The DVD box set of the first season of The Sarah Jane Adventures was released this week. A spin-off from Doctor Who, the show was developed for the BBC’s children’s channel, CBBC, and features a band of teenagers teaming up with former traveling Companion of the Doctor, Sarah Jane Smith, to defeat various alien threats (which is also the basic formula for the much more adult Doctor Who spin-off Torchwood.) Sarah Jane Smith first appeared in 1973, and she is one of the most beloved characters in the Doctor Who universe, played by Elisabeth Sladen (you can read yesterday’s Science Not Fiction interview with Sladen here).
So, what are The Sarah Jane Adventures like?
Great fun — even if you’re more than a few years past being a child. The producers seem to have taken to heart Isaac Asimov’s maxim about writing for young people: “I like to have the ideas in my novels sufficiently interesting and subtle to catch the attention and thinking of intelligent adults, and, at the same time, to have the writing clear enough so as to raise no difficulties for the intelligent youngster.” Episodes of Sarah Jane are smartly written and well paced. Indeed, with a change of cast, many of the scripts wouldn’t be out of place on Doctor Who. The production values are the also same as those on Doctor Who and Torchwood.
The only real difference between Sarah Jane and her sister shows is that the violence is toned down, and there’s zero sex. The kids don’t live in worlds of saccharine perfection: all three children are, for various reasons, from single parent homes. They sometimes struggle to fit in at school. And stories don’t always have perfect endings: for example, they are unable to rescue one sympathetic character from Alzheimers, and in another episode a relatively blameless character must be erased from existence if the world is to be saved. But the underlying theme of the show is about family: in finding and trusting each other, our little group wins through. (Although it’s never belabored, the show makes the point that Sarah Jane’s life improves immeasurably when she finally rejects the kind of emotional isolation adopted by her beloved Doctor.) If you’re a Doctor Who fan, this is a must-have. If you’re not a Who fan, but are looking for something you can watch with your kids without either age group desperately seeking escape after the first five minutes, this is a must-have too.
Links to this Post
- Doctor Who: Season Four DVDs | Science Not Fiction | Discover Magazine | November 18, 2008