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The Sarah Jane adventures is one of the spin offs from the very successful Doctor Who show, the other spin off being 'Torchwood', which is aimed at an older audience.
But for anyone that has been living on another planet for the passed few years then you may not know who Sarah Jane Smith is, (either that or you may even have bumped into the Doctor and his blue box).
Sarah Jane was a companion of Doctor Who back in the 1970's, with the third being , Jon Pertwee, and fourth, Tom Baker.
Since being left on Earth by the Doctor in the 70's she seemed to have continued to investigate alien events happening on Planet Earth and was initially given her own 'spin off' from Doctor Who back in 1981, involving her and K-9, but at the time it fell a little short in adventure and entertainment.
But, in 2007, after the much loved Doctor Who had re-established itself, the writers of Sarah Jane had another chance to become a hit with her adventures.
Luckily, this 2007 New Year special episode, 'The Invasion of Bane' managed to reach its key audience and was soon to be a very successful BBC children's program, creating series after series, a little like the Doctor Who saga.
Writer: Gareth Roberts and Russell T Davies
Director: Colin Teague
Producers: Phil Collinson, Russell T Davies and Julie Gardner.
Elisabeth Sladen as Sarah Jane smith
Yasmin Paige as Maria Jackson
Tommy knight as Luke smith
Alexander Armstrong as the voice of mister smith
John Leeson as the voice of K9
** BRIEF PLOT...
Since being left behind years earlier by the Doctor Sarah Jane Smith is now a free lance journalist and is living in a house on Bannerman road. She likes to keep her life as private as possible, which is understandable considering the things she has seen and done, and the fact she is still saving the Earth from alien invasion.
Meanwhile, It's the start of a new life for Maria Jackson, (Paige) as she moves into a house on Banerman road with her father, (Joseph Millson), but she underestimated how much her life actually will change when she stumbles across a rather strange event in Sarah Jane garden.
When Maria takes a trip to the nearby drinks factory, which is making a drink called 'Bubbleshock' with its secret ingredient, things begin to become even weirder and a lot more dangerous for her and the rest of the planet.
When Sarah Jane begins to investigate the seemingly innocent events surrounding the factory and its manageress, Mrs Wormwood, (Samantha Bond), she soon discovers that the drink, 'bubbleshock', has more than sugar and E numbers inside each bottle, causing some strange hypnotic states throughout the area. Soon revealing that the real 'boss' of the factory is far more sinister than Mrs Wormwood appears to be.
But when she uncovers the main reason for the 'Bubbleshock' factory and its unorthodox methods she finds that her own life will never be the same again.
** IN CONCLUSION...
My kids had heard about this spin off show and being big fans of Doctor Who they were curious about who Sarah Jane actually was, especially after seeing her in the Doctor Who episode, 'School reunion' in 2006.
So after I tried to explain who Sarah Jane actually was they were keen to settle down on New Years day to watch this hour long show, so, as the good father I am, I sat and watched it with them.
I was a little sceptical about this spin off at first, expecting it to fall flat on its face, thinking that the BBC were just being a little greedy in the hope of selling a show on the back of a more popular show, (Doctor Who). But after settling down to watch it I was quite engrossed in the innocence and entertainment it was offering.
For me it started a little like the latest Doctor Who series, somewhat slow, introducing all the soon to be main characters in the opening third. But then, once the story began to unfold it did start to become a little entertaining, even for me.
My kids were engrossed in the weirdness of the shows creatures, seeming to enjoy the way the story went.
The all round acting was good, the adult and the children alike, The main stars, being Sladen as Sarah Jane, Paige as her young assistants Maria and Knight as the rather strangely behaved Luke.
And, in this hour long special episode, Bond doing a great job as the calm, composed Mrs Wormwood, with her frighteningly dark secret.
The special effects were what I expected, not too scary and not too silly, but good enough to not spoil the show itself, especially when we discovered the true identity of Mrs Wormwood and her relations.
And the actual story line was not bad at all, easy to follow for the younger ones, thrilling for the older ones and all round entertaining,
The monsters...sorry, I mean Aliens, were the typical Doctor Who style, being slimy and squashy looking, like watching a blamonge sliding down a greased worktop.
It can be a little scary in parts but not enough to frighten the younger viewers as the special effects have a certain quality which is far from gory.
