Doctor Who #817: Enemy of the Bane Part 1

"How much make-up does it take before you get out in a morning?"
TECHNICAL SPECS: First aired Dec.1 2008.

IN THIS ONE... The Brigadier guest-stars as the Bane returns to Earth.

REVIEW: Obviously, the big news here is that Nicholas Courtney is back on telly as Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart for the first time since the late 80s (he did a lot of audio work for Big Finish in the intervening years however), and it's truly great to see him again. There's a real warmth coming off the man and a sense that his friendship with Sarah Jane Smith has grown and deepened since the old days. It's hard not to tear up when we see them together again, especially since both actors are gone now. What I'm most glad for is that writer/showrunner Phil Ford uses the Brig  to criticize the new series' UNIT. Like us, he's seeing things with rose-colored glasses. His UNIT was sometimes just as rigid, closed-minded and violent as the current model - Doctor Who and the Silurians being a prime example - but he also makes us miss the more homespun classic UNIT that didn't seem to take itself quite so seriously. Or is that nostalgia talking again? Or maybe we haven't had a UNIT team we could sympathize with in New Who. Between Martha and Ross, we almost has the kernel of something. Alas...

If a returning hero isn't enough for you, we also get some returning villains. Kaagh the scarred Sontaran shows up at the end of the episode to unexpectedly team up with Mrs. Wormwood of the Bane, from all the way back to the pilot. I'm not a big fan of the pilot, so I wasn't too sure we needed the Bane to ever return, but Samantha Bond as Mrs. W. wasn't the reason Invasion of the Bane put me off. As a creature now on the run from her own people, and at the same time out for revenge on Sarah Jane, she's got enough going on to keep us interested. As the "mother" who gave Luke up for adoption and a means for him to explore that metaphor, it's worth having her back. "I was born running" is a great line of Luke's in this context. And the Bane are fairly cool CG monsters. It's just a shame the tentacle interactions with real people don't really work.

Obviously, there's a plot attached, with Sarah Jane having to help Wormwood stop the Bane from putting MacGuffins together to call up Horath, a vaguely Lovecraftian-sounding entity (in line with their own cephalopod nature), and having to go to the ominous-sounding Black Archive, UNIT's version of the Raiders of the Lost Ark warehouse. Sarah just isn't very good at saying no to the kids - you know the type - so Rani's with her, so the boys can spend quality time with Wormwood. It'll all come to a head in Part 2, the season finale.

REWATCHABILITY: High - Not only do they make the Bane palatable after the Bubble Shock fiasco, they bring back one of the most beloved characters in Classic Who. In fact, the two most beloved characters in Classic Who share a number of scenes, so this would probably have gotten a good grade regardless of the plot.



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