The Sarah Jane Adventures is back this week on the Children’s BBC channel, and is well worth catching up with on the BBC iPlayer if you’re not around for the 5.15pm airing on Monday and Tuesday evenings.
Although unashamedly – indeed, proudly – a programme for children, there’s few made-for-kids drama series around these days with the style, verve and sheer class of this Doctor Who spin-off, and plenty for adults to love as well.
The fact that it’s primarily for the kids actually makes this show the truer heir and keeper of the faith to the original series of Doctor Who: Nu-Who is all grown up now, with proper emotions and drama and timey-wimey complex epics; Torchwood on the other hand always wanted to be different and grown up, then went high concept and all mini-series on us as it decamped to the States.
The Sarah Jane Adventures on the other hand is just a perfect little bubble containing the spirit of 26 years of the original show, allowing it to live on through the character of Sarah Jane Smith. It’s no coincidence, I can’t help but think, that this season-opener is partly set in a nuclear power station, which is where her final story as a regular companion to Tom Baker was set back in 1976: it’s just one of those knowing, touching nods the series gives to older fans without doing anything to interrupt the fun of things for the primary audience of children. Its lack of ‘side’ or ‘edge’ or guile is what makes this show such a pure pleasure.
In previous years we’ve seen the Doctor guest star in both his David Tennant and Matt Smith guises, and featured guest turns from the Brigadier and Jo Grant (or Jo Jones as she now is) all of which have been a pure delight for long time nostalgic fans of its parent show in both modern and classic forms.
Unfortunately this will be the last (truncated) series of The Sarah Jane Adventures, following the tragically untimely demise of the series star, the irreplaceable Elisabeth Sladen, in February this year. It’s very bitter sweet to watch her in this, knowing now that she was very ill and close to passing away as happened.
You’d never know it from what’s on the screen: she is as wonderful, energetic and full of life as ever, effortlessly holding the show together with her presence and personality not to mention her acting talent which shines through. She’s running around with her teenage co-stars just the way she always did – just the way we’ll always remember her. It makes it easy to forget that Elisabeth Sladen is no longer with us; and then, when you do remember, it hits hard all over again and it’s impossible not to have the tears well up just as they did when the shocking news broke earlier this year.
But the good news is that she got to leave us this show – the five seasons of Sarah Jane Smith that put her in a category of her own, the only Classic companion to get her own successful spin-off show and become a star in her own right. And most deservedly so. That the show continues to be just as good and strong to the very end is so very important, too.
Enjoy these last few episodes; and then if you haven’t seen the preceding ones, go out and get the box set, and raise a glass to the memory of the wonderful Sarah Jane and the lovely Lis Sladen, without whom all our lives would have been so much the poorer.