This story in a nutshell: Never look a gift horse in the mouth...especially when it is from the Blathereen.
Until Next Time...Miss Smith: Like The Curse of Peladon where the Doctor was mistrustful of the Ice Warriors because he had only encountered their aggressive side before, Sarah Jane is initially mistrustful of the Blathereen and their apparent good intentions. When aliens from a particular planet have tried to murder over and over again it is perfectly natural to build up a prejudice against them. Sarah is suspicious until the Rakweed is produced and she is seduced by the idea of curing the world of poverty and doing some lasting good for the planet. She isn't too bothered about the fame this gift would bring her but the good she could do for the world. She is a genuinely altruistic individual, a rarity in science fiction. Mind you she learnt from the best. I'm pleased that her paranoia keeps her cautious though, wondering if she has been tainted by alien attacks into think that every charitable act has a darker meaning. If she had simply accepted the Rakweed without comment I would start questioning whether she was fit to protect the planet. She's been a reporter creating the news for so long that Sarah is a little afraid of making the Rakweed public and becoming front page news herself. When she realises that the Rakweed is dangerous she has a few cutting words for Mr Smith. For Sarah Jane this is two pronged attack; the possibility of losing her son and the planet she has sworn to protect. When her sons life is in danger, Sarah Jane means business and she takes up arms against the Blathereen (okay it is only loaded with vinegar but it would have the same effect on the creatures as a bullet would on a human). As is often the case Sarah tries to give her foes a chance to redeem themselves but true to their nature they press on and have to be dealt with. And this story has a particularly messy solution. And yet she still apologises and thinks there should have been a better way to end this. The final grinning shot of Elizabeth Sladen made me blink away tears...she looks absolutely beautiful.
Sparkling Dialogue: 'We absolutely adore foreign food!'
'Shepherds are a delicacy on this world?'
'We might not be able to use text books but nobody said anything about a super intelligent robot from the year 5000.'
'Small as Earth is it is still a useful plot of land.'
'Disintegration successful' 'You don't say.'
The Shallow Bit: How Tommy Knight has matured. From archetype in a smock to a stylish teen in the latest gear, he has come a long way in three short seasons.
Result: 'We are sure our Rakweed will change your planet forever...' Guess who's coming to dinner? A delightful season finale that manages to successfully hoodwink the audience into thinking it isn't going to be the usual end of the world escapade...before pulling the Rakweed out of the bag. The first episode is my favourite, jettisoning the tension and concentrating on some lovely comedy and character work as the Blathereen come to tea. Alice Troughton deserves a great deal of kudos for managing to realise both the playful and the serious aspects of Laight's script, pulling off everything from a farcical dinner sequence to a mini plague in London. Troughton's direction is somewhat overlooked and it is worth noting her contribution to The Sarah Jane Adventures, bringing to life some of the most atmospheric stories (Eye of the Gorgon, The Mad Woman in the Attic, The Eternity Trap) and never once letting the show descend into a pantomime. A shame that this would be her last contribution to the show but it is a nice adventure to go out on, one that allows her to show how versatile a director she is. In comparison to the unique tone of the episode one, the conclusion plays along similar lines to any other contagion story (albeit toned down a little for the target audience) but I have to give the actors credit for convincing about the severity of the epidemic. Another example of the high standard of this show, The Gift is not the best SJA series finale (The Lost Boy & Goodbye, Sarah Jan Smith take those honours) but it is filled to bursting with memorable scenes, great dialogue, fantastic character interaction and some well achieved scares. All told it is rather wonderful: 8/10