Sarah Jane Adventures: Goodbye, Sarah Jane Smith
(2 episodes, s04e06, 2010)
Who could ever replace Sarah Jane Smith?
A meteor hurtles toward Earth. Mr. Smith redirects the threat into the forest and the Bannerman Road Gang rushes to the scene to deal with a potential pathogen. When they arrive, they find the pathogen neutralized by a stranger who dresses and acts like Sarah Jane Smith.
The team returns to Sarah Jane’s house to discover that the woman has moved in across the street. Clyde sets the car’s hand brake (which Sarah Jane apparently forgot) and the gang confronts the new arrival. She doesn’t receive them well, but we find out that her name is Ruby White. She came to Ealing after hearing about the alien activity, including the Trueman incident, the Bubble Shock! factory, rhinos driving police cars, and alien plant life. Sarah Jane tries diplomacy, but Ruby shows her the door.
Sarah Jane mentally drifts as the team discusses Ruby. She also forgets that Luke is away at university, leaves the front door open, and forgets K9’s name upon calling Luke only two hours after the last time. Rani stops by to check on her friend and suggests Sarah Jane take a break to visit Luke. A red alert interrupts their discussion as the Dark Horde fleet heads for Earth.
Mr. Smith redirects their teleport beam to an uninhabited area. Since transmissions are jammed and UNIT is unreachable, Sarah Jane hands weapons to her teammates and they confront the intruders. Unfortunately, Sarah Jane forgot her sonic lipstick so the weapons are useless. Just before the Horde kills the group, Ruby arrives and saves the day with alien technology and her own AI supercomputer. Sarah Jane and Ruby reconcile from their first meeting and the new arrival joins the gang in the attic.
Clyde and Rani depart as Sarah Jane and Ruby express their pleasure at having adult friends to share alien encounters with. Sarah Jane recalls meeting the Doctor when she was 23, but had trouble with the Time Lord’s name. She later thinks about the memory lapse and asks Mr. Smith for a full medical scan. He determines that she has brain tissue deterioration. She believes that she’s finally too old to defend the Earth, and Ruby slowly moves into her position on the team.
Sarah Jane offers leadership of the Bannerman Road Gang, along with the house and its contents, to Ruby. Ruby accepts and Sarah Jane transfers Mr. Smith’s command to Ruby. Once it is done, Ruby reveals that she is responsible for Sarah Jane’s condition. Sarah Jane is teleported to a secret cellar which houses Ruby’s stomach, since the new arrival is a Qetesh, a creature that devours peoples’ thrills and emotions. Ruby was fascinated by Sarah Jane’s exciting and adventurous life.
Ruby has her AI spoof a farewell message from Sarah Jane while the Qetesh’s stomach begins devouring our hero. Ruby gloats as the planet is undefended. It will make an excellent feast for alien species across the universe.
Clyde and Rani watch the spoofed video and lament the news. Clyde storms out and calls Luke after blaming Rani for putting the idea of a vacation in Sarah Jane’s head. Later, Mr. Smith tries to warn Clyde, but Ruby shuts down the computer and teleports Clyde to her orbiting ship. The ship was her prison until she reprogrammed the game console what was her only entertainment. That console took her from planet to planet as she consumed each one. She decides that Clyde is too smart for his own good and leaves him to suffocate in her prison cell.
After talking to her mother, Rani tries to call Clyde. She opens her door to find Luke (with K9 on video conference). K9 tracks Clyde to the orbiting ship and analyzes the Qetesh. Together, they discover that the Dark Horde invasion and the meteor strike were holographic simulations and they devise a plan to reboot Mr. Smith.
Meanwhile, in orbit, Clyde records a goodbye message.
Rani distracts Ruby as she puts the plan into motion. Ruby realizes that it is a ruse, but she’s too late. Mr. Smith is restored, Clyde is teleported to the attic, and Ruby is trapped in a containment vortex. The team locates Sarah Jane and as Clyde and Rani rush to the rescue, Luke arranges for Ruby to be trapped on Earth. Ruby breaks free of containment and confronts the team as they release Sarah Jane.
Luke enters the cellar and warns Ruby to leave Earth. When Ruby refuses, Luke tells her console to initiate his own custom distraction. The console broadcasts a simulation of meteor strikes to the entire world, overwhelming the Qetesh with a meal she cannot handle. The stomach overloads, restoring Sarah Jane’s mind and splurting Clyde in the process (as is customary).
Sarah Jane returns Ruby to her prison cell. The Qetesh vows revenge as the ship rockets into the deep dark. Back in the attic, the team finds that Mr. Smith and K9 have finally become friends. Sarah Jane cherishes her friends and treats them all to a night off in celebration of their victory.
This story is bittersweet. It was the last serial of the series to air before Elisabeth Sladen passed away from cancer, making the title and the plot ironically poetic. The question presented in this story – “Can Sarah Jane Smith be replaced?” – is answered by the giant hole Elisabeth Sladen’s absence has left in the Doctor Who universe. She’s still sorely missed.
I understand that her daughter, Sadie Miller, has taken up her character in the recent Big Finish line. I may need to track down that story.
As far as this story is concerned, I really enjoyed it. I love stories where the companions get a chance to shine, and the Rani-Clyde team did not disappoint. I especially loved how Luke and K9 came back as well to help save Sarah Jane. If there is a fault to be found, it would be the overdramatic scenery-chewing from Ruby’s side of the house, but there is a certain charm in an over-the-top melodramatic performance in an otherwise solid story with a fun villainous twist.
The two big franchise mythology ties that I loved in this serial were Clyde’s anger and anxiety over Sarah Jane abandoning him like his father did and the use of “Contact!” when K9 and Mr. Smith link up, echoing back to The Three Doctors.
All told, this was a great way to end Series Four, and a fitting episode to mark Elisabeth Sladen’s departure from this plane.
Travel well, Sarah Jane.
Rating: 5/5 – “Fantastic!”
The Timestamps Project is an adventure through the televised universe of Doctor Who, story by story, from the beginning of the franchise. For more reviews like this one, please visit the project’s page at Creative Criticality.