This week, Sarah Jane Smith faces the most terrifying species in the entire Universe: A former X Factor
One thing The Sarah Jane Adventures
has learnt from the parent show is to make it a different show from one week to the next, something they've done particularly well considering they don't have a TARDIS at their disposal. Instead they tend to go for variations in tone and style, although this week writer Rupert Laight is also given a time-travel storyline that gives the show a different location. Three of them actually, as he's also been given the budget to make "Lost in Time" an epic with each of the regulars in a different time zone.
The overall story is pretty much nonexistent, as a mysterious shopkeeper (or possibly the parrot might be in charge) gets SJS, Rani and Clyde to travel in time and collect the
mystery metal objects that could change history and destroy the world. There's not really much more information than that - this could
be setup for something to be expanded on in a sequel some day, or it could just be the McGuffin Sarah Jane pretty much announces it to be at the end. As someone who's setting them a task though, it has to be said the shopkeeper is rubbish. He's mainly a narrator, exclaiming that the three are running out of time - shame he didn't think to tell them there was a time limit before
sending them away. He also leaves them having to figure out what the mystery objects are, when he has a case specially made to keep them in, so he could have told them to keep an eye out for a dagger, a key and, er, whatever that thing turned out to be in Clyde's story.
Still, the episodes are so cavalier about how demented the setup is that it's hard to worry too much about that. Instead the individual adventures are miniature examples of what the show does best, casually throwing some big ideas in with a lot of action. It's not too big on humour this week but instead we've got Clyde dealing with Nazis and having some responsibility for the fact that George (aka Luke-of-the-Week mk3) enlists very young; and Sarah Jane's story (another one whose sci-fi elements are not remotely explained) dealing with a young girl's grief for her dead mother and how it's made her become fixated with the possibility of ghosts. It also demonstrates that, having locked a couple of kids in their room then left for a shag, The X Factor
's Lucie Jones makes about as good a babysitter as she did a pop star. (Actually are we sure the little boy wasn't Lloyd?) In many ways Rani's story is the most interesting, as it takes the opportunity to do one of Doctor Who
's favourite kind of stories, the Celebrity Historical episode. And the celebrity in question is... Lady Jane Grey! I'm kind of impressed that SJA
took the opportunity to feature one of the more obscure figures they could have gone for, although I also wondered if they'd been blocked by Doctor Who
from using up any of the A List Tudor monarchs, in case they fancy sending the Doctor himself to meet them some day. As for a kids' show deftly dealing with the true story of a 16-year-old girl facing execution, it's got to the point where we pretty much expect this kind of audacity.
Overall it's a completely demented story but a good'un, although as it's a bit rushed surely an argument for SJA
doing stories of more than two parts (this could have been in three parts maybe, with a small-scale single-episode story to make up the numbers?)