"I think Sky just grew up." "What, with no birthdays? That's just rubbish."
IN THIS ONE... Sky grows up to be a bomb, but the team saves her from that fate and she joins the cast.
REVIEW: In the wake of Lis Sladen's passing, this episode seems to be about lost possibilities. The addition of Sky to the cast, a character not unlike Luke (an orphaned synthetic being built by ruthless aliens and artificially grown without the normal rites of passage and learning about things we take for granted), shows the program on its way to renewing itself. After all, Clyde and Rani too would presumably leave sooner or later; they're on the cusp of adulthood. Sinead Michael is an energetic little actress and imbues Sky with a thirst for life, a naive bravery and a more directly affectionate manner than cerebral Luke. We only got three stories with her in it, so no shot as seeing her grown up normally, or to see if she really retained and mastered her electric powers in the long run, or whether the Fleshkind or Metalkind would return to torment her. She was apparently brought to Sarah Jane's doorstep by the Shopkeeper and the Captain from Lost in Time, so the promise of one day learning more about them and their roles as agents of Order (which is my interpretation, to balance out the Trickster as agent of Chaos) is also one that can never be kept.
It's a meta-textual sadness that's balanced by the fun and excitement of the actual episode. Sky is taught that being an Earth person (since we can't actually be called human) means having choices, that though she was made to be a bomb ("Am I bad?", aw bless her heart), she can choose not to detonate, not to kill. She does make a difficult choice, but killing IS involved. To save Earth when her "mother" calls a Metalkind horde to threaten the planet, she's ready to sacrifice her life. It's all presented as an impossible choice, a no-win scenario. So of course, Sarah Jane and the kids must show there is no such thing. Impossible choices are false choices; there must be a third alternative. Treating a nuclear reactor's rod system as a video game is perhaps a bit silly, but at least there's a small (unrelated) science lesson in there for the kids paying attention. The resolution saves the day and disarms Sky forever so she can stick around. Too easy? Maybe, but the alternative wasn't really doable in this type of show, was it?
Despite the 12-year-old in jeopardy, the episode isn't without humor either. Whether it's Haresh complaining about the power outages or Sarah's explanation for Sky being 12 now, Sarah rolling her eyes at the Shopkeeper's enigmatic pronouncements, or just the new kid on the block asking crazy questions (the gaps in her knowledge are rather variable, better not look too closely), there are plenty of smiles to go around.
THEORIES: I mentioned the Shopkeeper and Captain as agents of Order, so I might as well tell you what the possible truth is/was. Apparently, the intended Series 5 finale would have brought back the Trickster and revealed he had manipulated the duo into giving Sarah Jane the child. In The Brilliant Book 2012, Neil Gaiman and Russell T Davies opine that the Shopkeeper was, in fact, the Time Lord known as the Corsair mentioned in The Doctor's Wife. Despite the pirate theme, that's not a particularly satisfying idea. For one thing, it doesn't explain the Corsair's tattoo on one of House's minions. For another, it means the parrot ISN'T actually in charge, which I think is far more fun than it being an obfuscation. Originally, they weren't even in "Sky". The eleventh Doctor was supposed to be the one who delivered Sky to Bannerman Rd. Matt Smith just wasn't available; but it would have fit the "last tour" mentioned in Closing Time.
REWATCHABILITY: Medium - The new cast member is a bright spark of energy, even if a lot of that potential must necessarily go to waste.