The Sarah Jane Adventures: Season 2
DVD | Box Set
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Sarah Jane Adventures, The: The Complete Second Season (DVD)
Investigative journalist Sarah Jane Smith, one-time companion to hat strange wanderer in time and space known as the Doctor, is back for a second, expanded, series of alien-busting adventures. When Sarah's adopted son, Luke, first became part of Sarah Jane's life, he encountered a world of adventure - not just of dangerous aliens bent on invasion and destruction, but also an amazing world of wonder and excitement which showed him that the universe really is an amazing place. This is something that Sarah Jane is keen to keep from Bannerman Road, and Series Two's, newest addition, fourteen-year- old Rani Chandraand her parents Gita and Haresh. But sparky Rani is a wannabe journalistand, like Sarah Jane, is not the type to let a mystery go unsolved! Get ready for more danger, mystery and Get ready for more danger, mystery and wonder as incomparable Sarah Jane Smith returns for a second series of the spectacular, thrilling children's drama from the makers of Doctor Who and Torchwood.]]>
The charming Sarah Jane Adventures continues to provide fun and entertaining children's television while remaining true to its roots in the venerable British science-fiction series Doctor Who. Elisabeth Sladen, who remains among the Doctor's best-loved companions (she accompanied Jon Pertwee and Tom Baker on their interstellar jaunts from 1973 to 1976), is again front and center for this program, which takes place entirely on Earth. That doesn't mean it's safe from alien invasions, as the 2008 second season illustrates: menaces from Sarah Jane's past (a warlike Sontaran, whom she first encountered in the 1973 Doctor Who serial "The Time Warrior," is on the loose in "The Last Sontaran") as well as newer foes (the Lovecraftian Bane return in "Enemy of the Bane," along with a nice supporting turn by Nicholas Courtney, who reprises his Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart) present challenges to the intrepid journalist and her teenage companions. The six two-part episodes that comprise season 2 deliver both the breezy cheek and the imaginative sci-fi that producer Russell T. Davies has brought to the revamped Doctor and its more grownup spinoff, Torchwood, and if the plots and action here are somewhat milder than those of the Doctor or Captain Jack Harkness, fans of both should be pleased that they can get an equal level of enjoyment from a show that they can also watch with younger viewers.
The three-disc set has an agreeable amount of extras, though many, like episode synopses for both seasons and character profiles, are text-based and therefore a bit underwhelming. More interesting are interviews with the cast and behind-the-scenes footage, most taken from UK kids' series like Blue Peter. There's also an enjoyable quiz section that yields an amusing comic clip. --Paul Gaita
- Stories: The Last Sontaran, The Day of the Clown, Secret of the Stars, The Mark of the Berserker, The Temptation of Sarah Jane Smith, Enemy of the Bane
- Interview with cast and crew
- Season synopses for all stories
- Investigating Tools: a gadget glossary
- Quiz with special footage prize
- Character and alien profiles
- Photo gallery
- Audio clips
- UK TV spots
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The Sarah Jane Adventures is a wonderful addition to the Doctor Who universe. One of the things I love most about it that I miss from Classic Who is the "companion team" idea; not simply the Doctor and his companion, but Sarah Jane and her "family" out solving mysteries and tracking down aliens. Yes, the kids might be younger than the Doctor's companions, but it still doesn't diminish the meaningfulness of their relationships with Sarah Jane or each other. The show is aimed at a younger audience, yet I find that it has about the same levels of action and important, heartfelt messages that Doctor Who has.
Another aspect of this show that really stands out to me is Sarah Jane herself. While I haven't quite reached Sarah Jane's entrance in Classic Who, (I'm getting close!) I still love her character and appreciate her history with the Doctor. In this show, Sarah Jane basically acts as the Doctor, and my goodness does she do an incredible job! In addition to being witty, intelligent, brave, and tech savvy like the Doctor, she also has the heart of a mother. In this way you can see how she plays the part of both the Doctor and the companion at the same time: charging in to save the day and then running to comfort someone in distress. It's a great role, and Elisabeth Sladen just does a phenomenal job. This show has made me even more excited to meet Sarah Jane in the classic series!
