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The Sarah Jane Adventures Episode
Invasion Of The Bane
Maria Jackson has just moved into a new house with her recently-divorced father when she becomes aware of strange goings-on involving her reclusive neighbour, journalist Sarah Jane Smith. But things get even weirder when Maria's new friend, Kelsey, invites her on a tour of a factory which produces the mysteriously addictive energy drink Bubbleshock. There, Maria rescues a strange boy, and has nowhere to turn but to Sarah Jane herself. Together, they must discover the connection between Bubbleshock and an alien plan to conquer the Earth.
Elisabeth Sladen originally played Sarah Jane Smith in Doctor Who from The Time Warrior in 1973 to The Hand Of Fear in 1976. Over the course of three-and-a-half seasons, opposite both Jon Pertwee (the Third Doctor) and Tom Baker (the Fourth Doctor), the character became recognised as one of the programme's archetypal companions, to the point that Sladen was invited to return to Doctor Who and reprise her role to help ease the transition between Baker and Fifth Doctor Peter Davison in 1981. Sladen refused that offer, feeling that playing second banana to the Doctor once again would represent a backward step in her career. However, she subsequently agreed to take a starring turn in a spin-off series, K·9 And Company, which was being created in response to the public outcry over the departure of the popular robot dog K·9 from Doctor Who in Warriors' Gate. Unfortunately, K·9 And Company did not survive past its December 1981 pilot episode, A Girl's Best Friend.
After a brief return to Doctor Who in 1983's twentieth-anniversary special, The Five Doctors, Sladen largely put her television career on hiatus in order to raise her family. Nonetheless she lent her voice to several audio plays, portraying Sarah Jane opposite Pertwee's Doctor in the BBC Radio broadcasts The Paradise Of Death (1993) and The Ghosts Of N-Space (1996), and later appearing in a number of Sarah Jane solo stories released by Big Finish Productions from 2002. She could also be glimpsed in the 30th anniversary special Dimensions In Time, and recorded a direct-to-video appearance as Sarah Jane in the Reeltime Pictures production Downtime.
Then, in 2005, Doctor Who made its triumphant return to the regular BBC programming schedules after a hiatus spanning more than a decade and a half. Keen to reintroduce Doctor Who to a brand new generation of viewers, showrunner Russell T Davies kept the 2005 season substantially free of references to the past. However, with the relaunch having proved a resounding success, he was keen that the 2006 season should start to take careful advantage of the programme's robust history. In particular, Davies was eager to bring back one of the Doctor's former companions in an episode which would provide a greater emotional context for the travels of his current companion, Rose Tyler. Davies convinced an initially reluctant Sladen to return as Sarah Jane and the resulting adventure, School Reunion, proved tremendously popular with the Doctor Who production team.
Meanwhile, in the wake of the enormous success of the Doctor Who relaunch, Children's BBC had approached Davies about developing a spin-off which would feature the Doctor as a teenager on Gallifrey. Davies felt that this would go too far in defusing the enigma of the Doctor's past, however, and around the end of 2005 recommended instead that a new series be created to showcase Sarah Jane. This would mark a return to children's television for Davies, who had originally gained notice with the youth-oriented fantasy serials Dark Season and Century Falls.
With CBBC confirming their interest in the project now called Sarah Jane Investigates, Davies and his fellow Doctor Who executive producer, Julie Gardner, took Sladen to lunch in January 2006 to discuss the proposal. Amusingly, Sladen assumed that she was being invited to appear in the adult-targetted Doctor Who spin-off series Torchwood, which had been announced a few months earlier. As such, she was very surprised by the offer to star in her own show, but ultimately agreed to come aboard the project. It was planned that Sarah Jane Investigates would launch with an hour-long special for the Christmas 2006 season, followed by a full season of five stories, each consisting of two half-hour episodes bridged by a cliffhanger, in the latter part of 2007.
