I had thought, when I wrote up the previous episode, that Jo Grant wasn’t familiar with the concept of Time Lord regeneration. But this one reminded me she was around for “The Three Doctors”. So…I don’t know why it took her a little more time to realize the tall, lanky guy with the bowtie was the Doctor after all.
But this was overall a charming episode, so I will let that slide.
Yeah, this one was just, for lack of a better description, a bit of well-done fan service for longtime fans of Doctor Who. It might even be hard to believe that Sarah Jane and Jo Grant had never met before given how well they instantly get along and behave like long lost friends. Sure, Rani, Clyde, Iron Fist Santiago, and a short blue alien spend a lot of time running around in a way that suggests the new kid would fit in fine with the other two if something were to come of that (more of that in a bit), but this is really about the Doctor and his two former companions joining up to beat some bad birds and a corrupted UNIT officer.
See, the vulture people have the TARDIS. They need a key to use it to reverse death, something that would be very bad for the universe, and to get the key, they need Jo and Sarah Jane to remember their time with the Doctor to somehow make a new one. Without the TARDIS, the Doctor’s initial form of transportation was to swap places with Clyde a couple times, and he eventually just takes the two older women away for the first time either of them had been on an alien planet in years. The Doctor lost his sonic screwdriver, but Sarah Jane still has the sonic lipstick, and Jo provides some help too. The only really downer note comes when Jo asks why the Doctor never came back for her.
His answer is a good one: he always kept an eye on her and all of his former companions, but the way he ages is different from them, and that is a hard thing to deal with. She accepts that. The Doctor keeping an eye on her was good enough to know. He knew about her big family, and she was glad to have gotten her time with him and all.
But see, there won’t be much of a show if the memory extractor is never used at all, so when the threesome go back to rescue the teens, the women are caught and the Doctor can’t open the door from the other side. They can’t stop remembering the TARDIS key, so the Doctor advised them to, well, remember everything.
That is such a fanboy answer.
But then we get clips from the old show involving the pair, Sarah Jane’s remembering more recent stuff she’s appeared in since then, and since this is the first time Jo has appeared anywhere in ages, she gets some stock footage because she travels the world. The machine overloads, the bad guys are taken out, and Jo and Sarah Jane hide in the coffin set up for the Doctor to ride out a big kaboom. Everyone we care about is OK.
By the by, the Doctor does stop to explain where Amy and Rory are while all this is going on. Honeymooning on another planet. They will never find out he lost the friggin’ TARDIS from the sounds of things.
As it is, everyone goes their separate ways, and Sarah Jane lets slip she kept an eye on a lot of former companions, rattling off a few, and they all did a lot of good in the world. Time spent with the Doctor just makes you a better person after all.
So, that was nice. Now, I had read somewhere–I don’t remember where–that when Elisabeth Sladen died, there actually was some consideration of giving the show to Katy Manning and having Jo Grant (and presumably Santiago) take over going on adventures with Clyde and Rani. I can see that. There’s a part of me that thinks it could even work. But, in the end, it was decided to just end the program out of respect for Sladen, and I think that was a better option by far.
Still, the idea of what might have been is an alluring one…