Monday, January 01, 2007

K9 in a safe, floating in space...

It's a weird thought, but that's exactly how everybody's favourite robotic dog cameos in last night's premiere of The Sarah Jane Adventures.

Like Torchwood, it's another spin off from Doctor Who - but this one's been over twenty years in the making. Originally planned for release in the early eighties as K9 & Company (they even made a pilot) the idea of a science fiction adventure featuring Sarah Jane Smith was taken up again after the nostalgic Doctor Who episode School Reunion.

Sarah Jane Smith, a young reporter who travelled with the 3rd and 4th incarnations of the Doctor, was undeniably the most popular of all his assistants. She was sassy, spunky and far more capable and curious than any of his companions until Billie Piper arrived as slightly chavvy Rose. Sarah Jane was years ahead of her time and absolutly lovely, despite her habit of wearing brightly coloured dungarees.

Sarah Jane Smith is played by Elisabeth Sladen, who has a ton of charm and charisma and is still lovely even thirty years after she left the Tardis. In the Sarah Jane Adventures, she's back as the investigative reporter, living in a big house in North London (it's got at least seven floors and an attic, judging by how many flights of stairs they had to run up to avoid the alien menace last night.) Much like a slightly more organised Torchwood, Sarah Jane collects fallen and abandoned alien gadgets and does her bit for Human/Alien relations.

In last night's episode, she and her young neighbour Maria meet up with a mysterious boy created by the evil alien Bane, to perfect their mind controlling fizzy soda Bubbleshock. This episode was written by Gareth Roberts and Russell T. Davies and seems to be loosely based on a Doctor Who novel called The Highest Science, featuring a similar plot.

Unlike adult orientated (and gay manifesto) Torchwood, the Sarah Jane Adventures is aimed at a younger audience and is brighter and cheerier. Although lonely Sarah Jane seems a bit grumpy at first, she's a bright and engaging lead and I think this show will be much more enjoyable than Torchwood.

My criticisms from last night's episode involved a serious lack of K9 (who is apparently floating in space, repairing a black hole) and a bit of a deus ex machina ending (Sarah's piles of alien junk threaten to provide a solution to just about any alien menace, much like the Doctor's overused Sonic Screwdriver.)

But the magic Russel T. Davies brought to Doctor Who is lingering in this show and it's a lot less Welsh and depressing than Torchwood, so I have high hopes.

K9, sadly, will not be reappearing as he's apparently getting his own spin off TV show in early 2008. That makes three spin offs in three years.

The BBC sure know how to milk a franchise.

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