Phil Ford seems to be the biggest contributor to The Sarah Jane Adventures and like Babylon 5‘s Joe Straczynski, Ford seems to get the idea behind this series. It’s a science fiction series that needs to be accessible to the kids, but (and this is the critical bit) it should have a positive message behind it. And Ford gives us a number of great messages behind an otherwise silly little story reminiscent of dozens of other SF series and even provides some comic relief for the adults watching.
Taking the story to task first, the cleverly named “fleshkind” is at war with the equally cleverly named “metalkind” and where better to have a battle? Earth! (Duh?) So Sarah Jane has a child deposited on her doorstep by an unknown “stork”. Needless to say, that child is going on to big things…
The first big thing she’s going to do is replace Luke “Intense Eyes” Smith. Luke drops in one more time on Skype, reminding the audience that he’s there but he’s effectively done with the show. Still, nice that Ford helped keep the continuity alive! As for Sky, after she turns into a 12 year old girl, she’s primed – not just as a bomb but as Luke’s replacement. And she’s adorable so it’ll buy us a lot of cute moments especially when learning what words mean. In some ways this mirrors Luke’s early development but he was designed to be a brain while Sky is designed to be a bomb, so it looks like she’s missing a lot more than he was when he started. It’s her lack of awareness that brings us to some of Ford’s real victories in the episode. For instance there’s this dialogue triumph: “None of us have a say in how we come into this universe, but we all have a say in what we become!” Why are things in our real world so screwed up right now? Because there are not more shows dropping lines like this. “You have to want peace more than death!” Yep, that’s right too. “Killing is always wrong.” OK, I’ll second that. And depressingly, Sarah Jane’s comment about how taking away life is not good, while making a valid point, also kicks me in the teeth as I think how little time we still have left with our favorite journalist. But these lines are fabulous!
There’s also some well written comedy in this episode. When Sarah Jane asks a homeless man about a robot, he takes umbrage with her assumption that he doesn’t know a robot from something else, “I know what a robot looks like! I’ve seen Star Wars!” Clyde nails a line about how bad it is taking Sky into a nuclear reactor by comparing it to taking Guy Fawkes on a tour of Parliament. (I will use that sometime!) And Ms. Myers, the far sexier version of Ms Wormwood, doesn’t like Clyde telling her that her name isn’t very alien: “We don’t spell it the same way!” Gita and Haresh still offer plenty of comic moments too with the power outages in the neighborhood.
The biggest complaint I have with the story is why did we need the Captain to be kept a mystery until the end? Why wouldn’t he just show up and give Sarah Jane the explanation of what was going on rather than waiting for her to find out on her own, only to turn up later anyway? It’s as silly as when he didn’t show her the shapes in the box in Lost in Time. I liked having the shopkeeper and the captain back and I wonder where that story could have gone. Were they coming back, like Celeste Rivers of the Pharos Project, adding a new layer to the show? We may never know for sure.
Overall, it’s not the story that will be remembered as a classic, but it introduced us to the newest member of Team Attic and gave us some great lines to boot. Hopefully the last two will feel satisfying. At least this one came complete with opening and closing monologues. ML