Blightyvision: The Sarah Jane Adventures Series 5

Created by Russell T. Davies
Starring Elisabeth Sladen, Daniel Anthony, Anjli Mohindra, and Tommy Knight

A friend of mine said recently that, after Elisabeth Sladen died, he found himself unable to keep watching The Sarah Jane Adventures simply because the idea of her being gone was just too sad.  And believe me, I don’t fault him for that; I felt much the same.  Part of me wanted to see the episodes that had been completed before her death, but the rest of me knew that I’d probably get weepy during a good portion of her screen time.  Sarah Jane Smith has always been something of an immortal character, and the Whovians (including myself) were thrown for a loop when we discovered that the woman who brought her to life was no longer with us.

Nonetheless, I knew I needed and wanted to see what was left of her run, and I knew that despite my inevitable teary-eyed natsukashii-ness whenever Sarah Jane showed up, I would smile more than I’d bawl.

When last we left Sarah Jane and her Scooby Gang, her adopted genetically-engineered son Luke (Knight) had taken off for college, leaving his mum and any particularly emotionally-inclined parents watching in nostalgic tears.  The first two-part story, Phil Ford’s “Sky,” addressed that immediately, introducing new cast member Sinead Michael — a relative unknown — as the title character.  Much like Luke, she’s been created by aliens for their own malicious ends.  And like Luke, she becomes a part of the family almost right away.  Despite her age as compared to the older “companions,” Sky in her unexpectedly short run manages not to become the Scrappy-Doo of the group.  She had a ways to go as a character, which she will sadly never have, but she was on the right track to being a legit and useful part of the team (and, mostly importantly, not Luke Mk. II.)

“Sky” was a good series opener, yes, but it was the story after — “The Curse of Clyde Langer” — that utterly knocked my metaphorical socks off.  Also written by Ford (who wrote the Doctor Who clusterfornication “Waters of Mars” and the “Dreamland” miniseries), it’s a two-part character study of the kid who’s pretty well become everyone’s favorite character.  Anthony as Clyde has really grown as an actor over his years with the show, and this was a proper chance for him to shine, as a splinter from a totem pole turns his name into a curse causing all his loved ones to hate him.  In its way, it’s a coming-of-age story, and while The Sarah Jane Adventures has never talked down to its younger viewers, this seemed like a real maturity-up in the midst of its other stories.  It’s the best of what this show can be — character development, emotional conflict, and genuine childhood/teenhood concerns with a clever little sci-fi undercurrent.

The unwitting series finale, “The Man Who Wasn’t There,” came to us via Gareth Roberts (a prolific Doctor Who writer, and the mind behind many of this show’s more memorable episodes).  I’ve been trying to find out whether this was the intended finale or not, but I hear conflicting opinion.  Suffice to say I doubt it was meant to be the end of the show as a whole.  With a nifty cameo by “24”‘s Mark Aiken, sporting an okay-ish American accent, it’s a cute little jab at the popularity of iPads, as well as offering some resolution and communication between Luke and Sky.  Sadly, it looked like the beginning of a beautiful friendship, and one we’ll just have to imagine the rest of.

I don’t think it’s a spoiler to tell you that the ending of the last episode was handled very sweetly, with a short montage and an older voice-over by Sladen.  Yes, fortunately, they’re letting the fans imagine Sarah Jane and her gang continuing their adventures, keeping the world safe from alien threats while the Doctor is otherwise occupied.  She was always something of an immortal character, and while other classic series characters have received send-offs when their actors died, I think it’s only fitting that Sarah Jane Smith be allowed to go on in everyone’s imaginations.

Hell. I’m getting weepy again.

The fourth series of The Sarah Jane Adventures is now available for preorder, to be released in December, with the fifth and final likely to follow before too long.  Damn. I promised myself I wouldn’t cry.