Thursday, 12 January 2012

It’s Been A Wonderful Adventure…

 
I've seen amazing things out there in space, but strange things can happen wherever you are. I have learned that life on Earth can be an adventure too. In all the universe, I never expected to find a family.

I’ve become somewhat obsessed with the word ‘project’ in recent years. I’ve mainly heard the words said from a minority of people in television circles, who are actually interested in being creative, rather than just going all out to make a short-term profit. I think we’re missing something in life these days – what has happened to working on something and developing it? People in television (as well as life in general) these days are very impatient and expect instant success. Causal viewers, fans & bosses of television just don’t seem to want to watch/work on something which could potentially do well. Is it the age in which we live in, where we can get information in a matter of seconds?

Elsewhere in this fanzine, you’ll read an article about how the BBC have got things horribly wrong, but with The Sarah Jane Adventures, they got it completely right. In my opinion, Children’s Television in the 21st Century just hasn’t been up to scratch – what with re-runs of programming from when we were kids, despite it having the advantages of new technologies and it own channels. What the Sarah Jane Adventures showed is that it is worth going that extra mile in order to deliver something proper for children to watch and it being relevant to them at the same time. Throw some of the subjects the show has tackled into that, then it makes a case for CBBC to be pushing for more big-budget Children’s Drama in the future. Just like Doctor Who pushed for more big-budget family drama on BBC One.

Television networks have a huge role to play in the development of children, considering the amount of time we spend around it these days. The plan of ‘get them into The Sarah Jane Adventures, then into Doctor Who’ has worked brilliantly. From there they can branch off into other shows (like there are any others!) and hopefully be inspired and entertained by what they see. It’s a simple, yet brilliant way of keeping viewers. It’s like when you’ve got football clubs who have their own youth teams and, apart from training them up to be better footballers, they grow up in the culture of the club, learn everything about it and what it means to people to be a part of it. The Sarah Jane Adventures viewers will go on and grow up with Doctor Who, and a good percentage of them will be soon calling for Moffat’s head, buying crap merchandise or coming up with more reasons why Time and The Rani is greatest piece of television in the history of the world…

One massive reason why Doctor Who is a success is because it’s long-running. It was already 23 years old when the BBC hierarchy started to mess with it in 1986. 23 years! The revived (or as we say – continuation of the) show has already been confirmed to go into an eighth year, with (surely) many more years after that. How many current drama series’ have been running for 8 years? Not many I would imagine. But that’s how you keep viewers and keep something successful. By developing it over a period of time.

The Sarah Jane Adventures was an ambitious project. Could they develop a successful spin-off from a program that itself was historically a children’s educational program? Despite a shaky start (Bubbleshock – no pun intended) it settled down, found a home and grew as time went on. RTD did the right thing and stepped aside to let Phil Ford become the head writer and things got better and better. The young kids grew more confident, their acting skills improved and with that – the storylines improved too. That’s how you develop something. Using the way of thinking which is rife in today’s life – it would never got past the Pilot stage. It helped that Doctor Who was a success of course, but again, anyone can see the potential in a spin-off from it. As fans keep saying after every single new episode!

But back to what I was saying before and you can see, even in the 3 stories we had this series, that the show was developing. With the kids getting older (Daniel Anthony is now 24!) things have to change as the audience themselves develop into older people with older tastes, so in comes young Sky to connect with those youngsters who are coming up and are beginning to watch television properly. She was one for the future and her development as a character (and the actress, as a person) would have been well looked after by the staff on the show. I mean, how can you not be inspired by a lady in her 60’s, who looks at least 10 years younger and has the energy to match? Reading the comments on the Newsround website, from young viewers on the show, just after Liz passed away, just showed that they feel the same as we do about her and The Sarah Jane Adventures.

The second story of the series The Curse of Clyde Langer should, by rights, win some kind of award for tackling the subject of homelessness (and indeed, young people being homeless) so well. The story was just quality and would easily transfer to adult viewing. Daniel Anthony has been magnificent in the role of Clyde since day 1 and I hope he’ll go on to have a great career. If any of the actors go on and do well in the future, then it would have been this television series that has learnt them their trade. As I said, development and patience. It works!

The final episode The Man Who Never Was didn’t quite hit the heights of the previous episode (not many, if any, other episodes do) but it’s still a great tale of alien slavery and money-making humans. I found it wholly ironic though, that something like this was being preached to kids, whilst a section of the BBC were busy planning their Conventions and cutting those kids adrift…

The episode also deals with acceptance, as Luke is back and meets his Sister for the first time. It’s something that is true to life, as a viewer may have a younger sibling who is starting to grow up and thus occupies the attention of your parents, who then blame you for drawing on your bedroom walls with crayon, when it was that little shit...sorry I went away for a minute there! The plot-point was well done and you can start to see that torch being passed from Luke to the ‘new generation’ that would have probably come in during a future series’. Clyde, once again, is on top form and delivers probably the funniest line ever heard in The Sarah Jane Adventures. It literally had me laughing out loud for a few minutes at the sheer cheekiness of it. Check it out if you haven’t seen it. The episode I mean, not Mr Harrison’s pen…

The final tribute to Lis is a bit of stock footage from some of her episodes, but it works really well. She utters the line at the top of this article and you can’t help smiling or crying, or both. It ends with the quite marvellous ‘And The Story Goes On. Forever.’ And it will. No need for any clever lines or plot devices, lets just let Sarah carry on forever. There’ll always be room for books and audio readings and of course – fans memories of the character.

We’ll miss the Sarah Jane Adventures and it would have been fascinating to see how it would have developed. Sadly it wasn’t to be, but at least millions of young viewers got to see some decent telly when they came home from school. And who knows? Maybe they’ll be inspired by it? The Sarah Jane Adventures has succeeded in what it was meant to do, and for that very reason, is why it is the best Doctor Who spinoff.

If you’ve never seen The Sarah Jane Adventures, I would implore (whatever that means - I’m using words that I don’t know again!) you to watch it. It has its childish moments (it’s for kids – what do you expect? And as The Doctor once said to Sarah “What’s the point of being grown up, if you can’t be childish sometimes?”) but it works on so many levels and is perfect for you to sit down with your kids and watch.

Go and watch it.

This article was taken from Issue 8 of Fish Fingers and Custard, which you can download from the 'issues' tab on the left.

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