Due to the fact that Part 2 of this story is basically one huge spoiler, I’ve split this review into two. It would be impossible, really, to mention anything about the denouement without ruining the plot and various twists (though I’m still leaving a few surprises out). The spoiler section will be clearly marked, don’t worry. Anyway, onto the finale of the best series yet of The Sarah Jane Adventures…
After another delightfully economical and action-packed pre~titles sequence, where an asteroid containing some nasty alien germs has fallen to earth, we quickly meet the Sarah Jane doppleganger, Ruby White. Clyde’s statement, “She’s exactly like you,” is not far off the mark as Ruby also has a fancy car (though I still prefer SJ’s mode of transport), impressive tech (a mini Mac style Mr Smith), similar looks and hair~do to match. And, without wanting to sound a little bit inappropriate, she ain’t bad on the eye either; like an “action” version of Nigella Lawson.
At first, it’s a disharmonious relationship between SJ & Co. and Ruby with the latter acting like a right old snooty cow, scowling at neighbours and barking at the kids. But, once she manages to save the gang’s lives, order is restored and it’s a great big lurve~in; with Ruby seeming like the ideal candidate to replace Sarah Jane. But why am I talking about replacing the show’s lead?
“Must be getting old.”
These are the words spoken by Sarah Jane as she realises that something is amiss with her mental health. The first physical signs of the process are somewhat unpleasantly realised as we witness Sarah Jane’s hands shaking; a painfully real~life moment. She even manages to put the lives of Rani and Clyde at risk (and also letting him, rather shockingly, wield a gun); and so decides to step down, after Mr Smith informs SJ that she is “very ill, indeed”, and offers her “job” to newcomer Ruby White.
Sarah Jane laments to herself, “No~one’s irreplaceable,” to which we are then presented with a montage of Rani and Clyde spending time with Ruby; SJ on the periphery of the action. As a side~note, this could be interpreted as a comment on the future of the show itself and how it will pan out. The “kids”, if I may use such a redundantly disgusting word, have already been “replaced” and displaced, is it now the turn of Elisabeth Sladen? If not now, then perhaps, the future? Could The Sarah Jane Adventures continue without the titular Sarah Jane? As I say, a side~note.
Back to the story. Writers Gareth Roberts and Clayton Hickman manage to pack in a great deal in the time allowed. From the amusing Mr Smith line, “Well you’re certainly the most agreeable artificial intelligence I’ve met since I’ve been on this planet,” (upon “meeting” Ruby’s bit of tech) to the mention of the “Ealing Triangle” (which sounds like a titty bar I visited back in ‘Nam) to the tension of the mystery unfolding and sadness of Sarah Jane’s health. By the end of Part One you’ll certainly be agog with a number of emotions.
++WARNING++ ++SPOILERS COMING AFTER PIC++
++WARNING++ ++START OF SPOILERS++
It’s in Part Two where the mystery and interest dissolve and are replaced with good old~fashioned action, suiting of a finale. Special mention must go to Julie Graham (who I normally have no time for – her “performances” in Bonekickers or Survivors, for example) playing Kitesh, the “soul stealer”. The actress deftly jumps into the role of bad gurl alien with some aplomb, resplendent with a Creature From The Pit style appendage. She’s even got a ship to herself! It may seem low~key, and have a whiff of the Sontaran globe, but it performs its duties as a prison ship admirably.
Cleverly, and slightly reminiscent of this year’s Vault of Secrets, the ending, for her, leaves a return possible. Let’s hope so as Graham is an impressive foe, full of character and bite. Speaking of returns, Luke, as you may have seen in the promotional pictures, is back to save the day. It’s odd but he does now seem out of place in The Sarah Jane Adventures with Clyde and Rani filling their roles perfectly. And, to be blunt, Tommy Knight is likable but can’t match the rest of the cast in the acting stakes and isn’t nearly as engaging.
++END OF SPOILERS++
++END OF SPOILERS++
Goodbye, Sarah Jane Smith is full of wonderful twists and turns that will keep you guessing for some time just what is going to happen and just who is going to survive (or return). Thanks to a cracking script, direction that wouldn’t look out of place on the big screen and heart~warming performances, the finale of Series 4 will leave you more satisfied than any other series finale and glad that another series is on the way.
And, as a final note, congratulations to everyone involved in The Sarah Jane Adventures for producing on the most consistent series on British television; even more so than its parent show, Doctor Who. This year has seen an incredibly high quality collection of stories, both in execution and delivery, that were never anything other than brilliant. Now, when are the BBC gonna put it out on a decent day and hour???
Goodbye, Sarah Jane Smith airs 5.15pm, Mon 15 & Tues 16 on CBBC 4.30pm, Wed 17 & Thurs 18 Nov on BBC One