I remember when I was a kid, just starting to get into Doctor Who and just starting to read Doctor Who Magazine regularly, that I was a bit surprised at how incredibly popular Sarah Jane Smith was among fans. People would write in about how she was so much better than any current companion. I remember a cartoon that didn’t seem to have a punchline at all, nor did it make any sense to me. It was just a picture of a boy sitting at the end of his bed, hugging his knees, staring up at the poster of Sarah Jane he had hanging over his headboard.
It didn’t make a whole lot of sense to me. To me, she was maybe a little silly and annoying, but otherwise totally average as far as companions go. If I was going to choose a companion to obsess over, it would be someone like Nyssa or Zoe. They were smart. And cute and demure, of course. Certainly not confrontational. And not empowered, either, although 13-year-old me didn’t have any particular concept of what that meant.
Sarah Jane makes are more sense to me now. Because of any of the companions, if there was any of them who you could imagine going off and having adventures of her (or his, for the rare case) own, it would be Sarah. Nyssa, while I still think she’s wonderful, ended up an interstellar chronic care nurse. Zoe, while we’re not entirely sure, is probably back living her life as a space librarian. (♥)
And that’s exactly what happened with Sarah Jane Smith. She’s not just having exciting adventures as an investigative reporter, she’s fighting monsters and saving the world, just like the Doctor.
And that’s pretty much what The Sarah Jane Adventures are about.
It’s a kids’ show, but it actually works fairly well. Doctor Who is nominally a kids’ show, although it’s traditionally aimed above the mark. SJA is on the kids’ channel of the BBC and is aimed squarely at kids. Besides Sarah, the principal cast is kids and it’s much lighter.
For a kids’ show, though, it’s surprisingly well written. While not quite to the same level as Doctor Who, the stories have definite emotional impact. It’s a bit silly and light and fun, but it still feels like it matters.
Compare and contrast with Torchwood.
One thing I noticed about the show while we were watching it: the writers seem a bit less reluctant to drop in references to the original series or lift wholesale obscure monsters from the new series. I have a theory about this, too. It’s the kids.
When you present adults with things they don’t understand, they get all flustered and frustrated and annoyed. Obscure references to things that they haven’t heard of are a turn off. Kids, on the other hand, take it all in stride.
What’s more than that, it’s the kids that are likely to pour over Doctor Who Magazine, the Annuals, and the new monster reference books they’ve been releasing. They know this stuff now. And putting sly little references into their show rewards their efforts.
I think it’s nerdily cool too, but they’ve shown considerably more restraint in the past for this sort of thing. I think they’re doing it for the kids.
Anyway, I hope they bring the show over here. I don’t think CBC is co-producing. Maybe it’ll show up on BBC Kids or something. Regardless, if you get a chance and you have any interest in Doctor Who at all, give it a try. I promise it’s better than Torchwood.
Even with the sonic lipstick.