TV Review: (Nu) Doctor Who Specials Pt. I + The Wedding of Sarah Jane Smith (Spoilers)

To be honest, every time I reach this point when rewatching “Doctor Who”, I do so with a lot of trepidation and hesitation, because I know that I’ll be bidding goodbye once again to the Russell T. Davies era, and to MY Doctor, the Tenth Doctor (David Tennant), after these specials. However, this time around (yes, I know I’m deliberately prolonging it), I’ll be including “The Wedding of Sarah Jane Smith” from “The Sarah Jane Adventures”, and my first rewatch of the “Day of the Doctor” as well, because I also wanted to completely watch everything in the Tenths Doctor’s timeline in chronological order.

However, for this particular post, I’ll be focusing just on “The Next Doctor”, “Planet of the Dead”, and “The Wedding of Sarah Jane Smith” (this episode took place sometime after “Planet of the Dead” and before the last three specials).

“The Next Doctor” was the first Christmas Special following the Series 4 finale. It was written by Russell T. Davies, directed by Andy Goddard, and was produced by Russell T. Davies, Julie Gardner and Susie Liggat. Aside from Tennant, it also starred David Morrissey as Jackson Lake, and Velile Tshabalala as Rosita Farisi.

This was supposed to be a fun Christmas adventure set in Victorian London, with traces of a mystery story, alongside a bunch of returning Classic Who villains.

Generally speaking, I liked the new characters and was emotionally invested in them, especially for the part that was more mystery, but the ending with the villains didn’t come out as well as I hoped it would be. However, I still watched this special without really skipping any part of it, and I just had a good time watching it for majority of the special.

“Planet of the Dead” was written by Davies and Gareth Roberts, directed by James Strong, and produced by Davies, Gardner, and Tracie Simpson. This was meant to be another fun adventure, the last that the Tenth Doctor would really have, set on another planet. Aside from Tennant, it also featured UNIT, and Michelle Ryan as the Lady Christina de Souza.

Now this one I skipped parts of. It was a fun adventure, yes, but it lacked the emotional depth that “The Next Doctor” had. Ryan’s Christina was alright, but she ended up rubbing off on me in the wrong way. I like that she was strong, and was an equal match for the Doctor, but she was lacking in any backstory or elements that allowed me to be emotionally invested in her character. However, I did like the fact that we saw once again, a more intensified glee on the Doctor’s part when in dangerous situations, something that was already noted upon in “Midnight”. The most important part here, however, is in the end, with a prophecy that began to signal that his time is fast approaching. This, though, was the start of the production quality being raised up a notch, as it felt slicker and smoother as compared the “The Next Doctor” and the four previous series.

From here, we go to “The Sarah Jane Adventures” and the episode called “The Wedding of Sarah Jane Smith”. This event came next in the Tenth Doctor’s timeline. It was written by “Doctor Who” alumnus Gareth Roberts, directed  by Joss Agnew, and was produced by Davies, Gardner, Piers Wenger, Nikki Wilson and Phil Ford.

This actually marked the first time the Doctor crossed over to one of its spin-off shows, and marked the first and last full adventure that the Tenth Doctor had with the Bannerman Road gang. This was also my very first “Sarah Jane Adventure” story.

Here, Sarah Jane Smith falls in love with Peter Dalton (Nigel Havers), up to the point that she agrees to marry him, even though their courtship was brief. However, things are not at all what they seem, and it is up to Luke Smith (Tommy Knight), Clyde Langer (Daniel Anthony), Rani Chandra (Anji Mohindra), K-9 (John Leeson), with an assist from the Tenth Doctor, to save both the day and Sarah Jane.

This was a delightful episode, and I did not expect to get so emotionally invested in this episode. I was also quite impressed at the fact that it seems like this show, although aimed for younger audiences, actually tackles several important and heavy real world issues as well. At the end of the day, I can say that I’ll definitely be tuning in to more of the “Sarah Jane Adventures” in the future, when my rewatch is done.

So, generally speaking, I enjoyed “The Next Doctor” and “The Wedding of Sarah Jane Smith”, but not so much “Planet of the Dead”. However, there are some moments in “Planet of the Dead” that are good, so my suggestion is just watch it once, so that you know which parts of it you would like to revisit in the future.

Alright, now, you know the drill, from here on out, there will be spoilers as I’ll be delving in to these specials and episodes head on.

warning-spoilers-final

Let’s start things off with “The Next Doctor”.  Now this one was less of a mixed bag for me as compared to “Voyage of the Damned”. I actually forgot how much I enjoyed most of this Christmas Special, as I loved seeing the Tenth Doctor having a fun mystery adventure in Victorian London during Christmas time.

I also forgot on how much we can get invested in the Jackson Lake character and Rosita, as there is more emotional backstory that we can draw on. Also, Farisi’s and Morrissey’s performances also helped sell their characters to me. Also, I loved how Ten was still the hero that he is, but if one looks at his eyes when he’s directly confronting Miss Hartigan, you can see that he is slowly beginning to get darker and a little bit more hardened in situations like this, even though he has done this kind of thing before.

I love seeing the Cybermen again, but for this one, for me, I wanted to get more invested in Miss Hartigan and why she allied herself with the Cybermen instead of being another typical one note villain. She lacked a certain amount of depth, and the Cybermen parts with her leading up to the final climax of the special..well, it felt like it became two movies all of a sudden. I would have preferred that instead of the usual “I am going to conquer the world” kind of thing, that they would have made the villain and the reasoning behind it a little bit more personal and closer to Lake.

