The Sarah Jane Adventures reclaimed its status as the most fun show in the Doctor Who universe this past weekend, with a wacky story of literal-minded alien cops and evil extraterrestrial possession. "You pay, you display!" Spoilers below...
Honestly, season two of the Sarah Jane Adventures was a bit of a letdown after the stellar season one. There was too much evil clowns, dumb zodiac magicians, and transparent rehashes of Doctor Who's "Father's Day," and not enough cool new stories about kids being forced to fight in intergalactic wars. After the thrilling first season, it was a bit sad to see the show losing its steam so early.
But judging from the first story, "Prisoner Of The Judoon," the Sarah Jane Adventures is back in silly, crazy — and yes, campy — form. The story wove together a bunch of strands, including the Judoon, the dim-witted cops from the Doctor Who stories "Smith And Jones" and "The Stolen Earth." Plus the destructive power of gray goo, and an alien supercriminal who can possess people's bodies.
We got to see Sarah Jane doing her "sassy reporter" thing, giving some much-needed attitude to a naive biotech startup that's meddling with nanotechnology. And then she makes the mistake of telling Rani's parents that the biotech firm could use a nice flower garden — forgetting that Rani's mum tends to get a bit carried away. And when Sarah Jane gets taken over by an alien demon thingy, the Androvax/Sarah Jane decides to go back to the nanotech firm to create a new spaceship, and destroy the Earth with gray goo to cover her tracks.
There was more fun in this one episode than in pretty much all of the show's second season — especially the Judoon cop, who has to obey all laws, no matter what. Who cares if this portrayal was completely at odds with the more ruthless, take-no-prisoners way the Judoon were portrayed in their first appearance? It was so much fun to watch the Judoon captain stomp around obeying the speed limit, enforcing noise pollution laws, and trying to observe all local regulations. Clyde was also in top form — and it was great that the show is being more overt about treating Clyde as our main "point of view" character, what with him narrating the opening credits.
And meanwhile, Elisabeth Sladen went for "deliciously campy" with her portrayal of the possessed Sarah Jane, and then way overshot. She left no piece of scenery unchewed, as she swaggered and vamped her way through a confrontation with her uppity supercomputer and launched her evil, world-destroying scheme. She might have been able to cackle just a tad more, or possibly clasp her hands together and go "mwa ha ha ha," but otherwise she pretty much had the bases covered. And it was nice to see the show using actual science-fictional ideas in its stories, even if they were portrayed in an outrageously cartoony way.
My only complaint about the show, generally, is Sarah Jane's constant nattering about the wonders of the universe, which has gone from cloying to outright obnoxious — and you'd think she'd be just a little bit concerned when flaming space debris starts crashing nearby, instead of rubbing her hands together. All in all, though, this was a welcome return to season-one form.
The Sarah Jane Adventures is always going to be the most little-kid-friendly show in the Doctor Who universe, which means simple plots and slightly broad acting. But as episodes like this one prove, it can be fun and genuinely entertaining, with characters we actually care about. More like this, please.