Review: The Sarah Jane Adventures 1×1

Sarah Jane Adventures

In the UK: Mondays, 5pm, BBC1

In the US: God knows

Blimey. Don’t know about you but it’s been a while since I tuned into Children’s BBC. Okay, technically I didn’t, because Bastard, my PVR, failed to record this and I had to borrow a copy, but all the same, I feel very odd, tuning into a programme that’s put out by the broom cupboard people of yore.

The action picks up where the pilot left off, back in sunny, not too offensive BBC-land. Luke the Asperger’s wannabe (oh yes, They’ll be watching, you know They will), with his poor social skills but top notch science powers, is ensconced in Sarah Jane’s house as a surrogate son. The female neighbour is still living with her nice dad and improbably brain dead mother.

Everything is pretty much as it was before, except the intrusion of the “a little bit too inner city for our liking” female sidekick from the pilot has been rebuffed by those fearsome BBC bosses and a less gabby male sidekick from Zone 6 of the tube map has been added to the roster of alien defeaters. He’s more generic, less screamy. He’s more parent-friendly. He’s just what the Beeb is looking for.

And so we canter through the plot. Blah blah blah school invaded again. Blah blah blah investigate. Blah blah blah aliens. I can see a pattern forming here.

All the same, who cares? It looks like the joy of The Sarah Jane Adventures is going to be the joy of old-school Doctor Who:

  1. Running up and down corridors, then hiding from aliens/guards
  2. Rubbish looking aliens constantly invading the British Isles with rubbish schemes
  3. Humorous character interaction

As a formula, it works and as the good old Teletubbies showed, there’s nothing kids like more than a bit of repetition.

For an episode called Revenge of the Slitheen (or Return: I really can’t be arsed to look it up), the cliffhanger reveal seemed a little drawn out. Yes, we know it’s them. Can we please get on with it? But again, just like a pantomime, the joy is in the kids knowing and waiting for everyone to catch up.

It’s behind you!

Actually, the Slitheen, fart gags, fat jokes and overacting intact from Doctor Who, seem far more bearable in their native territory (television for the under-10s) than facing off against Christopher “It’s grim up North – and you can tell that from my face. Do you see me smiling? Do you? Do you?” Eccleston on the mothership. So if this could be some kind of an overflow channel for all the sillier RTD ideas, that would be simply spiffy.

So all in all, a perfectly paced piece of kids’ TV, although maybe a little too safe at times. More Blue Peter than Magpie when it comes to “things parents approve of their kids watching”, it also provided a few nice moments for the inevitable older viewer tuning in (oh look, that would be me. And you), such as a reference to Manimal. You really can’t knock a show that mentions Manimal. It’s also fun to see kids getting a positive role model for journalistic behaviour (won’t they be disappointed when they find out what it actually involves)

If you can spare 25 minutes a week and have even a slight interest in old school Who, it’s fun to tune in and see Lis Sladen finally get rewarded with her own show. If you have kids who have graduated from The Night Garden, you can stick them in front of TSJA without much concern, I reckon.

Everyone else, seriously, it’s kids TV. Why are you watching it?


  • Rob Buckley

    I’m Rob Buckley, a journalist who writes for UK media magazines that most people have never heard of although you might have heard me on the podcast Lockdown Land or Radio 5 Live’s Saturday Edition or Afternoon Edition. I’ve edited Dreamwatch, Sprocket and Cambridge Film Festival Daily; been technical editor for TV producers magazine Televisual; reviewed films for the short-lived newspaper Cambridge Insider; written features for the even shorter-lived newspaper Soho Independent; and was regularly sarcastic about television on the blink-and-you-missed-it “web site for urban hedonists” The Tribe. Since going freelance, I've contributed to the likes of Broadcast, Total Content + Media, Action TV, Off The Telly, Action Network, TV Scoop and The Custard TV.

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