Retro Review: Big Finish: Sarah Jane Smith: The Complete Series 1-2

Essentially, listeners got a hybrid of The Sarah Jane Adventures and Torchwood.

Synopsis: Years after the Doctor returned her home to Earth, Sarah Jane Smith is still haunted by her past. Dark forces are moving against her, looking for revenge. Is Sarah ready to face her destiny?

Review: Big Finish has been converting older ranges to digital in recent years. That’s given latecomers like me a chance to catch up, and catching up has been well worth it. Sarah Jane Smith: The Complete Series 1-2 must be seen as Unbound Universe storytelling relative to modern Doctor Who, but it’s an extraordinary effort on its own.

Story

Series 1 was recorded in 2002, and Series 2 was recorded in 2005. The narrative action was set several years after K9 and Company: A Girl’s Best Friend. Because these audios were set after classic Doctor Who and before modern Doctor Who, Big Finish experimented with tone and themes. 

The result was that Sarah Jane Smith and her friends were transformed into much darker, much more adult characters. Essentially, listeners got a hybrid of The Sarah Jane Adventures and Torchwood. That’s perfectly fine as long as you regard the two-season arc as a parallel universe narrative and deal with it on its own terms.

Legendary classic Doctor Who writers Barry Letts and Terrance Dicks were joined by David Bishop, Rupert Laight, and Peter Anghelides. Together, they crafted a slow-burn narrative that harkened back to a number of Sarah Jane’s classic series adventures through a glass darkly. There was corporate wrongdoing, a doomsday cult, and a good deal more. It all allowed listeners to gain a different insight into Sarah Jane and her friends.

For me, the most interesting supporting character was Natalie Redfern, played by Elisabeth Sladen’s daughter Sadie Miller. Natalie was disabled and confined to a wheelchair like me. Her inclusion allowed me to understand what being a wheelchair-bound companion would be like, as they’ve never attempted it on television.

The series finale also allowed for mother and daughter to play out a great deal of unintentional meta-level foreshadowing. I’m still tearing up over it.

Acting

The entire cast was phenomenal. Elisabeth Sladen, daughter Sadie, and husband Brian Miller all took advantage of their family enterprise is wonderful ways. In addition, Jeremy James did marvelously as he navigated his “companion” role.

The delightful surprise, however, was Jacqueline Pearce. Fans came as close as they ever would to a Doctor Who/Blake’s 7 crossover. Sladen and Pearce played off each other as if they had been doing so for years.

Overall

Thank you, Big Finish, for this excellent production. It stands as a testament to craft if no longer continuity.

 

9.5
Big Finish: Sarah Jane Smith: The Complete Series 1-2
  • Story
    8.5
  • Performances
    10
  • Audio Production
    10

Raissa Devereux became a life-long genre fan at the age of four when she first saw The Wizard of Oz at a screening at Arizona State University. Years later, she graduated from A.S.U. as an English major, History minor, Whovian, and Trekkie. Now a Florida transplant, she loves the opportunity Sci-Fi Pulse has given her to further explore space travel, time travel, masked heroes, gothic castles, and good yarns.
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