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Feature: The Sarah Jane Adventures

Let the Adventure Begin…

Elisabeth Sladen as Sarah Jane Smith Starburst tracked down producer Matthew Bouch to uncover the truth behind The Sarah Jane Adventures

We’ve already had a glimpse into the world of The Sarah Jane Adventures. An hour-long special, Invasion of the Bane, was broadcast on New Year’s Day this year, reintroducing former Doctor Who companion Sarah Jane Smith (Elisabeth Sladen) as a freelance investigator of aliens on Earth. September 2007 sees the start of a fully-fledged series on BBC1, comprising five two-part stories.

“We’re very happy with it,” enthuses producer Matthew Bouch. “We set out to make a show that had at its heart a very simple proposition, which was just great adventure stories – they were ripping yarns. And that’s a phrase that’s been used by several people who’ve seen it. I think we achieved what we set out to do.

“I started to develop the show pretty much this time last year, so it’s very difficult to be objective about it and you tend to see what’s wrong with it rather than what’s right. But I have to say that even in the edit, though I’ve read the scripts and seen the shooting, I’m still finding them very enjoyable. That’s got to be a good sign, but obviously the proof of the pudding will be when it goes out.”

First up, a brief potted history of Sarah Jane. The character made her screen début in 1973, introduced as an ambitious magazine reporter who would befriend the Doctor (played first by Jon Pertwee, then Tom Baker) and travel in the TARDIS through more than three seasons. Sladen chose to leave Doctor Who in 1977, but it never left her; she returned for the short-lived spin-off K-9 and Company in 1981, again for the 20th anniversary special The Five Doctors in 1984, and once more for School Reunion in 2006. And then, 34 years after her first appearance, she got her own series – a development so belated that’s it’s unparalleled in the history of TV.

Set 18 months after her last Who appearance, The Sarah Jane Adventures presents a character who is something of a loner – albeit one who is attracting the attention of her young new neighbour Maria (Yasmin Paige). Independently investigating the fizzy drink Bubbleshock, they are drawn into a fight with the alien Bane, discover the artificially constructed boy Luke (Tommy Knight) and, when the fight is over, Sarah has a surrogate family for the first time in her life…

Invasion of the Bane went before cameras in the Autumn of 2006, produced by Susie Liggat, with Bouch trailing the production.

“I went down and met Lis, Yasmin and Tommy and stood in the background while it was being done,” he says. “At that stage I was head of development at BBC Wales, so I was developing other shows and when the series came up, Susie was going to go on to do Doctor Who. So I got to produce the series, which has been great.”

So what attracted Bouch to The Sarah Jane Adventures?

“Obviously from a personal point of view it was a great career move to work closely with Russell and Julie Gardner. I knew Julie anyway, and I’d met Russell a few times, but to be able to work with him on a day-by-day basis was a huge opportunity.”

by David Richardson

Read the full interview in
Starburst #354

Photo © BBCtv
Feature © Visual Imagination 2007. Not for reproduction

Taken from
Starburst #354, see below for ordering options
Starburst #354
September 2007
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