|Previous Story: The Curse Of Clyde Langer|
The Sarah Jane Adventures Episodes 53 &
The Man Who Never Was
Sarah Jane is invited to a special advance preview of the Serf Board, a revolutionary new computer created by the reclusive Joseph Serf. She is accompanied by Luke and Sky, who are startled to spot Serf “glitching” during his presentation, as if he were some kind of hologram. More chillingly, some of the other journalists in attendance start to behave strangely, as if the Serf Board were exerting a malign influence on them. Soon Sarah Jane and her family discover that there are aliens working in a secret subbasement at Serf Systems... but there is more to their involvement than first appears.
A key event in the fifth season of The Sarah Jane Adventures would be the first meeting between Sarah Jane's adopted children, Luke and Sky. The general shape for the corresponding serial was developed by executive producer Russell T Davies, drawing upon a rejected submission for the mid-Nineties BBC spy drama Bugs. This story had introduced a dying billionaire, who appeared as a hologram orchestrated by a number of captive scientists. The billionaire was trying to find a cure for the condition which was killing him, and his minions were experimenting on homeless people in order to develop it. For The Sarah Jane Adventures, Davies dropped the homeless angle (which he had already suggested for the 2006 Doctor Who adventure Rise Of The Cybermen / The Age Of Steel) and replaced the scientists with the alien Light Sculptors, inspired by the nomadic Jawas in Star Wars. The revised version would centre around a new computing device (which Davies called the Z-65) inspired by the launch of the Apple iPad tablet computer in January 2010.
The Luke-Sky story was originally given to a writer who was not able to pull off the scripts successfully, at which point it was passed along to Gareth Roberts. Roberts had recently finished collaborating on the fourth-season finale, Goodbye, Sarah Jane Smith, with Clayton Hickman. A key change made by Roberts was to Davies' original vision for the adventure's climax. This would have seen the Light Sculptors create a hologram of the character who became John Harrison, who would confess to thousands of health and safety violations to the police, leading to the arrest of the real Harrison. The dying billionaire would then realise that he was just a construct before deactivating.
Roberts' version of the story was ultimately titled The Man Who Never Was, alluding to the 1953 book by Ewen Montagu (and the 1956 film version) about a real-life British scheme to deceive the Nazis regarding the 1943 invasion of Sicily by planting falsified plans for an invasion of Greece on a corpse. Early drafts included a security guard at Serf Systems named Byers, who was revealed to be in cahoots with Harrison. The notion of Sarah Jane meeting up with a former colleague was something Roberts had wanted to do as far back as the season one premiere, Revenge Of The Slitheen. Roberts had fun with his character names: Joseph Serf was the pseudonym Patrick McGoohan had used when directing two episodes of his 1967-68 thriller series The Prisoner, while John Harrison was named for a friend who was an actor, and Adriana was an homage to Adriana La Cerva, a character in the critically-acclaimed crime drama The Sopranos. The Z-65 was rechristened the E-Panel and then the Serf Board. Davies' Light Sculptors became the Skullions, with their leader originally named Skrull and then Plark.
The Man Who Never Was was the only serial made as part of the fifth and final recording block for the 2010-11 episodes. It would be directed by Joss Agnew, who had just completed the third block (the final two stories of the fourth season, namely Lost In Time and Goodbye, Sarah Jane Smith). Work got under way on the attic set at Upper Boat Studios from July 19th to 20th, 2010; Agnew also recorded the Serf Board commercial on the first day. More Upper Boat work on the 21st involved material in Sky's bedroom, but the major focus on this day was the start of filming at one of the serial's two chief locations, the ATRiuM building on the campus of the University of Glamorgan in Cardiff, which would be used for all of the reputable areas of Serf Systems. Recording continued there until the 24th, and then resumed on the 26th. July 26th also saw sequences on the Serf Systems roof taped atop Cardiff University's Tower Building. This included dialogue in which Plark warned Sky of something hiding inside her, trying to break free -- foreshadowing the season's climactic revelation that Sky was really the daughter of Sarah Jane's old nemesis, the Trickster.
