Season 3 ends much where it began: with the Slitheen. Just before the start of the official series, we had From Raxacoricofallapatorius with Love, and we are ending with our favorite species from that unspellable planet. Is it the gift we were hoping for?
From the outset, The Gift had issues going against it. Clyde comments that it’s “unbelievable” that this kid could outrun them. The kid is overweight, so the insinuation that I got was: how could this fat kid outrun us? Surely that wasn’t the intent but you can’t help but hear it in the words spoken. Oh, wait, no! I think that was the intent. Why would he want a matter compressor? “Maybe he wants to compress his matter!” Ok, fat jokes. Seems unworthy of a show that teaches us not to judge a person by their appearance. But what can we expect with farting aliens? Rupert Laight writes an episode that seems to forget some core beliefs we’ve come to know and love, and I don’t like that. It tainted the episode right from the start.
Now, if we’re being fair, he recovers a lot. Plenty of really great quotes abound, showing how important family is and how accepting we should be of people who are different. “Not all visitors to your planet want to cause harm.” Nice! In fact, the first 15 minutes of episode one seems like we’re in for a very mild story indeed. Still, Sarah Jane is entitled to be nervous. Thankfully, Rani reminds her “you can’t condemn an entire race” because of a few bad seeds. As far as I’m concerned, these are good messages. Those family-centric comments come in strong when Sarah Jane thinks Luke is about to die. “You’re all I’ve really got. Everything else is meaningless without you.” She even calls her adopted son “the most important thing in the universe”, so I can give Laight some points for recovering from an ignominious start. And frankly the “saved by the bell” comment was hilarious!
But that doesn’t excuse alien names like Leaf and Tree. It’s designed to be funny, but comes off as lazy. Or the fact that Clyde can carry a heaping great mechanical dog out of Sarah Jane’s house, down presumably 2 flights of steps and keep him in school for the next day and expect Sarah Jane not to notice. This at least gives Clyde a viable way to get some things done that end up saving the day, but it seems crazy that Sarah Jane doesn’t notice K-9 is gone until Clyde and Rani call her! The idea of spores is scary because they are so small that they can’t be seen, but when they are spreading and Mr. Smith is activated to clear the air, he uses extraction fans. Call me clueless, but don’t those extractor fans go somewhere… like outside? Great, he saved Sarah Jane but condemned the rest of the world! I don’t know!
After Sarah Jane quotes Davison with “there should have been another way…”, the episode ends with another season-ending monologue, reminding us “there are friends out there too…. and nothing is more important than friendship.” A good recovery for a mediocre episode. Yeah, it’s fun but didn’t quite live up to the rest of the season. Maybe season 4 will be stronger, but we’ll have to wait and see. I just hope we get a good, long break from our Slitheen visitors. They just get tedious with all their exploding goopiness. ML