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May 02, 2006

This Show Ain't Big Enough For The Both Of Us!

Doctor Who fanatics...those of you who've watched every single episode since the very first one (Rose)...meet Sarah Jane Smith!

Here begineth today's lesson.  Sarah Jane was surely the Doctor's most iconic assistant.  Her job description entailed asking the questions viewers wanted to ask, looking much-too-nice to be doing something in places like far-off dangerous planets, being handicapped by a restrictive dress, being a damsel-in-distress facing certain death at the end of the legendary cliffhangers (ask your elders about 'cliffhangers'), and of course, screaming.  Her development as an individual would be minimal and her family ties unknown.  These were the halcyon days of Doctor Who, where the show's title - like Cuprinol - was all about what it said on the box.  And Sarah Jane Smith was perfect.

The idea of bringing her back for one episode was thus a delicious concept and the most eagerly anticipated story this series so far.  One for the fans indeed!  Suddenly it felt like the old days again.  Only the cold wind and rain sheeting against the windows on a dark November night were missing - sorry, but Doctor Who should always start its run in Octoberish to add to the moodiness of the atmosphere and not at sunny Easter time - the inclement weather alone would surely add more viewers.

The moment when Sarah Jane encountered the TARDIS for the first time (looking its most resplendent and handsome in New Who history by the way) was comfortably the most spine-tingling moment of the series so far, a point of realisation that 'The One' had finally returned, albeit regenerated.  Whilst the rest could only possibly be downhill from then on, the remainder of SJS's all-too-brief stay was very entertaining.

As will be explained later, this was an episode where the individual parts were often very memorable but somehow the composite whole was less than the sum of those parts.  The Doctor's recreation of one of film's greatest scenes (Damien: Omen 2) with Mylo (surely the coolest-named geek ever - Miles would have suited him Miles better) was a tasty aside to the main dish to name one incident.  But the real issue at hand was the meeting of the ex and the current plus-one.

No matter how in-your-face the hard sell, I just cannot get myself to like Rose Tyler.  It's the everything with her - the family baggage, the clothes, the bitchy possessive attitude and the very fact that the danger remains that she may be taking over the show.  Like Sean Penn circa-1985, David Tennant - who already fits the Doctor role far more comfortably than Chris Eccleston ever managed - is nontheless in danger of being tagged Mister Rose Tyler because of the constant over-egging of her role within the programme.

I was thus rooting for the older woman throughout their all-too-brief verbal catfight and was disappointed that they made-up so quickly and easily.  How much better if Rose had acquired a long-term rival for the Doctor's affections to keep her on her toes?  Lis Sladen could have been brought back every so often to torment the young upstart beyond what any alien fiend could do.  What a wonderful side-issue that would have been as opposed to the Jackie/Mickey rubbish and would have fitted in beautifully with Russell T Davies' soapified modern Doctor Who ideal.  What televisual paradise lost!

Instead, they became pals all-too-soon to join forces against the common enemy - this week's monsters.  If I'd encountered an old friend I'd not seen for thirty years I would certainly have foregone that evening's chores and gone out to the pub with them for a long catch-up.  Sarah Jane Smith's return demanded at the very least forty-five minutes of such 'pub time' and more of those wonderfully nostalgic chats comparing former foes - her mention of the awfully made anti-matter monster from The Planet Of Evil was surely a subliminal nod to how much better (sic) New Who monsters are - as well as the Doctor's (or should that be Doctors') mannerisms.   

But no, thus far nobody has dared to stray from the safehouse of television's workings and actually produce a monster-free episode which would surely have a positive less-is-more impact upon the series.  Instead we had to endure this week's CGI corridor creepers (Number Ten, Torchwood Manor, the School...yawn!) headed (geddit!) by Anthony Headmaster.  A plot which was better done, admittedly due to the allowance of time, by CBBC's The Demon Headmaster some years ago and played far more menacingly and less theatrically by Jack Straw, this week was always going to be all about Sarah Jane Smith and the forty-five minute one-off format simply didn't allow for either Sladen's nor Headmaster's characters' further development.  It seems unfair to say it but these were instantly forgettable foes (discards from the cyber bin post Father's Day even) who were killed off by Sarah Jane's very hogging of their fifteen minutes of infamy.

Yeah okay, and by K-9 as well!  Very wary of his appearance beforehand, I kinda warmed to him a little throughout the episode but was nontheless pleased to see him go by the end - a fleeting cameo appearance reminiscent of fellow early-eighties BBC icon Jimmy Savil's visit to the Celebrity Big Brother house in January.  Like Scrappy Doo to Scoobie and Godzookie to Godzilla, I always found K-9 to be an unnecessary hanger-on to the Doctor's posse.

Which brings me lastly and leastly to Mickey and his entry on board the TARDIS - a presence akin to the proverbial fart in a spacesuit.  Made to feel less than welcome by his barely believable partner Rose (the one moment where I both empathised and sympathised with her), theirs is truly television's most unhappening relationship.  The urban spaceman duly boarded the magical mystery tour at his own invitation.  Perhaps having Mickey on the inside pissing out is preferable to his being on the outside pissing in, but I can't help feeling that in the long-term this TARDIS ain't big enough for the both of them.

Comments

Interesting review - however, I think SJS and the Doctor do have a catch-up in that cafe. I think they were there for quite a while.

I even liked Mickey getting in the TARDIS. Mark my words - Rose is in for a fall...

Watching the episode again tonight I was shocked to note that Sarah Jane has gone from reading The Guardian in K9&C to writing for the Sunday Times (unless that was just a cover story). Disappointingly shilling for Murdoch then. Unless it's owned by someone else in Whoniverse.

Erm... I occasionally take Murdoch's shilling, you know...

Me too. You can't help it. It's everywhere.

Neil - coming from you, I'll take it that Rose will soon get her comeuppance - and not before time. If it takes Mickey's presence aboard the TARDIS to make this come about then I guess I can kinda tolerate him awhile. Perhaps you've heard Sean's theory about the Cybermen two-parter!

Stu, Jonathan - so do I, so do I!

Yeah, but women are always making up and back stabbing each other so pals all-too-soon don't mean anything.

I like the missus and the ex comment. Then of course Mickey joins them at the end so now Rose has to deal with her missus and the ex.

Not a fan of Rose either. The Doctor's supposed to be in love with a chav? She's like a time travelling Anna Nicole Smith.

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