The other principal location used for The Man Who Never Was was the Johnsey Estates in the Mamhilad Park Industrial Estate at Pontypool. This was the site for all the scenes in the storerooms and the cellar area where the Skullions toiled. Filming there spanned July 27th to 30th, of which the 29th would ultimately prove to be Elisabeth Sladen's final day of recording for The Sarah Jane Adventures. However, a separate crew was also at work on the attic set at Upper Boat on July 30th, recording links for Sarah Jane's Alien Files, a new CBBC programme which would air edited repeats of earlier serials. This would be Sladen's final performance as Sarah Jane Smith for television.
In the months that followed the end of filming on The Man Who Never Was, the production team continued to plan out the final three serials of the 2011 season, and then began to lay plans for 2012 and beyond. Towards the end of 2010, it became clear that changes to the programme's cast were in the offing. First, Ace Bhatti earned a regular role in the soap opera EastEnders, and so the remainder of the fifth season was planned in a way that would not require Haresh Chandra. More significantly, Daniel Anthony concluded that it was time for him to move on from The Sarah Jane Adventures; after learning of Anthony's decision, Anjli Mohindra likewise elected to leave after the fifth season. The two actors then met with executive producer Nikki Wilson, who promised to continue the programme's efforts to treat Clyde and Rani as more mature characters, which had been initiated by Davies partway through the recording of the fourth season. Subsequently, Anthony and Mohindra indicated that they were willing to return for part of season six.
Then, in February 2011, the production team learned that Elisabeth Sladen had been diagnosed with a recurrence of the pancreatic cancer she had battled twelve years before. The prognosis was not good, and even in the best-case scenario, Sladen would not be well enough to record the final three stories of the fifth season in the spring. As a result, production was suspended -- originally just for a few months, but then until at least spring 2012 as the enormity of the health challenges facing Sladen became clear. At this stage, the intended directors for the remaining serials were Agnew and Richard Senior, who had recently recorded the Comic Relief Doctor Who mini-adventure Space / Time.
At this point, the story intended to follow The Man Who Never Was was “Meet Mr Smith” by Roberts and Hickman, which centred on Mr Smith obtaining a humanoid body -- an idea which had been considered as far back the first season, and was at one point considered for season five's third slot. Alexander Armstrong, who provided the voice of Mr Smith, had been approached to appear as “Smithy” (a character inspired by the suave John Steed from the Sixties adventure series The Avengers) who was created when the alien Ozmo exploded a mutagen bomb in the attic. Mr Smith soon became enamoured of his newfound humanity -- even courting Clyde's mother, Carla -- but was blackmailed by Ozmo, who provided stabilising shots in return for Smithy securing certain pieces of advanced technology for him. It turned out that Ozmo was building a teleporter relay to attract aliens willing to buy the Earth, and Smithy sacrificed his last stabiliser by instead using it to turn Ozmo into a human and destroying the teleporter relay. (The Ozmo strand replaced an earlier idea about a creature called the AX-Man testing humanity's capabilities.) Just before Ozmo was teleported away to an intergalactic prison, he tried to warn Sarah Jane that Sky is “the Child of Ch--”. This was another allusion to Sky being the Trickster's daughter -- that is, the Child of Chaos.
The year's penultimate adventure was scheduled to be Ford's The Thirteenth Floor. Inspired by triskaidekaphobia -- the fear of the number thirteen -- and especially the belief of some architects that it was bad luck to include a thirteenth floor in a building, this would have been an emotionally gruelling story in which Clyde and Rani became trapped in an otherworldly forest by a creature posing a janitor at the newspaper office where Rani had earned a work experience placement. Time ran differently in this realm, and the pair spent two decades there -- eventually falling in love (as had been foreshadowed in earlier serials) and having a child. When they were finally rescued and the other reality destroyed, their child vanished along with it, and Clyde and Rani gradually began to forget their experiences there. Meanwhile, the concluding episode would have revealed to the audience that Sky was indeed the progeny of the Trickster. The Thirteenth Floor was later adapted by Ford for the second season of Wizards Vs Aliens, broadcast in November 2013.
