The Gift

Posted in Episode by - September 27, 2022
The Gift

Aired 19 – 20 November 2009


With the Slitheen seemingly unable to complete their plan to profit off the destruction of Earth, another Raxacoricofallapatorian family arrives with gestures of goodwill and peace in Rupert Laight’s ‘The Gift.’ Accepting a sample of Rakweed that can purportedly end world hunger, Sarah Jane finds old biases difficult to forget and is soon proven correct in her wariness as even Luke falls victim to a spreading contagion.

The premise of the Blathereen arriving in peace is an intriguing angle through which to explore the denizens of their world since the Slitheen have always been so overtly ill-willed. Through actions that speak louder than words and the suggestion that their planet once had a noble reputation before the Slitheen bribed their way into power, the Blathereen do manage to provide some further context to their race as a whole, and the idea that they are alien bounty hunters looking to recapture members of the Slitheen family who destroyed their planetary economy would assuredly be one ripe for further exploration. Unfortunately, ‘The Gift’ instead takes the wholly unsurprising and insipid route of turning these Raxacoricofallapatorians into little more than Slitheen of another colour. Like with the shared dinner between Sarah Jane’s group and the Blathereen, there are some intriguing moments along the way as Sarah Jane questions whether she has been conditioned to look for the darkness in any offer of good will that is made, but these more introspective moments are far too short and spaced apart to meaningfully elevate what becomes a fairly standard alien plot.

The Slitheen and their ilk of course fit much more naturally into the younger-skewing The Sarah Jane Adventures than with Doctor Who and, aided by the voices of Miriam Margolyes and Simon Callow who manage to imbue a certain gravitas to the treacherous Blathereen, the imagery and explosive vinegar-laden resolution lean into the more childish aspects of their behaviour and physiognomy. Again, none of this is exactly new for this race, but they serve their purpose as the deliverer of the plague and, indirectly, as the means by which Luke experiences his first illness and Sarah Jane must react and cope. It’s moments like these with Elisabeth Sladen pouring out emotions that are far more effective than the alien plot in general, partially because the episode poorly shows how far and quickly it is spreading, and she truly manages to exude a mother’s love and the mixture of both helplessness and determination as her child falls ill.

Less effective and a microcosm of the younger cast deserving better as a whole, however, is the subplot of Clyde using K9 to cheat on a test. This ultimately adds little to the story except to bring the school setting and teacher into focus better, and it’s a strangely uncharacteristic move for Clyde who- with the exception of impressing his father earlier in the series- has generally shown a much better sense of judgement and honour. Regardless, while ‘The Gift’ doesn’t quite manage to sell the scope of its threat and fails to truly capitalize on the unique premise that the Blathereen could and ultimately do represent, it still features strong performances from its leads and a number of strong visuals to help maintain attention at all points. With a fairly easy resolution, it is something of a missed opportunity to do something new and is ultimately one of the weaker instalments in The Sarah Jane Adventures, but even this less impressive entry is still brimming with heart and energy and helps to further cement the brilliant relationships among this brave group fronted by Sarah Jane.

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