The Tao Connection

Posted in Audio by - March 28, 2018
The Tao Connection

Released August 2002

When the Thames River reveals the floating corpse of an old man that DNA and fingerprint identification practices reveal to be one of Josh’s eighteen-year-old friends, Sarah Jane duly heads to West Yorkshire to investigate and soon discovers that there is more to ancient dark sorcery than she believed as a spate of kidnapped boys and the Huang Ti Clinic at billionaire philanthropist Will Butley’s retreat become inexorably intertwined.

Being an investigative reporter, Sarah Jane Smith naturally has an open mind, but her previous experiences with cults and religious groups have understandably left her somewhat cautious. Huangdi or Huang Ti, the Yellow Emperor, was the sage of Taoism and the utilisation of chi to attain spiritual and physical immortality. With modern technology and depravity entangled with these ideals and a sense of mysticism through incantations, the practice of Taoism within the walls of this clinic has now turned to pumping the stolen blood of others into figures of import in order to slow the aging process, members routinely reaching their second and even third centuries of life. Moray Treadwell gives an exceptional performance as the powerless billionaire trapped in the clinic, and the surprising revelation of Butley’s gay nature is successfully used to advance the story with telling moments of characterization for all involved on both sides without ever seeming superfluous or egregious.

At least through the first two stories, however, this series seems content to keep the heavy-hitting action confined to relatively remote locations rather than squarely in the public eye where the ramifications of the discoveries would be all the more pressing. Because the isolated threat never amounts to anything more than a single man with no particular global standing wanting immortality, ‘The Tao Connection’ doesn’t really manage to achieve the sense of scale that could have been possible with some minor tweaking. This isn’t necessarily a fault of the script as such, but it does stay firmly rooted in familiar territory and as such doesn’t necessarily provide Sarah Jane with the massive ethical and moral challenge that might be anticipated, especially given the initial body’s link to London. Still, Elisabeth Sladen is given some great material and she delivers an immense performance once more as Sarah Jane tries to infiltrate high society and working class alike despite her high-profile face, proving that her time with the Doctor has not been wasted as she must take on the burden of judgment and sentencing when the horrible truth becomes known.

As with Terrance Dicks in ‘Comeback,’ Barry Letts is an ideal writer for Sarah Jane Smith, and it should come as no surprise that the characterisation stemming from their familiarity with the one-time companion is pitch perfect and the unquestionable highlight of this fledgling series. Although the character of Josh is used here more for comic relief than for important narrative purposes, Elisabeth Sladen and Jeremy James have an undeniable chemistry together that makes even their brief scenes together a joy. However, the decision to release a second consecutive story that places character over plot with a slower pace and smaller scale is a notable one if only for setting the precedent for what is to come rather than hinting at something altogether more epic. ‘The Tao Connection’ tries to maturely blend modern and classic eras and storytelling styles, but it ultimately manages to become only an average story in a range that has yet to reach anywhere near its full potential given the incredible talent involved and strong performances delivered.

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