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28 February 2015

Will Brooks’ 50 Year Diary - watching Doctor Who one episode a day from the very start...

Day 789: The Wedding of Sarah Jane Smith

Dear diary,

I’m sure I must have mentioned it at some point before now, but I really enjoyed The Sarah Jane Adventures. For a long time, I would say that the average quality across the show had a better ‘hit-rate’ than Doctor Who did - there’s no episodes of this show that I think would rate below about a 5. For a long time, I seriously considered the idea of watching all of The Sarah Jane Adventures in tandem with modern Doctor Who, slipping it into the gaps between seasons as it was originally broadcast, and watching how everything ties up (for example, there’s a story just a few episodes before the one I’ve done today which serves as a follow up to Dreamland, which I’ll be watching in a few day’s time), but then I’d feel like I’d have to include Torchwood in the marathon, too, and it all just gets a bit messy. As such, I decided to limit myself to just doing the two stories in which the Doctor himself makes an appearance in Sarah Jane’s world.

What’s impressive is that despite the sheer presence of David Tennant, he never manages to overpower or steal the show. This is very much an episode of The Sarah Jane Adventures which the Doctor happens to appear in, rather than a Doctor Who episode that’s been misplaced over to its spin off show. And yet, there’s still something that feels so right about having the Doctor pop up in this corner of his fictional universe - especially in the year where Doctor Who was so massively absent from TV screens. When the programme tried it again a year later, bringing the Eleventh Doctor into Sarah Jane’s world (and with Jo Grant, to boot), it just didn’t have the same impact that we have here, and that’s a pity. I’m sure I’ll look into that more in a few weeks, as I’ll be including Death of the Doctor after Series Five of the ‘parent’ show.

One of the things that this story does especially well is in pairing the Doctor largely with the young cast of the programme - Luke, Clyde, and Rani. It’s always a thrill to see the Doctor and Sarah Jane reunited, but there’s something extra special about seeing these new characters become a part of his world. Oh, sure, he got to speak to Luke on a screen during the last season finale, but there’s something jus that little bit extra special about seeing him trapped with the three of them in a single second of time. It also means that something different is being done with the idea of the Doctor and Sarah meeting up again, and it avoids simply becoming a rehash of their other recent reunions.

That doesn’t mean that Sarah Jane is left out of the story, though, and watching this episode back now I’m really floored by Elisabeth Sladen. When she pops up in Doctor Who during this period, she absolutely shines, but she’s really just one of many. Especially by the time we reach The Stolen Earth, she’s fighting for presence against so many other characters. This programme, though, is absolutely justified by the performance she gives here. Oh, there’s something beautiful about watching her and Peter fall in love. I remember complaining at the time that we should have seen those dates (or at least the secrecy aspect to them) played out more in the four episodes preceding these two, but watching it again now I’m happy to say that I was wrong on that. It’s written - and performed - so neatly that I completely buy the pair falling for each other. A large amount of the credit for that has to go to Sladen, because she sells it all so well, even when watching Sarah Jane fall in love isn’s perhaps something we’re used to seeing.

It doesn’t hurt, of course, that they only go and get Nigel Havers in to play her hubby-to-be! Doctor Who has never been afraid of going for big names in the casting - especially at this point in its history - but I love the fact that the entire Who franchise had such stature by 2009 that you could get actors of this calibre to appear in a couple of episodes for CBBC! I’ve not really said an awful lot about these two episodes in particular - rather spent my time simply praising The Sarah Jane Adventures as a show - but I’m not sorry about that, because I’m just glad to have an opportunity to rave about it. If you’ve not indulged in this part of the Who universe before, please give it a go - some of the strongest material ever is tucked away across these five seasons…

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