EPISODES 1 + 2
by Phil Ford
Reviewed by Eddie McGuigan
The new – and sadly final – series of The Sarah Jane Aventures gets underway on 3rd October (followed the next day by Ep 2), on the CBBC channel with an adventure by veteran SJA writer Phil Ford.
A baby is left on Sarah Jane’s door step, but no normal child. One who blows light bulbs in the entire street when she cries, and who can pop electrical circuits whilst laughing. At the same time a warrior from a race known as Metalkind appears in a scrap yard and the slick Mrs Myers (although, apparently it’s not spelt like that!), shows up in a nearby Nuclear Power Plant, immediately to enslave the workforce and go looking for her “daughter”. Christianing the baby Sky, Sarah Jane, Clyde and Rani, set about to discover what’s going on – and who would leave a baby lying on a doorstep. Sarah quickly dismisses Rani’s suggestion that it’s the work of the Doctor, of course, but something isn’t write.
As the three disparate groups come together, the baby changes and out pops a twelve year old girl – same Sky, different body. It seems she’s a genetically programmed bomb, made by Mrs Myers’ people – the Fleshkind – as a weapon again the Metalkind to end an eon old war. But Sky is aware and as human as anyone, so of course, Sarah Jane is not going to allow this to happen.
Phil Ford knows his SJA inside and out, and this is standard, if a little derivitive, fair. The story is one dimensional and easily explained – but, to be fair, it is for the CBBC audience – and the basic premise is very similar to the pilot episode. With Luke still away at university, new character Sky, with her penchant for everything electrical, is the new wide eyed wonder, questioning what girls and pizzas are, and battling against her alien, darker side. It’s an exciting and fast adventure, and very, very Sarah Jane.
The cast is only let down by the over acting of Christine Stephen Daly’s Mrs Myers, who actually does shout “The end is NIGGGGHHHH!!!” and in an adventure where all the performances have been toned down since even last season, it does stand out a bit.
Newcomer Sinead Michael as the twelve year old Sky is good though, but she’ll struggle to be different from Luke as she’s essentially a reboot of that character – she even wears his clothes – but she’s lively and engaging and, to be honest, a better actor than Tommy Knight. The rest of the cast are as good as ever, though.
Script editor Gary Russell adds to the mythos of SJA with the surprising inclusion of the Captain late on in the second episode, and a hint that he’s more than meets the eye. In fact, it’s more than a hint.
It’s impossible to review The Sarah Jane Adventures now without knowing of the tragic passing of Elisabeth Sladen. It’s with mixed emotions that one can watch it – joyous at seeing her doing what she does so effortlessly and sadness at the knowledge that she’s been taken all too soon. Whilst looking the picture of health in the series, her voice over does sound a little older, a little deeper, and it’s such a heartbreaking thing to hear.
There will be debates as to whether these should have been shown, or whether they should continue – Clyde and Rani could definitely pull off a CBBC spin off, but it would probably lose a lot of it’s “Who” appeal for its older audience – but I for one am glad to see that Elisabeth Sladen spent her final months being Sarah Jane Smith again, and enthralling children everywhere. It would be churlish to criticise this series for story content or derivation, so, for once, let’s just sit back and watch Sarah Jane do what she does one last time.