Wednesday, March 27, 2013

DVD Review: "The Sarah Jane Adventures - Season 1"

Note: I just wrote and published this review tonight over at my friend Crystal's website, SVT Publishing. But as with everything I write for Crystal, I also post it here. :)

If you happened to read my last book review, you already know that I’ve been successfully sucked in to the world of Doctor Who. Since then I’ve ventured further into the series – or should I say further back, actually – watching episodes from the mid 1970s that feature the fourth Doctor (played by Tom Baker) and his companion, journalist Sarah Jane Smith (played by Elisabeth Sladen). During her three years on the series – and in the decades since her departure – Elisabeth Sladen’s portrayal of the plucky, inquisitive Sarah Jane earned her the distinction as one of Doctor Who fans’ most-loved companion. This fact was not lost on producer Russell T. Davies (who revived Who in 2005 after a 16-year hiatus), who not only brought Sarah Jane back for four episodes of Doctor Who from 2006-2010, but also came up with the idea of a spin-off children’s series called The Sarah Jane Adventures that focused on her encounters with aliens right here on earth.

Despite the fact that this series is really geared toward children, it hooked me right away because I’m already a huge fan of Elisabeth Sladen and her portrayal of Sarah Jane Smith. Sarah Jane is older, obviously, but still an independent, no-nonsense kind of woman and still working as a journalist – but now she lives alone in a sprawling house in Ealing where she investigates alien activity on earth with the help of her super-computer named Mr. Smith, her trusty metal dog, K9 – and a few adventurous neighborhood kids that just can’t resist the fact that aliens really do exist. These aliens that Sarah Jane and her young friends encounter are mostly malevolent and rather ugly (save for one benevolent, beautiful alien at the start of the pilot episode, who is seen dancing with Sarah Jane in her yard), but nothing too scary (in my opinion, at least).

The DVD boxed set of The Sarah Jane Adventures Season 1 is an absolute gem. Not only does it contain the original hour-long pilot episode Invasion of the Bane and the five two-part episodes from the actual series, but it also includes a ton of special features like outtakes; behind-the-scenes photos; television interviews; an interactive encyclopedia of aliens, characters, and investigative tools; a quiz that unlocks a blooper reel; and – my favorite – a timeline chronicling Sarah Jane Smith’s journey from journalist to time traveler with over 30 minutes of video clips, photos, and facts.

What I also love about this season is that the very last episode, "The Lost Boy," contains a huge plot twist that effects the entire fabric of the series itself that nobody (not even I) would have seen coming; it truly makes you wonder how - or if - Sarah Jane and her friends will be able to save the day this time and resolve everything in time for the start of the second season!

My favorite episode: Invasion of the Bane. There’s plenty of action in this one, which revolves entirely around the Bane’s attempt to take over planet Earth by manufacturing an addictive energy drink called Bubbleshock – which not only throws the entire world into chaos but is also what’s indirectly responsible for Sarah Jane’s adoption of their archetype, a boy genius she names Luke. I also loved the more human aspects of the episode, including Maria’s having to deal with her parents’ recent divorce and moving to a new house/neighborhood, and Sarah Jane’s realization that, although she’s been alone for most of her life, she actually wants and needs Luke and Maria in her life.

My favorite scene: The scene in Sarah Jane’s attic where the kids are nosing around all of her things and she tells them about the Doctor is both touching and funny at the same time. There is some really funny dialogue between Sarah Jane and the kids in this scene, and viewers are also given a quick introduction to K9, Sarah Jane’s “daft little metal dog.”

Favorite quote (from the above mentioned scene):
Kelsey [to Sarah Jane]: “Your best friend is a metal dog with his bum stuck in a black hole?”

My rating: 5 stars (out of 5)

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