Steve Goble

Choose life. (Deuteronomy 30:19)

All right, let's get the zombie-count of the way first.

If you've read my other reviews this season, then you might just recall that every single one of those stories has featured at least one zombie. To be clear, I consider a zombie to be a character who is not under the control of who they appear to be. (maybe there is a better word for this)

So, with five stories in a row this season all fulfilling this criteria, would story six make it a full-house?

Right from the word go, here's Rani's entranced mum:

Gita 'zombie', under Miss Wormwood's control?
She's been hypnotised by Miss Wormwood. It's a bit like when she was taken-over by the Ancient Lights three stories back, complete with the observer waving their hand in front of her eyes to try to make her blink...

Gita zombie, under the ancient Lights' control
However although Gita is once more standing there like a zombie, fulfilling many other definitions of the word, she don't fulfil mine.

Gita isn't actually doing anything, so isn't, by the strongest definition, actually being controlled. She's really just asleep. So I don't, hand on heart, count her as being a zombie.


Of course, then we meet these 'people':

(There are two others, but we don't see them transform)

So, yes, by my definitions, they actually did it. They actually made every single story this series, bar none, include a zombie, or at least a character-who-is-not-under-the-control-of-who-they-appear-to-be.

Letting go of that, ('cos I know I need to) what continues to compensate for The Sarah Jane Adventures' shortcomings for me, is the ease with which it embraces Doctor Who's wealth of mythology.

Scarcely a story goes by without a line of dialogue or a prop concealed somewhere that unobtrusively benefits from this. There's no patronising fear here that today's kids will be too thick to understand that fifty-something Sarah has a past.

This story features the most unashamed riff yet, with the reappearance of Nicholas Courtney as Brigadier Sir Alistair Gordon Lethbridge-Stewart (Retired).

Beginning in The Web Of Fear in 1968, he was in the original Doctor Who series on and off for over twenty years, not to mention a heap of subsequent spin-offs. Here he gets called-in by Sarah to help her and Rani break-into UNIT's 'Black Archive' to get hold of an ancient scroll.

The very idea of two actors who used to appear together in the mid 1970s still continuing that act over 30 years later, in a show aimed at children who are far too young to remember the original, is exactly the sort of thing that usually gets stopped these days.

Then, and now:

I can't see the problem myself, and neither apparently can this team. Any kid with no prior knowledge of Who would surely have understood that Sarah had met this guy before, and just got on with watching the rest of the story as normal. A few of them might even have looked-up the old episodes afterwards.

His contribution over, the Brig then takes a backseat for the rest of the tale, which is probably lucky for him as, in a surprising break from the norm, this is not an end-of-season spectacular. It's much more low-key, focusing instead on Luke's having to choose whether to pledge his loyalties to Sarah (who repeatedly saves Earth) or the evil Miss Wormwood. (who... feels differently about it)

It's obviously impossible to accept that Luke has any struggle whatsoever with this choice, but it must be noted that in this script, he's just one of several members of the regular cast who suddenly lose much of that depth that they've been busily building-up for the past two years.

Aside from Luke's hard-to-understand confusion, the idea that Miss Wormwood might have some kind intentions is, well, a bit of a surprise, as is Clyde's disappointing regression back to his shallow identity from when he first joined.

Clyde: "So is this it - the day Clyde Langer finally hooks-up with UNIT? Locked and loaded – ready to fight the scum of the universe!"


Sarah: "Haven't I taught you there are better ways of dealing with aliens than guns?"

While its plot just about holds, I'm afraid I found the overall script to be one of the weakest of both series, only beaten-into second-last place by the still-awful Revenge Of The Slitheen.

Still, some nice lines, ("Luke, I am your mother!") and another opening episode that was quite fun.


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