The Sarah Jane Adventures Episodes 12 & 13:
The Last Sontaran

Plot

Strange lights in the sky draw Sarah Jane, Maria, Luke and Clyde to a radio tracking station. There, they discover that the facility has been invaded by Commander Kaagh, the last surviving Sontaran from their recent invasion of Earth. Kaagh is determined to avenge his people, and initiates a program to send all manmade satellites crashing down onto the Earth's nuclear reactors, annihilating the planet. Maria, already grappling with the prospect of leaving for America with her father, finds herself involving both her parents in a last-ditch attempt to save the world.

Production

Yasmin Paige had played Maria Jackson in Invasion Of The Bane, the special which launched The Sarah Jane Adventures, and throughout the show's first season. During planning for its second year, however, Paige informed the production team that she would be unable to continue in the programme because recording for the next batch of episodes would conflict with her GCSE examinations. A replacement character, Rani Chandra, was devised but it was noted that Paige would be available to record a final story as Maria during June 2008. As such, Maria would be written out in the season's first serial, with Rani then making her debut in the subsequent adventure. Maria's parents, Alan and Chrissie, would also make their exit from the programme.

This first story was amongst three allocated to lead writer Phil Ford, who would also be writing Rani's introduction in The Day Of The Clown. Originally, the plan was to feature the Judoon, the intergalactic police force introduced in the 2007 Doctor Who premiere Smith And Jones, in a story called “The Trial Of Sarah Jane Smith”. This would have been foreshadowed by the final scene of the first-season finale, The Lost Boy, with Sarah Jane and her friends noticing that the rain on Bannerman Road was falling upwards (as in Smith And Jones). Then, in the premiere itself, Sarah Jane would have been captured by the Judoon and placed on a sham trial where various old enemies would appear to testify against her. She would be defended by Mr Smith, who had gained humanoid form, while her friends were trapped in the attic and tried to figure out how to escape.

Russell T Davies was wary of tying The Sarah Jane Adventures too closely to plot points in Doctor Who

When “The Trial Of Sarah Jane Smith” was abandoned, the next idea for the opening serial made use of one of Ford's favourite Doctor Who monsters: the Sontarans, who had first been seen in 1973's The Time Warrior. He had referenced the militant aliens in his first script for The Sarah Jane Adventures, Eye Of The Gorgon, but was unaware at the time of plans to bring the Sontarans back in The Sontaran Stratagem / The Poison Sky, a two-part story broadcast during the 2008 season of Doctor Who. Since this meant that a variety of props and costumes would now already exist, Ford seized on the opportunity to lead off the new season of The Sarah Jane Adventures with a Sontaran tale which would tie in to the events of their latest confrontation with the Doctor. Executive producer Russell T Davies gave his approval to the idea, although he was wary of tying the spin-off show too closely to plot points in Doctor Who.

Due to the limitations of Paige's availability, Ford's season opener -- eventually called The Last Sontaran -- was scheduled to be made as part of the year's second recording block, alongside the fourth serial, The Mark Of The Berserker. Directing would be Joss Agnew, who had gotten his start in the industry as an editor on films such as Robin Hood: Prince Of Thieves. Moving into directing at the start of the new century, Agnew's credits in this capacity included Hollyoaks, The Story Of Tracy Beaker, Casualty and Young Dracula.

The first recording for The Last Sontaran took place at Castell Coch Woods in Tongwynlais on May 21st, 2008 for Alan and Chrissie's arrival in the vicinity of the radio telescope. The next day, Clinton Road in Penarth doubled for Bannerman Road as usual. On the 23rd, cast and crew were at work on the sets for Sarah Jane's attic and the Tycho station at Upper Boat Studios. The control room of the scientific facility was realised on location, at Alpha Steel in Newport on May 29th and 30th. More attic material was then taped at Upper Boat on June 6th, followed by establishing shots of Bannerman Road at Clinton Road on the 10th.

Yasmin Paige's first filming for The Sarah Jane Adventures in eleven months then took place on June 11th, initially at Castell Coch Woods and then back at Upper Boat for attic and service tunnel scenes. On the 12th, Agnew's team travelled to the Brackla Bunkers near Bridgend for more tunnel sequences, as well as those at the rear of the Tycho facility. June 13th was scheduled to be a day spent on Clinton Road, but this work had to be deferred when Paige fell ill. Instead, material in the Jacksons' kitchen was completed at Upper Boat, along with effects and insert shots. Studio work continued on the 15th, on the sets for the Jackson residence, the rec room, and Kaagh's ship.

