I did consider splitting this up into installments, but then I started writing it out of order, and at some point it just seemed more logical to wait and release it all at once. For me, anyway. You, not so much, but oh well.
The Sarah Jane Adventures: season 3
Awesome guest star aside, I think this was my least favorite year so far, overall. Without going back and watching anything older for direct comparison, I felt like not only was the group split up more often, but there was much more emphasis on the kids' independence. Which is a problem for me, because my least favorite thing about the series - and in the books, where it happens every single time - is when the companion splits off to go solve parts of the mystery herself.
I mean, show, you know I wouldn't watch you without Sarah Jane, right? Luke would not be enough to keep me around. Add to that the part where Luke was absent entirely for one of these adventures and out of frame a lot otherwise, and I feel like there was just an INORDINATE amount of Rani/Clyde heroics. And, uh, Rani & Clyde? Bottom 40% of the alien-fighting team (with Maria factored in). I mean, my opinion of Rani did improve this season, and Clyde gets funnier every year, but somehow together they are just not that compelling.
Part of me wonders if this is because I watched the whole season in 48 hours, but that's how fast I watched the first season too, and that one caused me to fall head-over-heels in love & squee. I don't know. It's hard to explain, especially since the collection of aliens they've been up against this year were, collectively, the best motley assortment of any Doctor Who-related season I've seen. And I do still, clearly, adore this show as a whole, eleven thousand times more than Torchwood and as much as Doctor Who itself. It's just a little less shiny than before.
You know what else there was too much of? The parent Chandras, particularly at the beginning. They lightened up towards the end, but the first half of the season, I swear, was like pulling tee...
*pause as she flips back through s.2 posts* Wait, Past Self, what? There was a time when you loved Gita almost as much as Jackie? GET OUT. Because from the moment she showed up in part 1 of "Prisoner of the Judoon," I wanted to knock her head off with a bat, and missed Maria's mum. Who...I am pretty sure I used to hate more than everyone's mum except Martha's. Whaaaaaaaat is this crazy new world? I'm baffled by how abruptly and for no apparent reason my feelings flipped.
Oh, God, this too, about Rani: I find it extremely difficult to imagine ever declaring her "unexpectedly awesome." Tolerable - she might make it to tolerable if they keep having brilliantly written stories to distract me.
...after Mad Woman in the Attic, I kind of wanted to declare her Unexpectedly Awesome? I told you, my opinion really did improve! Which is weird, because whenever I hear someone say that Rani is their favorite, I instinctively want to slap their face.
I am also weirdly upset by the rivalry between Mr. Smith and K-9. I WILL TAKE SIDES. I haven't decided which one, because I love what K-9 did in School Reunion but resent him for inhabiting a dog shape while lacking the fluffy fur and adorable nature of a real dog.
Although I did rather like it when Mr. Smith thanked Clyde for nicking The Dog for a while. (and the latter's totally futile protests. "This unit cannot be removed!" Good luck with that.)
[Edit: The fandom, or at least the Doctor Who-focused portions of the fandom, seem weirdly down on K-9. They keep calling him annoying and thankfully limited to small doses. I don't understand, but I do know I just figured out which side I'm on. Robot dog 4eva!]
As for the wedding...I honestly don't know. Peter was objectively handsome, but came across as bland, and even when they convinced me she was really in love, I felt nothing. I apparently can't ship Sarah Jane with anyone, ever. It's a perpetually frustrating problem, because goodness knows I would like to, but here the show gave me a ready-made groom and I was still like, "pass." I am hoping that if I let the idea simmer in the back of my brain for several months, I'll start to come around, but I make no promises. She might just have to stay romantically uninvolved forever.
Lastly, I am un-fond of the 30-second, spoiler-flashing waste of time that is the pre-teaser sequence of Clyde recapping the show's premise for us. Once was fun; twelve times was deeply unnecessary. And I think that's about all I have for generalizations before I hit the specifics.