In all, it is a very entertaining children's program and a great 'pilot' for what will no doubt become a very popular show indeed.
'''But''', there is definitely one downside to this episode, that is the fact that the background music does tend to jump into the foreground, sometime overpowering the actors speech, making it difficult to hear what they are saying in parts.
If you missed this on New years day 2007, or even if you watched it and want to see it again, it is sometimes repeated on the BBC channels, or you could get the DVD from amazon for less than a fiver, which is a good price for an hours entertainment.
This isn't the first time they've tried to give Sarah Jane her own series, K9 and Company in 1981 although it never got past the pilot episode. Maybe it was because of the awful theme tune.
So in 2006 Sarah Jane was brought back in the Doctor Who episode School Reunion, which brought us nicely onto her own TV series.
In this story Sarah Jane is a bit of a loner. Living on her own with no friends or family, investigating the paranormal and aliens, in a world that wouldn't understand her or think she is mad, so she keeps herself to herself. There is also the feeling that since the Doctor left her on earth her life has had something missing. Because unlike most companions that leave, the Doctor left her, which for most viewers was sad because she was one of the nations favourite companions. This happened in The Hand of Fear in 1976.
New neighbours Maria and Jack move in opposite Sarah Jane. That night Maria sees Sarah talking to an alien that looks like an angel. The next day her and her father see her in the street to try and make friends only to find her to be aloof and distant. Then she gets interested in following a bus to the local Bubble shock factory. Bubble Shock is a "groovy" new drink that's exploded on the market. Cue aliens using it as a way of invading the Planet Earth of course. Along the way we have aliens in disguise, a super computer, a super intelligent created boy and a cameo from K9. What more could you want from a Doctor Who spin off?
It's worth watching as it's a nice follow up to the Doctor Who episode Family Reunion where Sarah Jane and the Doctor meet again for the first time in years. It's also worth watching the whole series just to get the references in the final two episodes of series four of Doctor Who. And as I would say with Torchwood and the animated episode Infinite Quest, it's a short sharp fix to get through to the next new episode of Doctor Who.
Sometimes it tries to be a bit too "kid cool" friendly, like the name of the drink Bubble Shock and the guy showing them around the bubble shock factory looking a little like Mark Owen from Take That.
Elisaeth Sladen is fantastic. No matter how this episode would have came out, it is just wonderful to see her back in action and she's great in this. She even has a Sonic Lipstick, which is a great touch and she mentions she does things a different way than other organisations that go in "guns blazing", obviously meaning Torchwood and UNIT. The Sonic Lipstick is a lovely idea as she's opposed to violence, so even a "screw driver" can be used as a weapon, but a lipstick cant.
When she talks about the Doctor it's quite a tender moment and we realise that the events from Family Reunion inspired her to do her own investigations, hence the reason why the series happen now and now in 1976 when she leaves the fourth Doctor. A nice touch.
The main villain is a great villain. Mrs Wormwood leader of the Bane. Although she should be used to knowing good villain acting as she plays Moneypenny in the new Bond films and curiously her real name is Samantha Bond. The performance is slightly over the top, but fitting for the role and the show.
When buff Take That boy turns into his true alien self and climbs all over the house, that's a great effect and I'm it will be scary to small children as I was scared watching Pyramids from Mars or the Robots of Death. It's healthy to hide behind the sofa.
However it isn't all great, the character of Kelsey Harper (Porsha Lawrence Mavour) is quite annoying. I know her character is supposed to be like that, but she's just annoying and gets in the way of the plot.
The child archetype (Tommy Knight) is completely wooden. I know he's supposed to be a bit niave, but they could have picked someone better as he's too wooden to be true and is more annoying that Kelsey. Although wooden acting hasn't hindered the careers of Orlando Bloom or Josh Hartnet (Miaow, saucer of milk, table number 2).
All in all it is a children's program mainly aimed at, so you can't criticise it too much and it's unfair to compare it too much to Dr Who, but it's still better than watching the first series of Torchwood.
I give this DVD five stars for giving children a well written, well produced, intelligent program that adults can also watch and enjoy with or without children. Although to just put one episode with no extras is a bit cheeky. The full series one is coming out soon and series two starts at the end of Sept 2008 with a Sontaron two parter.