Overall, it's an incredible spinoff. If you love Doctor Who, and especially if you love the Russell T. Davies era, you'll eat this up like I am. And, it's a great way to get more Doctor Who while we're waiting till Spring 2017!
Great though that was, I still didn't watch The Sarah Jane Adventures Season One. By the time that came onto our screens in 2007, I had stopped watching Doctor Who altogether and had not renewed my Big Finish subscription. The complete reconstruction of the Who franchise made me reluctant to shoulder yet another crushing disappointment. How wrong I was.
1. The Last Sontaran
After strange lights are seen around a radio tower, Sarah Jane, with Luke (her adopted son) and friends Clyde and Maria, discovers a Sontaran Commander, Kaagh, sole survivor of the Tenth Sontaran Battle Fleet (destroyed in the Doctor Who episode 'The Poison Sky'). Kaagh plans revenge by bringing Earth's satellites down onto nuclear power stations across the world, wiping out all humanity...
In hindsight, the first story has far more in common with that Season One, both in tone and in terms of personnel (the Jackson family leaving for America at the end of the episode, not the beginning), and feels very tied-in to Doctor Who (an understandable ratings ploy perhaps), much more so than the rest of Season Two. Though the title demolishes any mystery about the lights in the sky right from the start, part one is generally pretty good with some very pacey direction. Part two, however, is far less convincing, involving a lot of padding and a couple of problems that seem to recur in the SJAs: namely, a powerful alien easily fooled by children (well, it is a kids show, I suppose) and a treacly closing homily.
2. Day of the Clown
The Chandra family move into the Jacksons' old house opposite Sarah Jane just as she is starting an investigation into disappearing children in the area. Clyde and Luke meet new girl Rani Chandra at school and after Clyde sees a clown prior to the sudden disappearance of one of his friends, Rani reveals she is being stalked by someone no-one else can see...
On paper, it didn't look good. Always a difficult proposition for any series, a new family had to be introduced. (I needn't have worried. A charming, well-cast group of individuals with loads of room for character development.) A former game show host as the villain? (Big surprise just how unsettling Bradley Walsh's portrayal actually was. First class.) A gaggle of children who one might have thought would irritate the pants off of anyone over the age of thirty? (No problems there either. The regulars are really well portrayed and even the bit parts are well done.) The plot could be summed up easily as "Children are disappearing and it's up to Sarah Jane and the gang to stop it!" and if you'd seen that in the Radio Times, you'd have hardly ringed it in felt-tip pen and rushed home early from school/work. What really makes this episode shine is it's visual impact. The clown's first fleeting appearances are especially fine, as are its later scowling through windows and the hall of mirrors in part two. For a less-than-mega-budget children's TV show, the directing is superb but the production also sounds very mature, both dialogue and music (and there is of course a lovely little moment for old school Who fans, as, flicking through a selection of images on a computer, one of them is a still from 1966's 'The Celestial Toymaker'.) Not yet quite hooked, I was certainly impressed.
3. Secrets of the Stars
Martin Trueman is an astrologer and a fraud, deceiving his customers for money, finally admitting this to one of them. However, when he sees a shooting star heading for his house, he is possessed by an unknown being. Later, Luke, Clyde and Rani visit an event put on by Trueman, as do Rani's Parents and Sarah Jane. Each person fills in a card with their birth date and star sign. The show starts and Trueman begins detailing the secrets of his audience with uncanny accuracy...
Further proof that 'Day of the Clown' was not just a flash in the pan comes with Gareth Roberts' 'Secrets of the Stars'. Too good a writer to merely ridicule astrology out of hand and give the audience a ready-made demolition job, Roberts simply puts it all out there for rational assessment, giving us a great little story into the bargain. (To keep older viewers on their toes, he also slips in references to the Draconians and seems to be tying in the Ancient Lights, taking control of people star sign by star sign, with the Virgin New Adventures range.) The gradual take-over of the population is very effective and Russ Abbot is rather good as the charlatan turned prophet (and his final end is not at all what one expects). All-in-all, very entertaining as well as a coded warning against blanket adherence to the irrational.