Prisoner of the Judoon: 4th place
SPACE RHINOS! Still among my all-time favorite aliens, so that was fun, and also the main reason it's ranked as high as it is. Crazy little nanobots, sort of fun. Sarah Jane being possessed...was interesting for a little while, but eventually I got tired of the hissing, growling lizardy voice. At least I got a cute little hug out of it, during the faux-release? Oh! And that super-cute little cheek kiss from Luke at the very beginning, during her welcome-to-the-season monologue. (Side note: wow, Luke just grows like a weed, doesn't he? )
Oh, and nice job getting confined to Earth by the intergalactic space
The Mad Woman in the Attic: 2nd place
Okay, Tennant's appearance wins by default. But as a whole 2-part package, this would probably be my favorite of the season, which pains me to admit since it's another Rani episode, just like "Day of the Clown." And yet...it was a perfect blend of spooky and heartbreaking.
-The actress playing the title character - everyone else has mentioned it, but I will too: perfect casting. There was so much wonderful angst and heartbreak in her scenes...and the most chilling part is, this happened. There is a timeline where everyone here vanished and Rani lived with that guilt and probably somewhat self-imposed isolation for fifty years. I demand that there be fic of this.
-The setup was my very favorite thing in the world. Maria mentions! I do like how this show continually placates fans like me, by shunting Rani to the side to let the original legend shine - and then to rub it in a step further by having everyone else not only wrapped up in her news, but dismissing Rani. YES.
But more to the point, immediately after placating me, Rani snits off in a fit of justified hurt, and promptly convinces you to feel bad for her. And it doesn't escape Sarah Jane's notice, either, which is really the best part. Rani isn't Maria, and there isn't the same quasi-daughter bond, but she is a lot more like Sarah, personality-wise. It's quite a nice relationship, and I like it.
All kinds of delightful snarky Sarah Jane/Clyde banter. Just tons of it. Let me sit here and transcribe my favorite scene.
"I knew I should have brought Luke. He moans less than you."
"I run faster, though."
"Hey, I was holding back so you could keep up."
Hah! And then there's a break for a serious moment where she once again frets about being responsible for bringing them into their dangerous life, and Clyde's all, like you had a choice?
"We chose you, you didn't choose us."
"No, I don't think so."
"Well, you are getting old, you know, your memory's going."
I love that it takes her a second to realize he's teasing. And that he then totally refuses to partake in the Doctor-bequeathed lesson of holding hands while running about.
"What, you're not going to take an old lady's hand? I might fall if you don't."
"It's all right. I've got my mobile phone, so I can call the ambulance if your hip goes."
-Loved the setting of an abandoned amusement park (IS THERE ANYTHING CREEPIER? Or, sometimes, sadder?). The caretaker was sort of cute; cuter after I found out who he was. And Eve was lovely, if slightly manic in a frightening way...I enjoyed having a malice-free alien. (I, personally, would volunteer without pause to be young and happy on amusement park rides forever.)
Sam, I found useless, so I was glad that they sent him off with his pal, no muss, no fuss. And to paraphrase something I wrote in a comment, it's nice that both he and Eve's adoptive father were able to go out and have adventures in space that last for essentially ever, rather than the brief, angst-and-doom-heavy adventures you are sure to have with the Doctor.
-I should warn you, when future!Rani realizes who Adam is, exactly three seconds passed between me going "WTF, creepy interspecies alien offspring?" and me declaring, "That's it, Time Lord/Rose Tyler babies: TOTALLY POSSIBLE."
-Very lovely foreshadowing with "He is coming back." Probably would have been more amazing if I'd...watched this when it aired. Why can't I ever watch anything in real time? Except Children of Earth, which was not really a thing of squee.
-The alternate (and presumably canon) future ending sets up a lot of worrisome questions for me. Such as, it's nice that she has kids and grandkids and all, but why is freaking Rani the one to wind up in the house, as opposed to...I don't know, Luke**?
Or my secret preference for Maria coming back and buying it? Or is this is the attic of a different house with oddly identical layout? That's the one I'm going with.
Other troubling questions: Now, when you say "Luke and I caught up with Maria"...you wouldn't by any chance be dashing my hope that Luke and Maria are together, are you? Because I know I said I don't ship on this show, and mainly it's true, but I am still SECRETLY NURSING a hope of future Luke/Maria.
Possibly I am only hoping this as a first love/puppy love kind of deal, and I wouldn't care if it didn't work out in the end, but, but...I still don't like canon-stamped implications that she is elsewhere. I especially don't like the implication that she stayed in America. I mean, clearly we are awesome, but you know you miss your old life! GO BACK. You too, Alan.
