Review: Sarah Jane Smith: 1 Comeback

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Blue Box Bill - Posted on 07 February 2012

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I apologize for not keeping my remarks about this story separate from my remarks about the series as a whole. I shall endeavor to do a better job next time.

I've been a fan of Elisabeth Sladen for a very long time, seems like forever, so it is with mixed emotions that I would consider reviewing or critiquing her work less than a year after her death. She infused her best known character, Sarah Jane Smith, with a life force that will not be easily forgotten or replicated. It is with a view to remembering, sharing and celebrating Elisabeth Sladen's contribution to the universe of Doctor Who (and beyond) that I pause and reflect on my Sarah Jane.

Comeback: The Skinny: A number of references are made to Sarah Jane's past which gives the series a sense of continuity despite the fact that this is the first episode. All of the players are very believable. Comeback's plot is clear from start to finish and the story it tells is both socially relevant and timeless... at least at face value. The places which are created through dialogue and superb sound design give the story plenty of authenticity. As to its plausibility, one must never forget that science fiction is prone to story telling on a more epic scale, one that's complete with murder, monsters and a good dose of mayhem. They're all here waiting for you in Comeback.

And now, the rest of the story...


Liner notes: Six months after the last part of her undercover investigative TV series for Planet 3 Broadcasting went out, Sarah Jane Smith is running scared. Living under false names, her true identity compromised, she has few friends and fewer clues as to her pursuers. Enter three people who will change her life -- the mysterious Mr. Harris, old friend Ellie Martin and a guardian angel in the shape of the roguish Josh. Now, all roads lead to the village of Cloots Coombe in Wiltshire but will she find answers she needs there?

Several skillfully subtle and some not so subtle references to a particular Timelord are made throughout the series. These lend a coherency to it and a connection to the origins of a most beloved character named Sarah Jane Smith. There are even some subtle musical nods to Doctor Who music and that's very cool. Reminiscent of the third Doctor's long term visit (exile) to Earth; we are introduced to an earthbound Sarah Jane who hasn't forgotten what life was like with the Doctor. Who could?

Jeremy James portrays Josh Townsend in the series and from the onset he is convincing on more than one level. The complete story arc for the series will make clear what I mean. No spoilers here. But I will say it wasn't easy at first to accept a new voice in the storytelling of Sarah Jane's fantastic adventures however Jeremy as Josh secured his place in the Sarah Jane Universe quickly and completely with a brilliant and believable performance.

Nine stories comprise the series and were produced from 2002 to 2006. Topnotch production values that I have come to expect of all Big Finish products pervade this initial offering. In addition to those values, what sets works like this apart from others is pacing, both in the overall momentum of the story itself AND in the dialogue as it is delivered by the actors, pacing is paramount and it is handled masterfully in this story.

British quips like "Misery Knickers" in a question asked by Sarah Jane of Josh make somewhat regional the storyline despite the often global scale of the series, but I for one find such cultural differences an invitation to pay attention (for you might miss something if you don't).

Hearing an old familiar voice like that of David Jackson's (Olag Gan in Blakes 7) make this sort of production, sometimes referred to as widescreen audio, all the more enjoyable.

Comeback is well told through dialogue and a credible soundscape which is to say the audio effects make you feel like you are there. It stands on its own as a complete story. There weren't any loose ends. Cliffhangers? Well that depends on your definition of a cliffhanger. This is a series and as such it is meant to unfold. Not every little detail is tidied up and that's the way it should be. Makes you want to come back for more. No pun intended.

If you're a fan of Sarah Jane Smith and/or Doctor Who, then you owe it to yourself to give this story a listen. One last note... don't confuse this series with the TV Show having a similar name, these are not soundtrack recordings of The Sarah Jane Adventures but rather standalone productions created for a more mature audience. PG 13 for sure.

Comeback earns a 5 MOBILE Rating

What's this?

PRODUCTION NOTES: Cast: Elisabeth Sladen (Sarah Jane Smith); Robin Bowerman (Harris); Alistair Lock (Mr Venables); Jeremy James (Josh Townsend); Matthew Brenher (Bank Robber); David John (Bank Robber); Nicholas Briggs (Mr Hedges); Sadie Miller (Natalie Redfern); David Jackson (The Squire); Peter Sowerbutts (Rev. Gosforth); Juliet Warner (Ellie Martin); Patricia Leventon (Maude)

Writer: Terrance Dicks; Director: Gary Russell; Music: Davy Darlington; Sound Design: Davy Darlington

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