A key element of Sarah Jane Investigates would be the introduction of several juvenile characters, towards whom Sarah Jane would act as a mentor even as she found herself struggling to cope with the responsibilities this entailed. Davies also hoped that K·9 would feature significantly in the new programme. Davies had previously considered a regular role for the robot dog when planning the Doctor Who relaunch, and the character had become closely identified with Sarah Jane ever since the ill-fated K·9 And Company, appearing alongside her in School Reunion. However, the rights to the character remained with his creators, one of whom -- Bob Baker -- had long been developing an animated K·9 project outside the auspices of the BBC, and was still pursuing this project with Park Entertainment and Jetix Europe. Although Baker agreed that K·9 could make a cameo appearance in Sarah Jane Investigates in order to explain his whereabouts, the character could not feature prominently in the narrative. In place of K·9, Davies created a talking computer called Mr Smith which would be housed in Sarah Jane's attic; Mr Smith was inspired by the biological computer TIM from the 1970s science-fantasy series The Tomorrow People.
The scripting chores on the introductory episode of Sarah Jane Investigates were shared between Davies and Gareth Roberts. Roberts had written the interactive Doctor Who game Attack Of The Graske and the prequel TARDISodes for the 2006 season; he was also developing The Shakespeare Code for transmission the following year. In addition, Roberts had contributed to series such as Emmerdale, Brookside and the revival of Randall & Hopkirk (Deceased). Long before the new series began, Roberts had become well-known to Doctor Who fans, having published a plethora of tie-in novels beginning with The Highest Science for the Doctor Who: The New Adventures range in 1992. Most recently, Roberts had written the Ninth Doctor novel Only Human for BBC Books, as well as the Tenth Doctor “Quick Reads” release I Am A Dalek. Roberts had also co-written two audio plays, The One Doctor and Bang-Bang-A-Boom, for Big Finish Productions, in addition to contributing comic strips to Doctor Who Magazine.
Roberts began working on the script in the summer of 2006, by which time Davies had already roughed out a storyline and devised the main characters, notably the young leads Maria Jackson and Luke (whom the alien Bane referred to as the Seedling). Davies subsequently returned to later drafts to provide further refinement. It was Roberts who developed Maria's new friend, Kelsey Hooper, and consideration was then given to retaining Kelsey beyond the special. At this stage, Maria's father was called Kevin rather than Alan, and the Jacksons and Sarah Jane lived on Hillview Road in South Croydon -- Sarah Jane's address as established in dialogue from The Hand Of Fear -- instead of Bannerman Road.
At an early stage, the Bane did not attack Sarah Jane's home directly, but instead tried to smuggle an alien creature called the Gloor into her house by hiding it in a delivery parcel. For the name of Bubbleshock, Roberts drew on a beverage called “bubbleshake” which he had invented for The Highest Science; Bubbleshock was originally more of a high-end product which satirised the organic foods craze. As noted by Sarah Jane in dialogue, the villainous Mrs Wormwood was named for a star (or comet) described in the Bible's Book Of Revelation which was prophesied to fall to Earth during the End Times and poison the world's freshwater rivers and springs; the name “Wormwood” traditionally connoted “bitterness”.
Over the summer, the new programme's title was amended to The Sarah Jane Adventures. On August 1st, the first official word of the project's existence appeared in the pages of the BBC's in-house magazine Ariel. The production team started to come together, with Davies joined by Gardner and Doctor Who producer Phil Collinson as executive producers. Appointed to the producer's chair for the introductory special was Susie Liggat, who had mostly worked as an assistant director on shows including Casanova, Teachers and Doctor Who (including Love & Monsters and Army Of Ghosts / Doomsday). Liggat had also been chosen to temporarily replace Collinson as producer on Doctor Who for one recording block during the 2007 season.
A key challenge for the special was finding the right mix of young actors to play the pivotal roles of Maria, Kelsey and the Archetype (as the Seedling had now been renamed). Cast as Maria Jackson was Yasmin Paige, whose prior credits included episodes of Keen Eddie, Doctors and The Last Detective, as well as a regular role in the CBBC programme The Mysti Show. Coming to the series with a more unusual background was Porsha Lawrence-Mavour. A finalist in the inaugural children's edition of the reality competition Stars In Their Eyes in 2002, Lawrence-Mavour was chosen to play Kelsey. Finally, Tommy Knight won the role of Luke. Born Thomas Farrell, he had appeared in shows such as The Bill, Doctors and Casualty, while also working with the Royal Shakespeare Company.