**I am not even acknowledging the extra-troubling possibility of Rani/Luke.
Seriously, fandom, how much did we - or could we - extrapolate from this scene? You're cleverer than I am, tell me. It all went by too fast for me to really figure out what was going on.
The Wedding of Sarah Jane Smith: 1st place*
*The technical role of 1st place will be split, this year, between part 2 of this adventure, and part 1 of The Eternity Trap, for reasons I will explain later.
Before you read my crazy ramblings, I should link you to this post, which is FAR more hilarious. And concise.
-Ahh, the first of many failed attempts to use K-9 for their own nefarious purposes. I love when these things backfire on them. I also love them spying on her through the restaurant window, and then fleeing in disgust at the sight of the world's most chaste - and yet, horrifically public! - kiss.
-Aww, the Smiths and their lack of expertise in matters of the heart. They're managing quite the heart-to-heart themselves, though. I love his starry-eyed investment in her happiness. And a wee bit snarky, still.
"Didn't know people of your age did that sort of thing."
This scene alone makes up for the sad delay in a certain Time Lord's appearance, I think.
-You'd think Luke's angry defense of his mum's right to a whirlwind romance/marriage would be enough for me to at least daydream about this hypothetical family unit. Nope. Still blah.
-Whatever, Maria. You could have made it to the wedding even if you had to fly alone. Weddings are always suitable excuses for skipping school, tests included. You're dead to me now.
-Rani's dress...not a fan. Bright pink, short, and fairly shapeless, it managed to look simultaneously out of place and unflattering. Points for matching shoes and that's it.
-Sarah Jane, on the other hand, was the picture of grace and beauty. The dress seemed unnecessarily low-cut in front, but the dip in back worked, and I was gaga for her gorgeously done hair (the flower! the tendril curls!), the lovely flowing sleeves, and of course her elegant gloves. I am notoriously hard to please when it comes to wedding gowns, so this was as close to perfection as it gets.
-DOCTOR? I THOUGHT WE SEALED THAT SUIT IN ANOTHER DIMENSION. I AM MOST DISPLEASED. Oh yeah, and, hello.
I've watched this, uh, four times so far. Three times in speechless awe, and once more to forcibly turn my thoughts into words. I still haven't watched it enough to even begin to wrap my head around it from the perspective of Doctor Who, and explore the implications of how much ties into the series proper. But as far as this series goes, best episode ever! It's surprisingly rare that I get both a good plot and good emotional moments in the same adventure.
THAT IS MY PRIMARY FEELING ABOUT THE FIRST MINUTE.
Months and months I have been waiting for proper interaction between Luke & the Doctor. And while ideally I would have gotten more than this, and I am not at all sulky that the limited nature of the children's program means we can't use the Doctor even a tenth as much as I'd like, I am ecstatic about how it opens, post-theme song. "Good to meet you in the flesh." I do like the Doctor best when he's calming Luke down and reassuring his mum's current/eventual safety.
-"Just...go with him. I saw him save the world."
"You helped me save the world, Lukey-boy!"
And thus was the end of our specific Doctor/Luke interaction. SIGH. That was cute, though. And people still need to write/find me fic that involves a meeting of their genius minds, whether saving the world or just hanging out in the attic. Which I like to believe happens sometimes.
-Alas, if they don't meet him until just now, that josses the most comforting fanon I had during Children of Earth - that the Doctor showed up and whisked them off in the TARDIS to keep them safe (that link is a fic rec. READ IT). Boo. In that case, I still need explanations for what was happening around here in July! Then again, Luke is still 15, so maybe CoE hasn't happened yet?
-I love Ten. (In case this was not, I don't know, abundantly clear from all my other reviews.) It's just, he's so very bouncy and quippy and otherwise wonderful, it's almost like seeing him for the first time all over again. Refreshing.
Does this show have confidentials? Are there interviews you can link me to? (ooh, just found the video diary) Because I imagine that the atmosphere on set must have been amazing. As much as I enjoyed the kids and the Doctor working together within the story, I imagine that the actors had even more fun working together.
-AHAHA, NOISEMAKER. Best! I hope he carries that thing around with him all the time now, tucked in his pocket next to the stethoscope. It seems handy for shutting people up. Could have used it on the Midnight train.
-I love that Clyde calls the Doctor out. "Hold on, you said you'd explain later. Well - it's later. Please explain."
