Androvax is back in The Vault of Secrets, giving Sarah Jane a morality test to stump the most diehard of philosophers: is it right to destroy one race to save another? Ok we last saw this dude running from the Judoon, body-hopping from one victim to another. Now, he’s dying, having been bitten by a … basically, it’s a snake, don’t worry about the scifi name they give it. Weakened, he goes to Sarah Jane’s house to pose that morality question: “I’ve killed whole worlds, but I’m about to die and I want to save my own species. Oh yeah, doing so will wipe out earth. Help?” (That’s paraphrased by the way!) Just like the last time we saw this guy, we get another double feature monster-fest in this weeks episode; this time with Mr. Smith from The Matrix. Actually his name is Dread, but he doesn’t just dress like Mr. Smith, he even looks like him. “That is the sound of inevitability, Mr. Anderson”. (I would have loved it if he said that!) I’m fairly certain he’s related to Hugo Weaving.
We know Sarah Jane will find a way to save the Earth. What we don’t know is if the evil Androvax is actually trying to save anyone or if his mission is totally selfish. Is he actually dying? In fact, giving the story some depth, Androvax is dying and his intentions are noble, barring the fact that saving his kind will destroy our planet. Ok, I love a good morality debate, so let’s see what this episode offers.
I applaud writer Phil Ford for this one. It’s not that it’s a great episode, but it checks a lot of boxes. I may joke a lot, but I do love a morality discussion. Sarah Jane explains to Rani and Clyde that just because Androvax is bad doesn’t mean his entire species is bad. In a television show about good guys fighting generic bad guys, it’s easy to ignore that fact, but Ford adds it to the script and I give him credit for putting that in. Its an important reminder: don’t judge any group by a select few! By that logic I should be upset with Rani, who says “I’d freak the minute I saw him” when talking about Androvax. But I’m not upset with Rani. Rani was the right person to say this. Clyde would have been alright too. I would have been annoyed with Phil Ford if he wrote that line for Sarah Jane. See, it’s easy to forget that a monster might look evil but not be evil. Like the Doctor, I’d expect Sarah Jane to know that and correct the person saying it. So Rani saying that line is acceptable and even on target. What was lacking is Sarah Jane’s reminder of that valuable lesson. Alas, that was never delivered.
In typical fashion, this show also offers a lot of humor. “Mulder and Scully”, as Clyde calls Ocean and Minty, are said to sound like toothpaste flavors which did strike my funny bone. Clyde also hits us with the winning, “that’s handy”, as Dread takes his hand off to shoot people. (I do have to ask, how does one “prepare to be incinerated”? I wouldn’t really know what to do to prepare for that!) And Dread himself offers a wonderfully timed “This is not in my job description” when helping the heroes out. Along with humor, there’s heart. Clyde is unwilling to see Sarah Jane taken over by Androvax and offers “take me” instead. He also talks a good talk about interconnectedness, as he finds himself holding hands with Rani. (Good job, Clyde!) Rani too has her moments, wondering if she made the right decision to be involved with aliens and Sarah Jane without telling her parents. (That answer becomes hilariously clear at the end!)
Like so much else in this series, it’s a feel-good story with depth. We haven’t had any that have hit the high notes of some of the earlier episodes, but we’re far from childish storytelling either. What we get is a fun visit to the lands of Doctor Who with a cast who really work well together, even if Luke is missing. And hey, we even get a glimpse of the Pyramids of Mars as a continuity cameo. What more can we ask for?! ML