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Cult TV Essentials: The Sarah Jane Adventures

It’s hard to believe, but it has been ten years since ‘The Sarah Jane Adventures’ first aired on ‘CBBC’. The ‘Doctor Who’ spin off focused on fan favourite companion ‘Sarah Jane Smith’ fighting and protecting aliens under the guise of an investigative journalist.

After the success of ‘Sarah Jane’s’ return in the ‘Doctor Who’ episode ‘School Reunion’ then show runner Russell T Davies decided to create a spin off for the long time fan favourite companion. This was after a proposed ‘Young Doctor Adventures’ series was vetoed by Davies himself.

Working alongside ‘Sarah Jane’ actress Elisabeth Sladen, Russell T became to develop the show. Deciding to aim the show at children it was decided that ‘Sarah Jane’ would some young teen companions to make it more relatable to its target audience. Initially in the pilot ‘Invasion of the Bane’ this consisted of ‘Sarah Jane’s’ adoptive son (and alien experiment) Luke, his friend ‘Maria Jackson’ and her friend ‘Kelsey Hooper’. It was decided before the first series started to replace ‘Kelsey’ with a friend for ‘Luke’; this made more sense as ‘Luke’ was new to the world and having a streetwise best friend would help him make sense of the world. ‘Clyde Langer’ was added with ‘Maria’ being replaced by ‘Rani Chandra’ during series two and ‘Luke’ given more of a background role (with early acceptance to university) during series four.

Each story was split into two parts which gave us twelve episodes per series. Many ‘Doctor Who’ heroes and villains made appearances   such as the ‘Slitheen’, former companion ‘Jo Grant’, former head of ‘UNIT’ Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart’ and even the tenth and eleventh incarnations of the ‘Doctor’.

‘Sarah Jane’ and ‘Luke’ also made it into the ‘Doctor Who’ story ‘The End of Time’. Sharing the episode with characters from the then other ‘Doctor Who’ spin off ‘Torchwood’.

Like many children’s TV shows, film series and books anthologies it grew with its audience and even pulled an adult following, which lead to a repeat on ‘BBC One’. This did lead to some awkward moments in the series four episode ‘The Empty Planet’ when more than once ‘Clyde’ tries to persuade ‘Rani’ to sleep with him so they can repopulate the Earth.

Sadly Elisabeth Sladen passed away 2011 whilst filming series five. The three completed episodes were shown in October of the same year. The final episode ‘The Man Who Never Was’ showed a montage of all ‘Sarah Jane’s’ previous adventures accompanied by a voice over. As the episode ended text appears over an image of the Earth saying ‘And the story goes on…..forever’.

Series Five had been set to end with the episode ‘The Battle of Bannerman Road’. It would have seen ‘Sarah Jane’ battling the long running nemesis ‘Trickster’ alongside with former ‘Doctor Who’ companions ‘Jo Grant’ and ‘Ace’. It would have also been revealed that ‘Sarah Jane’s’ new adoptive daughter ‘Sky’ was a weapon of the ‘Trickster’.

Much like ‘Torchwood’ ‘The Sarah Jane Adventures’ have since found a special place in ‘Whovian’s’ hearts. A convention attended by many of the shows stars was organised to celebrate the tenth anniversary and sold out within days of the tickets being released. Recently the ‘Torchwood’ ‘Big Finish’ audio plays introduced a new character ‘Sladen’ in tribute to Elisabeth. A fitting tribute to an actress who loved not only the ‘Doctor Who’ universe, but the fans almost as much as they loved her.

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