This is going to be how it is every week now, isn't it? (Well, next year anyway since this was the last in the present series of The Sarah Jane Adventures
.) Every time you think you know how far they'll push the limits of a kids' TV show they still manage to surprise you.
Last week it was a grieving teenage girl, another one preparing to have her head chopped off, a boy soldier and Nazis calling Clyde "negro." For the last two-parter in the series, "Goodbye Sarah Jane Smith," co-written by the show's best writer Gareth Roberts and former Doctor Who Magazine
editor Clayton Hickman, we get the most devastating story so far (although I had a relative with Alzheimer's so I may find it more affecting than some people.) Yes, the story's first part is an allegory for dementia, as we're reminded that (jokes about her being frozen in time aside) the lead character actually is
in her sixties and lapses in memory at that age can be terrifying.
Soon these become a lot more than just lapses, Sarah Jane forgetting K9's name is bad enough but forgetting The Doctor's is painfully sad. Eventually this leads to SJS feeling entirely redundant and being cajoled by the monster of the week into "disappearing" for good. Surely this was meant to go over the target audience's heads but was I the only one to think, when she wouldn't say where she planned to go, that she was bordering on considering a trip to Dignitas? Fortunately the show knows when to just pull back from going too far and always introduces what's really
going on before the cliffhanger. There's been a structure this year of the darker "issues" in part 1 with the exciting adventure stuff in part 2, without it ever feeling like we're having issues crammed down our throats.
Anyway, despite the lead character's name in the episode title, this isn't
a Trickster episode, making this the first series of SJA
he hasn't appeared in. Instead there's a SJS replacement figure, Ruby White, aiming to squeeze her out of her own life. Played by Julie Graham - Magwitch from Bonekickers
! A total aside here, but last month I saw her in a play
. I know I've mentioned before how I find actors' official headshots to often be incredibly unflattering when you'd expect the opposite to be true but Graham's takes the biscuit: She's perfectly pretty in reality but her headshot features a luxuriant 'tache that'd make most men participating in Movember jealous.
It would have been wrong not to have Luke come back for this and for someone superhumanly intelligent it really shouldn't have taken Rani telling him to figure out something was wrong with Sarah Jane - her forgetting K9's name should have been enough to have him rushing home in itself. There's a clunkiness to the fact that Tommy Knight obviously had limited filming availability (the script runs around itself to make sure he's kept out of the main action until the end) but it's all well-handled and this has to make for the strongest Sarah Jane Adventures
series so far, with only one of the two-parters being less than impressive.
Although, nothing against Eddie Marsan but Mr White really should
have been voiced by Ben Miller - missed opportunity there.