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Sarah Jane Adventures review

Doing it for the kids

Director: Colin Teague

Starring: Elisabeth Sladen, Samantha Bond, Yasmin Paige

Rating:

Forget McFly, MySpace and any other random piece of accelerated youth culture I’m too fossilised to even know exists. Give today’s kids what they truly need: octopoid Lovecraftian horror, lurking in a pop factory. It never did us any harm, by gad.

Elisabeth Sladen’s encore as Sarah Jane Smith in last year’s Doctor Who episode “School Reunion” was always going to be a shivery nostalgia-bomb for all right-thinking thirtysomethings. Whether it meant a fig to today’s youth was the question set to be answered by this New Year’s Day adventure, a taster for a full spin-off series following later in ’07. The title seems almost wilfully old school – and that school is probably Mallory Towers – but this is a glorious splice of trad kids telefantasy and modern, Tracy Beaker era storytelling.

The early seventies’ Tomorrow People is a clear influence. Not only do we have a sinister youth craze infiltrating humanity for its own ends (surely there was an episode of The Tomorrow People called “The Creeping Flares…”) but there’s also a TIM-style posh computer, depping for the contractually unavailable K-9. Elsewhere, the show’s sense of unearthly magic concealed within suburbia – not to mention its huge heart and optimism – reveal more of the DNA of its parent show than the ultimately unhuggable Torchwood.

Some smartly cast child stars, a slyly dry script (“She worships something called The Holy Oak… no, Hollyoaks…”), a deliciously arch turn from Samantha Bond, a smattering of Who in-jokes and, above all, Lis Sladen as Sarah, vulnerable and heroic and somehow immortally sexy, add up to a superior piece of kids’ telly.
And in a world where ITV slaps old episodes of Morse where children’s drama used to be, that’s a good and precious thing.

Nick Setchfield

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Available platformsTV