And then we move on to The Hand of Fear. This one is Sarah Jane's last episode, and she gets to go out being herself-- or, at least, the mcguffin she frequently is.
They land back on Earth in a quarry (which is actually being a quarry, so that's two shots if you're playing the drinking game we made up and I haven't written about yet), just in time to be very nearly squashed in a rockslide created by blasting they don't pay enough attention to get out of the way of. The Doctor lands on top of the rubble, and they find him first, and they go looking for Sarah Jane and find her trapped under some massive bits of styrofoam, passed out and concussed, and holding onto a big stone hand. Which, of course, takes over her mind. ::sigh::
When they leave her alone in the hospital, she wakes up and steals the hand from the lab, sealing it up in Tupperware to keep it fresh, and uses the ring she found on it to blast her way into a nuclear power plant that may or may not be the same one in Inferno (in my head, it totally is, and it's just not a very nice place to work). She locks herself in the reactor, and the stone hand starts to come back to life. The radiation is critical, and the hand is controlling people all over the place, trying to get more of it. The Doctor manages to get Sarah Jane out, but she doesn't remember being taken over, and the hand has absorbed so much of the radiation that she isn't contaminated at all. Which is convenient.
Eventually, when the core implodes instead of explodes and the hand isn't stopped, the RAF tries to nuke the place, which I would think is pretty obviously not going to work, but maybe they're way dumber without UNIT to explain things to them. I miss the Brig. Anyway, the nukes only make the transformation complete, and Eldrad walks out of the reactor-- and is a chick, since the regeneration imprinted on Sarah Jane, the first person to touch the hand and the ring. The Doctor decides to try diplomacy (finally), and they talk Eldrad down from a massive attack on everything with the promise of taking her home, which they do, but it has to be now, millions of years after she / he was exiled and executed, so they can't mess with history. Eldrad leads them to the frozen-over capital and starts turning machines back on with the intention of rebuilding the world that was destroyed... and walks right into a trap, where a spear full of acid slams into her chest and starts cracking her crystaline structure.
The Doctor and Sarah Jane take her down to a regeneration chamber past a void and through various other traps. She's amazingly good at remaining manequin-stiff as the Doctor hauls her around, and she must not weight much (though if she's really silicon like quartz, she should way most of a ton) because he's hauling her around all over the place. They make it to the chamber just in time, and Eldrad is reborn as his true self, a big pointy man-thing with a crystal beard and a habit of extreme overacting. And he's a lunatic. He was the one who killed the planet, and his continuing punishment is to have a world where everyone chose to die instead of risking that he'd come back, even far in the future, and killed themselves. Jeeze. The Doctor and Sarah jane have to escape his crazy to get home, and they toss him down the needless chasm to do so.
And then Sarah Jane has to leave. She's complaing about always getting chased and mind-controlled and tricked and manipulated, and pretends to want to go home, and stomps off to get all her stuff together (which turns out to be a stuffed owl, two ugly jackets, a teeny tiny suitcase, a potted plant and a tennis racket)-- and while she's gone, the Doctor gets the Call home to Gallifrey. Humans aren't allowed there, and he has to leave her. So he drops her off where he thinks she lives, and she gets off with the sort of cheerfulness of someone who thinks she'll get to go back soon, and he leaves her. For thirty-five years. And I was very sad. The last few episodes, he called her his best friend, and he was so deflated-sounding when he told her she couldn't go with him, and she didn't really seem to know what it meant...
And so ends the Sarah Jane Years. She gets an abortive spinoff in the early 80s, and she gets to come back for the Five Doctors in a bit, and she's still around the expanded universe, but there's no more Sarah Jane Smith in the series until School Reunion in Nu Who, and the Sarah Jane Adventures after that. I'll miss her. Even with her really awful outfits and her sometimes hopeless ankle-twisting, she was sharp and clever and smart enough to keep up with the Doctor, and they were a good team.