The Sarah Jane Adventures

Monday, September 29, 2008 by

“The Bane, Slitheen, the Gorgon, the Trickster. When I moved into Bannerman Road, I thought creatures like that were just stories. It’s amazing Sarah Jane!”

Yowser. As a piece of expositional dialogue, that’s a pretty lumpy way to get the show back on the road. But it didn’t really matter. The TV schedules are that bit more effervescent thanks to the return of this, the best of all Doctor Who spin-offs.

Sure, The Sarah Jane Adventures doesn’t quite have the swaggering joie de vive of its parent series – I’m sure its core viewers are always secretly pining for the Doc – but it comes really close. When Clyde (after SJ herself, the best thing in the programme) snorts: “An alien computer debunking flying saucers – now I’ve heard everything!”, you  can almost see the squared brackets in the script: “[Wink to mum and dad, watching alongside Junior]“.


Sarah Jane meets her oldest enemy...

Sarah Jane meets her oldest enemy...

...a Sontaran!

...a Sontaran!

Granted, at times it doesn’t feel like there’s a truly original thought in this afternoon’s opener – “Strange lights in the sky, a creepy sounding village and a radio telescope” – but it’s having a whale of time with the tenets of children’s drama. You’ve got a gang of kids sharing in the biggest secret on Earth. A world of grown-ups (bar the obvious exceptions) ignorant to what’s going on. A baddy about to be undone by his failure to recognise the credibility of his opponents (“Half forms, what trouble can they cause?”). And the odd bit of homework set for the viewers (how many will go on to check out that reference to the Marie Celeste?).

It’s wholesome, fun stuff – the sort of thing children’s TV should be doing – and given the occasional twist by allusions to the likes of Predator and the Cold War.

At the heart of it all, of course, is Elisabeth Sladen, who never fails to impress with her breathless, slightly vulnerable characterisation. When Maria tells her she’s off to America,  Sarah Jane turns surprisingly spiky. “Nothing stays the same forever,” she spits. “People always move on”. It’s a brave interpretation, at times alienating the show’s central character from the juvenile cast. But, let’s face it, we’re always ready to forgive Sarah… Even during an interminable scene of chat with her Sontaran tormentor, which goes on and on and on.

And what about that Sontaran? Complete with a rather affecting facial scar, he’s a perfect bogeyman. A little bit buffoonish, the source for a dozen baked potato-related jokes, but able to turn on the terror when required. The implication he’s going to keep Clyde alive to run “tests” on him is maybe one of the most terrifying concepts to air in this time slot.

So, come the Bane, the Slitheen, the Gorgon and the Trickster. Come one and all. Sarah Jane and her Scooby Doo gang are back and, as she says, “there’s still so much to discover”.


2 Responses to “The Sarah Jane Adventures”

  1. Patrice on September 30th, 2008 10:00 am

    Nice season opener, and you can tell the writers are on top form as always. “I will crush you with my bare hands, Bite Size” was brilliant!

    Lis Sladen just looks so happy to be doing this and the rest of the cast seem to be feeding off this. I could watch this over and over and over again.

    The Sarah Jane Adventures – it’s not just for kids!

  2. Zokko on October 1st, 2008 5:23 pm

    The radio telescope brought back fond memories of ‘The Boy From Space’ from ‘Look & Read’.