Wednesday, October 27, 2010

My Review of The Sarah Jane Adventures 4x03: "Death Of The Doctor"

Written by Russell T. Davies
Directed by Ashley Way

The Doctor: “Have you been telling people I’m dead?”
Shansheeth: “I apologise. The death notice was released a little too soon but I can rectify this immediately. I’m so sorry for your loss, Doctor. Rest in peace.”

Hands up who believed even for the tiniest of moments that the Doctor was actually dead? Nope, didn’t think so and because of that, I would’ve been far more perturbed if both Sarah Jane and Jo were convinced of the Doctor’s death either.

I’m forgiving of Clyde, Rani and Santiago perhaps believing the idea of the Doctor’s death but I loved that even with UNIT and the Shansheeth talking of the Doctor’s demise that Sarah Jane knew in their guts that their mentor wasn’t exactly. Yes, it’s the type of thing that could’ve underestimated the drama of this charade but it didn’t.

Sarah Jane and Jo both came to the mutual conclusion that if the Doctor ever died, they would feel it and given that Sarah Jane showed awareness over her last encounter with the Doctor involving a regeneration, it’s damn believable that her instincts would kick in again and Jo’s too, despite nearly four decades passing since her last encounter with the Doctor.

The gathering of remembrance scene with the Shansheeth at the UNIT base was interesting. Sometimes you can accuse the show’s use of flashbacks of being self-indulgent but they served a genuine purpose here for more than just the gang remembering the Doctor as even Clyde’s memories proved that this was a continuation to “The Wedding Of Sarah Jane Smith”.

Having Sarah Jane and Jo however was the one thing that demanded the most attention. Like a lot of people, I’ve always loved Jo and the one thing I was hoping for upon her arrival her was that Russell T. Davies wouldn’t give another companion who had an empty life after travelling with the Doctor. Thankfully he didn’t.

If Sarah Jane’s existence in “School Reunion” had dissatisfaction in them, then Jo’s more fuller life with seven kids and thirteen grandchildren along with her marriage to Cliff was a welcomed relief. More than that, it seems that age has done little to destroy Jo’s chirpy and scatty personality either.

I laughed at her entrance during the gathering and the ease she had with the Shansheeth’s appearances but more importantly, every scene she had with the Doctor and Sarah Jane was just sheer joy. I love the kids on this show but I’m wondering if it’s time that Sarah Jane needs another adult in her life that’s aware of the alien fighting that she does.

The memory trips with Jo and Sarah Jane during their meditation nicely reminded us of the histories they’ve had with the Doctor but the feelings of the good old day really came to the fore when both girls and the Doctor were on a planet together and two of my favourite scenes came as a result.

First of all, I loved that Sarah Jane asked the Doctor about his last regeneration, even if he was rather evasive about it, which is something the Doctor can be a lot in a script by Russell T. Davies and I don’t mean that in a bad way. He was also evasive at the end of the story with Jo in relation to the Time Lords, which slightly bothered me to a degree.

However the scene where Jo wondered if she was stupid was pretty powerful. Jo’s dippy but she’s never stupid and there were enough times during her tenure with the Doctor where her resourcefulness was pretty dominant so I loved that the Doctor went into great detail of how proud he actually was of her. After everything, he definitely owed Jo that much.

I don’t know why Russell T. Davies decided after so long to bring back Jo but I’m glad he did. I’m also glad that the close relationships that the Doctor had with both Jo and Sarah Jane were also key to the Shansheeth and Tia Karim’s plot to open up the TARDIS for their own schemes but I gotta wonder – why the complicated plot?

Don’t get me wrong – it’s clever to use both Jo and Sarah Jane’s memories of the TARDIS key to instantly drum up a spare copy via a memory weave but wouldn’t have been easier just to have taken it off the Doctor instead. I knew the second that memories were a big part in operating that machinery that they would also be the reason for it to break down as well.

I liked that the Doctor, Rani, Clyde and Santiago got Sarah Jane and Jo to remember everything and the fact that a lead line coffin saved them from being blown to bits unlike the Shansheeth and Tia was also a nice move as well.

As for the Shansheeth, it seems that they fall into the category of being a bad lot from an otherwise noble race. I can understand that being intergalactic undertakers might get to a point where you would take extreme measures in order to prevent death but I wish that Tia’s motives had been better explored. Laila Rouass had a lot of potential but Tia wasn’t as utilised as she could’ve been to the end.