4. Mark of the Beserker
A child finds a pendant which enables him to make others do his bidding. When it starts to take him over, he dumps it and its finds its way to the Sarah Jane clan, eventually to Clyde's estranged Dad, Paul. In an attempt to make things up with his son, Paul starts using the pendants for his own ends...
A very uneven story. Once the plot is established, there is a heavy emphasis on families, with a lot of angst and precious little action. Nothing wrong with that per se but the style is unlike other SJA story and often even unlike itself, never really finding any consistency. (At one point, there is even a sequence of rock music video father-son bonding, bringing it all very much into the realm of ordinary television. Elsewhere, Maria and her father from Series One turn up to very little dramatic effect.) Sarah Jane herself is barely in the story and as for the ending... It's all resolved by people just learning to be themselves (or something) and feels like a cop out of major proportions. Closing with Clyde the cool teen showing us how sensitive he really is and we have a very tacky resolution indeed. At times visually impressive but definitely the weakest story of the season.
5. The Temptation of Sarah Jane Smith
A young boy, transported from the 1950s to the early 21st century, has to be returned to his own time. But the child refuses to step back through the time portal. Sarah Jane allays his fears by holding his hand and going through with him, only to find that the portal leads to the time and place where her parents abandoned her as a baby...
Beserker's terrible ending may be sickly-sweet in the extreme but its discussion of parents and their children does lead us nicely into a far better script. 'The Temptation of Sarah Jane Smith' has a blend of childhood fears and an adult sense of a past gone forever. (For older viewers, TWoSJS should carry a health warning, such is the frankly overpowering sense of loss and regret. One cannot help but read into it the contrast of the current Doctor Who world alongside the author's obvious love for an earlier, perhaps more innocent version of it.) The 1950s setting is beautifully done and though Sarah Jane's parents are a little easily convinced of the truth of the situation and the music sometimes threatens to overwhelm the dialogue, the emotional punch is very, very strong. There's some splendid acting from the supporting cast: notably Rosanna Lavelle and Christopher Pizzey as Sarah Jane's parents, but also Georgie Glen as Mrs King ("Can that really be the fashion in the Punjab?") and Robert Madge's creepy little Oscar. But this is Sarah Jane's gig and Elisabeth Sladen is brilliant. Graeme Harper's direction is likewise superb and there's even a quarry! What on Earth is this doing hidden away at half past four in the afternoon? Exceptional television by anyone's standards.
6. Enemy of the Bane
Two former enemies turn up and Sarah & co. end up stealing a powerful alien artefact, the Tunguska Scroll, from the previously impregnable UNIT Black Archive...
'Enemy of the Bane' is the closest that the SJAs have got to classic series tokenism. Nicholas Courtney enters the fray as the Brigadier, a Doctor Who regular throughout the 1970s. Possibly for reasons of health, he is sadly underused but the older audience get their little reminder of past glories without the narrative flow being disturbed or the modern audience being alienated, which is quite an achievement. The problem is that, such nostalgia aside, 'Enemy of the Bane' is a bit of a let-down in most other respects. There doesn't seem to be any good reason at all why the Tunguska Scroll has to be stolen, other than that the plot requires it. UNIT's safety is a lax as ever but the Brig's agreeing to assist in the break-in does not ring true with his sense of military obedience. His inexplicable absence from the denouement is wrong too. Worse, the attempt to finish on an epic high simply does not suit the show's small-scale cosiness and, as with Luke being on the run from his pursuers in part two, their is a lot of sound and fury signifying very little. 'Enemy of the Bane' is not an 'Armageddon Factor' in the scale of its anti-climax but it feels flat nonetheless.
A couple of shows aside, SJAs Season Two was a lovely surprise: television that combined continuity with the past with modern production values and exciting, thought-provoking stories. I can't have been the only one who'd had my faith in the Doctor Who universe restored.
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