Wednesday, 16 November 2011

The Sarah Jane Adventures: The Man Who Never Was

Never Ending Story

The Sarah Jane Adventures
Season 5 Episodes 5 & 6:
The Man Who Never Was
Airdate: October 17th and 18th 2011.

Warning: There never wasn’t any spoilers here... in abundance.

Okay then. I suppose it’s time for me to write up the last ever story of The Sarah Jane Adventures... unless, of course, you’re reading this article from 40 years or so into the future, in which case it was the last ever story of The Sarah Jane Adventures to be broadcast starring the timeless Elisabeth Sladen in the title role, before Dakota Fanning took over only last year. :D

This is a fun packed little story. Predictable, yes.. but ever so fun and, to boot, it starts touching once more on raising awareness of social issues like the previous story... this time though it’s the exploration of slave labour which is lobbed at right thinking kiddie audiences like a hand grenade of questions targeted straight into the brain. But it’s also got other things going for it...

The Luke-like character of Sky was only introduced into the show as a new regular at the opening of this final half a series but already she’s integrated nicely into the chemical make-up of the show (I forgot to mention this in my previous Sarah Jane review but Sky was absolutely brilliant in The Curse Of Clyde Langer and in some ways saved the day... plotwise that is). There’s just one more form of acceptance they need to work into things and that is the question of how she’s going to get on with her virtual sibling Luke. Well Luke comes back from University to share in this adventure and is “teamed up” with Sky so the two can bond in quality pseudo-brother and sisterly ways so the audience will be happy that the two have accepted each other. Alas, Luke does not bring K9 with him and so, apart from a few old insert shots at the end of this story, this marks the first and last season of the show to not actually include K9. I’m sure they would have worked him back in for the “planned” final episode but... well, we all know what happened. It’s a sad ending to a great TV show and the great person that TV show revolved around.

The plot on this one is basically a comedy romp as the planet is hypnotised by a holographic projection into buying crappy new computers called SerfBoards and this holographic projection is controlled by a group of alien slaves pulling levers to get the man to talk, twitch, walk etc... if you remember that old strip in The Beezer comic called The Numbskulls, you’ll know exactly what I’m talking about.

The man behind the whole thing is doing everything purely for money, has bought himself some alien slaves and has a push-button collar punisher system at work to keep the aliens in their place. Much is made of gaining possession of the controller for this so that the aliens can go free and while Sarah Jane and a cleaner from the studio from which transmissions of the hologram are being broadcast are locked out of the way... Luke and Sky investigate the aliens while Rani and Clyde come to the rescue. This basically is a great comedy romp which includes, towards the end, the scene you just know is going to happen of Luke and Sky having to control the hologram all by themselves and making a complete hash of it. This, of course, gives rise to much enthusiastically comic acting from the gentleman playing the hologram guy.

It was nice to see Peter Bowles still working in a supporting role too! He only as a couple of walk ons but still, nice to see the old geezah!

There’s also a nice comic moment when Sky has her mobile phone crushed under foot by the bad guy. When she starts to protest, Luke steps in to say something along the lines of “Welcome to the club! I’ve had seven phones in the last couple of years!” This kind of acknowledgement of the actual “real world” toll of cheap throwaway, formulaic scripting gimmicks such as this destruction of people’s communication devices to get rid of easy solutions out of a dramatic situation is a quite sophisticated element of self-awareness on the part of the writers and it’s just another point one can use to demonstrate how great this series had become, once it got itself going.

It’s a shame that it’s all got to end but... end it does and in the last five minutes, after the main resolution where Luke has “officially given approval” of Sky having his old room, we get a little sequence of clips from old episodes narrated by Sarah Jane (I think this voice over comes from a similarly styled sequence in a previous series) and which ends, more or less, with a shot of her hugging David Tennant’s incarnation of The Doctor from the Series Three episode The Wedding of Sarah Jane Smith. This is followed by a zoom out of the planet earth and the words... “And The Story Goes On... Forever.” I warn any parents who are planning on watching this with their kids now... if any of your kids know why this is the final episode of the series, then this admittedly short sequence is gonna be a real tearjerker for them. I know it almost was for me... yeah, I know... whatever! I’ve been watching Liz Sladen play Sarah Jane on TV since the early seventies so I’m entitled to be missing her a little now she’s been taken by cancer. I’ll get over it... eventually.

So that’s it then. No more Sarah Jane but I do hope that some of the young actors who have played the leads in the show go on to do other things and don’t just disappear... they’re all quite talented and, at the very least it seems to me, good “work-a-day” performers. Hope this show opens some doors for them.

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