Doctor Who #816: The Temptation of Sarah Jane Smith Part 2

"They were brilliant. They worked it out, they went by themselves. My mum and dad defeated you."
TECHNICAL SPECS: First aired Nov.24 2008.

IN THIS ONE... Sarah Jane's mom and dad sacrifice themselves so the world might live.

REVIEW: Sarah faces her Kobayashi Maru scenario when she must choose between her parents and the world, which doesn't sound like a choice at all, but her futile attempts to Captain Kirk herself out of it puts the choice in THEIR hands. And they prove to be selfless heroes, driving off to meet vehicular doom willingly, leaving their baby behind after saying their goodbyes to both versions of her. I realize this is almost exactly like Father's Day, and the decision they make doesn't seem as informed as Pete's was and is therefore less credible, but damn it, it packed the same kind of emotional punch. Weep away, friends, don't hide your tears. Everyone needs their parents to be their heroes, and Sarah Jane has finally had that in her life. This story has been a sort of pressure cooker childhood for her, sweet, but tragic as well. Not to say it's all sadness and scares. I genuinely laughed out loud at Rani announcing herself as an ethnic person in the 1950s (to the village lady's credit, she was shocked more by the fashions), and there's a fun moment when Sarah and Luke come across a police box that most definitely isn't the TARDIS, though she (and the composer!) at first think it is.

In the devastated present, the Graske proves to be a figure of pathos, a being tricked into slavery, and Clyde selflessly frees him (at the cost of the team no longer having the Trickster-proof puzzle box). His bravery gets him a kiss from Rani, a sweet moment. But what's most interesting about the alternate timeline is Gita as one of the last humans on Earth (Clyde's explanation of how people seem to follow similar tracks even when history is significantly changed may be hand-waving, but it's so easy to grasp an explanation, I'm surprised we don't hear it more in such stories). They took the bubbliest character on the show and made her dour and practical, as a denizen of that timeline would necessarily be. This is what SJA does best - take something epic and focus on how it affects the personal and intimate. Yes, the world has been destroyed, but it's Gita's joie de vivre we're really missing. The rest is just SF matte shots, and those no longer shock.

Another nice touch in a series of nice touches is the final shot of the old message between the Smiths - a tradition explained in Part 1 had Sarah's mom and dad send themselves courting under Mr. and Miss, and later Mrs. - featuring the show's catchphrase, "Mr. Smith, I need you." Clyde and Rani discuss what it's like to work with Sarah Jane, calling it scary and brilliant at the same time, not coincidentally Doctor Who's brief when it comes to appealing to children. Haresh equating Rani's room with a bombed site. My only disappointment is the screamy return to normalcy in the present, since the effect for the reverse in Part 1 was so cool.

- Emotionally, it repeats the beats from Father's Day, except the storyline makes a bit more sense. That can't be a bad thing.



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