"Sarah Jane. She doesn't like being called Sarah."
"She does by me."
YES! Finally, someone has seen fit to answer my question on that discrepancy. Adorably so.
-The Trickster is my favorite villain of the series. He fascinates me, particularly how the sing-song, yet sinister, way "do I have your agreement?" rolls off the tongue. Having him show up in white and be mistaken for an angel was a particularly nice touch. (although seriously, Peter, you get "angel" from the white robes and just ignore the lack of any features beyond a mouth full of pointy yellow teeth?)
-And yes, by rewatch #3, I started to appreciate Peter. Still only in an objective way but I was glad that he was a genuine person with his heart in the right place, if only he'd bumped into Sarah at some point prior to tumbling down the stairs and breaking his fool neck.
-Sarah Jane: incredible at all times. Just incredible. Every time her starring episode rolls around, it manages to eclipse the previous one in terms of beautiful, soul-punching emotion.
-Tiny details I love: how the Doctor carefully keeps the kids behind him as he goes up to trade jabs with the Trickster.
Also everything else about this scene, which is rife with insights and angsty darkness brimming under the surface. Angsty darkness that I feel disinclined to touch at the moment; perhaps I will refer back to it when I watch Planet of the Dead.
-"Sarah Jane Smith is my prize. Even you, Doctor, didn't realize how wonderful she is."
That is the kind of thing that tempts me to delve deeper, though. *bursts with curiosity*
-It just wouldn't be a proper Doctor appearance without the requisite "I'm so sorry," would it?
-I'm glad I'm not the only one who wasn't quite sure what the "other way" was, despite the fact that it seems really obvious in retrospect. Maybe I just didn't want to know. Because while on first viewing I didn't have time to feel anything besides open-mouthed awe, the second viewing I pretty much wept my way through the last fifteen minutes, starting from when, despite ripping off the ring, we're all reminded that she said yes before she ever put it on. COMMENCE TRAGEDY.
-"I don't want you to be alone." HATPIN, being stabbed by. This is the most heartbreaking phrase in existence. See also, hardest part of accepting Bad Wolf Bay Redux. This last bit is so gutting that by the time you get to her standing alone at the altar, you almost don't have any tears left (but then you find some. Because GAH.)
-I notice there is distinctly a lot more hugging of Sarah Jane on Doctor Who than there is in this episode. Boo! In lieu of that, I will pretend he was slightly more comforting after bursting through the door to find her crying. At least he had his arms around her? Must cue up School Reunion. (I feel like I should do a revised review of that episode at some point, now that my SJS love has exploded in full force and my original thoughts are charmingly antiquated and in need of a retrospective update.)
"Can we have a look?"
"What, in the TARDIS? MY TARDIS? ...course you can, yeah."
Oh, Doctor, never change.
-I am still of the firm belief that there is at least one TARDIS adventure through time (if not space) to be had, because it is far too delightful to have him running about with a pack of kids (I am...not at all wrestling with the fact that Rose was only four years older when he met her) to just squander that opportunity forever on a hyperspeed adventure that gave them no time to breathe + 90 seconds in the ship.
-Although the 90 seconds of them dashing about the interior like a litter of puppies exploring a new environment was adorable.
-Closing moments: Hatpins, hatpins! "Is this last time I'm ever going to see you?" *curls up in a ball and weeps* "Don't forget me, Sarah Jane." *weeps harder* "No one's ever going to forget you." You'd be surprised! The whole of London in 1851, for example. And another example that is too painful to mention. Or I could stop being sarky and be in love with the meta line this is.
Was this really the last thing he filmed as the Doctor? Because if so, then
a) I need to store up this bittersweet twinge for a time when my heart is not already beaten half to death, and
b) I bet this episode is even more amazing in a retrospect viewing after Ten's song officially ends. By my schedule, this should take place in March of 2011. But I'll be looking forward to it.
-WHY ARE YOU NOT HUGGING HIM. You always hug goodbye! Failure to hug does not ensure his return! WOE. Rani's parents and THIS are the only things I didn't like in the whole 2-parter.
