With the second story of Sarah Jane Adventures series 3, we find our story told in flashback format, as a schoolboy encounters an older Rani, living alone and haunted by the past. Prompted by him, Rani tells the story of the day everything went wrong.
I found this an overall enjoyable story. The funfair was well used, and I liked the idea that the alien wasn’t actually evil, just unable to control its own power, having been separated from its ship which was itself attempting to self-repair having crashed many years ago.
Less successful I thought was the framing device set in the future. While effective in part 1, towards the end, the resolution of the plot, whereby an errant comment from Rani results in Sarah Jane and co vanishing from her life, I thought felt a bit tacked on. It would’ve been nice if there had been a bit more build up to it in the present day sequences I think.
It was nice though, having an episode that focused on Rani. The fact she feels like she’s just a standin for Maria was well done, and nicely contrasted with her best friend from her old home, who similarly feels abandoned, only by Rani who’s told him all the stories of her adventures with Sarah Jane, while he’s been left behind.
There were some nice treats in this story as well, as we’re teased with the Doctor’s appearance in the next story, but we also get a couple of quick clips of the third and fourth Doctors as the ship views Sarah Jane’s timeline.
I also liked the twist concerning “the darkness”. Throughout Doctor Who and Torchwood over the last three/four years, whenever something ominous is happening, there’s always characters standing around saying “the darkness is coming!!!!”. It was effective the first couple of times, but now (for me at least) its played out, so I was groaning when the ship started talking about the darkness in Sarah Jane’s mind.
So when it was turned on its head, and revealed that the darkness was the black hole, which the ship needed to power its systems, I was happily surprised. A nice misdirection there, and also it meant that K9 was coming back full time. It was great to see him come back to the attic, and the snippiness towards him from Mr Smith was fun. Of course, both characters fullfill basically the same role, so it’ll be interesting to see how K9 and Mr Smith are used over the coming episodes.