Who from 1971-77 is just too damned much for the Shansheeth naughtiness, and add together clips from the previous SJA seasons and the vulture dudes are well and truly fucked! Unfortunately, so are our heroines, as RTD pulls out his famous "loved ones trapped on the other side of the door facing fatal death" that has been his stock in trade from The End of the World until, er, The End of Time. But this time he's able to avoid any hideous sacrifices, dues ex machinas and our heroes are able to survive using a plot point cunningly and convincingly stated earlier on in the show. For a change. As the Doctor notes, "That's so neat, I could write a thesis!"
UNIT babe and the Shansheeth get nuked, however, leaving nothing but soot, flames and the smells of "cooked chicken". Oh well. What a pity. Never mind.
However, the slightly sapphic subtext refuses to go away as Jo and SJ are found snuggled up to each other. Basically all it needed was for SJ to announce hastily that they were "just... studying" for this to be complete.
One TARDIS trip to Bannerman Rd (where Mr. Smith has to explain to the audience that not ALL vulture aliens are evil and the ones in this program were highly unusual and should under no circumstances be used as a stereotype for evil vulture aliens), Jo says the TARDIS smells the same despite the rebuild and unfortunately drops a brick into the conversation. Hey, fair dos, how was she to know there was a freaking Time War? There's then a bit about "the universe shiverring" if the Doctor were ever to die, which sounds to my ears like a bitchslap to Moff's God Sue Doc. Or possibly just RTD taking the piss about something else.
The Doctor leaves to pick up Amy and Rory... his TARDIS seemingly taking off in a rather odd way, like in the 60s when they played the wrong noise... and Jo immediately starts flirting with the kids. Not as creepy as it sounds. Then, after one last cuddle with SJ, tells her point blank to "find herself a fellah" and heads off to Norway in a hovercraft with Santiago in tow.
The story ends with Sarah revealing that sometimes she idly googles "tardis" and has found Tegan in Australia (...hmmm, guess her French boytoy got her cured somehow... and turned her away from running a fertilizer factory in Brisbane to fighting for Native Title claims... hang on, maybe it's a different Tegan...); Ben and Polly in India running an orphanage (hah! I knew they'd get it together!); Harry's dead (seemingly in 2004, since he was in UNIT helping Silurians fight the zombie apocalypse); and as for Ace... or maybe Dodo... she runs some famine relief company (not sure where this going AT ALL); and Ian and Barbara are professors in Cambridge (they'd be pushing 90 by now, surely? Oh wait, they "never aged since the 60s", which is good enough for me). Yet Sarah's totally in the dark about Martha and Mickey for some reason...
Next week, it's The Quiet Earth for pre-teens as Clyde and Rani become the only human beings on the planet and will presumably get to work repopulating it ASAP!
Well, RTD's first full-blown script for the series is pretty darn good all things considered. He gets all the characters right, and his 'get stuffed' attitude to all the spin-offs where companions were left hideously damaged people with no real lives feels oddly mature rather than emo goth wank of yesteryear (compare with Good Companions with the Merlin Doctor and Tegan, an unrelenting NA angst fest). I wasn't sure I liked the motivations of the villains, as they were all seemingly good people turned evil by loss - Hispanic Babe had "nothing left on Earth any more" and the Shansheeth were sick of burying people, which is hard when you're an undertaker. And the Groske... seriously, was there a point to him? Apart from spookily predicting the cliffhanger he spent the whole story either cracking one liners or sitting in a corner. Isn't that Mr. Smith's job?
In other news, the Doctor's regeneration cycle is actualy 39 times more than previously stated. Didn't I say they changed the limit? As far back as 2006 I was saying that! Look at my guide for Journey's End!
Oh, Rusty, you done it again!