-I am very glad she chased the kids back out for a private goodbye, though. The pair of them together...oh, it's like nothing else. (except him and Rose. Or him and Donna. And even then, there's a particularly special aura about her that neither of them can touch)
-*checks self into hospital for emotional exhaustion/collapse* I will never get back to Doctor Who at this rate. (By the way, if you didn't save reading this until last, like I told you to, then you should either take a break now, or don't whine when I tell you there's still plenty of text to go.)
The Eternity Trap: 3rd place
Episodes like this remind me why I get frustrated by this show's pro-alien, anti-paranormal stance. Why can't ghosts have a scientific basis too? Or just exist regardless? Like, I realize it would not work in this show's context at all, and that's fine, but then DON'T SET UP SUCH SPOOKY MAGNIFICENCE.
The whole first half, I just stubbornly disbelieved in their inevitable discovery of alien technology, because this needed to be a haunted house. It was a haunted house. (Though I do very much appreciate that little appearance of the family in the window, at the end, which gave it an uncertain twinge. I am clinging to said twinge)
Because I was watching this very late at night in a dark room, and it freaked me the hell out. Ghosts randomly appearing in rooms? A small child's eerie nursery rhymes, disembodied giggling/sobbing, wet footprints across the courtyard? A friggin' terrifying boathouse? The professor meeting wizened evil face-to-face and getting herself disappeared? When all the toys started going nuts?
It was really the toys that got to me. Half of me was busy drooling over the beautiful antiques and loving this show's attention to period detail, and half of me was shaking like a leaf with thrilling terror. Note to self, never purchase old rocking horse, because I am now scared to death of seeing one start moving all by itself. In fact, I'm suddenly pretty glad that we sold our chalkboard at a garage sale this summer, too.
But the spooky kids appearing in rooms/at the end of hallways were my favorite. Even though they were sweet and helpful ghosts (yep. ghosts.), trying to warn you away from danger, it's no less chilling to see 17th-century kids just appear out of nowhere and start talking to you. And I quite liked their father dashing about with a sword and saving people from the unseen but clearly terrifying nether beastie.
By the way - the appearance of all the people on the stairwell made me really happy that I have accepted Ghost Whisperer in my life. Feel like I might need to go back and rewatch that episode on the cruise ship, which was twenty types of awesome...sorry, forgot what show I was discussing. Plus my favorite part of any set...a gorgeous bookshelf full of gorgeous old books.
BOOKS BOOKS BOOOOOOKS.
Part 2 and its hamfisted insistence on ALIENS AND SKIENCE, DAMMIT, was a huge letdown, and is one-half of the reason why this adventure only gets third place (absence of Luke is the other
BASICALLY: AMAZING. Except for the part at the end where the stuttering scientist decided to give up on his life's obsession with ghosts and start looking to the stars, at which point I was all, *headdesk* NO! Sarah Jane! I do not like your skepticism today! LET HIM HAVE THIS. (...sorry. But in a head-to-head war between ghosts and aliens, ghosts always win in my book)
So, again, thank you for the ambiguous ending. Beautifully done. And not just because it reminded me of my all-time favorite horror movie, "The Others."
Mona Lisa's Revenge: 6th place
The plot was...good on paper, so could pretend it was good on screen as well. If I could get rid of my tunnel vision, I would probably call it a rather entertaining hour. But in actuality, it was clumsily executed with obnoxious guest stars and you trapped Sarah Jane in a painting for half of it, so I'm punishing you with dead last.
Remembering the highlights is easier, though.
-Shouting match over Luke's hideously messy room (point: Mum. There is mold in the cups. Seriously, kid.) Luke's specialized teen angst - now with extra petulance! - is my favorite.
"You say you're trying to give me a normal life, but when I act like a real teenager, you want me to be perfect again! The way the Bane made me!"
Awww. I very much like how this scene played out, too, still firm on her position (and quite right, too) but anger tempered with empathy.
-"Before I met Luke, who was I? A lonely, frosty woman in a big old house, who knew more about creatures from outer space than she did humans." THIS. SO MUCH LOVE. This whole scene is one of my favorites of the series, in addition to explaining in a nutshell why I love this show. And her, specifically.
