"Luke, your mum and dad have spent months searching for you. The Bane took you away and broke their hearts. Today is the most wonderful day in their lives. They're going to get you back, and you are going to be an ordinary human boy with parents that care for you and won't ever let anything bad happen to you again, the way I never could. And it's the best day of your life, too. You'll see."
IN THIS ONE... Mr. Smith goes bad and makes the world think Luke is the lost son of what turns out to be Slitheen.
REVIEW: The Slitheen child returns, and writer Phil Ford takes this opportunity to get rid of what makes the Slitheen so objectionable. He upgrades their technology so they can inhabit slimmer suits and have no problems with the gas exchange. In a single move, he takes away the weight-shaming and the immature fart humor AND gives us a proper surprise ending/cliffhanger. And yet, it doesn't come out of nowhere. The child, as boy genius Nathan Goss, is the anti-Luke as soon as we meet him, a rude math wiz Sarah doesn't think is quite as good as her own son, shades of their brief time together in math club. Similarly, Mr. Smith's dark turn is both a surprise and well set up. In the last Slitheen story, the computer had zapped Clyde, and in this one, well, we'll find out in Part 2. Certainly, Mr. Smith's justification for any and all anomalies in Luke's new-found family's story is suspect, but there's also the complete lack of fanfare when he comes out of the wall. Something odd is going on. And what's this about a Xylok? Could Mr. Smith be something other than a machine as we previously thought? And what is his agenda, seeing as he's both working with the Slitheen and sending Sarah Jane their way?
In a kids' adventure show like this, the theme of growing up is and should be important. We're watching young actors growing up on screen, after all, and as they mature, so do their characters. Change is the thing, and change is integral to this story. Maria fears it, and her father's completely reasonable reaction to discovering the wondrous world of one Sarah Jane Smith. He wants to move his daughter away from this madness, and Sarah can't argue with his assessment. Luke's situation plays into the theme more strongly and literally as he discovers he's not what or who he thought he was. If he's really this Ashley, it's not someone he recognizes, and has none of the lost boy's interests, tastes or aptitudes. Isn't this what we all go through when we hit puberty and abandon childish things so we can be cool/accepted, let our hormones make choices for us, or discover new things through our educational progress? Sarah isn't immune to change either, and had let the kids in her life change her, we could argue for the better. With Luke ripped from her, she doubts herself and reverts to the frostier disposition she showed in the pilot. And she rejects Maria, calling an end to what has proven to be an ill-judged experiment.
Full props to the production team for making us believe everything we knew was wrong before the trick is revealed. It all seemed true, with Sarah even having to invoke her UNIT credentials to keep from being charged with kidnapping (it was sweet seeing a pic of young Sarah in her file; and of COURSE it was Chrissie who called the cops). On a show like this, threatening the dissolution of the tight television family is the best finale/cliffhanger possible, with the Jacksons, Luke and Mr. Smith all at risk. The human drama is - no surprise - far more engaging than the SF plot about telekinesis studied at Pharos (a name from the past), an institute housed in what looks like the same castle as the Gorgon's nuns. Isn't it the same location used as the Rattigan Academy in The Sontaran Stratagem too? They all look the same to me, but that's a very minor complaint, isn't it?
REWATCHABILITY: Medium-High - The Slitheen may be redeemed by this story, see if they aren't.