The Vault of Secrets

Posted in Episode by - November 01, 2022
The Vault of Secrets

Aired 18 – 19 October 2010


When Androvax the Veil returns to Earth weak and desperate for help, Sarah Jane, Rani, and Clyde must decide whether or not they can trust their old enemy in Phil Ford’s ‘The Vault of Secrets.’ The Alliance of Shades is determined to protect alien secrets from humanity, however, and Androvax’s quest to save the remainder of his people comes with very real and very personal risks to Bannerman Road’s finest.

A testament to her character and the time she spent with the Doctor who would always offer everyone a second chance, Sarah Jane decides to put her feelings toward Androvax aside when he asks for her help. A creature who can possess the bodies of others, Androvax is an inherently dangerous and fascinating character who was only lightly developed in his previous outing, ‘Prisoner of the Judoon.’ Here, he is not simply a villain bent on destruction and genocide but is instead revealed to have been acting out of desperation to avenge the tragedies his people have endured. The show does not attempt to forget the many terrible deeds of Androvax throughout the cosmos, but this attempt at rehabilitating him as he now tries to prevent his own race’s extinction is a much more satisfying exploration of this alien that also still reminds everyone that he is willing to sacrifice anyone to achieve his goal as he possesses Gita with no promise of ensuring she survives the trip to the Vault. Mark Goldthorp dynamically brought Androvax to life in the preceding tale, and he continues to impress in this much weightier and more resonant exploration of his character.

While it is only natural that Gita and Haresh should join the Ealing branch of the British UFO Research and Paranormal Studies Society (BURPSS) given their recent experiences, this organization does end up being by far the weakest component of an otherwise strong episode. It does allow Mina Anwar to delve into a much more serious role as Gita tries to make sense of everything she has experienced and eventually becomes a host for Androvax, a task she expertly accomplishes, but Ocean and Minty skew far too overtly into the childish stylings of many CBBC shows to the point that they detract from what should be a fascinating addition to the show’s mythology and to the elder Chandras’ lives in particular. Both are decently characterized given their fairly limited time on screen, and Cheryl Campbell and David Webber certainly make each likeable, but the organization as a whole feels like it was included more for the jokes about its acronyms than actual narrative need, a fact supported by how easily Ocean and Minty simply accept that the aliens have won again when Gita has her memory of recent affairs erased and Sarah Jane feigns ignorance.

Still, the surprising return of the Alliance of Shades from the animated ‘Dreamland’ is wholly effective, and the uniquely literal stylings of Angus Wright’s Mister Dread who is more than capable of meeting any challenge given the arsenal on his person prove to be a highlight of this episode. Fortunately, the Vault itself more than lives up to its lofty reputation given the immense spectacle housed within, but while it is natural that Dread should prove integral to providing a surprisingly peaceful solution that ensures Earth’s survival, his sacrificing of his own power does seem like something of an easy resolution that narratively hadn’t yet completely been earned. Nonetheless, the trust Sarah Jane instills in Androvax is immense and again speaks to the true nature of this character even after she was again possessed, and the subtle moments of characterization and growth for the leads peppered throughout the script- Clyde and Rani coming to realize that they are growing closer being a natural progression and fitting tease of what may develop- ensure that the characters always remain at the forefront no matter how visual or immense the building threats get. While Anjli Mohindra does lean more into the comedic and overacted side of being possessed like Elisabeth Sladen did previously, Sladen here takes on something of a more nuanced when Sarah Jane falls victim to Androvax’s abilities, helping to create a more layered and balanced experience overall that accentuates unique power of this alien and the narrative potential the Veil possess.

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