-Whenever I fret about the inevitable fact that he will, fairly soonish, grow up and not be living there - and I do fret - I cheer myself up with the idea that, contrary to that sad dialogue in School Reunion (O hai beautiful episode, remember that time when you were all breaking my heart? And NO ONE TOLD ME ABOUT LUKE, even though by February 08 he most certainly existed?), there will eventually be grandkids whom she can love and spoil for their whole proper childhoods. :D
-"Everything comes down to maths." Oh, man. Luke would do so well w/ Charlie Eppes, wouldn't he? Make it happen, fic writers. Send him to Cal Sci for university, or at least graduate work. You know you want to.
-My reaction to Clyde's prize-winning drawing: *stares* What. What? Why? What?
Rani: Believe me, no one's laughing.
Uh, I'M LAUGHING. Really, some cartoonish women in a Charlie's Angels pose? That's ludicrously awful! How is this in first place! Seriously! Did they use the same people who judged Sectionals on Glee? Clyde, I love you, but I can see why you wouldn't submit your own work. And Luke, you need to study art more.
-Was possibly worth it just for the ending smirk of "Clyde and I will be having a little chat about Sontaran blasters."
-And I got a spinny hug out of it, plus extra hugs all around, so I suppose I should probably give it at least as much credit as the premiere, and yet.
-Oh, and am I the only one who thinks it's a fate worse than death to be a living consciousness trapped in a painting for centuries without end? I think that's probably the only reason she turned crazy, to be honest.
The Gift: 5th place
You know the only reason you're not last is because Luke nearly died, right? That made up for a lot of crap. A lot. Of crap. I.e., "anything involving an alien that ends in -een." Terrible plot! Terrible! Even I could spot holes! (for example, instead of just letting Mr. Smith tell you it's not harmless, wouldn't you want to know a lot more about the plant, including all its growth stages, how it spreads, etc? Wouldn't you at least worry about the environmental impact of a plant that can grow anywhere possibly competing with native species?)
Sick!Luke, however, trumps all. Even as I gritted my teeth throughout the whole test-taking subplot at school, we kept coming back to scene after scene of this, more than I ever thought possible (bonus! With Rani staying over, we got another snappish/dismissive moment, followed shortly by apologies). Between the rash, the general flu-like symptoms, and the threat of PENDING IRREVERSIBLE COMA, accompanied by a lot of teary-eyed Sarah Jane monitoring and hovering (before taking matters into her own determined hands), they really went above and beyond to indulge me with this. I approve.
"You're going to be all right. Nobody's taking you away from me."
"I'm not going to stand here and watch Luke die."
HUG TIEM NAO:
(wide shot chosen specifically to appreciate the attic as a whole? Yup.)
Oh, and unlike with Rose, SJS + BFG = awesome. Even if that gun is filled with mere vinegar, it's still lethal to certain species, and it's...really quite vindicating, as far as Mama Bear moments go.
That being said, I hated the explosion of an ending - clearly, I have no problem with dispatching the bastards, but I hate, hate, HATE disgusting slime and mess and goop and whatever else you can think of. I couldn't even focus on her emotional "there should have been a better way," behind my haze of DO NOT WANT rage.
Fortunately, someone could, creating an incredible tag for the episode that I really must insist you read right now: A Better Way. It is short but amazing in every way, especially the way in which it makes the messy ending not only understandable, but a little bit necessary.
And now that that's out of the way, I can focus on the actual ending with a cute summery picnic - goodness, Sarah Jane is adorable in a half-ponytail! She looks even younger than she already does - and sigh with contentment that, unlike its parent shows, this one always wraps things up on a positive, uplifting note so that even if it ended there permanently, you'd be satisfied and content.
But there will be a season 4, yes? Because if this beauty doesn't at least match Torchwood for longevity, I will cry.
P.S. Great. In my wanderings about the internet in search of reviews, I have - naturally - gotten spoiled for Doctor Who all over the place. Rargh! Aaaargh. You'd think by now I'd know better than to go wandering strange LJs and reading all the comments, but NOPE. I knew recurring-cast spoilers for the April & November specials before, but now I know...well, not plotty-type stuff, but worse! I know at least a couple of angsty details. And while I don't have a context in which to put them yet, I feel it would have been wiser if I'd held off on this series until I'd at least caught up with PotD. But then, who ever accused me of being wise?
[Edit: And more casting spoilers for the final special than I knew before. World! Stop being punctual with your viewing! Sieve-like brain is blurring and diluting the details as we speak, but only enough to mute them - once I see the specials, I'll recognize what I read.]