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The Sarah Jane Adventures 4.3: Death of the Doctor

October 26th, 2010 (05:50 pm)

After the first two stories, which too often patronised their juvenile audience, Death of the Doctor was a return to long-lost form for The Sarah Jane Adventures, reminding me in tone of much of the first series. Previewers hailed it as Russell T Davies's love letter to the era when Barry Letts and Terrance Dicks ran Doctor Who, but it was more than that, as the characterization of Jo Jones showed: this was an evolution of the Jo Grant of yore, informed by the Katy Manning of thirty-odd years of convention anecdotes and magazine interviews, short-sighted, affectionate and scatty. The contrast of Jo leaving the Doctor to get married in The Green Death with Amy and Rory remaining as a married couple on the TARDIS was confronted directly, and the Doctor's effect on his companions once more examined, with Russell perhaps now in a better mood than when he depicted them as weapons through whom the Doctor avoided dirtying his hands with violence. Charity work, protest movements and academe seem to be the career paths of choice; it sounds as if Harry is dead or missing (but not Ben or Barbara) and William Russell will now definitely be accused of denial when he talks about the absence of romantic potential in the Ian/Barbara relationship.

Comments

Posted by: Lady Summerisle (strange_complex)
Posted at: October 26th, 2010 05:55 pm (UTC)
Doctor Who Bechdel test

this was an evolution of the Jo Grant of yore, informed by the Katy Manning of thirty-odd years of convention anecdotes and magazine interviews

This is a very apposite observation, and I really liked the sense of growth which it gave to the character. I felt that her reaction to the news about Amy and Rory was shoe-horned into the dialogue a bit clumsily, but hey - you're right that it was better addressed than ignored.

The Ian and Barbara reference was the very best bit of all for me. :-) Well, I'm not sure I am really all that bothered about what happened to Ian - he was only ever a well-meaning appendage to Barbara in my eyes. But I am glad to know that she is a Professor of Extreme Cleverness at Cambridge, as she always deserved, and also intrigued at the reference to neither of them having changed very much since the '60s. That rather rules out any cameo re-appearance by William Russell, since he certainly has!

Gotta wonder how the whole story played out for its target audience of under-10s, though. I suspect most of them would have been a) baffled and b) bored by quite a lot of that second episode.

Posted by: parrot_knight (parrot_knight)
Posted at: October 26th, 2010 06:16 pm (UTC)

Much agreement on that final point - I felt Russell was writing for the original, broader target audience much of the time, from before the Grange Hill-killing guidelines came in. I wonder, too, about those references to the old companions, and particularly Ian and Barbara not having aged. Russell likes to foreshadow... or was this one of his poetic statements, Amy and Rory being the current incarnations of Barbara and Ian, as (by extension) are all the young viewers watching?

Posted by: ooxc (ooxc)
Posted at: October 26th, 2010 06:40 pm (UTC)



Was it? he said that he'd left them on a honeymoon planet - no reference to what prompted that, or how much (if anything) the three had done together before that happened

Posted by: parrot_knight (parrot_knight)
Posted at: October 27th, 2010 12:02 am (UTC)
pic#70424010

Jo then observed that he had a married couple in the TARDIS, and that she had left the Doctor because she thought marriage and being with him were incompatible (though my reading of The Green Death is that Jo makes the break from the Doctor earlier, when she decides not to go to Metebelis Three with him); this bridges into Jo's belief that the Doctor must think she is stupid, giving the Doctor the chance to atone for all those Pertweeish put-downs, and reveal that there were yet more visits to old companions by the tenth Doctor before his regeneration than we saw in The End of Time.

(Deleted comment)
Posted by: parrot_knight (parrot_knight)
Posted at: October 27th, 2010 11:16 pm (UTC)
Troughton

I suspect you are right about Jo - I let myself be schooled in old fan prejudices (an extreme example of which is in Tides 9, called 'Jo on Jo', which I must scan...)