Apart from Sladen, several other adult actors would also feature regularly in The Sarah Jane Adventures. Joseph Millson, playing Alan Jackson, was a graduate of the Rose Bruford College of Speech and Drama and had been a regular in Peak Practice while also recording appearances in programmes such as EastEnders and Holby City, plus the James Bond film Casino Royale. Alan's ex-wife Chrissie would be portrayed by Juliet Cowan, whose credits included regular roles in This Life, Family Affairs and The Bill. Heard but not seen as the voice of Mr Smith would be Alexander Armstrong. Armstrong had gone to Cambridge University to pursue music, but became interested in acting and comedy. In the mid-Nineties, he formed a successful comedic partnership with Ben Miller which led to a number of television appearances. Armstrong also had roles in a variety of sitcoms, including Beast, tlc and Life Begins, as well as dramas such as Marple.
On September 14th, the BBC officially announced that The Sarah Jane Adventures was about to enter production, with the special now set to air in early January 2007. The director would be Colin Teague, who had helmed the Torchwood episodes Ghost Machine and Greeks Bearing Gifts during the summer. As with Doctor Who and Torchwood, the programme was based in Cardiff, with studio recording taking place at Upper Boat studios near Pontypridd.
September 17th, the first day of production on The Sarah Jane Adventures, was dedicated to the Bubbleshock advertisement, with filming take place at the Aberdare Skate Board Park in Aberdare, followed by the Cogan Leisure Centre and a pier in Penarth. Penarth was also the venue for the new programme's key location: Bannerman Road, which was actually Clinton Road. Many scenes set inside both the Smith and Jackson residences were also recorded there, with the significant exception of Sarah Jane's attic. The first recording on Clinton Road took place on the 18th, and saw Sladen, Paige and Lawrence-Mavour all going before the cameras. The same day, Sarah Jane followed the bus carrying Maria and Kelsey on Stanwell Road and Station Approach. In many sequences of Sarah Jane driving her Nissan Figaro, a stunt double replaced Sladen; although the series star had her license, she had driven so rarely in the years since obtaining it that she now felt uncomfortable behind the wheel.
Work on Clinton Road continued through to September 22nd (with Tommy Knight making his debut on the 20th), and resumed after the weekend from the 25th to the 27th. The latter day also saw street scenes of the zombified Bubbleshock drinkers taped on Windsor Road and Glebe Street. Cast and crew returned to Cardiff on September 28th for the first of two days at St William House, where the premises of LTSB Finance Division masqueraded as Mrs Wormwood's offices. Also on the 28th, material involving K·9 and the black hole was recorded at Upper Boat, with Mat Irvine -- who had provided visual effects for Doctor Who during the 1970s -- supplying the original K·9 prop. The exterior of the Bubbleshock factory was actually the British Telecom Data Centre at Elinia House in Cardiff; filming there took place on the 30th.
As October dawned, production moved to Trident Park in Cardiff Bay, where the former home of Nippon Electric Glass UK offered spaces suitable for the Bubbleshock factory floor, data room, vat area, pipe room and various corridors. Work there took place from the 3rd to the 6th and continued on the 9th and 10th. The rest of the special was then filmed at Upper Boat, starting with material in the Bubbleshock ladies' toilets and Maria's bedroom on October 11th. The 12th and 13th marked the debut of the set for Sarah Jane's attic, which was actually a modified version of the Carrionites' lair from The Shakespeare Code. This was dressed with various items alluding to Sarah Jane's past -- including photographs of Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart (from Terror Of The Autons and The Daemons) and Harry Sullivan (from The Sontaran Experiment). Another star of classic Doctor Who joined the team on the 12th, as John Leeson was present to provide the voice of K·9 from off camera.
Now given the title Invasion Of The Bane and fronted by a theme tune devised by Doctor Who's regular composer, Murray Gold, the inaugural edition of The Sarah Jane Adventures premiered on New Year's Day 2007. It garnered an impressive viewership just shy of 3 million; this would be the largest audience the programme would ever attain, although it would never again be provided with such an advantageous timeslot. With the fledgling spin-off already proving to be a success, appetites were whetted for its first full season, now just a few months away...
|Updated 6th July 2017|
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