Death of the Doctor

Posted in Episode by - November 13, 2022
Death of the Doctor

Aired 25 – 26 October 2010


With The Sarah Jane Adventures much more closely aligning with Doctor Who than Torchwood ever considered given the recurring foes and themes that present a welcome sense of nostalgia even while it treads its own bold path forward, it was only a matter of time until the Doctor made an appearance. While David Tennant’s presence was a monumental success in ‘The Wedding of Sarah Jane Smith,’ writer Russell T Davies steps into the Steven Moffat era of Doctor Who by bringing Matt Smith’s Eleventh Doctor onto the spinoff in the audaciously-titled ‘Death of the Doctor.’

It’s only natural that Sarah Jane should meet any proclamation of the Doctor dying with an air of disbelief, here claiming that she has always felt that she would feel something inside of her should her dear friend fall in his perpetual quest to help others. Even the authoritative presence of UNIT’s Colonel Karim arriving at her home to personally deliver the news cannot convince her by itself, but after seeing a video of the vulture-esque Shansheeth who have brought the Doctor’s body back to his adopted planet for a final farewell, she decides that she must visit the UNIT base where the Doctor is lying in state.

With UNIT reporting that the Doctor’s friends are difficult to track down on short notice, Jo Jones makes a grand appearance to provide another direct link to the classic era of Doctor Who and a firm reminder of the incredible friendships the Doctor has formed over the years. Jo marvels at the majesty of the Shansheeth, but although she has clearly missed exploring the wonders of the universe, she is wholly content with the path her life has taken alongside Cliff that gave her seven children with a thirteenth grandchild on the way. Naturally, she is somewhat hurt by Sarah’s implication that the Doctor has come back to visit Sarah multiple times since parting ways, but instead of allowing this or even the fact that Sarah also went to Peladon to become a source of resentment or jealousy, she instead simply and graciously states that the Doctor must have really liked Sarah. Jo has always been somewhat hard on herself, a trend that continues here, but she implicitly knows already what the Doctor states that his absence from her life has allowed her to lead an incredible one full of adventure that has resulted in real differences being made in the world. She can’t help but wonder what it would be like to travel on the TARDIS once more, perhaps even with Cliff after hearing about Amy and Rory, but she has fulfilled so many of her dreams on Earth and would not have it any other way. Katy Manning is absolutely stunning in this return to screens as Jo, and her chemistry with Elisabeth Sladen as both reminisce about the past and the man they know and love provides an emotional love letter to the franchise and their characters who mean so much to so many people.

As important and ultimately satisfying as Jo’s return is, however, ‘Death of the Doctor’ very much hinges on the appearance of and incredible performance by Matt Smith, brought about via an artron energy transfer with Clyde from residual energy from the Doctor’s last encounter with Sarah Jane. Again, the risk was certainly present that this reunion could have followed in the footsteps of ‘School Reunion,’ but with Sarah Jane and Jo very much on the same page with their respect for the Doctor and each other, Matt Smith is able to give an incredibly nuanced and understated performance in these moments with the Doctor’s former companions that beautifully reach into the profound depth of the friendships his character has had and still has with these two incredible women as well as his resulting and enduring pride. Fittingly, the Doctor lets pass Jo’s joke that she will get him in trouble with the Time Lords, a moment that in its silence speaks volumes as he chooses to avoid heartbreak and sympathy for all involved, providing just another example of the deft interweaving of the two distinct eras without belabouring any specific point and just how layered and emotive Smith’s presence is.

With the focus on the Doctor, Sarah Jane, and Jo, the young leads of this series are almost by necessity more in the background than is usual. Daniel Anthony and Anjli Mohindra are every bit as charismatic and confident as ever as Rani and Clyde take it upon themselves to uncover the truth while others reminisce, and the addition of Finn Jones’s Santiago allows the two to fully realize just how lucky they are to live the life they lead together despite just how amazing Santiago’s sounds. Matt Smith has an infectious energy that- like alongside the young Amelia Pond- makes the Doctor’s scenes with Rani and Clyde a delight, and it’s incredibly easy to envisage the Eleventh Doctor carrying with these confident teens as his companions, a testament to the acting and characterization on this programme ostensibly aimed at younger viewers. This young impetuousness and boldness is a fitting and bold contrast to the more introspective and reflective themes of the former companions’ thread, both in response to the Shansheeth ploy to gain control of the TARDIS through memories and to the Doctor pleading his friends to remember everything they possibly can to emerge victorious, and the end result is a brilliantly touching and assured blending of two eras that makes the most of the Doctor and a returning friend to reinforce and show the importance of the incredible and enduring bonds made both within the show and with its audience.

This post was written by

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.