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The Sarah Jane Adventures

Having wrapped up Torchwood a few weeks back, I've now reached the end of The Sarah Jane Adventures in my New Who rewatch. I had previously seen only the first two and a half of the five series, plus the Matt Smith episode, so a fair bit of it was new to me. I strongly recommend them all; in a previous discussion the view was expressed that there is one episode that is a bit duff, but I actually enjoyed it, and Suranne Jones, guesting as the Mona Lisa, is clearly trying out for her role as the incarnate Tardis a few months later.

In particular, I want to single out the fourth season as a moment when the show really does hit the right note every time. This is the season that includes the Old Who meets New Who Death of the Doctor (watch it yourself - Part 1, Part 2), Katy Manning returning as Jo Grant (now Jo Jones, of course), Finn "Loras Tyrell" Jones as her grandson, and David "William Hartnell" Bradley as an evil vulture alien. There's a view that Matt Smith is at his absolute best in this story; he's certainly at the top of his game, and everyone is brilliant.

Without being too snarky, one of the strengths of Season 4 is that Tommy Knight, who plays Sarah Jane's adopted son Luke and is frankly the weakest of the regular cast, gets shuffled off to Oxford in the first episode and appears only occasionally thereafter, leaving the field to the much stronger Daniel Anthony as Clyde and Anjli Mohindra as Rani, plus of course Lis Sladen herself as our heroine. I still miss Yasmine Paige, who played Maria in the first series, but it's a strong line-up. The fifth and sadly truncated final season brings in twelve-year-old Sinead Michael as another human child created by aliens, adopted by Sarah, and she shows promise; though the best story of the three is the middle one, The Curse of Clyde Langer, where poor Clyde finds that he is rejected by everyone, a brilliant evocation of teenage isolation. (NB that Clyde's mother is played by an actress only eight years older than the cherubic Daniel Anthony.)

It's a shame that the Sarah Jane Adventures never quite got the wider fandom traction that Torchwood did - and I include myself in that criticism, having watched only a few more than half of the stories first time round. They do catch the sense of adventure of Old Who well, and they are comfortingly familiar in format for us old school fans, with roughly half-hour episodes and cliff-hangers. And they remind us old 'uns that we were right about Lis Sladen and Sarah Jane back in the 1970s, when so much else has changed since.

Where might we have gone? Luke was gay; Ace would have reappeared; the giant spiders were toyed with but discarded.

While we're on the subject, I also want to praise the ten Sarah Jane audiobooks, which are surely the only range of Who spinoff audios which made it into double figures without a single duff entry. Eight of the ten were read by Elisabeth Sladen, the last two by Daniel Anthony and Anjli Mohindra. They're a great way of passing a CD-length of time, especially with fans or potential fans of the appropriate age group.

I'll leave you with the last minute of the last episode broadcast during Elisabeth Sladen's lifetime. You may find you have something in your eye at the end.

Comments

( 5 comments — Leave a comment )
irishkate
Oct. 5th, 2013 10:52 pm (UTC)
I used to see it fairly often while visiting with friends - their kids would have it on. I liked it a lot.
fjm
Oct. 6th, 2013 07:37 am (UTC)
Watched the lot on the treadmill earlier this year. Just wonderful for all the reasons you say (and had to get off the treadmill to cry during the Jo Grant episode).

Now I will go find the audio books.


The funny thing, is that I'm not sure I've ever seen any original Sarah Jane episodes.
nwhyte
Oct. 6th, 2013 10:11 am (UTC)
I'm not sure I've ever seen any original Sarah Jane episodes.

I would not recommend all of them. The first Sarah Jane (last Pertwee) season in particular has several clunkers, including The Monster of Peladon which manages to ineptly take on both the miners' strikes of the 1970s and feminism, and Invasion of the Dinosaurs with its famously awful dinosaurs. But the Tom Baker ones are much better on the whole.

Big Finish also did two series of Sarah Jane audio plays with Sladen, in 2002 and 2005-6. They are generally very good, but do depend a bit on your knowing the continuity from the original TV stories.
MrSimonWood
Oct. 9th, 2013 11:25 am (UTC)
Totally agree about the fourth series. I felt the first two series were very mixed; series 3 was stronger and The Mad Woman in the Attic stood out in particular; and series 4 was superb. Wish we'd had the chance to see Ace in the show.

Edited at 2013-10-09 11:26 am (UTC)
unfeathered
Oct. 10th, 2013 07:01 am (UTC)
Totally agree with all this. I never watched any of the SJA until my son started watching DW (at S5) and then one day we caught most of the pilot on the telly and were hooked ever after. I always thought it would be really childish, but it's not - it's quite probably more sophisticated than most of the classic series, simply due to what viewers, even children, expect these days. Most of it is great viewing and yes, the last season particularly was fantastic. Such a shame it had to end where it did. :-(
( 5 comments — Leave a comment )

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