Sarah Jane Adventures, The

Tagged: TV

UK tv series (2007-2011). Created by Russell T Davies for BBC Wales. Producers include Davies, Julie Gardner, Nikki Smith, and Phil Ford. Directors include Joss Agnew, Alice Troughton, and Graeme Harper. Writers include Davies, Ford, and Gareth Roberts. Cast includes Daniel Anthony, Tommy Knight, Anjli Mohindra (season 2 and onwards), Yasmin Paige (season 1) and Elisabeth Sladen. 60-minute pilot followed by 46 30-minute episodes.

The second season of the rejuvenated Doctor Who reintroduced Elisabeth Sladen as the Doctor's former companion Sarah Jane Smith, whose lingering feelings of abandonment and longing for the adventurous life she shared with the Doctor were put to rest in the episode "School Reunion". One of the season's most beloved episodes, it resurrected interest in Sarah Jane and in Sladen, whose performance was praised, and so, during the rush to capitalize on New Who's success (which also gave us Torchwood), Sladen was invited to return to Sarah Jane's shoes on a regular basis (the second such attempt, following the abortive pilot K-9 and Company in 1981). The series finds Sarah Jane working as an investigative journalist, aided by her mechanical dog K-9, a talking supercomputer dubbed Mr Smith, and a sonic lipstick. She attracts the attention of her neighbour's preteen daughter Maria Jackson (Paige), who is sucked into Sarah Jane's attempts to foil an Alien invasion of Earth. During this, she and Maria encounter a genetically engineered boy created by the aliens: Luke (Knight), whom Sarah Jane rescues and then adopts. Together they defend the Earth from aliens and other dangers.

Rather than attempt the crossover appeal of New Who, The Sarah Jane Adventures was conceived as a children's show, and besides the mostly-juvenile cast – following the pilot, Maria and Luke are joined by Luke's schoolfriend Clyde Langer (Anthony), and though Maria leaves in the second season she is replaced by another young neighbour, Rani Chandra (Mohindra) – this emphasis is felt in the cheapness of the production – which utilizes very little CGI and recycles Alien costumes and creature concepts from its parent show – and in the thinness of its plots. Sladen turned out to be a limited actress, and her young co-stars, as well as the by-the-numbers stories of teenage angst they're given, did little to counteract her unsuitability for the role of defender of the Earth. Though suitable for children, The Sarah Jane Adventures will not satisfy the Who cravings of those who are simply young at heart. Sladen's death from cancer in the spring of 2011, as the show was filming its fifth season, cut the series short. [AN]

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