This week sees the first two episodes of the new Doctor Who spin off Class. To celebrate, I thought I would look back on the show that I arguably loved even more than Doctor Who- The Sarah Jane Adventures.
The beloved companion of the Third and Fourth Doctor, Sarah Jane was so popular she returned in the new series in one of my absolute favourite Doctor Who stories ever- School Reunion. Following this, a whole spin off was commissioned, aiming to be a more kid-friendly series than Doctor Who. However, at points Sarah Jane Adventures was more mature than Doctor Who. I cannot explain how awesome it was when this show crossed over with Doctor Who and Torchwood (I had no idea who the characters apart from Jack were but my dad explained) in the Series 4 finale. The show continued until 2011, when Elisabeth Sladen unfortunately passed away. I was 10 years old and I can’t remember exactly how I reacted, but I did miss the show, and watching Sarah Jane’s original Doctor Who stories has solidified her as my favourite companion. It helped that she was in some of my favourite Classic stories- Planet of the Spiders, The Ark in Space, Genesis of the Daleks, Terror of the Zygons, The Brain of Morbius and the Seeds of Doom. I’ve yet to reach the Time Warrior on my Classic Series marathon, but I look forward to it a lot.
So with all that aside, let’s dive into this brilliant show with a look at my favourite stories, in chronological order-
- Warriors of Kudlak
I love the concept of this one a lot- training kids to fight for a galactic war using a Laser Quest style game to lure them in, with the best warriors being kidnapped for the Uvodni war (incidentally, I love the Uvodni-they were mentioned in the Pandorica Opens but I’d love to see them appear in the show properly). Where this one gets really good is the second half with the concept of The Mistress, the battle computer, hiding the peace treaty from Kudlak to continue the war as she thinks peace does not compute. It’s a dark concept for a kid’s show and proves that this is a show for all ages. This story also continues the friendship between Luke and Clyde, my favourite SJA character other than Sarah Jane and I really hope he becomes a companion one day.
- All three Trickster stories
Cheating yes, but I find all three stories featuring the Trickster, Sarah Jane’s ultimate foe, to be outstanding. The Trickster himself is probably my favourite villain in the whole Whoniverse, and his design is simple yet utterly terrifying. The stories themselves are brilliant. Whatever Happened to Sarah Jane? is a great introduction to the character and serves as the Sarah Jane lite story, where the Trickster causes Sarah Jane to fall off a pier when she was young and her friend Andrea being saved and living at 13 Bannerman Road. The Trickster aims to cause the world to be destroyed by a meteorite which Sarah Jane could easily stop, so the Trickster changes history to cause chaos. It’s a great character driven story. Incidentally, the events in the Doctor Who episode Turn Left are linked with this story.
The next Trickster story, The Temptation of Sarah Jane Smith, is my favourite of the bunch. It incorporates time travel into the show and addresses themes common in Doctor Who, namely the idea of changing the past with dire consequences. In this case, Sarah Jane is given the opportunity to save her parents from a car accident that happened when she was a baby. Timey-wimey occurs, and once again the Trickster is behind everything and Sarah Jane’s parents are forced to sacrifice themselves to save the world. Hard to believe this is seen as the Doctor Who spin off for kids.
The Wedding of Sarah Jane Smith features a guest appearance from David Tennant (!) and is amazing, as is the course for a Trickster story. It starts off comical and light hearted with Sarah Jane preparing to get married, then the Doctor appears as the cliffhanger and things get really, really dark. David Tennant is awesome here, and his confrontation with the Trickster is one of the highlights of the story (with foreshadowing to The End of Time, clever). This is also a great story for Clyde as he gets to zap the Trickster with artron energy. Awesome! Overall, these three stories to me represent the height of the series.
- Day of the Clown
One of my favourites when I was younger, this story did creep me out when I was younger, even if I’m not scared of clowns. Some of the imagery is pretty disturbing for a “kids” show, especially the scene in the toilet where Oddbob almost takes Clyde. The clown has great music and commands the screen whenever he’s on screen and while there, is of course, a sci-fi explanation, it doesn’t explain everything and leaves some details to the imagination, which is great. This story introduces Rani, who would become a permanent fixture of the show from this story onwards. Sarah Jane also has some great development here, as she has to confront her fear of clowns to take down Oddbob (she should be glad she wasn’t in Greatest Show in the Galaxy). Overall a pretty simple one, but one of the creepiest.
- Enemy of the Bane
Probably one of my most rewatched stories ever, this one is my favourite season finale of the show, tying together many ideas and characters previously established. Mrs Wormwood from Invasion of the Bane is back, Kaagh from the Last Sontaran is back and most importantly, the Brigadier is back! Oh yeah! Throughout Series 2 themes of family had been addressed, from Rani’s family to Clyde’s dad to Sarah Jane’s dilemma involving her parents, and in this story Luke is forced through the dilemma. He was created as a weapon for the Bane in their initial invasion but turned on them, and in this story Mrs Wormwood, the leader of the Bane and technically Luke’s mother, returns and forces Luke to make a choice. Great stuff, and anything with the Brigadier has my seal of approval.
- The Eternity Trap
Along with Waters of Mars, this story was one of the few Whoniverse stories to genuinely scare me and still scare me now. A much better version of Hide from Series 7 of Doctor Who, this creepy haunted house story is one I’ll be popping in this Halloween (because if you can’t beat them, join them). A great mystery tale with a fantastic villain, The Eternity Trap combines ghosts, red eyed monsters and science fiction to create one of the most unique stories in the series, with character development taking a backseat to atmosphere and scares. The attic isn’t in this one, neither is Mr Smith or Luke, so the focus is on Sarah Jane, Clyde and Rani trying to solve the mystery of Erasmus Darkening. It’s a prototype to Series 4 in a way, and it’s one of my personal favourites.
- Death of the Doctor
And I thought the Brigadier and the Tenth Doctor was the pinnacle of Who crossovers with The Sarah Jane Adventures, but no, my favourite Doctor teams up with not only Sarah Jane but Jo Grant, who I’m currently watching in my Classic Series marathon. This story has everything: UNIT, alien vulture undertakers, blue Graske (or Groske) and continuity overload! The scene where the Doctor tells Sarah Jane and Jo to remember their memories of travelling with him to overload the memory weave is one of my favourite scenes ever. Jon Pertwee, Tom Baker, Drashigs, Axons, Davros, Sea Devils, Krynoids, Morbius, Omega, Daleks, Eldrad, the Wirrn- clips from the Classic Series which make me squee with delight. It made me squee then and, due to my new found passion for Classic Who, will definitely make me squee more. In short, my reaction throughout the story is this-
So those were my favourite Sarah Jane Adventures stories. I’ve mainly gone for ones I have watched the most, as most of these aren’t necessarily the best, but they’re certainly the most enjoyable- to me anyway.