Wednesday, 26 October 2011

The song is ending, but the story goes on

A couple of things have come to an end lately, through necessity or choice. The Whoniverse has got a little smaller. Sadly, The Sarah Jane Adventures have finally reached their end. Of course, there is very little that could have been done about this. It is fortunate for fans of the character and the series that the first half of the proposed fifth season was filmed at the end of the fourth. Plans for further episodes were halted by Elisabeth Sladen's tragic death. I understand that there may have been talk of continuing the series in an amended format, although this is probably just the work of the Internet rumour mill. Perhaps Katy Manning could take over - The Jo Jones Adventures? Perhaps the 'kids' could continue, carrying the series on their own. Perhaps there might be a way, but it could never be a true continuation. The show belong to Sladen, and it's right that it ended with her. I hope that perhaps one or more of her sidekicks might turn up on Doctor Who one day, but otherwise, it's quite right that the series has ended.

Nonetheless, I'm glad the remaining episodes were aired. The final three stories were among the very best. There's a real sense of the show being revitalised, which makes its ending even more of a shame. Sky introduces the eponymous alien child, a new addition to Sarah's gang. The story's a bit of a runaround, but great fun, and Sky is a successful character from the outset. Sinead Michael is perfectly cast, bringing a wide-eyed wonder to the series lost since Luke grew into his human life. Not only does Sky provide a younger character for the target audience to relate to, now that the main characters are growing older, she provides a replacement for Luke as an ongoing 'alien'-type protagonist and reinforces the concept of the show as being about Sarah Jane's family.

The Curse of Clyde Langer is probably the best story in the whole run of the series, taking in bullying, family collapse and peer group rejection on the way to a very mature look at homeless life. Undoubtedly the most mature the show has been since it started, it's success is assured not only by some very strong writing but excellent, sympathetic performances by Daniel Anthony as Clyde, and Skins' Lily Loveless as Ellie, a young homeless woman who befriends Clyde. There are moments - such as Ellie's account of how she came to be on the street - which steer close to being a bit raw for kids' television, but they're mostly inference and will only register for adults, or those children who have had such experiences (a sobering thought).

The very last story, The Man Who Never Was, is a cracking, funny caper with some lovably daft sci-fi ideas. I adore the little Cyclopean Jawas, forced to operate a hologram via a series of ridiculously low-tech controls. Including a bum control. Luke is back, appropriately for the final story, shwoing that he still has a place in the series and bringing a true sense of family to the proceedings. Clyde and Rani make a better team than ever before, which is saying something. Even Mr Smith is one top form, and gets to introduce the rudest joke the show has ever attempted. The final coda, added on to commemorate Sladen's performance, brought a tear to my eye. It's a pity certain elements will never be resolved - the identity of the mysterious shopkeeper and Captain the parrot, whether Clyde will ever find Ellie again, the burgeoning romance between Clyde and Rani. Still, it's a fine last hurrah for the show. Of course, Sladen is wonderful in it. There's no indication that she was only months from death; she is as vital as ever in these final episodes.

Ending due to financial constraints and board decisions is Doctor Who Confidential. I can't say I'm too upset about this one, to be honest. I stopped making time for these a while ago. The only one I watched this year was the edition which followed The Doctor's Wife, a fascinating piece focussing on Neil Gaiman's contribution, and even that was spoiled by a randomly inserted feature on the bloke who runs the burger van. The fact that these forty-five minute docs are reduced to quarter hours on DVD release is an indication of just how padded they are. I realise some fans will miss it greatly, but I personally agree that Confidential has had its day. After all, Doctor Who itself is still going strong, and that's the important thing.

If you need something to tide you over till Christmas and the upcoming special, have a gander at some of these fan-produced items. I mentioned Panic Moon last post. The latest issue really is a corker, although Ollie Wake's feature on Pathfinders in Space, a sort of ancestor to Doctor Who, has added another DVD box set to my wish list. Meanwhile, The Doctor Who Project continues to go strong, with the latest special, Duncan Johnson's The Mountain of Light, now available for download. Duncan really is a cracking writer, so this is well worth a read. It's on my weekend reading list, fighting it out with H.P. Lovecraft's early work, and the latest Pratchett, Snuff. I'm afraid to say I shan't be contributing to the next season of TDWP after all; I have encountered some significant time constraints and have so many other things to focus on that I thought it best to put it on the back burner until I can give it the attention it deserves. Rest assured, though, my story shall be revised and completed for the following season.

Now I, like many children, have added The Brilliant Book of Doctor Who 2012 to my Christmas list. Until then, I'll be amusing myself with this: The Wonderful Book of Doctor Who 1965. Joe Cannon and Paul Smith have created a fabulous tribute to both the Brilliant Book range and the classic first season of Doctor Who. Packed with Fantastic Facts of doubtful accuracy, hilarious fake interviews and all manner of special features, such as the Tourist's Guide to Marinus and a Reign of Terror board game, this is a work of crazed genius.

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