10. The Mad Woman in the Attic
Joseph Lidster has penned a number of great stories for SJA (Mark of the Berserker and The Nightmare Man) and whilst this tale may have the dazzling and flashy, erm, flashbacks (including Pertwee and Baker from Doctor Who), it’s the notion of friendship, and all that it entails, the lights up this story. Mad Woman has a Who~esque time~jumping narrative along with stellar performances from the alien Red Head and series star, Anjli Mohindra. Fact fans will also note it stars Mr. Sladen, Brian Miller.
9. The Empty Planet
Like many of the best from Doctor Who, The Sarah Jane Adventures works equally as well when “borrowing” from other works. Rani and Clyde wake up (not together!) to find themselves the only people left in the world – cue search through desolate streets and empty shops. Of course, it’s not long before they discover two huge robots and a mystery is revealed. Full credit to both Daniel Anthony and Mohindra for carrying this two~parter with aplomb, especially as it grows their character’s relationship somewhat.
8. The Temptation of Sarah Jane Smith
The Trickster’s first return may not have been as good as his first (or last) but it’s still a hugely engaging and entertaining story. At the core of it lies one of the oldest questions: if you could, would you change the past? Sarah Jane, someone well aware of the pitfalls of such a venture, is faced with this conundrum and, heart~breakingly, meets her parents when they were alive. Just as Pyramids of Mars showed SJ an alternate future, so we find Clyde and Rani in an alternate reality; an apocalyptic envisioning of London (extremely well executed, it should be said).
7. Mona Lisa’s Revenge
In my review for this Series 3 story from Phil Ford (who also co~wrote The Waters of Mars and is currently working with Rusty D on Aliens Vs Wizards), I described the antics of the Louvre’s finest as a “rip-roaring, rollicking riot.” I stand by this initial assessment (though I would perhaps now use “romp”) and watching The Doctor’s wife herself Suranne Jones purring her way through the two episodes, uttering “sugar” every two minutes, is immeasurably pleasing. Fact fans will note the actor Jeff Rawle, best known for UK comedy Drop The Dead Donkey, but, for us nerd~a~trons, he’ll always be Plantaganet from the 1984 Doctor Who story, Frontios. Mona Lisa’s Revenge is an excellent example of the production team having fun, and it translates superbly onto the screen.
6. The Curse of Clyde Langer
Like the brilliant Mark of the Berserker, this Series 5 adventure focused on the titular Clyde, positioning him as the “bad” guy (after a curse is invoked by a totem pole, no really). Phil Ford has a real grasp on the series and its possibilities and dares to push it further with notions of “other”ness and homelessness firmly embedded within the fantastical elements of the story. Definitely one of Daniel Anthony’s finest performances and the hint of lost love was deftly played.
5. Lost in TimeNow this, this could be Doctor Who (not saying that’s a good thing, mind). SJ & Co. are lured into a trap by The Shopkeeper (pictured above), who then proceeds to to split the gang up and send them back in time and space separately – all to find three objects made of chronosteen (forged in the Time Vortex, capable of all sorts of things). #keytotime The time~zone jumping is stoutly worked and the cast are all on top form – as is the gorgeous production and location work. Fact fans will also note, there is a newspaper in part one dated November 23…Very early in the series, it was quite obvious that The Sarah Jane Adventures was something special, and something very different to your normal TV fare. After the opening Slitheen fun in Series One came this almost downbeat story focusing on age and senility. Phil Ford’s gripping afternoon scare~fest was directed with great style by Alice Troughton (who also helmed Doctor Who’s Midnight, amongst others) and contained a magnificently touching performance from Phyllida Law. Eye of the Gorgon was a clear indicator that the series could handle more “adult” themes and portray them with ease.
3. The Wedding of Sarah Jane Smith
Much, quite rightly, was made of Davey T’s role in third series of the spin~off though, as it turned out, The Doctor was really only around for the second half. Even without his presence, the return of The Trickster bettered his first return (see above) and the blighter even had the audacity to wear white to Sarah Jane’s wedding (to the dreamy Nigel Havers). Again, it’s the emotional core of the story – SJ and the tragedy of her beau (Havers) – that makes this such a rewarding watch. Tennant’s interaction with the gang is heavenly and the goodbye scene is now rendered beyond tearful, though so wonderfully played by Sladen and the Scot.
2. Death of the Doctor
The return of Russell T Davies, for the first time since the pilot, demonstrated just how well the writer was in tune with the show. And not content with bringing Matt Smith into the show (who did a fantastic job, it must be said), Rusty D brought back another old companion Jo Grant (well Jones, but who cares about that?), who fitted into her old role superbly. The revelations of The Doctor and his affection for Sarah Jane were deeply affecting, and Jo was suitably hurt by it all. Thankfully, to cheer everyone up, we had The Shansheeth – some wonderfully Muppety style aliens and Matt’s delightful body~swapping routine with Clyde. If that weren’t enough, the closing few moments gave kudos to companions gone but not forgotten. Truly touching, Now, how many lives did The Doctor say he had…?
1. Whatever Happened To Sarah Jane?
To be utterly frank (and I always am readers), if you haven’t seen this 2007 story then your life is not yet complete. You are truly missing out on a televisual gem. Without hesitation I would proffer that Whatever Happened To Sarah Jane?, despite the appearance of the Graske, is up there with the very best of its “daddy”, Doctor Who.
Writer Gareth Roberts, the King of SJA, with precision and perfection delves deep into teenage paranoia and horror, where the child thinks everyone (friends and family) is against them. It’s a familiar trope but Roberts is canny enough to throw in some lust for life, with the desperate to survive Jane “Almost Mrs Paul McCartney” Asher. The rest of the cast are fronted brilliantly by the much missed Yasmin Paige, Joseph Millson and Juliet Cowan (Maria, Alan and Chrissie Jackson).
AND this immaculate two~parter introduced The Trickster – a villain so immense that he not only did he return twice to the same show, the cad was also name~checked in Doctor Who and Torchwood (or his Brigade, at least). All in all, an absolute must see bit of telly.