Though Matt Smith as the 11th Doctor was the guest star in the recent two-part episode of the The Sarah Jane Adventures titled “Death of The Doctor,” the real guest star was nostalgia itself. Writer Russell T. Davies taught us an important lesson in this one: if you’re ever getting your brain sucked out by alien-vulture undertakers, just think happy thoughts, allow your life to flash before your eyes, and most importantly, replay your favorite Doctor Who episode in your mind’s eye! Nostalgia will save you!
Alongside 3rd Doctor companion Jo Jones (formerly Grant) Sarah Jane Smith and her teenage team find themselves stricken with grief as a UNIT official tells them The Doctor has died. Pretty quickly it all turns out to be a ruse designed to lure former companions of The Doctor into a trap. The plot gets a little silly pretty fast, but hey, this is the Doctor Who spin-off designed for children.
The Doctor of course, is not dead, but rather stranded on a distant planet, and some alien vulture undertakers (called the Shansheeth) have stolen the TARDIS. It turns out being intergalactic undertakers has really bummed out the Shansheeth, so they’ve decided to steal the TARDIS in order to travel through time and prevent all death from occurring ever. Sarah Jane is naturally freaked out telling them “that’s why creatures like you can’t have time machines!” ANYWAY. The Shansheeth don’t have the key to the TARDIS so they need to extract memories from Sarah Jane and Jo in order to make a physical copy of the key. This is where things get good; as Sarah Jane and Jo remember all the times they had with The Doctor. Not only do we get Matt Smith in this episode, but via flashback we get Tom Baker, David Tennant, and Jon Pertwee.
Doctor Numero 11 figures out how to beat this memory weave thing pretty fast; all Sarah Jane and Jo have to do is remember everything they’ve ever done with him and the machine will overload. “Remember every Doctor,” he says, and then both the Shansheeth’s memory weave machine and the audience’s nostalgia go into overdrive. We see more Tom Baker, more Jon Pertwee, old school Daleks, the old school Master, Sea Devils, The Brigadier, and more David Tennant. In the end, the Shansheeth’s evil machine blows up, and everybody is okay. BUT, not without a little bit of controversy.
Way before the episode aired there were rumors that RTD was going to screw with some continuity as to how many times The Doctor can regenerate. Here, in this episode Clyde straight up asks him “How many times can you change?” To which The Doctor quips “507!” Now, I know a lot of people are probably really pissed off about this. But I’m not. And I’ll tell you why. I’m pretty sure it was a joke. Like it or hate it, the one thing Davies always enjoyed doing with The Doctor was having a lot of fun. And as River Song said in “The Big Bang,” “Rule Number One: The Doctor lies.”
As a fan of Whoniverse, I found this episode more than satisfying, and decent snippet of The Doctor to tide us over until Christmas. Sarah Jane also gives a nice shout-out to a lot of other former companions of The Doctor, as she reveals she’s googled a bunch of them. The acknowledgement of Ian and Barbra—companions of the very 1st Doctor—is worth the entire episode for me. You’re right Doctor, nostalgia is awesome.
Ryan Britt’s writing has appeared with Nerve.com, Clarkesworld Magazine, Opium Magazine and elsewhere.