Farewell, Sarah Jane

There’s a brilliant moment in the 1975 Doctor Who storyline The Ark In Space when Sarah Jane (Elisabeth Sladen), on a vital mission to save Earth from the evil insectoid Wirrn, gets stuck in a ventilator shaft. The Doctor (Tom Baker) hits on the ingenious ruse of goading her across the last few inches by telling her how thoroughly useless she is.

At least, brilliant is how I remember it being when I saw it aged ten. I remember empathising hugely with Sladen’s white fury over the grotesque unfairness of the Doctor’s insults (God, kids are good at identifying unfairness: it’s almost their raison d’être) but also I remember thinking how incredibly clever the Doctor was. You could tell it was just a ruse because of his conspiratorial grin and his half glance towards the camera, almost as if he were aware of you at home watching him.

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