Friday, January 8, 2021

Sarah Jane Adventures Retrospective

"I've seen amazing things out there in space, but strange things can happen wherever you are. I have learned that life on Earth can be an adventure too. In all the universe, I never expected to find a family." Sarah Jane Smith ("The Man Who Never Was")

This post is dedicated to the late Elizabeth Sladen, who played Sarah Jane Smith, companion of the Third and Fourth Doctors and friend of the Tenth and Eleventh Doctors. Beloved by classic and modern Doctor Who fans, she tragically passed away from cancer ten years ago this April. In my opinion, her spin-off series, Sarah Jane Adventures, is the pinnacle of Doctor Who spin-offs. So here’s to Sarah Jane.

I’d watched Sarah Jane Adventures on Hulu a few years back and loved it. And then during my current Doctor Who rewatch, I decided to throw in Sarah Jane Adventures with it (thank you, HBO Max for having this wonderful series available). Watching it in conjunction with Doctor Who didn’t necessarily add anything to the Doctor Who episodes, but it made me appreciate Sarah Jane and her Bannerman Road crew even more.

Season one features the beginning of Sarah Jane’s crew. It’s set some time after “School Reunion” and Sarah Jane is the recluse she’s been for years since the Fourth Doctor left her behind. With Maria’s help, she meets a human clone created by the Bane. This clone becomes her adopted son Luke. Maria and Luke become friends with Clyde, who joins Sarah Jane’s team. A big highlight of this season was the introduction of the Trickster, who became an arch-foe of sorts to Sarah Jane. For Doctor Who fans who haven’t seen the series, he was referenced in “Turn Left” after Donna sets the timeline straight again. Also, speaking of "Turn Left", note that Sarah Jane and her friends were referenced as saving the hospital from the Judoon in Donna's alternate timeline.

Early on in Season 2, Maria and her dad move away and only return to the show for one more special appearance. She’s replaced by Rani on Sarah Jane’s team shortly after, as they continue fighting alien invaders. Highlights from this season include the return of the Trickster (as he tries to change Sarah Jane’s past) and the last televised appearance of the Brigadier before Nicholas Courtney passed away three years later. He appeared as a Cyberman to the Twelfth Doctor, but this was his last time with his own face.

The third season was one of my favorites. K9 returned from guarding a black hole and we got a special guest appearance from the Tenth Doctor, during his time companionless before his regeneration. It was cool to see the Doctor facing off against the Trickster at Sarah Jane’s wedding. It marked the last appearance of the Trickster, though I’d love to see him back in Doctor Who. Also, I first watched this episode years after the Tenth Doctor had regenerated, so it was beautiful to see one final Tenth Doctor episode after all that time.

Season four was the last full season and it marked Luke’s departure to college, leaving Sarah Jane an empty nester. If you’re only going to watch one story from this season, it has to be “Death of the Doctor” where the Doctor teams up with Sarah Jane Smith and Jo Grant Jones. The Eleventh Doctor being with Jo for the first time in nine regenerations made me so happy, even before I’d watched Classic Who. It also established that before the Tenth Doctor regenerated, he visited all his companions. Not just the ones seem in "The End of Time". All that being said, I think the last story of this season “Goodbye, Sarah Jane Smith” was my favorite because of how it tugged so hard at my heart strings.

The final season of Sarah Jane’s adventures was cut short due to her passing. As sad as that makes it, I’m grateful for the last season. We got to see Sarah Jane be a mom again as she adopted Sky and the best part of the season was seeing Luke and Sky meet for the first time as brother and sister. There were rumors that Jo Grant, the Trickster, and even Ace would have returned later in the season. But we’ll never know now.

For years I’ve wanted Sarah Jane’s gang to return in Doctor Who to give her a proper goodbye on the show. No such luck. However, this year during quarantine, we did get a little bit of something. We got a short little audio story of Sarah Jane’s funeral, featuring mentions of countless previous companions. Besides Sarah Jane’s gang, it also featured live appearances from Jo, Gita, and Ace.

Overall, I love the Sarah Jane Adventures. It’s Doctor Who that I’d be comfortable with my daughter watching as she grows up. Torchwood was made for adults, Class was made for teenagers, and Doctor Who has aliens that might be too freaky for little kids. But Sarah Jane and her gang keep it clean and try to avoid violence. Family friendly alien fun to be enjoyed for years to come. And I’m sure I’ll watch it again before too long.

"And the story goes on.... forever"

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