Juliet Cowan was reunited with Yasmin Paige on Pramface

Cast and crew returned to Alpha Steel on June 16th and 17th, focussing on scenes in the control room and the Operations Systems Building. Exterior shots of the Tycho station were then captured at a Ministry of Defence training area in Caerwent on the 18th. Principal photography on The Last Sontaran concluded with three days -- June 23rd to 25th -- at Hensol Forest near Welsh St Donats for more woodland sequences. This left just the deferred Bannerman Road material, some of which was dropped altogether while the remainder was completed at Clinton Road on July 18th.

July 18th was the last day of work on The Sarah Jane Adventures for Yasmin Paige, as well as for Joseph Millson and Juliet Cowan, who played her parents. However, Paige and Millson had already recorded a further appearance for The Mark Of The Berserker. Cowan was subsequently a regular on programmes such as The Revolting World Of Stanley Brown and Hank Zipzer, while also making appearances on shows including Skins, EastEnders and Pramface, where she was reunited with Paige.

For its second season, The Sarah Jane Adventures retained the same transmission schedule as for its first year, with episodes making their debut on the CBBC digital channel one week before being repeated on BBC1. As in 2007, the exception was the season premiere, The Last Sontaran part one, which had its first broadcast on BBC1 on September 29th, immediately before part two aired on CBBC. Once again, The Sarah Jane Adventures proved a success for both channels, drawing significant audiences to the Monday late afternoon timeslots.

Sources
  • Doctor Who News.
  • Doctor Who Magazine Special Edition #23, 24th December 2009, “Episodes 2.1/2.2: The Last Sontaran” by Andrew Pixley, Panini Publishing Ltd.
  • Doctor Who Magazine Special Edition #32, Autumn 2012, “Episodes 5.5/5.6: Meet Mr Smith” by Andrew Pixley, Panini UK Ltd.

Original Transmission
Episode 1
Date 29th Sep 2008
Time 4.35pm
Duration 27'49"
Viewers (more) 820k
· BBC1 820k
Appreciation 85%
Episode 2
Date 29th Sep 2008
Time 5.19pm
Duration 28'02"
Viewers (more) 477k
· CBBC 477k
· BBC1 730k
(6th Oct 2008)
Appreciation 86%


Cast
Sarah Jane Smith
Elisabeth Sladen
Maria Jackson
Yasmin Paige
Luke Smith
Tommy Knight
(more)
Alan Jackson
Joseph Millson
Chrissie Jackson
Juliet Cowan
Mr Smith
Alexander Armstrong
Clyde Langer
Daniel Anthony
Professor Nicholas Skinner
Ronan Vibert
Lucy Skinner
Clare Thomas
Kaagh
Anthony O'Donnell


Crew
Written by
Phil Ford
Directed by
Joss Agnew
Produced by
Nikki Smith
(more)

Created by
Russell T Davies
Co-producer
Phil Ford
Sontarans created by
Robert Holmes
1st Assistant Director
Simon Morris
2nd Assistant Director
Anna Evans
3rd Assistant Director
Sarah Davies
Location Manager
Jonathan Allott
Production Co-ordinator
Clare Rutteman
Continuity
Llinos Wyn Jones
Script Editor
Gary Russell
Focus Puller
Steve Rees
Grip
Clive Baldwin
Boom Operator
Jeff Welch
Gaffer
Mark Hutchings
Stunt Co-ordinator
Abbi Collins
Supervising Art Director
James North
Standby Art Director
Alexandra Merchant
Standby Props
Phill Shellard
Graphics
BBC Wales Graphics
Costume Supervisor
Arabella Rhodes
Assistant Editor
Lee Bhogal
Post Production Supervisor
Nerys Davies
Post Production Co-ordinator
Marie Brown
Colourist
Jon Everett
Sound Editing
Bang Post Production
Dubbing Mixer
Mark Ferda
Title Music
Murray Gold
Music
Sam Watts
Casting Directors
Andy Pryor CDG
Andy Brierley
Production Executive
Julie Scott
Production Accountant
Dyfed Thomas
Sound Recordist
Julian Howarth
Costume Designer
Stewart Meachem
Make Up Designer
Emma Bailey
Visual Effects
Craig Higgins
The Mill
Special Effects
Any Effects
Prosthetics
Millennium FX
Editor
Will Oswald
Production Designer
Arwel Wyn Jones
Director of Photography
Rory Taylor
Production Manager
Phillipa Cole
Associate Producer
Debbi Slater
Series Producer
Matthew Bouch
Executive Producers for BBC Wales
Russell T Davies
Julie Gardner

Updated 29th August 2017