Sarah Jane Smith, the intrepid reporter who accompanied two different Doctors in adventures through time and space, is something of a fan favorite among longtime Doctor Who fans. As played by Elisabeth Sladen, she was initially that plucky sort of proto-feminist that appeared on TV to say things about being strong and independent and then needed to be rescued by the male lead anyway. But she can and did stand up to various Doctors and had their respect and admiration, enough so to first do a guest appearance on the current incarnation of the show and then to get her own spin-off, one that only ended with Sladen’s sudden death.
You know what? A kid-friendly adventure show starring one of the most beloved Doctor’s companions sounds like a good idea, much better than a sex-and-violence themed adult-oriented show set in the same universe. Let’s see how that turned out.
And the answer is so far, it’s looking pretty good. Sarah Jane lives alone in an English suburb, occasionally meeting up with aliens and doing her journalist work from home. One day, she gets new neighbors in the form of recently divorced father Alan Jackson and his daughter Maria. Maria spots Sarah Jane conversing with an alien one night and is rather enchanted by the whole thing.
And, it turns out, there’s a hot new soda product that 98% of the human population can’t get enough of. Maria is in the 2% who isn’t, but her new neighbor/friend Kelsey insists they, um, take a free bus down to the factory for the tour where they’ll get free samples.
That is…very odd.
As it is, Sarah Jane herself is interested in what’s going on, so she follows along in her car, getting caught and taken to Mrs. Wormwood, the head of the company. Mrs. Wormwood isn’t really thrown off by Sarah Jane’s interview questions, specifically when Sarah Jane asks what planet Mrs. Wormwood comes from.
Yes, Mrs. Wormwood and her associates are aliens called “Banes,” and they have a plan for world domination involving the soda. It’s weird and crazy, the aliens’ true form is some kind of tentacle-legged beetle thing, and the whole thing is just kind of nutty.
I rather liked it.
The pilot sets things up well, establishing the show and its supporting cast. Sarah Jane has a lot of alien tech in her attic, specifically a supercomputer called “Mr. Smith” that she uses for all kind of hacking, and K9 is…well, plugging a black hole, but he can swing by to chat once in a while through a portal of some kind. Can’t have him saving the day after all. Sarah Jane has a sonic lipstick stick (OK, that seems wrong), but her guiding philosophy is on display as someone who wants to do right, doesn’t like to employ violence, and doesn’t believe in planning ahead. Planning ahead is what other groups do, and they prefer more…lethal solutions.
Basically, it felt a lot like Sarah Jane was maybe a warmer version of the Doctor. I can say I approve of that approach. Her time with the Doctor, by her own admission, was the greatest time of her life, so why not keep it up? She certainly has a way to do that now with Maria as some sort of Sarah Jane-in-training and her newly adopted son Luke, a genetic experiment the Bane were producing who will need a lot of guidance. This could be a fun show, so I suspect I am going to like how this one turns out.