This review contains spoilers. And sadness.
5.6 The Man Who Never Was Part 2
The Sarah Jane Adventures really is a remarkable show. Over the last six episodes, we’ve had a Terminator pastiche in which the Earth was nearly caught in the middle of an interplanetary war, a tender story about Clyde falling for a homeless girl, and now, in this final episode, Sarah Jane and her friends must stop a businessman out to make a quick billion, and help some alien slaves to go home.
It’s not the largest-scale threat the Earth has ever seen, and I’m sure that whatever Russell T Davies had planned for the show’s eventual finale would’ve been much bigger. But a smaller, more personal threat is fitting for a series which has always shown so much heart. After all, The Sarah Jane Adventures was never about big epic battles. It was about family and friendship, and most of all, making a difference.
While Part 1 of this story very much belonged to Elisabeth Sladen, the second part is a proper ensemble piece, with everyone doing their bit to stop the dastardly Harrison. Sarah Jane is front and centre, of course, as she teams up with the girl from the beginning of Part 1 (whose accent resembles an anti-Borg weapon from Star Trek, in that it’s different with every line) to free the slaves.
Luke and Sky, meanwhile, are left to do some brother-sister bonding as they are left in charge of Joseph Serf during his big press conference. I’ve stated my misgivings about Sinead Michael’s performance more than once over the last three weeks, but in this episode, Sky and Luke both bring their A-game, and some of the interplay between the brother and sister duo is genuinely amusing.
With the episode penned by Gareth Roberts, author of recent Doctor Who episodes The Lodger and Closing Time, it’s little surprise that there are some brilliantly funny lines in this one, including one wonderfully rude joke from Clyde that will hopefully sail over the heads of most of the children watching (“I’m so glad to see a full stop!”).
Clyde and Rani do get most of the funniest moments in the episode, as they pose as a married couple to infiltrate the press launch. Peter Bowles is back, too, with a little more to do. I have the feeling that he would have appeared again, had the series run for longer.
There’s a definite sense of lost opportunities around the end of this show. Though it doesn’t have much in the way of ongoing mysteries (although the Shopkeeper and the Captain made for a wonderfully enigmatic duo), there are many things it’s a shame we’ll never see. There’s the Clyde/Rani situation, for one, but also we’ll never see Sky settle in, or Sarah Jane learn to adapt when Clyde and Rani ‘fly the coop’. Or the millions of fabulous adventures that the gang are still out there having – the end caption was a nice touch, and brought a tear to this reviewer’s eye. Sarah Jane Smith quite rightly joins Ian Chesterton and Barbara Wright on the list of companions whose adventures will never end.
In the spirit of the show, however, we should not be mourning what is no longer there, but instead celebrating what we’ve had. Since 2007, The Sarah Jane Adventures has gone far above and beyond what is expected of a ‘children’s’ programme. It has been thought-provoking, emotional, amusing, exciting and downright fun. When the series was commissioned, it was in some senses a gamble – after all, would children buy into a show whose lead character was in her late 50s/early 60s? But it’s a gamble that paid off in spades, thanks to Elisabeth Sladen and the ‘kids’, and a team of talented writers and directors.
Given the circumstances, I can think of no better episode to end on than this lavish piece, which had Sarah Jane and friends truly working as a team, with a fun, optimistic script from one of the series’ best writers. Yes, it wasn’t an ending in the true sense of the word, but it certainly was a celebration.
As a fan, I just want to say this. Thanks to everyone involved in the show’s production over the last five years, but most of all, thank you to Elisabeth Sladen, wherever you are. You made a difference.