Timestamp #SJA11: The Temptation of Sarah Jane Smith

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Sarah Jane Adventures: The Temptation of Sarah Jane Smith
(2 episodes, s02e05, 2008)

 

Sarah Jane Smith meets Sarah Jane Smith.

Courtesy of a mysterious fissure, a young boy materializes in a shopping center. Rani and Clyde give chase as he runs away while Sarah Jane and Luke investigate the time fissure. Sarah Jane plans to send the boy home and seal the rift, but young Oscar is afraid. So, Sarah Jane escorts him through the fissure.

Just as she’s about to leave, she sees a road marker: She’s near Foxgrove in the year 1951. She avoids the temptation and leaves, and the boy asks the Trickster if he did okay.

The Trickster vows that Sarah Jane will return.

With the job done, the Bannerman Road Gang returns home, but Sarah Jane is obviously haunted. She asks Mr. Smith about the history of Foxgrove, then looks at the photograph in her desk drawer. Luke interrupts her reflections and she explains that the photo is of her parents, Eddie and Barbara Smith. They died in a traffic accident, leaving Sarah Jane in her pram on the side of the road at only three months old. She was adopted by her aunt Lavinia, but the mystery of their death has haunted her throughout her life.

The time fissure leads to Foxgrove, one month before her parents died. Luke suggests going to see them, but Sarah Jane thinks that it’s a trap. She refuses the bait.

Or so she says.

She sneaks out of the house later that night, all dressed up for a trip to the 1950s. Luke catches her before she leaves, and she promises that it will be a quick trip. She opens the fissure, considers the ramifications one last time, and walks through to her own past. The fissure was supposed to remain open for an hour, but it fluctuates so Luke dives in after her. Together, they walk to Foxgrove, not noticing a triumphant Oscar hiding nearby.

Rani and Clyde take notice of their absence and consult Mr. Smith, but the supercomputer has no knowledge of their whereabouts. He theorizes that they used the fissure. They find the Verron Soothsayer box, which is now flashing, and they decide to investigate.

Sarah Jane and Luke end up at a town festival. Sarah Jane spots her mother and her infant self, and she decides to talk to her mother to determine why her parents would abandon her. The time travelers introduce themselves as Victoria and David Beckham, and Sarah Jane ventures off to help her mother out serving tea. Meanwhile, Luke spots Oscar and investigates the boy’s odd behavior.

Eddie and Barbara talk to Sarah Jane about their baby and her future. Sarah Jane’s emotions swell and she decides to leave. Luke follows with a newspaper, but Sarah Jane realizes that it is the day that her parents died. The temptation is strong to disable the Smith car with her sonic lipstick, and Luke lobbies her to avoid altering a fixed point in time.

Her emotions overrule her logic and she disables the car’s engine. They rush back to the fissure to see if anything significant changed as the world begins to crumble around them.

Clyde and Rani arrive at the site of the fissure. The box changes color as they try to open the rift. Oscar returns through the fissure and morphs into a Graske before chasing after them. The world changes as they take shelter.

Sarah Jane and Luke return home to find the world transformed into a complete wasteland. The Trickster reveals himself, gleeful that Sarah Jane has given the world over to him. Foxgrove rested on a weak point in the fabric of time and Sarah Jane’s actions smashed a fault line and allowed the Trickster to manifest and ravage the Earth.

Luke and Sarah Jane return to 1951 to set things straight. The storm is already in progress at Foxgrove, prompting the villagers to take their festival indoors. Sarah Jane wishes that the Doctor was there to help them, and her hopes are buoyed up by the sight of a police box. Unfortunately, the box is not the TARDIS and only contains a police officer. Sarah Jane and Luke find Eddie and Barbara. Barbara offers to help them look for anything odd.

Rani and Clyde, protected from the alternate timeline by the puzzle box, wander the wasteland. They spot the Graske and decide to follow it. They spot Rani’s mother in a group of slaves, and Rani tries to make contact. The Graske, who is the slavemaster, is apprehensive around the duo. Rani’s mother explains that they are forced to mine every resource from the planet, and she shares the legend of Sarah Jane Smith and how she gave the world to the Trickster. They also learn about the Abbot’s Gateway and decide to somehow get that information to Sarah Jane and Luke.

Rani and Clyde demand an audience with the Graske and learn about his history and how he was tricked by the Trickster. He was saved from death but became a slave as a result. Clyde offers to exchange the puzzle box – a way to free the Graske – for a way back to the past. The arrangement means that Rani can go to 1951 but Clyde must remain behind with the box.

Sarah Jane and Luke track the source of the disturbance while Rani hunts them down, sticking out like a sore thumb as a woman of color in the village. Rani delivers her message, confusing Barbara with information from the future. The Trickster begins to manifest as Eddie arrives to take Barbara away.

The elder Smiths return to the village hall. Everything they touch ages rapidly, from fruit to flowers, and Barbara realizes that the problem revolves around them. She knows that Sarah Jane Smith is the adult version of their own baby.

At the Abbot’s Gate, Luke tries to convince Sarah Jane to repair the car, even though it means that her parents will die. Sarah Jane fixes the car as her parents arrive. They leave their baby with Luke and Rani as Sarah Jane says her goodbyes. The family shares an embrace as they mend their bridges. Sarah Jane now understands why her parents had to die and why they left her behind.

Her parents bid both Sarah Janes farewell as they drive away. The future is safe as the Trickster writhes in pain and vaporizes in the restored timeline. Sarah Jane, Luke, and Rani take the infant to her rightful place.

With the timeline restored, Clyde gives the puzzle box to the Graske and frees him from his servitude. The time travelers return home and Sarah Jane smashes the device used to open the fissure. Rani finds her parents alive and well, and Sarah Jane reminisces over her parents.

Although she could not save them, she finally knows why they left. She is proud of them. She shares a hug with Luke over the photo of Eddie and Barbara.

On the back of the photo lies one last remnant of the whimsical love notes they used to share: “Mr. Smith, I need you”.

 

On its face, this is a very basic story about the circular paradox. In fact, it is almost a complete rehash of Father’s Day, from a child saving a parent from a fixed point death, the resulting fractures and destruction in the timeline, and a noble sacrifice to set things right. It also bears striking similarities to The Curse of Fenric.

But it has the benefit of being about one of the most beloved characters in Doctor Who history, and that emotional investment makes a considerable difference between a standard plotline and a great story in this universe. Sarah Jane thinks like the Doctor, rationalizing every break of the rules to satiate just one more piece of her curiosity, while Luke, Rani, and Clyde act as her anchors to help save the world.

That twist on the story, including Sarah Jane realizing that she doesn’t need the Doctor to save her – that she literally has all of the tools that she needs to fix her mistake – is amazing, and it serves to empower both her and her young companions, making them stronger both as characters and as a cohesive family in the end.

 

Rating: 5/5 – “Fantastic!”

 

 

UP NEXT – Sarah Jane Adventures: Enemy of the Bane

 

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.

 

 

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