I’m coming to the conclusion that The Sarah Jane Adventures has more in common with the classic series than New Who does. Having 25-minute installments is nicely nostalgic, and it lends itself to the types of slow-building stories that used to be a staple. Each adventure has one solid idea at the centre, and here they’re happily mining Greek mythology like it’s 1979.
It’s also doing a great job of utilising the two-part structure, raising the stakes throughout the first episode, ready for a more action-packed second half. And again, for the second story in a row, there was a big twist in the cliffhanger, with Maria’s dad blundering in and getting himself turned to stone. I’m beginning to quite like him, but the mum is really getting on my tits. The melodrama of Maria dealing with the divorce isn’t doing much for me, but if I was a ten-year-old it’d probably seem more relevant, and it would be incredibly useful for any kids going through similar things themselves.
The guest cast was particularly high-caliber in this episode, in stark contrast to the slightly ropey Slitheen last time. Beth Goddard! Having nuns as the villains in a kids’ show felt pleasingly subversive, like the Auton policemen back in the day. Mrs Warboys! I don’t know her actual name, and frankly I don’t want to. Phyllida Law! Easily the star of the show, as is good and proper for a legend of this magnitude.
It wasn’t hard to fall in love with poor old Bea, and the hints that she was once a companion-like figure to her own Doctor-like figure. Much like the divorce stuff, the way this episode dealt with a topic as heavy as Alzheimer’s was commendable, and this seems to be a hallmark of the series – mixing serious subjects with silly sci-fi runarounds and fart jokes, in a way the target audience will absolutely lap up.
For the adult viewer, the main thing that it’s lacking is the complexity of the storytelling, so it’s not quite as immersive and satisfying as the main series. Nevertheless, there’s plenty to keep the fans happy, such as the references to Sontarans and The Yeti. The former is particularly interesting, as it’s their first mention of the new era, so it counts as both a back-reference and foreshadowing for their impending return.