Sunday, 16 May 2010

The Sarah Jane Adventures: Whatever Happened to Sarah Jane?

Part One

“Somebody just walked over my grave…”

Oh dear. Looking at my notes for this one it’s going to be the sort of full-length write-up I said I wasn’t going to do for SJA. Bad, bad Gareth Roberts with all his pesky subtext…

We start with exactly the kind of ideal family scene which gives us a pretty clear idea that things are about to go very bad very soon, and any kind of experience of how TV drama works will give us a pretty shrewd idea of how. Sure enough; this status quo is smashed, in the form of reality being altered so that Sarah Jane died at the age of thirteen. And, as we’ll see, the status quo is to permanently change in relation to Alan, but that’s for next episode.

One niggle; how come Andrea (played by the really rather famous Jane Asher) coincidentally end up living in the same house as Sarah Jane? There’s no obvious reason other than plot convenience why she should. But I’ll overlook this, I think; it’s handwaved away quite nicely with the focus on Maria’s adjustment to the new reality misdirecting us away from such inconvenient thoughts. Anyway, perhaps reality simply adjusts the minimum amount possible? I can buy that.

This is an excellent way to handle a Sarah Jane-lite story, and a rather good example to the parent show in this respect, and this episode fully experiences the consequences for Maria of reality changing around her. Particularly powerful is the realisation that Clyde isn’t particularly friendly to her in this reality- showing us how much he’s changed in a few short weeks.

This is Maria’s episode, though, and we get more development of her relationship with her dad. Only at the end is it revealed that Andrea made a Faustian pact aged thirteen with the mysterious hooded figure we saw skulking around earlier. The episode ends with a Graske turning up (Not that I’m particularly vexed by such questions, but did their “previous” appearance count/ Whatever.). This is not exactly the prosthetics department’s finest hour, but it just about gets away with it.

Part Two

“Chaos is my blood and air and food…”

Maria is sent back to 1964 for reasons which are not entirely clear, where she meets two thirteen year old girls, Andrea and Sarah Jane. But why is Sarah Jane not speaking in a Scouse accent? Not only are there traces of Liverpool in Lis Sladen’s speech, but I recall some dialogue from Invasion of the Dinosaurs in which she used the Liverpool Docks as an example of something normal and familiar. Bit of a minor continuity error here, methinks. On the other hand, I love Andrea’s reference to “a Triffid coming to get us”. No doubt she saw the previous year’s film version featuring Doctor Who’s Carole Ann Ford.

Maria, erased from existence at Andrea’s whim just to stop her feeling bad, ends up in “Limbo”, where she meets Sarah Jane. We then meet the villain of the piece: the Trickster, a lover of chaos who refers to humans as ephemerals (hmmm…). His plan makes sense, sort of, and I’m glad we get an explanation as to what happened to the previous alien invasions which now won’t have been stopped by Sarah Jane. Apparently the upcoming meteor strike will be a much more aesthetically pleasing demise for the planet to the discerning aficionado of chaos.

The conclusion, with Andrea’s moral dilemma and self-sacrifice, is genuinely heart-rending, but the Trickster is defeated. Except… Alan now knows all about the aliens and stuff. Oops…

Truly excellent stuff. I’ve enjoyed the previous stories, but it’s nice to have something with a bit more depth. 5/5.

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