There are people missing from the companion roll-call. The first is Dodo, ignominiously and undeservedly forgotten about during The War Machines. The second, arguably, is Victoria, as the near future in which she is left in Fury from the Deep has probably past. Captain Yates was never seen to travel in the TARDIS (though it's been suggested that he might have done off-screen); but Sergeant Benton did, in The Three Doctors, although not in the usual way. That, I think, is it; though the novelization of The Trial of a Time Lord parts 5-8 (otherwise Mindwarp) places Peri on Earth as manager to her husband King Yrcanos.

As for Harry, yes, I think that this was a nod to Ian Marter being dead; though Ben and Barbara were left alive even though the actors who played them are deceased.

Posted by: widsidh (widsidh)
Posted at: October 27th, 2010 11:26 pm (UTC)
K9

Thank you, interesting.

I didn't know about Ben (not sure I've met him), but I thought with Barbara there might have been a reference in the not-aging thing. Even if William Russell is still around, the Ian & Barbara couple is not.

What came to mind id the line in B5 - Lost Tales, where G'Kar and franklin are referred to as travelling beyond the Rim...

Posted by: parrot_knight (parrot_knight)
Posted at: October 27th, 2010 11:46 pm (UTC)

Only one of Ben's stories survives complete, his debut, The War Machines.

I interpreted the reference to Ian and Barbara not aging as an allusion to the idea that all the subsequent companions are variations on Ian and Barbara (which is contestable); so their youth is perpetuated through a line extending now to Clyde and Rani as well as Amy and Rory.

Posted by: daniel_saunders (daniel_saunders)
Posted at: October 28th, 2010 09:43 pm (UTC)

Dodo, ignominiously and undeservedly forgotten about during The War Machines

Not to mention her treatment in the spin-off novels...

Posted by: parrot_knight (parrot_knight)
Posted at: October 29th, 2010 12:49 am (UTC)
Hartnell words

Daniel O'Mahony swears that he didn't give Dodo a sexually transmitted disease...

Posted by: widsidh (widsidh)
Posted at: October 27th, 2010 11:14 pm (UTC)
liz shaw

Now seen the rest.

atone for all those Pertweeish put-downs

In fairness, I always get the impression that for all his patronising manner (which isn't restricted to her), he trusts her more and takes her more seriously than anyone else does.

and reveal that there were yet more visits to old companions by the tenth Doctor before his regeneration than we saw in The End of Time.

Yes, I liked that.
It would also have made the end of End of Time feel less self-indulgent if RTD had made some sort of reference to stuff outside his era at the time.
He is now forgiven... ;-)

The people SJ found (plus Liz and the Brig mentioned in pt. 1) - were those all the companions from contemporary Earth, or was anyone missing?

PS Harry.
From the dialogue I think he is dead; people tend to speak of a missing person in the present tense. Could this have to do with Ian Marter being dead?

Posted by: widsidh (widsidh)
Posted at: October 26th, 2010 11:45 pm (UTC)
liz shaw

suffering from sudden death of digibox, so have only seen part 1 so far (2 not yet on iplayer) and can't comment much.

But *Miss* Shaw? After nearly 40 years she must have been given at least one doctorate!!!

:-)

Posted by: parrot_knight (parrot_knight)
Posted at: October 27th, 2010 12:07 am (UTC)
Pertwee

She already had two when we met her in Spearhead from Space, IIRC; but the Brig and (at first) the Doctor always addressed her as 'Miss', quaintly. She's probably had chairs and all sorts - perhaps UNIT have a university on the moon?

Posted by: daniel_saunders (daniel_saunders)
Posted at: October 28th, 2010 09:46 pm (UTC)

All I want to say is FIFTH APPEARANCE BY WILLIAM HARTNELL IN A YEAR!!!!. Suddenly that Phoenix Rises joke doesn't seem so far-fetched.

Posted by: parrot_knight (parrot_knight)
Posted at: October 29th, 2010 12:58 am (UTC)
Styre

It'll be made as a Blu-Ray special for the fiftieth anniversary.

Posted by: A Meticulous Catalogue of Wrongs To Be Avenged (splendorsine)
Posted at: October 31st, 2010 07:21 am (UTC)

I didn't think this was so much a "return to form" for the Sarah Jane Adventures, as a wholesale hijacking of the show and its format by a completely different show. Not that it was at all unpleasant... but, you know, I pretty much liked the first two stories of the season too...