Ten-year-old Maria Jackson moves into a new house on Bannerman Road, where she and her dad are beginning a new life together following his divorce. It doesn’t take long for Maria to make a new friend, a girl named Kesley who lives down the street, though she’s even more fascinated by the woman who lives across the street from her – a reclusive journalist named Sarah Jane Smith. Kelsey persuades Maria to join her for a free tour of the bottling company where Bubbleshock, a new organic drink sweeping the country, is produced. Free buses makes several stops a day, transporting children to the Bubbleshock factory, where they get a strictly guided, closely guarded tour and, of course, endless free samples. Maria is one of only 2% of children in Britain who haven’t gotten hooked on Bubbleshock, though the company is said to be “working on that.”
Sarah follows the tour bus and slips into the factory herself, though she isn’t there to take the tour – she’s trying to go straight to the top for an interview with the elusive Mrs. Wormwood, who runs the Bubbleshock operation. She gets her interview, though she and Mrs. Wormwood engage in icy verbal fencing the whole time. Mrs. Wormwood decides that Sarah knows too much and issues secret orders to prevent Sarah from escaping the factory alive, but she does just that, giving the Bubbleshock guards the slip and hiding out. When Kelsey slips away from the guided tour to call a friend on her cell phone (something which the tour guides specifically said should be turned off), the phone causes an alarm to sound – and awakens a hideous creature with a single eye, hanging from the ceiling of the factory. Maria hears Kelsey’s screams and rushes to find her new friend, but instead finds a boy on the run who wasn’t part of the tour. They go into hiding, where they bump into Sarah, who helps them escape the factory. Sarah warns Maria to go home – her life is far too dangerous to involve anyone else, which is why she has no children of her own.
Kelsey returns to Maria’s house, unaware that she’s been questioned about where Sarah lives and has had her memory erased. Maria takes Kelsey to Sarah’s house, where Maria warns Sarah that she’s in danger – just in time to see that danger arrive in the form of an enormous, bug-like creature that chases them all into Sarah’s home. Sarah turns the tables on her attacker, revealing that the insectoid is the true form of the young man leading the tour at the Bubble Shock factory. He flees, and in that moment of confusion, Kelsey runs to the top floor of Sarah’s house, discovering a treasure trove of alien artifacts from Sarah’s travels through time and space. When Mrs. Wormwood activates the secret ingredient in Bubbleshock, it gives her instant control of much of the population – including Maria’s dad and Kesley. Sarah, Kelsey, and the mysterious nameless boy from the factory go on the run, and with the Doctor nowhere nearby, Sarah is all that stands between the human race and the invasion of the Bane.
written by Russell T. Davies and Gareth Roberts
directed by Colin Teague
music by Sam Watts / title music by Murray Gold
Cast: Elisabeth Sladen (Sarah Jane Smith), Samantha Bond (Mrs. Wormwood), Yasmin Paige (Maria Jackson), Tommy Knight (Luke), Porsha Lawrence-Mavour (Kelsey), Jamie Davis (Davey), Joseph Millson (Alan Jackson), Juliet Cowan (Chrissie Jackson), Rungano Nyoni (Secretary), Philip North (Technician), John Leeson (voice of K-9), Alexander Armstrong (voice of Mr. Smith), Sydney White (Bubbleshock Girl), Olivia Hill (TV Reporter), Konnie Huq, Gethin Jones (themselves)
LogBook entry and additional notes by Earl Green
Notes: The “residual artron energy” in Sarah’s DNA indicates she has traveled through time; artron energy is also at the heart of a TARDIS’ power systems, and was first mentioned in the Doctor Who story The Deadly Assassin (which, ironically, was the first story after Sarah was left on Earth by the Doctor). Artron energy also got a fleeting mention in Four To Doomsday, and countless times in printed spinoff fiction.
K-9, created by frequent Doctor Who writers Bob Baker and Dave Martin (known collectively as “The Bristol Boys”), first appeared in 1977’s The Invisible Enemy. Though originally intended as a one-off character, the recent popularity of Star Wars, with its own memorable (and marketable) robotic characters, inspired then-producer Graham Williams to make the character a regular. The Doctor built K-9 Mark II sometime before the end of The Invasion Of Time, apparently anticipating that his dangerous lifestyle might prove fatal to the original, who remained with Leela on Gallifrey. The second K-9 left the TARDIS along with Romana in Warriors’ Gate, though print and audio fiction in the Doctor Who universe places that K-9 back on Gallifrey too. Thus, a third K-9 was built by the Doctor as a gift for Sarah in K-9 & Company, and that K-9 was seen again in The Five Doctors and School Reunion. Arguably, the K-9 seen here is Mark IV, built by the Doctor to replace the K-9 which thwarted a Krillitane invasion of Deffry Vale High School by detonating itself, though the Doctor apparently used parts from Mark III to do this. K-9 doesn’t appear beyond this episode, as Bob Baker already had advanced plans to launch a newer, streamlined, entirely-CGI version of K-9 in his own live-action children’s show, hence the dog’s somewhat ambiguous one-and-only appearance.
As unlikely a crossover as it might seem to represent, the alien in Sarah’s garden is, if not the same species as, then at least related to the “Mary” alien seen in the Torchwood episode Greeks Bearing Gifts. While the production team has avoided explicit crossovers between Doctor Who and Torchwood (since much of the former’s audience is in an age group that’s discouraged from watching Torchwood due to its adult themes), crossovers between Doctor Who and the Sarah Jane Adventures are easier to find since they share the same audience for the most part. That makes this hint of a Torchwood/Sarah Jane crossover rather surprising, and it’s altogether more likely that special effects house The Mill simply used the same computer-generated alien model since it had already been designed and constructed, without giving much thought to an actual story link between the two shows.
A surprising number of references to classic Doctor Who are on display in Sarah’s study, including publicity photos of the Brigadier (Nicholas Courtney) and Harry Sullivan (the late Ian Marter) on display; a publicity photo from 1981’s K-9 & Company can also be seen.
Co-writer Gareth Roberts, who also contributes to later episodes in the series, began his professional connection to Doctor Who with the 1993 New Adventures novel “The Highest Science”; he later wrote “Tragedy Day” and “Zamper” for that range of books, as well as the Missing Adventures “The Romance Of Crime”, “The English Way Of Death”, “The Plotters”, and the final book in that range, “The Well-Mannered War.” After returning to Doctor Who print fiction with the new series books “Only Human” and “I Am A Dalek”, Roberts wrote the script for the interactive game Attack Of The Graske, as well as the third season Doctor Who episode The Shakespeare Code.