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First Impressions: The Sarah Jane Adventures

With bowls of popcorn in our laps, my daughter and I sat down to watch the premiere episode of The Sarah Jane Adventures, the spin-off of Doctor Who. Sarah Jane Smith (Elisabeth Sladen) was the sidekick of the third and forth Doctors back in the 70’s, way before I was ever introduced to the show. The character also made an appearance in the 2006 episode “School Reunion”, at the end of which she sauntered happily off with the robotic dog called K-9.

Here are my initial impressions of the show.

(Cue Leslie Nielson: “I’m sorry…I don’t do impressions.”)

  • The content is (so-far) kid-oriented. In some respects, Sarah Jane performs a highly sanitized function similar to the folks of Torchwood: hunting aliens and helping the good ones while stopping the bad ones.
  • The premiere episode (“Invasion of the Bane”) featured bad aliens, who are human looking until they reveal themselves to be giant, insect-like creatures. The Mother alien, one giant eyeball with tentacles, was also nicely done…even it did resemble a Cthulhu version of a head of lettuce.
  • Mrs. Wormwood, the leader of the evil Bane aliens, was beautifully played by Samantha Bond, who played Miss Moneypenny in the Pierce Brosnan James Bond films. She made it look easy to be evil without looking campy. It looks like she’ll be back in future episodes. I hope.
  • Overall, the special effects are nicely done. They fit right in with the Doctor Who look and feel, if there is such a thing.
  • I think it’s fantastic that they got the same actress to play the character that they had 30 years ago. She has a quite likable personality. Sladen is 60 year’s old and she’s as lively as any other character in a TV show half her age. I sadly remember watching Barnaby Jones in my youth and thinking that Buddy Ebson was way too old to be chasing crooks, especially at the speed he ran. This is not the case here. Or maybe it just looks that way with since I’m older than back then. 🙂
  • Sarah Jane has her own personal version of the Doctor’s do-everything Sonic Screwdriver – it’s Sonic Lipstick. I’m not sure whether that’s funny or lame, but I laughed all the same.
  • As others have noted in a previous post: The back story for getting rid of K-9 was lame, though admittedly he can’t be tagging along with Sarah Jane and the kids.
  • Awkward moment: At one point, Sarah Jane says something along the lines of “The aliens have plans and weapons. I have nothing. That’s what makes me special.” Err, no, that’s what makes you easily defeated. She’s not of course, because the Good Guy always wins here.
  • When you start looking at the show with the eyes of realism or common sense, your enjoyment level will drastically drop like, for example, during the ending when the Bubble Pop warehouse explodes for no apparent reason other than Sarah Jane and the kids had just escaped from it. This is aimed at kids, remember.
  • My daughter likes The Sarah Jane Adventures as much as Doctor Who, so she’ll be tuning in every week. Any time that I can spend with my daughter is a no-brainer, so I’ll be watching in as well.
  • Future episodes look to be 30 minutes in length, with two-parters seeming to be the norm. This dials up my daughter’s anticipation for next week’s show without fail. What a fangirl.

Bottom line: While adults may not find anything challenging watching The Sarah Jane Adventures, this is an excellent opportunity for parents to share science fiction with their kids.

About John DeNardo (13013 Articles)
John DeNardo is the Managing Editor at SF Signal and a columnist at Kirkus Reviews. He also likes bagels. So there.

4 Comments on First Impressions: The Sarah Jane Adventures

  1. I watched the series as it…uh…fell off a truck onto my hard drive. I liked it as kids fare, with the standout being the uber-creepy/sad/heartbreaking Whatever Happened to Sarah Jane? featuring a still hot Jane Asher. It’s a beautiful tale of loss and redemption that ranks among the best TV SF stories I’ve seen in a while.

  2. Yeah, I agree this is a great one for the kids. If you don’t have any left at home, however (ohhh, I’m showing my age), you’ll not find any exciting differences from its parent series. She doesn’t use weapons, she (oops – deleted the spoiler) and stays in her house. That’s different, but boring. I was disappointed. But hopefully, it will get the kiddies into SF.

  3. Richard Novak // April 15, 2008 at 1:02 pm //

    Sarah Jane was a Companion to the Third (Jon Pertwee) and Fourth (Tom Baker) Doctors.

    Love and blessings.

  4. Fixed. Thanks, Richard.

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