Sarah Jane: The Adventures That Never Were
Guest contributor Ross Whyatt ponders what might have been.
Elisabeth Sladen (1 February 1946 – 19 April 2011)
It has been almost three years since Elisabeth Sladen lost her fight with cancer. Having grown up in the David Tennant era, from her very first New Who appearance I, like many others, immediately took a liking to Sarah Jane. She was kind, caring and just seemed like the nicest person to be around. You can only imagine my glee when I heard the Beeb would be creating a spin-off entirely based around this one character’s life. Sure enough I tuned in on that first New Year’s Day broadcast of “Invasion of the Bane” right through until the abrupt and unexpected end. If only Liz was still with us today and Sarah Jane’s adventures were still going strong.
The unmade Sarah Jane Adventures
After a successful run of four series, there was little surprise that CBBC had chosen to renew The Sarah Jane Adventures for another series. However, filming on the fifth run was halted after only three of the six planned stories had been filmed. It was never revealed why at the time but fans later realised it was down to Sladen’s deteriorating health. Eventually, filming on the other three stories was cancelled entirely. The three completed stories “Sky”, “The Curse of Clyde Langer” and “The Man who Never Was” were shown in the autumn of 2011 as a sort of memorial to Sladen after she passed away.
The other three stories had in fact been written and were ready to begin shooting. The first would be entitled “Meet Mr Smith” in which the attic computer, played by Alexander Armstrong, would become human and end up obeying orders by an evil alien called Ozmo. Following this would’ve been “The Thirteenth Floor” and “The Battle for Bannerman Road”. Both stories were eventually adapted for CBBC’s second series of Wizards Vs. Aliens, also written by Russell T Davies. The finale would have wrapped up the series nicely clearing up plot arcs seen in the first episode and also re-introducing Katy Manning’s companion, Jo Grant.
It was also revealed that Russell T Davies had been looking at three different storylines for a live Halloween episode to air in November 2011. One of these possibilities would have seen the return of the characters Maria and her dad Alan from America. It was no secret that the continued success of the show would have led to a further series and also possibly giving the Bannerman clan a role in the 50th anniversary. With the special 50th anniversary trailer containing Sarah Jane and her robot dog K9 one can only wonder how major a role Sladen would have played in The Day of the Doctor…
If SJA was still going today, and I’m sure it would’ve been, then a special episode could’ve been in progress. If Maria hadn’t returned in the planned Halloween special then maybe this could have been that chance. A possible special could also have opened up the opportunity to have a collaboration of past companions such as Martha, and of course Jo Grant to come together and star alongside Smith. It would all really depend on how far the CBBC budget could stretch and bearing in mind the programs they have produced over the past few years, that wouldn’t be very far.
Final thoughts and future spin-offs
Since Steven Moffat has taken over we seem to have lost any other new Whoniverse shows, including companion shows like Confidential. Who also remembers that dreadfully awful kid’s magazine show “Totally Doctor Who” that everyone thought was great as kids? The only reason we tuned in was because at the end of each program, they would show us an exclusive clip for the forthcoming Saturday’s episode. It only lasted two series: shame. All good things come in triplets and that was indeed the case when Torchwood was around. The world of Doctor Who was a trifle of goodness. For the kids there was the sponge of The Sarah Jane Adventures, Torchwood formed the cream for the adults, and the main show sat on top like proud custard.
There has been talk over the past few years about a possible spin-off show following John Barrowman’s and Alex Kingston’s characters Captain Jack Harkness and River Song, respectively. But that seems to have only ever been discussed between Doctor Who fans and by the actors rather than the BBC. It could really be done with any previous companions of the Doctor, whether that be following Amy and Rory’s story in their new time era, or looking at how Susan Foreman went on to live. Not much hasn’t been discussed and perhaps a journey through the Master’s or some other Time Lords’ adventures would be entertaining. Is the day of Doctor Who spin-offs over? Or are we ready for a brand new sparkling subsidiary to hit our screens? What do you think? Let me know your thoughts on mine and also what ideas you have?