The Sarah Jane Adventures series 5 episode 1 spoiler-free review

The late, great Elisabeth Sladen stars in the fifth and final series of The Sarah Jane Adventures. Here’s James’ review of a superb first episode...

As series creator recently Russell T. Davies outlined in Doctor Who Magazine, if the ending of The Sarah Jane Adventures had ever been properly planned for, it would have concluded with the heroic Miss Smith ascending to the stars and continuing her adventures far away from terra firma.

Unfortunately, the untimely death of actress Elisabeth Sladen put paid to those plans, leaving us with an ending that’s far more ambiguous and open ended than any definitive final adventure could ever be.

Comprising a trio of two-part stories that were filmed alongside 2010’s production block, these final three adventures kick-off in spectacular fashion with Phil Ford’s season-opener, Sky.

Hewing closely to the shows traditionally bold storytelling template, Ford’s opening story – which seemingly riffs on influences as diverse as V, Three Men And A Baby and The Terminator – is one of the strongest opening adventures so far.  

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However, despite the familiarity of certain tropes, there’s a feeling that things are changing on Bannerman Road. With her son Luke (Tommy Knight) still away at university and with erstwhile sidekicks Clyde (Daniel Anthony) and Rani (Anjli Mohindra) growing up fast, are Sarah Jane’s gang perhaps are becoming somewhat…well, long in the tooth?

In typically confident fashion, it’s this dilemma that Sky deals with head-on.

Set against the backdrop of an explosive outer space war spilling over onto modern-day Earth, this opening story is really about how to successfully transfuse new blood into an ongoing series’ with maximum impact and minimum disruption.

Thankfully, Ford is more than up to the task and his deft script manages to serve up something that’s at once familiar (there are echoes of both Invasion of the Bane and The Last Sontaran), yet also reinvigorates the central character dynamics of the show.

Superbly directed by Torchwood and Doctor Who veteran Ashley Way, the scale and sweep of this opening story is hugely impressive with the CGI work from BBC Wales Graphics being particularly effective.

However, in terms of effects the real star of the show is the alien Metalkind creature. Easily on a par with the best creatures the Whoniverse has produced, the Metalkind is a superb prosthetic creation and another genuinely impressive adding to the burgeoning SJA stable.

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A strong, confident and impressive opener, the only downside to the return of The Sarah Jane Adventures is that in two stories’ time the show will be gone forever. However, going by the quality of Sky, it’s fair to assume that this is a show bowing out at the absolute top of its game.  

Read more about The Sarah Jane Adventures here.