Rani Takes on the World- The Revenge of Wormwood

Posted in Audio by - December 31, 2023
Rani Takes on the World- The Revenge of Wormwood

Released December 2023


The Sarah Jane Adventures left a lasting impact on a generation of viewers, beautifully expanding the universe of Doctor Who with themes of friendship, love, and optimism in the process. Due to the unfortunate passing of Elisabeth Sladen that curtailed the series’s ambitious storytelling, a certain longing to return to the world of Bannerman Road in some capacity has always existed, and Rani Takes on the World in its first set of stories proved just how fulfilling and exciting that return could be. Now, for its second set titled The Revenge of Wormwood, Rani, Clyde, and Luke discover that Mrs Wormwood who created the archetype that became Luke Smith has survived her imprisonment in the vortex and has returned with vengeance on her mind.

Lizbeth Myles opens this set of stories with ‘Time Schisms!’ and Rani interviewing a woman who claims that her local postmaster is a time traveler. Naturally, Rani is overtly sceptical of these claims even as she has a nagging feeling that there might just be an inkling of truth to them, and she retains her level-headedness as she uses common sense to offer an alternative explanation to each of the many reasons Anna believes her story. Wary that Anna may have been influenced by a recent local news story, Rani is also keen to keep Anna at least somewhat removed from her investigations, Anna already proving that she is willing to commit certain crimes as she follows her own hunches. Norah Lopez Holden gives a strong performance as this woman who is wholly convinced of her story, and Anna as a character allows Rani to show a tremendous level of growth and development as she must balance her own innate excitement with the dangers and intrigue of her chosen reality. Unexpectedly, part of that danger here comes in the form of Luke who has been working for UNIT that is keen to stop Rani’s own investigations. Although Tommy Knight’s initial scene is a little uneven as he steps back into the role, the reunion between Anjli Mohindra and him is every bit as satisfying as it should be, the enduring friendship of Rani and Luke creating a flood of emotions that is by necessity cut short and twisted as Luke eventually makes UNIT’s demands known. On the UNIT front, Carla de Wansey also makes an immediate impact as Major Hadley who is very much no-nonsense and by the books, accepting Luke’s more scientific role in trying to track and understand reported time schisms but certainly desiring more direct means of action. This is an interesting relationship that becomes more rounded as Luke proves his own heroic tendencies as he discovers a nefarious link to his past that signifies the emergence of Mrs Wormwood, and hopefully this iteration of UNIT will continue to feature at least to some extent in future stories. Unfortunately, despite its massively intriguing core premise and sterling performances including by Alex Jordan as postmaster Louis Marchand who must react to directly being confronted about being a time traveler, ‘Time Schisms!’ falters somewhat in actually developing this storyline beyond it shocking reveal. Despite this man being able to obtain all sorts of readily available information from any publication, there is never any sense of consequence discussed about his return home, and the entire plotline is essentially washed away with an unsatisfying resolution that robs this story and, indeed, history itself of any larger consequences. It’s instead very much used simply as a vehicle to reunite and then explore the current statuses of two beloved heroes, and in that respect it absolutely succeeds, providing a satisfying and emotional but comparatively inconsequential opener.

