The Blue Box Blog

Emma Lou's adventures in Doctor Who fandom

Review: The Sarah Jane Adventures Series 5

Posted by emmahyam on October 22, 2011



Its an odd feeling of joy and sadness as I write this series of mini-reviews for The Sarah Jane Adventures as the show comes to an enforced end due to the untimely death of Elisabeth Sladen. The Sarah Jane Adventures was, for me at least, by far the most consistent and best of the Doctor Who spin offs and to say goodbye to such a fun, interesting and at times emotionally affecting show, and indeed its star is just cruel.

For those who maybe unaware of events leading up to this point, Elisabeth Sladen passed away on the 19th of April 2011 after a battle with cancer, due to her illness production on The Sarah Jane Adventures was split and three episodes (making up the first 3 installments of series 5) were filmed. Filming for the remaining three episodes was scheduled to begin in early 2011 but this was first postponed, then canceled as the BBC announced that with Lis Sladen’s death, The Sarah Jane Adventuress would be brought to an end.

So, lets have a look at the three episodes that make up the truncated series 5, firstly:

“Sky”: Something The Sarah Jane Adventures always excelled at was putting in scripts that entertained kids with bags of action and adventure while providing lots of little nods and plotting that will keep the adults in the room engaged too, “Sky” was a great example of that at work. To the kids this episode was another hour of Sarah Jane sorting out the baddies and gaining a new daughter, for the grown ups this was a Terminator pastiche with some lovely subtle comedic moments from Lis Sladen as Sarah Jane struggles to cope with first  a tiny baby who then turns into a 12 year old. Thats not to diminish the work of the rest of the cast,  Daniel Anthony (Clyde) and Anjli Mohindr (Rani) putting in their usual excellent turns. The episode itself is solid if not spectacular, the plot was pretty basic with the war between the Metalkind and the Fleshkind getting rather pushed into “B” story territory as the focus turned to Sky and her integration into the full time cast. If anything this episode almost had too much going on with Rani’s parents popping up for not much of a reason and the surprise reappearance of The Shopkeeper and The Captain hinting at a plot arc which would sadly go unfulfilled. I feel this episode was intended as a back door reboot of the series, introducing Sky and reestablishing Clyde and Rani’s roles within the show as they become surrogate aunt and uncle to her, a canny move on the part of the production team faced with a cast who in story terms are about to follow Luke out of Ealing and off to university.

“The Curse of Clyde Langer”: Its always a bit of worry when a kids show devotes an episode to ISSUES! In this case homelessness as Clyde, cursed via Portentous Sci-Fi Injury by a scary looking totem pole and is rejected by everyone who cares for him is forced to roam the streets of London. It came as a relief when the episode was a really strong one, Daniel Anthony was at his excellent best as Clyde and this episode acted as a wonderful showcase for the character. When we first meet him in “Revenge of the Slitheen” Clyde is very much a stereotypical secondary school clown and slacker, wisecracking and coasting his way through, trying to disguise a vulnerable kid inside. Clyde’s rejection by his family and downfall is really painful to watch and I think thats a tribute to the brilliance of the writers and a reminder of how central Clyde is to the show as whole. Clyde is the beating heart of the team, a lovely counterpoint to Luke (a Geordi to his Data is you will) and a great comedic foil to Rani. The big issue of the episode, homelessness, is actually beautifully handled and the script doesn’t shy away from the issue or try to sugar coat it. For instance, the fate of Ellie, who befriends Clyde on the streets remains unknown as Clyde is forced to leave her behind. I thought the show would go down the easy road of Clyde somehow rescuing her from her situation but that was passed by in favour of a more “realistic” ending where she simply disappears and Clyde is left with the realisation that he probably didn’t even know her real name. I wonder if Ellie would have made another appearance had the show continued?

“The Man Who Never Was”: Its fitting that the last episode of The Sarah Jane Adventures is very much Sarah Jane’s story as she, with the help of her gang of young apprentices helps to take down a unscrupulous business man and rescue some aliens from slavery. As with “Sky” this is on the face of it a pretty simplistic tale but it does the job extremely well as it mixes genuine laughs (check out the absolutely filthy joke Clyde makes in part 2!) with some great action and a interesting morality angle. Apparently this episode was intended to be the finale of series 5 had the season been made in full, this is somewhat borne out by the episode as to me it felt a little disjointed, as if plot points and character development that was planned but we never got to see were taken out. In spite of this episode was excellent with particular praise going again to the central SJA team. Lis Sladen was a hugely underrated comedic actress and her skills were beautifully showcased here, especially during her confrontation with the holographic Mr Serf. I think it very fitting that Sarah Jane gets involved in the story because shes one of the top journalists in the country, a lovely way for the writers to remind  us of how awesome Sarah Jane is in ‘real’ life, not just in world saving. Daniel Anthony and Anjli Mohindr were on their usual great form, again working wonderfully with the comedic aspects of the script. Tommy Knight (Luke) and Sinead Michael (Sky) have never come across as the most accomplished actors however this actually worked in their favour as they awkwardly tried to bond as brother and sister.

Overall looking over this truncated series the episodes were up to the excellent standard set by previous series, however its very much tinged with sadness as I’m left with an almost overwhelming sense of lost opportunities. The unexpected reappearance of The Shopkeeper and The Captain hints at an arc for the series that they were unable to expand on. The alien slavery story line is ripe for more exploration and it would have been awesome to see Sarah Jane putting a permanent end to it. There is a distinct possibility that Ellie would have reappeared and that could have been a brilliant way to explore the bubbling romance angle between Clyde and Rani (or ‘Clani’ as Luke had dubbed them) or even as a way to get the brilliant Trickster back to the series. I’m also sad that we’re not going to see any more of Sky’s story, presumably in series 6 when Clyde and Rani would be moving on to university we’d have a story with Sky’s friends discovering the attic and Sarah Jane embarking on a whole new set of adventures with some new youngsters.

Despite my sadness that there will be no more Sarah Jane Adventures the coda at the end of the episode gives us hope that somewhere, Sarah Jane is in an attic being brilliant and saving the world, and in that way, she’ll live forever. What a wonderful tribute to a phenomenal character and an amazing actress.


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