Until Next Time...Miss Smith: There's a double whammy of a reason for Sarah Jane to be visiting Trueman's local appearance on stage; for one thing it is nice to spend some time with some adults for a change and she can sniff out a good story (and a suspect villain) a mile away. Like her time with the Doctor, Sarah doesn't believe in everything but she is always willing to be convinced. Astrology falls under that bracket for her. Sarah spends the show sniffing out all the parlour tricks and plants but is genuinely shocked that Trueman should have intimate knowledge of her time with the Doctor (she should have made the link to the Mandragora Helix). For anybody who gets upset by the portrayal of Sarah agonising over the fact that her 'boyfriend' dumped her on Earth and forgot about her then breathe easy, Trueman emphatically states in this story that the relationship between the Doctor and Sarah was not a romantic one. Does Trueman have a point about Sarah's irresponsibility for letting children into her dangerous world? She's willing to fight this thing and even destroy it if she has to.
Sparkling Dialogue: 'He must be using a bio dampner!' 'What's that, washing powder?'
'It's only The Psychic Channel. When we switched on we probably doubled their ratings.'
'Believe me, I know what it's like to be taken over...' -Sarah could be referencing Planet of the Spiders of The Hand of Fear...and Prisoner of the Judoon is just around the corner.
'People used to say to me "Martin, you are not the centre of the universe" but it turns out I am!' - Trueman's ego is so out of control you can only bask in its magnificence.
The Good: I still think that The Sarah Jane Adventures got the formula just about perfect where Doctor Who has struggled with its format for the past seven years, trying to squeezed everything in to 45 minutes. SJA has hour long adventures (those extra fifteen minutes allow for extra atmosphere, elucidation of the plot and moments of character) with a cliff-hanger in the middle. Practically perfect. It is so rare for an actor/actress in this show to behave as though they are acting in children's TV show that it genuinely shocks me when they do. More often than not the villains of the piece could make the jump to Doctor Who without too any alterations. Russ Abbott is a comedian that I had a lot of time for in my childhood and me and my dad used to watch his show every week together (it is one of the few very nice memories I have of my pops). I remember when I first caught this story on transmission and I had a real problem with the arch way that Abbott played Martin Trueman, feeling as though he had stepped out of a pantomime and straight into this show but looking back on it now I can see little that is objectionable (especially when compared with other OTT villains such as Zaroff, The War Chief, Lady Adastra and Davros, all of which I love). When he is taken over by the Stars it is clear that Abbott shifts his performance somewhere into the stratosphere but watch him during the first scene, Trueman is a man down on his luck who quietly dispels a client he is hoodwinking that astrology is a load of cobblers. He's giving a really poignant portrayal of a man who has cheated his way through life. And how can you fail to make your performance theatrical when the majority of your scenes are either on the stage or acting as a TV presenter cum oracle of doom. Trueman's introduction goes to show just how well Gareth Roberts (or anybody under Russell T. Davies' tutorage) use vivid shorthand characterisation to tell us everything you need to know about a character so they live and. Trueman thought he was meant for great things but is working out of his basement as a con artist, tired and alone, and the Mandragora energy embracing him is his reward for a lifetime of giving up. Maybe Trueman got Kylie's stage team in to design his act because the glowing constellations of the various star signs and the astrology wheel offer an imaginative and striking backdrop to his show. Subtle signs show that members of the audience are nervous to get up and have their secrets spilled, Sarah is here to debunk and Haresh is deeply embarrassed by the whole affair, a man in authority being dragged to a magic show by his wife. It's these moments that give the situation more depth, rather than everybody being seduced by Trueman's charisma and trickery. His backdoor into the world of television (and thus enabling him to hypnotise the world) is through a trashy cable channel paranormal show, another little touch of reality. Roberts gets to teach his audience a little about the zodiac and its origins before having some outer space fun with the idea. The idea of another universe before ours where astrology worked as a binding force that could be harnessed is very well conceptualised and presented. This might be one of the more chilling forms of invasion by possession because it is all done so politely, asking you to take the hand of your neighbour as your mind is invaded and join a circle of contentment. A euphoric invasion of your mind, playing out in stages through the signs of the zodiac. It is a laughable thing to witness until somebody you love is taken and then it becomes very serious as it does for Haresh. Trinity Wells has become fantastic shorthand for a worldwide invasion and as soon as she appears you know that the current crisis has gone global (although the lovely effects shots of people gathering in circles around the world are well done too). Trueman admits that he was something of a nobody before the Ancient Lights chose him, selling vacuum cleaners, cleaning toilets and push trolleys. Nothing wrong with any of those jobs if you want to earn an honest crust. Trueman has a choice to go back to his old life or to be taken away by the Ancient Lights to goodness only knows what punishment. He chooses the latter so he must have really had a low opinion of his life before he was touched by the stars.