On DVD: The Sarah Jane Adventures: The Fifth Series
Created by Russell T. Davies
Starring Elisabeth Sladen, Daniel Anthony, Anjli Mohindra, and Sinead Michael
After the passing of Sarah Jane star Elisabeth Sladen, her final episodes are released.
The Sarah Jane Adventures is a kid-friendly sci-fi mystery series based in the universe of the popular British sci-fi show Doctor Who. It stars one of the Doctor’s former companions – Sarah Jane Smith – who, as a reporter, investigates alien happenings on Earth with her gaggle of teenagers along the way.
While Doctor Who tends to be geared for the entire family in general, The Sarah Jane Adventures is specifically targeted to children, something you would see state-side on Nickelodeon, for example. The kids in the series are as important of parts, if not more so, than Sarah Jane herself. Most of the action and suspense centers around them, and as one would expect in children’s programming, they never feel to be truly in danger. Sure, aliens are constantly threatening to destroy the Earth, but no one is ever about to be directly murdered. There is always the sense that everything is going to be OK in the end, and that the characters may even learn a lesson or two, mostly about friendship through adversity and change. It is what it is, and it’s good at it.
The format of the show is each episode forming half of a two-part complete story. This season has three stories, six episodes total clocking less than three hours – “Sky,” “The Curse of Clyde Langer,” and “The Man Who Never Was.” This season is markedly shorter than previous ones due to the unfortunate death of Sarah Jane’s actor – Elisabeth Sladen – in spring of 2011, during a production break. These last three stories were aired the following fall.
The new season starts out introducing a new adopted child for Sarah Jane – Sky Smith (Sinead Michael), replacing Sarah Jane’s son Luke (Tommy Knight), who leaves for college at the end of season 4. The first two stories deal with aliens causing harm to the Earth (such as the Batman/Predator mix creature in “Sky”), but “The Man Who Never Was” takes a more interesting approach with humans causing harm to the aliens. The middle story – “The Curse of Clyde Langer” – loses out in the fear of alien threat department, but it’s probably the most poignant by dealing with issues of homelessness and being outcast by society.
Luke returns for the third story “The Man Who Never Was,” which works out well, as it sadly being the last story with Sladen’s passing, both of Sarah Jane’s kids got to be together at the end. Unfortunately, one can’t have more Sarah Jane Adventures without Sarah Jane, but even with some loose ends, the series finale felt fulfilling and complete.
This fifth season of The Sarah Jane Adventures is a fun and wholesome kids’ sci-fi drama that teaches children to see and appreciate the wonder of our world, and that’s a good thing to teach. Parents and adults in general can appreciate the series, but they probably won’t be grabbed by it. This season is also light on connections to its originator Doctor Who, which may let Whovians down but is probably best for newer, younger viewers lacking that deep history.
The Video and Audio
The show comes in 16×9 widescreen and stereo audio. Some of the costuming and special effects came across well, but generally the video and audio were unremarkable.
The Packaging and Bonus Features
The set comes with only one extra: a half-hour tribute to Elisabeth Sladen titled “Goodbye Bannerman Road – Remembering Elisabeth Sladen.” It includes news segments covering Sladen’s passing, as well as interviews with script editor Gary Russell and actors Daniel Anthony (Clyde), Anjli Mohindra (Rani), and Matt Smith (the eleventh Doctor). The interviews convey the impact Sladen had on those who worked with her and those who watched her over the decades. After that though, there’s nothing else. Given the feeling from the tribute, one could assume the crew felt that the tribute is the important thing, and I can see that.
Overall (Not an Average)
On the face of the release, being so short with so few episodes and extras, this fifth season is enjoyable enough to visit with the kids but maybe not buying and repeating. Considering that this is the end of a decent children’s show and the last work of the beloved Elisabeth Sladen, it’s definitely a must see for long-time Sarah Jane fans.
The Series 7/10
The Video and Audio 5/10
The Packaging and Bonus Features 7/10
Overall (Not an Average) 7/10