After falling asleep on the night Tube after visiting an alien speakeasy, Rani and Clyde find themselves at an Ealing East station that should not exist in Alison Winter’s ‘The Star-Crossed Diversion.’ They soon discover that they have somehow entered a futuristic timeline in which humans have become wholly docile while always attached to the social media and games of their interconnected devices, allowing wildlife to flourish and all strife and social injustices to end. Yet despite the positives they witness, the two know that this cannot be natural, and while Clyde is quick to assume the Slitheen have returned with a plan to farm humanity, the truth is far more nefariously placid as the friendly face and tones of Uncle Crispin front a Bane plan steeped in unfortunate truths about humanity’s wasting and destruction of Earth and its bountiful resources. It’s here that Mrs Wormwood’s influence becomes clear, and while some 2% of the population was resistant to their initial attempts at controlling Earth’s population with Bubble Shock, their newest scheme featuring powerful technology from the vortex that brings with it a nice callback to Mr Smith has a 99.98% success rate. It’s thus relatively convenient that Rani and Clyde happen upon two individuals in quick succession who are immune to the effects of the Kindness including Samira who is so glad to have Rani back given her past experiences with Sarah Jane, but Raghad Chaar as Samira and Maddison Bulleyment as Jude allow for very personal and emotional discussions about the strengths and flaws of humanity as a whole. In particular, Jude presents a very focal source of conflict and a tremendous resource for Rani, and though Bulleyment’s voice doesn’t quite the convey the intended youth of the character that is itself so vital to the emotional turmoil of the climax and resolution, Jude is a fascinating character that further fleshes out the sadly understandable elements of the Bane plot. Given the inclusion of the Bane that kickstarted the many threats of The Sarah Jane Adventures, it perhaps makes sense that the resolution should be so reliant on Rani and Clyde remembering their previous adventures together. This type of resolution is always somewhat unsatisfying since there’s no tangible element or action beyond emotional speeches, but those emotions are superb and truly create a celebratory sense while reaffirming the tremendous relationship that Rani and Clyde have developed over the years. Mohindra and Anthony share a tremendous chemistry and camaraderie that continue to translate well to this later look at their characters’ lives, and the surprising twist of UNIT with Luke having taken over Rani’s home within the true time and timeline caps off a profoundly resonant episode to great effect.

In Jonathan Morris’s ‘The Ghost of Bannerman Road,’ 13 Bannerman Road is locked up and under UNIT’s control as scientists and key pieces of alien technology have been disappearing from laboratories across the country. Major Hadley’s proclamation that Rani and Clyde are the most qualified to lead investigations after calls for the Doctor have gone unanswered is wholly tenuous at best, but it nonetheless helps to set the scene for what ends up being another surprisingly emotional tale that highlights Rani’s resolve in particular. It’s fitting that she takes a more personal route to her investigations, and her discovery that everyone who has gone missing is suffering from immense regret provides an instantly relatable emotion by which Mrs Wormwood has been able to infiltrate this world and put her plan into motion, events of the previous two stories being byproducts of sorts of her attempts. Assuredly everyone has at least wondered what may have happened had a different decision at some key point been made, and acting under the guise of a dream state, Wormwood is able to take control of those willing to act on that sentiment when given the opportunity. This scheme seems rather shockingly in line with something the Trickster might employ, but Samantha Bond is pitch perfect in her return to the role of Wormwood as she softly offers tempting glimpses of lives that may have been while playing on the frailties and emotions of those before her. Shockingly, Luke who has such intense history with Wormwood is hardly used at all in this story, but Wormwood’s decision to use Clyde after showing him a lifetime of happiness with Rani had he simply asked her out so many years ago is still wholly satisfying and allows Daniel Anthony the opportunity to explore new facets of his character as he is forced to confront underlying emotions and their unintended consequences here. Of course, Rani is likewise tempted after both initially- and humorously- work too hard to deny any sort of affection for each other, and while the suggestion that Rani would have to give up her career in order to have a family is given no context and seems out of character, her quick thinking to avoid the ghostly fate that has befallen others who have given into emotion is absolutely within character and again proves how heroic she can be even when isolated. The question remains, of course, of just why this franchise remains so averse to officially putting Rani and Clyde into a relationship even after they confess their feelings here, but this does seem to be an all but certain outcome in any future stories that may be told. This creates something of an odd note to end on given the immense emotional displays throughout, but even with Luke’s role oddly minimized, ‘The Ghost of Bannerman Road’ is a brilliantly visual and intimate tale that again proves just how exciting these continuing stories based on the world of The Sarah Jane Adventures can be.

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