As for the scenes with the Doctor, Sarah Jane and Jo in the TARDIS, I sort of wished they had been longer. I still got a kick out of seeing all three of them together and I really hope that after this story that both Sarah Jane and Jo make their way back onto the main show with the right storyline of course.

In terms of other interesting storylines in this story – Santiago. If there was ever a replacement for Luke needed, Santiago clearly fits the bill. He worked well with Clyde and Rani and on more on one occasion he mentioned his frustration of moving all the time and never seeing his parents. Maybe him and his grandmother could set up shop on Bannerman Road for a little longer. I can only hope, right?

Also, one interesting thing – the Doctor might not have died (though the Shansheeth did try at one point) but the fact that even he said the universe would shiver upon his death seems to me that it’s a storyline that could be explored much sooner than we think. After all, come 2011, we should finally find out who that good man River killed and what the hell the silence is and something tells me that this story might have given a hint to at least one of those upcoming events.

Also in “Death Of The Doctor”

Luke appeared in the first half of this story and even Haresh managed three scenes that involved him revealing how Gita dealt with the death of her parents.

Tia: “I’m sorry, Miss Smith for your loss, sorry for the whole wide world because he’s gone, the Doctor’s gone. He’s dead.”

Going by an educated guess here, but I’m going to assume that Santiago is the oldest of the 13 grandchildren that Jo has.

Tia: “Then you’ll come?”
Sarah Jane: “Oh yes. Nothing’s going to make me miss this. I’ll be there.”

Clyde (to Tia): “You got a moon base? Oh man, I am running out of reactions.”

Companion updates: Brigadier is stranded in Peru again, Liz is on the moon, Amy/Rory are on a planet married to an asteroid, Tegan is fighting for aboriginal rights, Ben/Polly are running an orphanage in India, Ace is running A Charitable Earth, Harry is dealing with vaccines and Ian/Barbara are professors at Cambridge.

Rani (re the Doctor): “Think of all the lives he touched. The whole planet should be in mourning but no-one knows.”

Sarah Jane: “We never actually met but it’s Jo Grant, isn’t it?”
Jo: “It’s a long time since I’ve been called that. It’s Jo Jones since I got married.”

The Doctor mentioned casually to Clyde in this story that he can regenerate 507 times and a lot of the revelations in this story contradict some established stuff from various audios.

Rani: “Honestly, it’ll be fine. We do this kind of thing all the time.”
Santiago: “Hey, my grandmother’s handcuffed herself to Robert Mugabe, I’m loving it.”

Sarah Jane: “I think there’s something wrong.”
Jo: “Wrong? You mean like ‘the old days’ sort of wrong?”

The use of a Groske here (basically a blue Graske) was nice, especially given that apart from teasing Clyde, it was actually an ally rather than an enemy to the gang in this story.

Jo: “Did you think I was stupid?”
The Doctor: “Why do you say that?”
Jo: “Well, I was a bit dumb. Still am I suppose.”

Jo: “Fight it, Sarah Jane. Try to think of something else.”
Sarah Jane: “I can’t.”
Jo: “Neither can I.”

Both Jo and Sarah Jane went through a list of old foes but what amazed me more was the Doctor mentioning that he went to see every companion during “The End Of Time”. Nice to have that confirmation.

Sarah Jane: “It’s daft though we were both saying, we have this theory that if you ever died, we’d feel it somehow. We’d just know but that’s silly, isn’t it?”
The Doctor: “I don’t know, maybe not because between you and me if that day ever comes, I think the whole universe might just shiver.”

Sarah Jane (to Clyde/Rani): “Echoes of the Doctor all over the world. With friends like us, he’s never going to die, is he?”

Chronology: None is directly specified, though it’s been six months since Santiago last had contact with his parents.

“Death Of The Doctor” is a triumph of a story for the series. If you loved Jo Grant/Jones all those years ago, you’ll love her in this one and the banter between her, Sarah Jane and the Doctor is a masterpiece. Despite looking silly, the Shansheeth were interesting villains and although UNIT could’ve been used in a more positive light, this easily beats last year’s “The Wedding Of Sarah Jane Smith” for Doctor related stories.

Rating: 10 out of 10.

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