The Temptation of Sarah Jane Smith
If you were able to go back in time and stop your parents from being killed when you were a baby would you do it, even though if you had ever watched Back to the Future you would know that it wouldn’t ever be a good idea to mess with the web of time? That is the question posed in this story where the Trickster returns to try and destroy the Earth once again by tricking Sarah Jane in the most twisted way he has done so far.
The story begins with a chase scene as a small boy dressed in anachronistic clothing is running through the streets of London pursued by Sarah Jane and Co. They get said boy back to where he came from which was a time fissure. Sarah accompanies the boy through the fissure to discover that he comes from the same village where she was born and that it was 1951 at a point when her parents were still alive, a month before their deaths.
In this episode we get to meet Sarah Jane’s parents, Eddie and Barbara Smith, the people she had always been lead to believe had abandoned her as a baby, only to realise that they were the nicest people that you could possibly know who adored their baby, and even wanted other children, nothing like the picture she had of them in her mind. You can’t really blame her for thinking that really as there seemed no logical reason why they went off without her unless they just weren’t bothered about her, so it was lovely that Sarah realised that her parents did love her after all and also that they were very brave people and that they would have been proud of her, even though it was nearly sixty years later.
Although it was nice to finally meet Sarah Jane’s parents the only bone of contention I have with the episode is that there now seems to be no links of Liverpool in Sarah Jane’s character which I would have thought would be obvious given Lis Sladen’s occasional user of scouse vernacular. I had a look in the book the eighties and they had a little write up about Sarah Jane saying that she was born in Liverpool, which would make sense, but in this version of events she was born in London and her parents are most definitely Londoners with not even a trace of Liverpool about them. I can only assume that Lavinia must have been in Liverpool for a while, or Sarah went to school in Liverpool. There I have solved my only bone of contention with the episode.
There were a couple of references to the Doctor in these episodes and even one from Rani, who I wasn’t aware even knew of the Doctor, but I guess that Sarah Jane had obviously told her at some point off screen, and a nice little scene where Sarah Jane bangs on the door of a police box thinking it was the TARDIS only to be greeted by a rather gruff policeman instead. She was very flustered at the time and wasn’t even thinking initially about the fact that police boxes were common place in the early nineteen fifties, but also the fact that she was bemoaning the fact that the Doctor was never around when he was needed seconds before this.
She even mentioned Peladon, which was the last thing I would expected to be referenced in this show, as well as her Aunt Lavinia, who was referred to but not in name.
It is nice when they delve into Sarah Jane’s past in this series in a way that they simply never touched on when she was in Doctor Who, it makes her character even better than it was on her initial run in the show, and makes her a much better character when you go back and watch her stories after seeing her in The Sarah Jane Adventures. Well I know it does for me and Sarah Jane was always one of my favourite companions and they have managed to retrospectively fill in her background over thirty years later. I can’t really imagine this working for many other companions with the odd few exceptions here and there, it would be nice to see Ian Chesterton again, but you just can’t see there being more spin off’s featuring original series companions can you?
Rani is a lot closer to Luke and to Clyde in this story which makes me think that this is set quite some time after events in the previous story, and she is well and truly part of the gang now. It was funny when Rani gave Clyde a kiss on the cheek before she ventured into the time fissure, the look on his face was priceless, and I always assumed that it was Luke who was the one she would have fancied, having said that she did think that she might have not come back at that moment so that is a sort of explanation for it, as at the start of the episode she had her arm draped round Luke’s shoulders and his round hers so they must be a little bit more than just mates. That sort of thing didn’t happen in my day. God, how old do I sound there. I’m 35 not 70!
The scenes in the second episode when Sarah Jane’s parents worked out what they had to do to stop the Trickster from subsuming the Earth were genuinely heart breaking and were well performed by all concerned proving, if it were needed, that children’s television can be just as powerful and moving as adult tv.