TV Sarah Jane’s final scene in The Hand of Fear. The Daleks and TARDIS might be the surface reasons for the franchise’s ongoing success, but if there’s one scene which best expresses the tone of Doctor Who, it’s Sarah Jane’s final scene in The Hand of Fear.
The convenient misunderstanding, the potted plant, the stuffed owl, the freeze frame. Almost every Who writer since then has challenged themselves to recapture the indefinable spirit of that scene for better or worse and once you notice it, you’ll see it in dozens and dozens of other stories.
It’s there in the mismatched friendship between the Tenth Doctor and Donna. The Eighth Doctor and his shoes in the park. The squareness gun. The whole of The Snowmen feels exactly like that if you watch closely enough.
That thing, you know, that indefinable thing. The thing which makes us happy and sad both at the same time, silliness and seriousness wrapped tightly and loosely together with a scarf. This thing:
Inside the console room ...
SARAH: I'll never be warm again. Never, ever, ever.
DOCTOR: No, we're well out of that. Goodbye, Kastria.
The Tardis de-materialises.
SARAH: Do you think that Eldrad, well, do you think that he really is dead?
DOCTOR: Oh, I doubt it. Very difficult to kill.
SARAH: Well, I quite liked her, but I couldn't stand him.
The Tardis tilts.
DOCTOR: Whoa, easy, old girl, easy. These temperatures must have affected the thermo-couplings.
SARAH: Yes, I know how she feels. I think Kastria must be the coldest planet in the galaxy.
DOCTOR: Oh, rubbish. I've been to much colder places.
SARAH: Oh, big deal. It's all right for you. I'm human. We're not so thick-skinned.
The Doctor gets under the console.
DOCTOR: Where's that astro-rectifier? What did you say?
DOCTOR: Oh, good, good.
SARAH: You know, I might as well be talking to the moon. You don't even listen to me.
DOCTOR: Mergin nut.
DOCTOR: No, no, forget the mergin nut. I'll have the ganymede driver.
DOCTOR: Thank you.
SARAH: Oh, I must be mad. I'm sick of being cold and wet, and hypnotised left right and centre. I'm sick of being shot at, savaged by bug-eyed monsters, never knowing if I'm coming or going or been.
DOCTOR: Zeus plug.
SARAH: Oh, I want a bath. I want my hair washed. I just want to feel human again.
DOCTOR: Forget the zeus plug. I'll have the sonic screwdriver.
SARAH: Oh, and boy am I sick of that sonic screwdriver! I'm going to pack my goodies and I'm going home. I said, I'm going to pack my goodies and I am going home! Right! Excuse me!
Sarah storms out of the console room.
DOCTOR: What was that you? I don't know why she goes on like this. There's really nothing the matter at all.
The Doctor gets a mental wave.
DOCTOR: The call. The call from Gallifrey. Gallifrey. After all this time, Gallifrey. I can't take Sarah to Gallifrey. Must get her back home. Must reset the coordinates. South Croydon.
Sarah enters carrying a bag and a pile of stuff including a plant in a pot, a stuffed toy owl and a tennis racquet.
DOCTOR: You're a good girl, Sarah.
SARAH: Oh, look, it's too late apologising now. Everything's packed. I've got to go.
DOCTOR: What? How did you know?
DOCTOR: I've had the call from Gallifrey.
DOCTOR: So I can't take you with me. You've got to go.
SARAH: Oh, come on. I can't miss Gallifrey. Look, I was only joking. I didn't mean it. Hey. Hey, you're not going to regenerate again, are you?
DOCTOR: Not this time. I don't know what's going to happen.
SARAH: You're playing one of your jokes on me, just trying to make me stay.
DOCTOR: No. I've received the call, and as a Time Lord I must obey.
The Tardis materialises.
SARAH: And I'll give your love to Harry and the Brigadier. Oh, and I can tell Professor Watson that you're all right.
DOCTOR: We've landed, Sarah.
DOCTOR: We've landed.
DOCTOR: South Croydon. Hillview Road, to be exact.
SARAH: That's my home. Well, I'll be off then. Here.
She gives him his coat back.
SARAH: Don't forget me.
DOCTOR: Oh, Sarah. Don't you forget me.
SARAH: Bye, Doctor. You know, travel does broaden the mind.
DOCTOR: Yes. Till we meet again, Sarah.
In Stokefield Close, the Tardis dematerialises. Sarah looks around.
SARAH: This isn't Hillview Road. I bet it isn't even South Croydon. Oh. He blew it.
She speaks to a dog who is sunbathing on the pavement.
SARAH: Hey, hey. You. He blew it.
The dog runs off. Sarah walks away whistling 'Daddy wouldn't buy me a bow-wow'.