Jon Pertwee’s final season as The Doctor begins with this four-part story written by Robert Holmes which ran from 15 December 1973 to 5 January, 1974. There are a couple of noticeable changes right off the bat… there’s a new title sequence, there’s the introduction of perhaps The Doctor’s most famous companion, Sara-Jane Smith (Elisabeth Sladen), and the first mention of the Time Lord’s home world, Gallifrey, by name.
It also sees the introduction of the Sontaran race, in the personage of Linx (Kevin Lindsay). This Sontaran warrior is forced to land in the 13th century, in his damaged craft, and while he promises the ruler of the nearby castle, Irongron (David Daker) weapons in his fight against Lord Edward (Alan Rowe) in exchange for raw materials, none of the humans in this time period have the technical knowledge to be able to help him. So he reaches forward in time and starts pulling UNIT scientists back to help him.
At the Brigadier’s (Nicholas Courntey) request, The Doctor takes a look, and bumps into journalist Sarah-Jane, who is posing as a professor. When one of the scientists disappears, The Doctor tracks him back in time, and follows him in the TARDIS, unaware that Sarah-Jane has snuck aboard.
Once back in time, Sarah-Jane is laboring under the belief that The Doctor is the one behind the disappearances, and she teams up with Lord Edward to capture him before he can cause any more problems. The Doctor meanwhile confronts both Irongron and Linx, even posing as Linx’s mechanical knight that he created for Irongron.
He tries to persuade Linx that creating weapons like those he is giving to Irongron in this time period will allow humanity to advance to fast, and will create nuclear weapons before they have the intelligence to control them. Linx can’t really be bothered, he just wants to fix his ship, get off planet, and return to the war his race is involved in with the Rutans.
The Doctor offers to help with the repair of the craft if Linx will return the scientists to their own time, but Linx merely tries to control the Doctor as well.
Sarah-Jane comes to realize that The Doctor is one of the good guys, and with the help of some of the scientists, they eventually outwit Irongron and Linx, and both baddies are dispatched, before our heroes clamber back into the TARDIS and begin their adventures together.
I have to say, that even though I’ve seen Sarah-Jane as a companion before this, her introduction to the series signifies a change in the way some of the companions are presented. Sarah-Jane is a professional woman, smart, and while not fully fleshed out yet, seems the strongest of the companions to come along yet, and I’m looking forward to her time in the TARDIS, though sad that she only has the one season with Pertwee’s Doctor, as they make a good match, at least that is my impression so far.
And next time the pair of them face The Invasion of the Dinosaurs!