After the tour de force that was Death of the Doctor, I was not ready to get back to average episodes, but Gareth Roberts must have planned for that contingency by giving us a classic idea with a Doctor Who twist. Fans of science fiction may not have heard of The World, The Flesh and The Devil but I’m betting a number of you have heard of The Quiet Earth. Similar (even in title to the latter) ideas turn up in those: the world is empty; no one is left barring three insignificant people. How will this dynamic work? In all three, we have 2 males and one female. In a family show with teenage kids, we’re not going to delve into where that could go, even if Clyde does get excited to think he and Rani may be the new Adam and Eve. Taking the idea of a planet devoid of any other human life and leaving it to three children is actually far more frightening because children haven’t lived life yet. Granted, Rani and Clyde have an edge, but ultimately they are teenagers. And they are alone until they meet Gavin.
Before all of that, it’s safe to say that the first episode is “where it’s at”; it’s a heck of a build-up. It starts with a reminder that Rani’s family loves her and Clyde’s mom loves him. The episode goes out of its way, in just over 5 minutes, to make sure we know they both come from loving homes. This makes the shock of being alone that much more heartbreaking for Rani and Clyde. Then they meet Gavin who adds little to the story at this point, but provides Rani a chance to show just how British she really is… “I’ll go and make a cup of tea…” For an episode that really would be unnerving to the kids, there’s still some of the humor exhibited throughout the series, as Rani and Clyde argue over who gets the cool bike.
Part one ends with a cliffhanger out of classic Doctor Who: Rani and Clyde, independently, are caught by two overgrown Rock’Em, Sock’em robots colored like a ketchup and mustard container (illustrated perfectly when Clyde picks up said containers). It turns out, they just want the sun and air. It takes Rani a few minutes to piece it together, but the play on words is the clever stuff that we old time fans of Doctor Who grew up on! They are actually looking for the Son and Heir. It’s no leap that this has to be the one character we just met and know zero about. Joining the ranks of Starlord, whose mom met an alien who then runs off and leaves a half-human kid behind, Gavin is to be the leader of another world. He also wears a ring as a biodamper (“With this ring, I thee biodamp”… no???) which is why the robots can’t see him. Of course, this clue is given to us far too basically as Rani takes his hands and we see the ring. Why does this idea fail? Because was he wearing it as a baby? His fingers would have had to grow into the ring. (On the flip side, I do credit Gareth Roberts for adding a simple but effective moment to the script. Rani and Clyde keep using “stupid words” around Gavin and he calls them out on it. It’s a subtle reminder that what our heroes call “normal” is anything but!)
Overall it’s a warm story with heart and having Rani returned to her dad is an especially fun moment. Also, I’m not typically a fan of recycled music, but when a piece is good, I can turn a blind… a deaf ear and when Gavin recognizes his own importance, the music from last episode plays again, and Rani and Clyde are reminded how good it is to have people around who love them. A short while later, they remind Sarah Jane how she is the best thing that ever happened to them. A happy ending for all. And that’s what we need in our television viewing these days. I mean, I’m all for edgy stuff, but we need hope too and The Sarah Jane Adventures delivers again. I don’t know how true Doctor Who fans could let this series slide. I recommend it wholeheartedly. And hell, Clyde gets to kiss Rani… if nothing else, he deserved that triumphant music! ML