The Eternity Trap

Posted in Episode by - September 08, 2022
The Eternity Trap

Aired 05 – 06 November 2009


Led by Professor Celeste Rivers, Sarah Jane, Clyde, and Rani seek to provide a rational and scientific explanation for the supernatural phenomena that have haunted Ashen Hill Manor’s history in Phil Ford’s ‘The Eternity Trap.’ That history is still very much alive, however, and the grasp of Erasmus Darkening is just as fearsome as ever.

From the start, ‘The Eternity Trap’ flaunts and accentuates the disquieting and tense atmosphere within this manor, Lord Marchwood crying for his missing children centuries ago creating a perfect segue to the present day and the current investigation under way. Through Professor Rivers, Sarah Jane and her companions learn of Marchwood who brought purported alchemist Erasmus Darkening into his home, and the mysterious stories of continued disappearances throughout the years seem all the more visceral when books begin to move on shelves, a fountain ceases to flow, wet footprints appear on the grounds outside, cameras and monitors turn off and on, toys begin to move, and red-eyed creatures and ghosts appear in short order. Through its visuals, lighting, direction, and score, this is a story that fully leans into its horror stylings within a kid-friendly context, and the story is all the stronger as a result.

With Luke needing to study at home, ‘The Eternity Trap’ allows Clyde and Rani to fully step into the spotlight, and Daniel Anthony and Anjli Mohindra shine as they lead their own investigation and confront and traverse the many perils and apparitions within and around this manor. At the same time, Elisabeth Sladen is wonderful as Sarah Jane sets forth to apply logic to this mystery, her investigative prowess put to the test as she draws upon her experiences with the Doctor and continues to open up more willingly to those around her, here as she discusses the need to believe in an afterlife. In many ways, this is Sarah Jane at her most prototypical going back to her earliest days with the Doctor, and the constants of her characterization even as she continues to develop is a firm reminder of just why this character and actress are so beloved.

The story does falter a bit with some of its supporting performances, however, the genuine chills that Erasmus’s sudden appearance evoke later undercut by the decidedly campy performance Donald Sumpter provides. Perhaps it was a conscious decision to lighten a very moody affair, but Erasmus as a physical presence severely detracts from the otherwise sterling horror tone; unfortunately, this is even more notable at the climax and the resolution that itself if a bit underdeveloped. Nonetheless, the revelation that Darkening has been using living people to try to get home and that Marchwood has been trying to deter people from coming here in order to save their lives is an effective and evocative one, and the visual of Darkening’s victims strewn in clothing from different eras is a resounding way to drive home just how long his scheme has been in motion.

‘The Eternity Trap’ doesn’t necessarily rely on an abundance of plot to advance its story, but the overt and subtle dips into horror fill it with plenty of memorable moments and a unique tone that meshes well with this investigative group and Sarah Jane’s assurances that ghosts are not real. The leads are on top form, and the final scene proves that there is still plenty of mystery in this world that is not so easily explained, resulting in a thoroughly entertaining episode that more than overcomes an underwhelming villainous presence at its core.

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