The penultimate episode of the penultimate season of The Sarah Jane Adventures and what do we get? Short stories! This idea seems absurd for a series made up of short stories. Let’s face it, two 30 minute episodes to tell one story is, by definition, a short story! But it works a charm, largely because the cast is so perfect together. But they don’t get to be together, you think. True, but they are each strong characters in their own right as well. Clyde is becoming the young man/action hero. The “school girl investigator” that is Rani, is indeed a veritable Nancy Drew. And Sarah Jane is our gateway to adventure.
For Lost in Time, she goes to check out an antique store and finds more than she bargained for with a shopkeeper who has an extraordinary way of snapping his fingers. He opens a time portal and sends each of the main characters to their own short-story-adventure. Crazily, each story is actually really enjoyable. Clyde finds himself in 1941 on a beach being invaded by Nazi’s. Koenig (played by Game of Thrones alum Tom Wlaschiha) is well cast as a dangerous Nazi, but it’s Catherine Bailey’s Miss Wyckham that really hurts when she turns on the boys. Ironically, Rupert Laight, the writer of this episode, did not shy away from having the Nazi refer to Clyde disparagingly as a negro. While the show may be geared for children, it was not afraid to tackle some bigger issues. Rani finds herself meeting the 9 Days Queen, Jane Grey. Here again, her skin color is observed but with less venom. Grey, played by Amber Beattie, is hands down the most likable character in the story. Her youth is evident, but her bravery is the star of her show, and it rises her to one of those characters we’d love to see again. Meanwhile, Sarah Jane is sent to 1889, to meet a girl in search of a ghost. While this story has the least historical significance, it’s also the one that has the most punch, as two children find themselves trapped in a room that bursts into flame. Can they be saved before being consumed by a fire?
The story is a typical quest: all three characters have to go in search of an item and it’s a race against the clock. They’ll know the object and it becomes pretty apparent when they each find it, but the time limit is the only area where the episode completely breaks down. When the adventurers overstay their welcome in the past… nothing happens. The threat of being trapped in the past amounts to utterly nothing and there’s no need for them to even find a special way out. But that doesn’t stop the episode from being fun. Clyde’s jibe at the Nazis is marvelous; he claims that because they are afraid of anything different from themselves and that they are so consumed by hate, they will always lose. Bravo Clyde! Rani gives us a demonstration on friendship, proving to be true to a girl she just met, confident in her own abilities, and staying with her friend right to the bitter end. And I have to say, it didn’t escape my notice that when asked if she has anyone who occupies her thoughts, Clyde comes to mind. I really would have liked to see where this series could have gone…
As for Sarah Jane, she helps save the children, but for some reason, fails to return to the future with the required object. Luckily a newspaper clipping from an auspicious date, Nov 23, 2010, brings an elderly woman to the shop just in time to return a key! This was a show that reveled in its own wonder. Yes, it was often silly, and the narrow escapes were a bit much to assume kids would get out of, but it made no attempt to hide the fact that it was a show about hope! Time and again, Sarah Jane, Clyde and Rani defy the odds because they believe in each other and they have hope. They accept others and they are not afraid to be different. And as they end up back in their own time, the kids take a moment to research what happened to the friends they made. I’m reminded of a time travel show from my youth called Voyagers. In it, Jeffrey and Phineas Bogg would travel to an historic point in time, save the day and the episode would end with a message that if we wanted to learn more about the characters in the story, we should go to our local library. Times have changed, but a good idea will never get old.
Sadly, we may never know who who the shopkeeper was, but it doesn’t matter. For one glorious moment, he was the one who gave us short stories in the universe of Sarah Jane Smith! ML