Steve Goble

Choose life. (Deuteronomy 30:19)

While putting together these reviews, two of my angles are always:

a) to be honest, and

b) to be positive.

This story is a real challenge though. To be honest, I found the script relentlessly lazy throughout. To be positive, I have to find something that I thought was at the very least above-average.

I'm sincerely sorry, I got nothing.

So what do I do - say how wonderful it all is, and lie? Or admit how terrible I think it is, rant, and become an agent of misery in the world? Even striking a balance is going to be ugly.

Maybe I should just say nothing? Well that's running away from it. All right, I'll cite a few quick examples of why none of it worked for me and then I'll get me coat.

Where shall I start? Well, right in the opening shot the story scores it first own-goal.

That doesn't look anything like a shop. Flats or offices maybe.

At the top of the building is a very old sign which reads "Smalley And Co. Antiques". Who 'Mr Smalley' is is never even explained, let alone what he's doing apparently owning an antique shop for maybe 100 years, which he appears to abandon to squatters when he simply dematerialises and leaves at the end, again without any explanations.

"The shopkeeper" is a well-spoken, enigmatic, eccentric English Doctor Who stereotype, who'd work well played by Tom Baker. He even already knows who Sarah Jane is. He's gone to all the trouble of faking the above news article in order to get her and her friends into his flat shop instead of, say, maybe just phoning them up.

Anyway, here he is in a rare moment of being candid.

Shopkeeper: "I need your help to save the world. Time itself is under threat."

Sarah: "From what?"

Shopkeeper: "Chronosteen - a metal forged within the time vortex with the power to reshape destiny. Three pieces of it moulded into different objects are lodged at key points in the Earth's history. They must be recovered."

We never find out who did this, or why, or how its non-recovery means that "time itself is under threat", even though this threat drives the entire story. Even the threat to present-day Earth in part two is something he causes, rather than averts.

Rani: "What objects? Where in history?"

Shopkeeper: "Could be anything, anywhere."


At the end of the story the shopkeeper reveals that he has all along had a flight-case containing perfect moulds for the items to sit within, specifically a hammer, a dagger and a key.

As for being "anywhere" in history, they turn out to all be in the last 600 years, in England.

Sarah: "Well, good luck with that."

Shopkeeper: "But you are the only ones who can do this! You're the Earth's last hope."

Sarah: "Well even if I believe you, how can we possibly find this chronosteen?"

Shopkeeper opens an apathetically-named time-window.

Shopkeeper: "This is a time-window, Sarah Jane, it will take you close to the objects."

Clyde: "If you can create that, why can't you go yourself?"

Shopkeeper: "It is forbidden for me to travel through time, but you can."

He never tells us who he is, who has forbidden him, why or how.

After this the Shopkeeper forces them through the time-window and back into history, before turning over a sand-glass and replying to his parrot...

Shopkeeper: "That's right Captain, they have until the sands run out, or this world is doomed."

Now don't you think that the Shopkeeper really should have told this little detail to the agents who he was sending back in time to do his bidding? Sarah, Clyde and Rani have no idea that they even have a deadline. They don't even know how to recognise the chronosteen, let alone have any idea how to use them to travel back to the present.

The next thing that happens is the opening credits to part one.

My problems with this 'story' are that intensive.

The rest of this Into The Labyrinth remake features each of our heroes materialising in recent English history, narrating their internal monologue out loud, and having very little care to whom they reveal that they've come from the future.

Shopkeeper: "...and the sands have almost run through!" (No they haven't - look at it!) "If Sarah Jane and her friends do not return soon, they'll be trapped in the past... forever!"

Funny, I thought that "time itself" was somehow "under threat".

Clyde and Rani's segments both pit them against murderers taking over England. In Clyde's case this means Nazis, but they are just a metaphor for Daleks.

Sarah on the other hand, despite what the Shopkeeper said above, misses the object by about a century, and instead meets a ghost hunter called Emily investigating dying ghost-children from the future who have it.

Now this idea does sound promising, just as it did in Torchwood: To The Last Man.

However, Emily's mother happens to have died in "exactly" the same way nine weeks earlier, so in order to interact with the ghosts and save their lives, all she has to do is focus on that common fear.

Eventually they save the kids' lives and congratulate themselves on a job well done, despite having still doomed the kids' house and contents. Neither Sarah nor Emily remember that they have the power to speak to the ghosts and run the haunting at will, due to having earlier committed the cardinal time-travel sin of rewinding time by moving a clock's hands backwards. (clocks are machines which have nothing to do with time)

Even the recap at the start of part two is so rushed that it's unintelligible.

This is what I call "an annual story". Not because they churn one out a year, but it smacks of those terrible stories in TV-tie-in annuals when I was a kid, which usually betrayed little knowledge of the series it was based on, and even less love for it.

With such generic elements, few explanations, and shallow dialogue, this filled the required 50 minutes, but offered no reason for spending them by watching this. Even the throwaway title Lost In Time could be an episode of anything.

Well, I've been honest for long enough, so now it's time to muster just a brief paragraph of being positive.

After all, without trying to sound snide, failings by definition reveal room for improvement, so this must have tons of potential.

For example, just who was the Shopkeeper and/or Mr Smalley? What exactly was he trying to save Earth from, and why? Why has he been forbidden to travel in time, and by who?

Most inspiring of all, just who on Earth is his parrot?

I'd genuinely love to know, and so I think would most of the kids who watched this.

Sarah: "Well, good luck with that."

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