Doctor Who #859: The Vault of Secrets Part 2

"I want you to know. This is not in my job description."
TECHNICAL SPECS: First aired Oct.19 2010.

IN THIS ONE... Androvax makes off with his people's cryo-ship, but doesn't blow up the Earth thanks to Mr. Dread's help.

REVIEW: I'm thinking the way Season 4 was broadcast may have had an effect on the writing. Each part of a same story aired only a day apart, which means viewers are expected to remember more from Part 1 while watching Part 2. This is well exploited in The Vault of Secrets where the opening scenes of Part 1 - Luke on Skype and Sarah's Martian pyramid scheme - don't seem to have anything to do with the story's plot or themes, but do pay off in Part 2 without the production harking back to those scenes. So for example, this is a story in which the group must face the fact Luke isn't on the team anymore, and that they've lost their two mobile brains. Thankfully, Mr. Dread can be convinced to help, but without him, the proper technical know-how is missing. That's something to consider in SJA plots, going forward. Thematically, the Martian cover-up links to Sarah asking Dread to wipe Gita's memories of aliens. Seems she has something in common with the Men in Black after all.

Yesterday, I was rather critical of the plot's convenient coincidences. In Part 2, writer Phil Ford has Clyde give a speech about coincidence and how there's no such thing, it's the universe pushing things to happen. Things are meant to be. Well, okay, but I don't buy it. Ford is usually good at explaining plot contrivances, but that's too much of a cheat. It also makes for a cute moment as Clyde realizes he and Rani are holding hands, which almost redeems the moment. Part 2 doesn't feel as contrived, at any rate, although it does have a couple of doozies. I can believe neither Androvax nor Dread saw the various ways in which the Veil could be saved without ripping Earth apart - they're both very single-minded - but things like the Men in Black firing at Clyde while in each other's crossfire is really stupid of them. Cool sequence, and Clyde makes out okay, but I don't think it's believable.

Much better is Rani tricking Androvax out of her mother's body. She shows bravery and wits. Androvax's "pity me" death scene is also a highlight, and with the Men in Black an equal threat, you almost believe he's really died. Except of course it's all a trick to get back into Sarah's skin, which is something we wanted to see anyway, after the last performance Lis Sladen gave as the monster. With the darkness, must come the light, and though "BURPSS" is a bit obvious as comedy, Ford scores some points with various "under-reactions" from Ocean and Dread. Facing the apocalypse, the former calls for an extraordinary meeting, while the latter isn't programmed for comedy and treats the alien-hunting business as a unionized job. One missed opportunity that occurred to me while Dread's hand was scuttling back to him: Sarah should have encountered the hand and had a proper "Eldrad must live" moment.

REWATCHABILITY: Medium - Ends better than it started, but still falls in the competent-but-ordinary column.

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