|"Sarah Jane, in recognition of your long service to the series,|
we're going to make you dress up as an infantilized tomgirl..."
"Eldrad must live!"
1) And now we're at the end of the Tom Baker/Elisabeth Sladen/Philip Hinchcliffe era. And it's to the credit of Hinchcliffe that he acquiesced to Sladen's wish and not killed her off (like the original, French Foreign Legion themed final story was supposed to) or married her off like so many other female companions, but left her wandering down the road whistling a jaunty tune. That being said....
2) YE GODS, what an awful outfit she's saddled with. I kinda understand why they seem to have infantilized Sarah for her final appearance--namely to emphasize the creepiness of her possessive self--but that thing is just heroically ugly. At least she got rid of the even more ugly headband she sports in the open quarry scene.
3) I like how the script by Bob Barker and Dave Martin, knowing that one of the key players is at the end of her journey, seems to gleefully play with certain tropes, starting with the idea of starting their adventure in an actual quarry as opposed to a quarry masquerading as a distant planet and ending with the punchline to Sarah's final scene.
4) I personally like the concept and design of The Castrians, especially the first version of Eldrad as played by Judith Paris. I think it's the first time we've had the idea of non-carbon based life forms outside of psychic/energy intelligences like The Nestenes and The Mandragora Helix. Plus it allows the script to give us something of a cue in the language that The Doctor Knows What's Going Down with Eldrad' in episode four.
|"I know there are men who find 'baby blues' attractive...but not|
usually when they're glowing like that."
5) Now I know there are moments where we're to infer that Sarah's being particularly put upon (her being controlled by Eldrad being the biggest one), but I have to confess that even seeing those moments the final blow-up that prompts the departure of Sarah Jane seems....sudden and out of place. This might be because Sladen reportedly didn't want Sarah Jane's leaving to be the center of the story, but the story is very Sarah-centric, and even then it seems like an abrupt decision on her part.
6) Given the slightness of this story, Baker and Martin manages to give every character a little screen time, right down to the demolitions guy in the quarry and the doctor who checks out The Doctor after the fact. None of these guys seem rote stereotypes at all.
7) ...although my favorite of these one-off characters is Glyn Houston's Professor Watson. Houston takes what could've been an off-the-peg administrator and give him a nuanced life. It helps that he has loads of chemistry with his assistant, Frances Pidgen's Miss Jackson, although my favorite scene with him involves his placing a call to his family. He never actually tells them of the seriousness of the disaster, but Houston's physicality sells the point a hundredfold.
8) I actually find the ultimate fate that awaits Eldrad when he tricks The Doctor and Sarah into returning to Kastria kinda bittersweet but satisfying. The whole idea of this monstrous figure all alone on a dead planet he wished to turn into an army bent on war, surrounded by all his inventions designed to make that happen, is very fitting. The added chase afterwards seems...gratuitous after the elegant closure to the story.
|"Dude, that is the crappiest corn costume I've ever seen."|
9) With all this being said, and with the understanding that this is a script that features chunks that were improvised or worked out by Baker, Martin and script editor/compulsive rewriter Robert Holmes, I have to express some dissatisfaction at the reprise of the gauntlet structure we saw previously in Pyramids of Mars. This is a sad ghost of the puzzles and traps of that story, although I will admit that I liked the idea that The Doctor and Sarah are immune to many of the traps because they're, you know, not silicon-based.
10) If the reason for ending their partnership seems arbitrary--after all, The Doctor thinks nothing of dragging Leela to Gallifrey in The Invasion of Time less than two seasons hence--the possessions Sarah packs seems even more arbitrary. A single flower? A tennis racket? She can't be carrying too much clothes in that little suitcase.
Overall...while it has its flaws, this is a great send-off to one of the greatest companions of all time. Essential viewing.