The second series of Doctor Who‘s kid friendly spin-off series The Sarah Jane Adventures has finally arrived in Great Britain. Fortunately, we at Fandomania were able to see it, and now we are going to review it. The one thing we can guarantee is that when the series returns to America, we’re going to be in for quite a ride. For the Britons, this is just a regular review. For the Yanks, it’s very early. Spoilers ahead!
The Sarah Jane Adventures S02E01: The Last Sontaran
Written by Phil Ford
SYNOPSIS: A father and daughter who work at a radio telescope are mystified by a series of lights in the sky that are flying a bit too low to the ground. The next day, Sarah Jane decides to investigate the phenomenon. What she discovers is that an enemy from her past has surfaced. A Sontaran Commander has survived the destruction of his ship after being defeated by The Doctor. Disgraced, this Sontaran vows revenge on Earth, and only the gang from Bannerman Road stand in his way.
Sigh, we won’t be seeing The Doctor on a consistent basis until 2010, and the third series of Torchwood is going to be short and sweet. Who do we have left? Oh yes, we still have Sarah Jane Smith and the rest of her gang, with an even longer series than the last one, bless. For the debut episode of SJA’s second series, they decided to deliver a sequel to the Doctor Who series four two parter “The Sontaran Strategem” and “The Poison Sky.” I think what really works about this is that it helps the transition from one show to another, and it reminds us that this is still the same universe. Which means that we’ll have something to keep us busy while we wait for the TARDIS to return.
For me, the return of the Sontarans to Doctor Who was one of my favorite parts of the previous series. They have always been one of my favorite monsters of the classic series. They were a brilliant satirical creation which poked fun at the mindless barbarism of the true military mind. The Sontarans are essentially lost without the pursuit of warfare, so they are always searching for a fight. The newly revamped Sontarans refine the concept for today’s perception of warfare by showing them as a uniform race whose soldier’s identities are only established by their conquests.
There is also something appropriate about the fact that The Sontarans appear on Sarah Jane’s show, especially if you remember that Sarah Jane has a long history with the Sontarans. The first time she encountered them was when Sarah Jane started traveling with The Doctor, and then once again shortly after The Doctor regenerated. So for classic WHO fans, there is a brilliant bit of tension now that Sarah Jane is facing them again on her own terms without The Doctor’s protection. This is a confrontation which is realized to its fullest thanks to the infinitely solid Elisabeth Sladen. Sladen’s commitment to the character is visible in every second she’s on the small screen. She stares down the Sontaran Commander with a sort of defiance that matches that of her mentor. Sarah Jane’s development throughout the series has elevated her beyond the role of a companion to a hero on the same plain as The Doctor and Captain Jack Harkness. So it’s very fitting that in this episode Sarah Jane faces one of the demons from her past.
It’s also appropriate to observe that at the conclusion of this story, Sarah Jane reaches that next rite of passage. Namely, the loss of a companion. Promising young actress Yasmin Page was one of the driving forces behind the first series of SJA with her endearingly genuine performance as Maria Jackson. Maria and her family were the heart and soul of many of the episodes in series one, and her friendship with the rest of the cast has been the impetus behind many of the show’s stories. A tear jerking scene in this episode comes when Maria tells Luke (Sarah Jane’s genetically engineered adopted son, played by Tommy Knight) that she is moving away. You see that Luke is totally shattered by this. Understandable, since Maria is the first friend he’s ever had. His sadness in the scene is so real and so human. We’ve all had friends that for one reason or another had to move away. It hurts, and Luke is finding that out. Luke is afraid to lose her friendship, because he’s worried that she may be one of those essential components that keeps him going. So I expect that this may be the next stepping stone of his development.
As for Sarah Jane, when we left her at the end of series one she was in a very good place, finally having the surrogate family that she never had. Now, through a shockingly normal set of circumstances, life intervenes, and now Sarah Jane has to learn how to move on in exactly the same way that The Doctor has every time a companion departs of his or her own accord.
“The Last Sontaran” was meant to serve as an explosive start for the new series of The Sarah Jane Adventures, and in that respect, it’s mission accomplished. Many people thought that Doctor Who having two spin off series was too much of a good thing. Now that the parent series and its more mature counterpart will be taking a hiatus, it’s a saving grace that the heart and soul of Doctor Who will be on display through his most famous companion. Some have been dismissive of the show, thinking that it may be too immature for hardcore WHO fans. Nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, this show lives and breathes the spirit of classic Who and shares that same adventurous spirit of the parent series. So give the righteous adult kick a rest for a half an hour and allow The Sarah Jane Adventures to make you say “Gee Whiz.”
ESSENTIALLY: A solid season opener which offers fantastic adventure and even poignant drama which makes for a nice distraction while The Doctor is out.
FINAL GRADE: A+ (With Honors… Then again, if it’s Doctor Who related, it has to work REALLY hard to disappoint me.)