This story was repeated on BBC4 over the past two days to celebrate the life of Elisabeth Sladen. It’s a fine little story in and of itself, if a bit odd in having the titular creepy hand quickly turn into a perfectly good female villain and then she turns into a shouty bloke when you’d think a moving hand was enough, but of course it became more than a footnote when it turned out to be Sarah Jane’s swansong as a companion.
It isn’t quite business as usual, as she comments on how much horrible stuff has been happening to her of late - “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... I want a bath, I want my hair washed, I just want to feel human again... and, boy, am I sick of that sonic screwdriver. I’m going to pack my goodies and I’m going home...”
She goes to pack, and then the Doctor receives a call back to Gallifrey and has to leave her, so now she doesn’t want to go. Such a natural reaction.
So many classic companions left with little warning (see next companion Leela deciding to stay behind and marry Some Bloke) that it was good to see the reasons for Sarah Jane’s departure pile up throughout this story. It’s something the new series has built on, making every departure a big deal.
Something to consider when a player has to leave a game, or a game is ending, assuming you get a few sessions’ warning. How do you make the character’s departure memorable, in a good way rather than the “I’m leaving with that guy over there, bye!” way?
Bring them back home or leave them very far from it? A happy ending or a broken heart? A new life or going down a blaze of glory? Upbeat or tragic or somewhere in between?
Best to talk this over with the player. How they feel about the character can factor in to how they’d like them to leave.