Prisoner of the Judoon

Posted in Episode by - September 03, 2022
Prisoner of the Judoon

Aired 15 – 16 October 2009


When an object that has crossed the solar system in forty-five minutes crashes near Bannerman Road to begin ‘Prisoner of the Judoon’ by Phil Ford, Sarah Jane and her friends quickly find themselves in the presence of the Judoon Captain Tybo who is searching for the escaped Androvax the Annihilator. With the Veil free to assume control of the technology of Earth and a Judoon fleet approaching Earth, nobody is safe, including Sarah Jane herself.

Any enemy that can assume control of another’s body is an inherently frightening one, and the prosthetics and design of the Veil as a species magnificently conveys a certain threat that absolutely warrants further exploration in future stories. Of course, the crux of this story is Sarah Jane being controlled by another, and so any particular sentiments about ‘Prisoner of the Judoon’ as a whole will naturally be influenced by individual thoughts about Elisabeth Sladen’s performance with Sarah under an alien influence. For a show skewed to a younger audience, it is perfectly sensible to have Sarah act in more of a scenery-chewing style rather than to play a straight and serious villain in order to make it perfectly clear that this is not the Sarah that everyone knows, but there are moments when the performance is highly unbelievable and detracts from the overall experience. Whether a conscious decision or not, pitching this alien possession as such allows for no nuance, and while certain moments such as Sarah asking for Mr Smith are still quite successful, this central component is unfortunately the weakest part of the episode which is somewhat surprising given Sladen’s altogether more successful performance as a possessed Sarah Jane in 1976’s ‘The Hand of Fear.’ Still, Sarah Jane’s continued determination to regain control of herself is a testament to the character’s determination and confidence.

Far more successful is the incorporation of the Judoon into the world of The Sarah Jane Adventures, the comedic potential within their strict code of lawfulness a perfect fit for the typical tone of this series and perhaps best exemplified by Tybo still obeying the speed limit while in a police car and insisting the children pay and display while in pursuit of Sarah Jane. While the storyline itself of the Judoon pursuing a convict is hardly unique, it nonetheless allows for a strict central morality when Sarah Jane herself is unavailable and presents a very unique set of challenges for Clyde, Rani, and Luke as they attempt to circumnavigate this most absolute adherence to order and the obvious power the Judoon have to support it.

As unlikely as Gita’s ploy to garner more business from a corporate element is, the fact that both Haresh and she both have encountered aliens is a fascinating new angle for the series to incorporate going forward, and Mina Anwar and ace Bhatti again share a strong chemistry as the Chandras quickly find their lives at stake. And although this is a story filled with more superfluous moments than necessary such as the threat of Mr Smith exploding being saved by a simple feat of logic to resolve the cliffhanger, it is still one that shows the individual strength and courage of each of Sarah Jane’s young companions. Luke, in particular, has shown a tremendous amount of personal growth alongside his friends, and Tommy Knight, Daniel Anthony, and Anjli Mohindra continue to amaze as lead performers with their natural charisma and command of each scene. So while ‘Prisoner of the Judoon’ does take some narrative freedoms such as not having any sort of actual police or UNIT presence meaningfully involved and certainly does suffer from an at-times unbelievable villainous turn from Sarah Jane, the remaining core performances, the use of the Judoon and the Veil overall, and Sarah Jane’s more terrestrial interviews- here about nanotechnology- becoming entwined with alien schemes do offer plenty to enjoy in this opener to the third series.

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