With this year marking the 15th anniversary of The Sarah Jane Adventures, it’s about time that it was placed back on iPlayer. And now, it is!
Of course, for the last year, it’s been available on BritBox, but there’s something very special about seeing it up and available on iPlayer with the rest of the modern Doctor Who universe that is also still available on the service.
Originally released on CBBC back in 2006 with the first full series following in 2007, the show proved a quick hit for Doctor Who fans of all ages. Its success lay in the fact that not only did it have a fantastic main cast and lovable characters, but that it was also more adult in its themes than fellow spin-off Torchwood was. This show dealt with topics that are still being challenged today including homelessness, trauma and PTSD, and child kidnapping, to name but a few. And it managed it all in two-part episodes following the classic series’ 25 minute format.
The second story, The Eye of the Gorgon, dealt with dementia, and creators Russell T Davies and Phil Ford both have gone on record to say that elements and themes like dementia were important to show on screen for a young audience because they would have grandparents who might be suffering from the same thing and what I have always appreciated is that these weren’t just fixed at the end; neither the Gorgon nor Sarah Jane can cure this lady’s dementia, no matter how much Maria might want them too.
“We didn’t want to tell kids, ‘It’s okay, because your grandparents who are suffering awful conditions could be magically made well again’.
And with the series proving incredibly popular with new and old fans, there were some fantastic surprise appearances along the way — with the Tenth and Eleventh Doctors, the Brigadier, and Jo Grant/Jones turning up to help out. Even K9 became a regular! There are a number of very memorable stories and monsters, some of which have proven so popular that fans want them to return in the main series. And Sarah Jane came up against some old foes too including the Slitheen and Sontarans.
Perhaps the most famous of these baddies though was the Trickster, who would appear to people just before they were going to die and offer them a second chance at life if they in turn helped him. It was through these stories that we got to know more about Sarah Jane’s younger life including the death of her parents and of her best friend. Anyone expecting this series to not be an emotional rollercoaster just because it was broadcast on a children’s channel will quickly learn that the show never pulled its punches.
The only story to not be included on iPlayer at the moment is The Curse of Clyde Langer, the second story of Series 5. This story dealt with homelessness and saw Clyde finding out that people don’t remember him, so he has to move out onto the streets where he befriends a homeless girl, and they have to fix what happened to Clyde. It works out for Clyde but not for the girl, and is another example of the show not magically fixing everything. However, this episode will be put on iPlayer once it has been edited to fix some factual errors.
The show originally ran from 2006 to 2011, when Elisabeth Sladen sadly passed away. Since then, we’ve got a few releases related to the series including Goodbye Sarah Jane Smith which was released during the first COVID lockdown and saw the original cast returning, along with guest appearances from Katy Manning and Sophie Aldred. It dealt with Sarah Jane’s funeral, for which all the companions came together to celebrate her life and send the Trickster packing for one final time. And Rani Chandra has returned once or twice with Big Finish with Clyde Langer back on audio next year!
I could go on and on about The Sarah Jane Adventures; I really loved it and still do occasionally watch the odd episode when it takes my fancy. I think there’s loads to talk about in this series and I can still remember having to tape Invasion of the Bane because I was away at a party but was determined not to miss it. The Sarah Jane Adventures very quickly cemented itself as a staple of the Doctor Who universe and now it can be viewed alongside all the other franchises from the modern era. It’s great seeing it up amongst the main show, Torchwood, and Class, all where it belongs — in one place!