Doctor Who #815: The Temptation of Sarah Jane Smith Part 1

"You've seen it in the movies. You go back you change one tiny thing, it has terrible consequences."
TECHNICAL SPECS: First aired Nov.17 2008.

IN THIS ONE... The Trickster tricks Sarah Jane into going back in time to the day her parents died.

REVIEW: As a fan of the Sarah Jane Adventures, I came to expect something special from any story with Sarah's full name in the title, and while the Trickster created a history without her as a player in Whatever Happened to Sarah Jane Smith?, here he takes the "Turn Left" (by way of "Father's Day") approach to achieve the same ends with more immediately catastrophic results. What if Sarah Jane had grown up happy, with two parents who loved her, and perhaps more importantly, no unsolvable mystery surrounding their deaths and why the abandoned her as a baby to drive to their doom. That mystery must be at the root of her curiosity, which eventually led her to be a journalist. And being on her own, give or take a brilliant aunt, made it simpler for her to jump into the TARDIS all those years ago. A world where she never met the Doctor is one where Earth has one less defender, and that seems justification enough for commissioning matte shots of postapocalyptic London.

Proof that this mystery defined her is in her inability to resist it, even when she knows it's likely a trap. She talks herself into it quite literally, voicing rationalizations she knows are weak. We see the whole internal debate and understand that she knows it's a bad idea, yet one she must pursue. It leads to some emotional moments as Sarah Jane meets her parents - in a village that's been wiped off the map, no less, this past is all Terra Incognita - and hears the stories she might have heard as a young girl had they lived and discovers what might have been, including plans for brothers and sisters. It's all very sweet. And you gotta love the aliases she and Luke give themselves. It's the 1950s, nobody knows the Beckhams. I was surprised by one thing in Gareth Roberts' script, and that's Sarah Jane rationalizing her attempt to change history as some kind of "reward" handed out by fate for all her selfless work. It's an odd selfish moment for the character, and I'm not sure it's in character.

Once again, the weak link is the Graske who is simply too silly to fit in well with the rest of the material. He's jarring, even. He spends most of his time as a creepy kid, drawing attention to the rift in time, etc. and that's fine. But maybe that was an opportunity to add to the Trickster's Brigade with some kind of immortal child, or a shape-shifter proper. The Graske, well, his transformation scene from "Oscar" to alien is embarrassing to say the least. Do the hippy hippy shake, why don't you? Still, a minor objection.

REWATCHABILITY: Medium-High
- The whole season has been leading up to this, and it scores pretty big despite a couple of off moments.

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