However, Ten’s explanation to Lake about why he doesn’t travel anymore with companions always breaks my heart.

Now, from the streets of Victorian London, let’s head over to present day London and the planet of San Helios.

“Planet of the Dead” was the very last time that the Doctor truly had enough time on his hands to just go out on an adventure, even though that adventure was brought on because he tracking an anomaly nearby.

I loved seeing UNIT again, even  without having the intervention of a former companion in the ranks (I believe that Freema Agyeman’s Martha Jones began freelancing shortly  after “The Stolen Earth/Journey’s End”), and I loved the Doctor’s interactions with them. I also liked the fact that this and “The Next Doctor” gave us subtle hints at the changes his character was having now that he didn’t have a constant companion anymore. This time around, you can see that even with his customary cheekiness and sense of adventure, you can tell that if given the right shove, he is capable of becoming a very reckless adventurer. This is also why I am glad that he didn’t take on Lady Christina de Souza (Michelle Ryan) as a companion- because I do believe that the two of them together would have gone on great adventures, but there is that danger of them doing things too recklessly. Also, I am glad that there is a certain amount of consistency with the fact that the Doctor doesn’t want to take on regular companions anymore, because he couldn’t seem to have any control in protecting them.

I wasn’t so fond of the fly-aliens and of Christina in particular. It seemed as if she was just designed to impress us and the Doctor from the get go. This made her rub off on me the wrong way, but MAYBE if they fleshed out a deeper backstory for her, or if she did become a companion that we’d get to get to know a little bit more as time went on, it would be okay. Unfortunately, we only had an hour or so to get to know her.

It was at this point that the Doctor became more aware of the fact that his days were numbered, what with the prophecy  that he will go when someone “knocks four times”.

This, of course, leads into “Waters of Mars” and the “End of Time Parts I & II”, which we will discuss in the next post.

Now, timeline wise, after “Planet of the Dead”, and various adventures (according to comics and books), the next televised appearance of the Tenth Doctor happened during the third season of “The Sarah Jane Adventures”, in a two part episode entitled “The Wedding of Sarah Jane Smith”.

Here, Sarah Jane Smith (Elisabeth Sladen) got engaged to Peter Dalton (Nigel Havers). He’s a nice guy, and even Luke Smith (Tommy Knight) warmed up to him pretty quickly. At first, Rani Chandra (Anjili Mohindra) and Clyde Langer (Daniel Anthony) both have their doubts, which is later intensified by the fact that Sarah Jane actually deactivated their supercomputer named Mr. Smith.

Later, during the wedding itself, the Tenth Doctor shows up in order to stop the wedding as it turns out that Peter was actually half-dead, and given a second lease of life by the Trickster, one of Sarah Jane’s enemies, in order to get to her.

The Trickster traps Sarah Jane and Peter in one second in limbo, while the Doctor and the rest of the Bannerman Road gang and K-9 (John Leeson) are stuck in another.

At the end of the day, Sarah Jane, although tempted at first by the prospect of a normal life without aliens, convinces Peter that the Trickster just wants to get Sarah Jane out of the way so that he can run amok without her interference, which causes him to sacrifice himself out of his love for her.

Later, in Sarah Jane’s house, the Doctor finally reappears (he disappeared because the TARDIS was having hard time stabilizing itself in limbo), lets the kids see the inside of the TARDIS, and before he leaves, asks Sarah Jane not to forget him after promising that this won’t be the last time she sees him.

I have to admit that this episode also so happens to be the first that I’ve ever seen from “The Sarah Jane Adventures”. Aside from that not so great CGI snail/snake alien, I was impressed at how much depth and heavy issues this episode tackled, while still being a light- hearted children’s show.

I love how Sarah Jane is one of the most fully realized “Doctor Who” characters ever, and it shows that there definitely is a life after encountering the Doctor. I love how she’s tried to move on from him and live her own life, while still fighting aliens the way the Doctor would (no guns, no UNIT, and no Torchwood).

I liked how it tackled Sarah Jane’s dilemma of wanting a normal life for once versus the one that she has because of her experiences; and I like how it tackled the prospect of how one reacts to change one two fronts- from Luke’s perspective, and from Rani’s and Clyde’s.

I was also fine with the fact that the Doctor wasn’t there all the time, and that it was Sarah Jane herself and the kids that did most of the work. Rani, Luke and Clyde are pretty impressive, and I feel like they are more quick on the take as compared to most of the Doctor’s regular companions when they start out. And I’m even more impressed as they are just teenagers.

I was surprised at how emotionally invested I got into this episode, with me rejoicing and being happy for Sarah Jane, to getting emotional when Peter sacrificed himself. And that ending really did get me. The TARDIS was definitely lonelier without the kids inside, and it is apt since I think this is already his “lonely god” phase, and I liked his promise that Sarah Jane would see him again and the fact that he asked her not to forget him, which was something that she told the Fourth Doctor (Tom Baker) when she left the TARDIS all those years ago.

Based on this, and because I liked it a lot, I am definitely going to give “The Sarah Jane Adventures” a full watch someday.

And so, with this, we round out the Tenth Doctor’s televised appearances during the moments when he was in his “lonely god” phase, and there is nowhere now else to turn but to go on forwards, towards the last stages of the Tenth Doctor’s run.

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