"I think I'm returning to, those days when I was young enough to know the truth"
Sarah Jane Adventures: The Temptation Of Sarah Jane Smith Part 2
Admittedly, here's where it all starts to get rather over familiar and somewhat predictable. It's clear that the ontological paradox of Sarah meeting her long dead parents only to be the catalyst for their demise (which was all a bit obvious, anyway) smacks rather too much of Father's Day from Doctor Who Series One. Gareth Roberts even elaborates on a similar TARDIS/police box gag, complete with George Dixon clone, in plain sight to seal the deal so I hope he's offered 50% of his fee to Paul Cornell. Despite all the similarities to Cornell's script, and a nagging feeling that Sarah Jane (see I've put Sarah Jane in the review this week as contractually obliged by Lis Sladen's agent) it's still a highly enjoyable episode. Yes, it is, because after all the riffing off (or should that be ripping off) of Father's Day it still packs an emotional punch.
...a bit of a stretch of Gareth Roberts to suggest Sarah is this moaning, selfish cow who doesn't give a fig about the web of time
The big problem I have with this episode, and it's a pivotal moment that the story depends on, is how easily Barbara and Eddie accept that this mature woman in bright pink with a young teenage boy in tow is actually their daughter, Sarah Jane. Neither Rosanna Lavelle nor Christopher Pizzey, playing Eddie, totally convinced me with their otherwise fine performances and the script doesn't help to bolster up their sudden moment of realisation either. It's a very weak scene, never mind a weak point in the web of time, that forces the characters to jump to certain conclusions. 'It's all my fault', cries Sarah Jane. Yes, love, and if you hadn't been so uncharacteristically selfish to the point of stupidity you wouldn't have to kill your own parents now, would you. It's again a bit of a stretch of Gareth Roberts to suggest Sarah Jane is this moaning, selfish cow who doesn't give a fig about the web of time until she's devastated the Earth. But then, it's an extremely emotional situation. Under enormous pressure in bizarre situations, people do the craziest of things. And, naturally, Sarah's not going to kill her parents as, predictably, they're going to volunteer to go to their own deaths.
Despite coming across as a blatant remake of Father's Day and potentially sullying that episode's own emotional power, it's the more original scenes with Rani's mum in the slave encampment that I particularly liked. It provides a very different aspect to the normally cheery, and often annoying, Gita and Mina Anwar's performance is very edgy and disturbing when she explains the fate of the last humans and their enslavement to the Graske. Clyde, like Sarah Jane back in 1951, is as determined that there is another way to restore the time lines and it's a nice little parallel for the separated parties as well as an opportunity for Clyde and Rani to be ahead of the game after Gita's explanation about Sarah Jane's parents where she's rightly quite pissed off with the woman for selfishly stomping through time without a care for anyone else. When Rani challenges the Graske, claiming he's just as much a slave of the Trickster as the humans are to him, we get a lovely bit of back history for him, complete with flashback, into how he was roped into working for the big fella with no eyes. It almost raises some sympathy for the Graske in its own way. And Rani's little kiss for Clyde as she ventures alone back into the past is a sweet coda to an intriguing scene where again the emphasis is on underlining the recycling of the theme of ordinary people selflessly saving the universe.
That group hug between parents and daughter is very moving and you've a heart of stone if you don't get just a little moist at that scene...
Thankfully, we get more laugh out loud moments in the village hall when Rani arrives, 'Yes, hello, ethnic person in the '50s' (which will satisfy or annoy certain pedants who moan on about these things endlessly) and Georgie Glen, fabulous as Mrs.King, steals the scene, as Rani departs, with her comment, 'What on earth was she wearing? Can that really be the fashion in the Punjab?' Wonderful comic timing there. And as disjointed as the reasoning may be behind Barbara's eventual realisation of who this mad, pink atired Victoria Beckham really is, it doesn't detract from the properly heart-wrenching scene where Sarah Jane's parents accept they must sacrifice themselves to save their child and correct the time line. That group hug between parents and daughter is very moving and you've a heart of stone if you don't get just a little moist at that scene. And that simple effect where the screen wipes back from monochrome into warm sepia is a bit of visual icing on the cake from the always reliable Graeme Harper.
Unfortunately, the demise of the Trickster looks more like a citizen's arrest of the local village drunk than the defeat of a time meddling mastermind. It's terribly lack lustre and I was hoping for much more from the Trickster than just another man in black trounced by humans volunteering to sacrifice themselves. His 'brigade' made Donna turn left, for heaven's sake! He can't just blow up in a puff of smoke after being shouted at. Well, never mind. The bittersweet conclusion just about makes up for it and thankfully provides some closure on Sarah Jane's abandonment issues and a perspective for Clyde and Rani about the joys and sadness that come with a life spent defending the Earth. The note on the back of the photograph of Sarah Jane's parents is a poignant and fitting final shot and adds a further layer of meaning to that rather cod phrase, 'Mr. Smith I need you' which we'd all assumed was a nod and a wink to the Doctor's nom de guerre. The episode might blatantly recycle many of the tropes of the parent series when it comes to the noble art of self-sacrifice but I enjoyed it and accepted that a certain amount of rehashed concepts were being re-served. It's saved by its performances, some great visual flourishes - notably the high camera angles and the depiction of a devastated Earth using nothing more than extras, a quarry and some smoke effects - and carefully timed one-liners. Not as good as the first part, and certainly not as accomplished as last year's Whatever Happened To Sarah Jane Smith? but as a whole it is the story I've enjoyed the most in this series so far.