Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Sarah Jane Adventures - "Death of the Doctor" (Parts 1 & 2)

Spoiler Level: High

This is the story that, if you don't watch Sarah Jane Adventures, you're still going to watch if you're a Doctor Who fan.  And really, this is the one you definitely should see.

UNIT shows up on Sarah Jane's doorstep and says a group of aliens have delivered the Doctor's body, and are taking her to a special UNIT facility for his funeral.  While there, Sarah Jane gets to meet the Doctor's previous companion from UNIT, the one and only Jo Grant!  (Or Jo Jones, rather, after the events of her departure story, "The Green Death.")  It's not long until the Doctor crashes his own funeral and all the running starts!

"Death of the Doctor" works even better than the Doctor's previous guest appearance, last year's "The Wedding of Sarah Jane Smith."  Just like last year, the Doctor himself doesn't show up until towards the end of Episode 1, but it works a little better here because (1) Matt Smith actually gets to do more that just shout one line before the credits roll, (2) even if the Doctor himself isn't in the first 20 minutes or so, the action is all about him, so his presence is still felt, and (3) we get to see Jo right away, which is probably even more of a thrill than getting to see the Doctor.  I know I'll see Matt Smith again in December;  this is the first time I've seen Jo since she left the show in 1973, and I may never see her again!

In some ways she's the same old Jo, all enthusiasm and smiles.  And in other ways she's grown so much; like Sarah Jane, she's become the one in charge now, traipsing all over the world with her husband, their children, and their grandchildren.  (And let me just also mention here how happy I am that she and Professor Jones are still happily married!)  Jo's brought her grandson, Santiago, who fits in with Clyde and Rani wonderfully.  I didn't want the show to just drop in a new male lead to replace Luke like they did with Rani being introduced right on Maria's heels, but I have to admit, if they were going to replace him, the grandson of Jo Grant would be a great choice.

Russell T Davies excels at character pieces, and that's exactly what this is; even the bad guys motivation is an angle to feature as many memories as possible about the Doctor!  We even get some wonderful little bits of news as Sarah Jane tells Clyde and Rani what she's learned about Ian & Barbara, Ben & Polly, Tegan and Ace since they left the TARDIS!  (Ian & Barbara's especially made me smile, and Ace's made me breathe a sigh of relief I think I've been holding since I saw Mindgame Trilogy.)

Not that it's perfect; some of the special effects are surprisingly below current standards. There's a very obvious matte-painting for the UNIT headquarters, and some very obvious puppeteering for the aliens, which is a bit of a surprise considering how well the special effects have looked on every Doctor Who related program since the show's return.  I don't know if it was done "old-school" deliberately to give it more of a classic Who feel, or if the money just wasn't there, or if it just looked worse to me because I saw it on a 58" TV!  Personally, I'm going to go with the "old school" theory, at least for me.  And I actually kind of prefer puppets to CGI.

Aaaannd, since it was a very nostalgic, memory-oriented episode, it made for a great lead-in to Whofest 2010!


greatplaidmoose said...

It was nice to see Jo still married which is such a rare thing these days both in fiction and in real life.

This definitely makes the novels non-canonical as they had Jo divorced and it also contradicts where Ace wound up. RTD even recently seemed to comment on them as being fanfic. I wonder if the same thing will happen with the audios some day? That would be more of a shame since they have the actors actually in them but I'm sure they are considered non-canonical by the BBC so its probably inevitable.

What will they do next season on SJA? RTD has said they don't want to repeat themselves but they also realize having the Doctor in the episodes increases ratings. I wonder if they would consider having a former Doctor in an episode? The Master? Daleks? Cybermen? I don't think too many other crossovers would have the same ratings effect. I would like to see another former companion next year at least. Doesn't really matter which one although sadly the actors who played Harry, Barbara and Ben have passed away.

It was cool to hear the Doctor looked in on all of his former companions and not just the RTD era ones when he was regenerating. That was a hell of a lingering death though. lol

Fer said...

"Fanfic?" That's a little harsh. Usually the key element to what makes a writing a fanfic is no one gets paid. What's wrong with simply saying "Film always trumps print" like everyone else?