The DWC looks at the Fourth Doctor’s Sarah Jane Years

Tom Baker’s time as the Fourth Doctor is too much for mere mortals like me to take in all at once. Fortunately The Doctor Who Companion is slicing it into series, and I thought I’d track the Tom Baker years by chunk (ie Sarah Jane Smith / Leela / Romana(s) / The new gang [Nyssa / Tegan / Adric]. Without further ado I give you season 12 and season 13 and a bit of season 14. Still here? OK, let’s chat…

The Sarah Jane Smith years

Of course Sarah already spent a season with Jon Pertwee’s Third Doctor, but she really comes to prominence with the Fourth Doctor. Under the title of Larks in Space, Liam Brightman takes a thematic look at season 12 and Rick Lundeen gets all reminiscent over Doctor Who in general in his season 13 piece My Lucky Day. I’ll get more specific on the season 14 review when I discuss Leela.

For me the two series have a particular character, a host of new (or refreshed ideas) and two much missed characters: Sarah Jane herself and the underused Harry Sullivan. We had Wirrn, Zygons, Sutekh, Morbius and of course Davros in the reboot of the Daleks. Several of the stories made an impact on me at the time (and since on rewatch), including:

Ark in Space I liked the idea of a common location and if the story itself lacked a bit of pace, you could claim it was Alien several years before John Hurt fell foul of events on the Nostromo.

Genesis of the Daleks it’s the old formula of new Doctor classic monsters, and completely overshadows the next Cybermen story. Surely one of the most classic of all Doctor Who stories this packed a huge emotional punch back in 1975.

Terror of the Zygons I like (and rewatched as part of the research for my story Tuesday) and was where we bid a sad farewell to Harry Sullivan.

Planet of Evil covers much of the same ground as the classic Forbidden Planet and was another example of the show’s environmental awareness.

Pyramids of Mars brought us Sutekh but also a timey-wimey moment when Sarah Jane is taken to a bleak alternate future when she suggests bailing out of the story in the TARDIS.

Brain of Morbius was just bonkers!

Masque of Mandragora I found a little sinister and by the time Hand of Fear came around Sarah Jane had enough of her travels (and dangers therein) and bowed out. Gone but certainly never forgotten!

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