Steve Goble

Choose life. (Deuteronomy 30:19)

The story opens with UNIT sending half a dozen armed soldiers in three vehicles to advance upon Sarah's house.

Why? In order to break to her the sad news of the Doctor's recent demise.

It paves the way well for a story in which emotions and spectacle fare much better than logic.

For example, when Sarah's friends have to watch her go into denial, feeling quite helpless to comfort her, there's some quite touching stuff.

Haresh: "It takes time. 'Cause when someone dies it's so massive it's like you can't fit it all inside your head. That's what Sarah Jane's doing. She's denying it."

Clyde: "So… what do we do?"

Haresh: "Wait. That's all you can do."

So Sarah, Clyde and Rani all go off to attend the Doctor's funeral at UNIT, which it seems just one other identifiable character from his 31 series also attends. They don't even pick up Luke and K-9 on the way.

That lone returning individual who does make it - Jo from the early 1970s - then sadly gets nothing to do for the entire story. She sticks to Sarah like glue, and aside from momentarily producing a drop of blackcurrant juice to power an alien machine with, just copies her throughout the tale. She even brings her grandson Santiago (Finn Jones) along with her, who likewise just dumbly follows Rani and Clyde everywhere, contributing nothing of his own to events.

Now don't get me wrong, it's very nice indeed to see Jo again after all these years, still ably played by Katy Manning, but it is a shame that she makes next to no difference to the story. She does get plenty of good character material though, exploring how she dealt with life after the third Doctor.

Hard as it is for me to admit, a greater pleasure here is the later appearance of Matt Smith as the eleventh Doctor, who then proceeds to prove that he's not dead after all by taking over the show. The Shansheeth even shoot him at length at one point by way of providing a cliffhanger (I guess they didn't think of that earlier), yet he even survives this without a word of explanation. (I think they didn't want to kill Clyde, but they sure do look surprised at themselves)

The alien Shansheeth have stolen the TARDIS and want to make a copy of the key, so to achieve this they have faked the Doctor's death in order to stage a dummy funeral, thereby attracting two people who remember what the key is like so that they can extract the memory of it from them and make a new one.

I'm not sure why they couldn't have done this with just one person, and I can't help wondering whether this tale was originally plotted for just Sarah, Clyde and Rani.

Doctor: "Come on - use the sonic lipstick!"
Sarah: "Haven't you got the screwdriver?"
The Doctor: "They took it."

Well then, maybe they should have just taken the key off him at the same time?

Sarah: "No sonic screwdriver?"
The Doctor: "It's inside the TARDIS."

Yeah, even that plot-point turns out not to work.

Groske: "Groske build rocket for funeral! Come and see! Come and see!"

Okay, so you either built this rocket in the last week then, or you started building it four years before hearing of the Doctor's death. Said Groske also knows that he is helping to prepare the funeral of a man who is still alive, but for some reason decides to only hint at this.

Shansheeth: "The Shansheeth have presided over infinite funerals."

But no maths lessons.

The Doctor ruminates to Jo about why he never visited her:

"No, because you're right, I don't go back, I can't. But the last time I was dying I looked back on all of you, every single one."

And we missed it! All of it! Even his granddaughter Susan, oh no wait she's dead now. And Romana. Leela too. And the first K9. Even though those events are supposed to be time-locked. Sheesh I wish he hadn't said that. Well, no more old-companion-returns-after-a-long-absence stories from now on then.

It all ends when it turns out that the Memory Weave has a built-in automatic self-destruct function, which is a bit of a design-flaw if you ask me.

In the epilogue, as Jo and Santiago leave again, Sarah suddenly reels off what she's found out various other old companions of the Doctor's are up to these days, and they're nearly all charity workers now.

She even speaks of Tegan, despite still apparently no longer remembering meeting her on Gallifrey in The Five Doctors.

Maybe she just forgets everyone whose hand she shakes?

As for the rumour that Ian and Barbara no longer age, I know it's of dubious canonicity, but it's a downer for that lovely introduction to the VHS release of The Crusade:

On a more positive note, there is less music in this one, apparently to compensate for the actors' speech having been recorded so quietly. This is a good thing, especially because the actual script is terrific fun. The banter and dialogue brings back just how enjoyable this show could be, if only the events that it accompanied held together.

Clyde: "We've got a moonbase?! Oh, man, I am runnin' out of reactions!"

Groske: "Shansheeth too scary - we hide!"

Clyde: "Can you change colour or are you always white?"
Doctor: "No. I can be anything!"
Clyde: "And is there a limit, I mean, how many times can you change?"
Doctor: "507."

The Shansheeth are a well-conceived new race of giant undertaking vultures, while the cowardly Groske works well as a silly counterpoint to our heroes' predicaments too. There's one crazy scene in which they all get to the end of a ventilator shaft, only to have to reverse all the way back through it in a hurry. Fantastic! What a shame that its immense size makes it look surely designed for people to escape through…

In a later scene the baddies remotely seal off the ventilator shaft and try to boil our heroes with hot air from… the "internal vent". That's another ventilation panel, and presumably shaft, on the next wall at right-angles to it:

Colonel Karim does this by turning the temperature up to "maximum", and then two scenes later "increasing" it.

So Rani yells for help through what appears to be another ventilator shaft, just above the first one.

There's just nowhere left to hang anything on those walls, is there?

This could work if our heroes' location was some sort of ventilation junction, but it's clearly a room.

However the very best thing about this two-parter is its shamelessness about the rest of the Doctor Who legend. (ignoring Martha, Mickey, Torchwood and The Five Doctors obviously) There's no fear of the series' young audience not understanding that there are episodes they've missed, just like with the time war. Jo even gets to use the word "Karfel", although we still don't know who the second companion on that trip was. If it were thought-through better, then this would definitely be the deeper worldview - or continuumview - that the show should embrace a bit more.

And finally, yeah, there is a token zombie in it, just briefly when the Doctor takes over Clyde's body:

I guess he really can become anyone.

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