The fifth-season finale, assigned to Davies, underwent much less development than “Meet Mr Smith” and “The Thirteenth Floor”. This was because elements of the narrative would depend substantially on the various options being considered for season six, such as whether Clyde and Rani would stay on for additional episodes. In his preliminary work, Davies thought of the serial as “The Battle Of Bannerman Road”. It would have begun with Sky's Trickster side beginning to emerge -- for example, during a visit to the Pharos Institute, she uses her electrical abilities to imprison Professor Rivers (last seen in the season premiere, Sky) inside her computer monitor. Meanwhile, Jo Jones (the Doctor's former companion Jo Grant, who had appeared in The Sarah Jane Adventures in the 2010 serial Death Of The Doctor) discovered an ancient prophecy in Peru warning that the Trickster would gain corporeal form through Sky. The Shopkeeper, who had brought Sky to live with Sarah Jane, would discover that he had been the Trickster's unwitting dupe. The first episode would end with the Trickster emerging to stand beside his daughter, whose face had begun to resemble her father's. This would initiate a battle between the Trickster and Sarah Jane for Sky's soul -- one which Sarah Jane would lose. However, as the Trickster transformed Sarah Jane's house into his dark and twisted abode, it would be revealed that Sarah Jane had suspected Sky's lineage all along, and had brought the girl to the Pharos Institute in order to have her electrical properties analysed. Freeing Professor Rivers, the Bannerman Road gang obtained the information they needed to overload Sky and revert her to her human form. Sky then evolved into an extra-dimensional entity who would keep the Trickster banished from reality forever.
Davies was keeping various options open for “The Battle Of Bannerman Road”. For instance, he was considering relaunching The Sarah Jane Adventures for its sixth season, introducing an entirely new cast of characters except for Sarah Jane (and possibly Mr Smith). As such, the finale may have witnessed the destruction of Sarah Jane's home on Bannerman Road, with the 2012 episodes instead being set in a rural village (possibly her birthplace of Foxgrove, as seen in 2008's The Temptation Of Sarah Jane Smith) in order to draw a sharp contrast with the London setting. Conversely, if the show retained its Bannerman Road setting, Davies was contemplating reviving the idea, first mooted in 2009, of the Chandras fostering a younger boy named Alfie. Prior to the pause in work on season five, the scales may have been tipping towards the survival of the house on Bannerman Road, because Tommy Knight had informed the production team that -- after two years of making only occasional appearances as Luke Smith while he focussed on his education -- he was now ready to increase his involvement in the show.
Keen to make “The Battle Of Bannerman Road” a genuinely epic adventure, Davies hoped to bring back many of the programme's regular characters (with an inquiry made to EastEnders regarding Bhatti's availability), and planned for the Chandras and Carla Langer to finally discover the truth about their children's extracurricular activities. He also wanted to bring back Jo Jones' son Santiago (or one of her other children, if actor Finn Jones had other commitments) as a romantic interest for Rani, before the story culminated with her and Clyde declaring their love for each other. No matter what, “The Battle Of Bannerman Road” would draw the stories of the Trickster and Sky to a close, with Ford already considering possibilities for a new recurring archvillain to be introduced in 2012.
Following the news of Sladen's ill health, it was initially felt that the broadcast of the completed fifth-season serials should be delayed until the remaining adventures could be recorded. However, in early March there was a growing acknowledgment that the hiatus could be extensive. On the production side of things, Davies and Ford began devising a replacement project called Wizards Vs Aliens which could be recorded in spring 2012 by the crew already booked for The Sarah Jane Adventures. On the broadcast end, it was decided that Sky, The Curse Of Clyde Langer and The Man Who Never Was should air as planned after all. To prolong the run, it was suggested that they could be accompanied by a special Hallowe'en-themed episode, and discussion about the nature of such a project quickly ensued.
The initial idea for the Hallowe'en special was for an adventure which could be transmitted live, giving the audience the opportunity to influence the story at three or four dramatic cruxes. Sarah Jane would not appear at all, with the notion that Clyde, Rani and Sky could be visiting Luke at Oxford University quickly proving popular. Clayton Hickman was asked to propose a variety of scenarios, and by early April had developed an untitled storyline in which the four teenagers joined one of Luke's classmates, Caroline, in investigating the ruins of Baron's Keep, where a ghostly apparition was rumoured to manifest every Hallowe'en. This would turn out to be a hologram emitting a distress call on behalf of an alien called a Petriform, which had been imprisoned for centuries within the castle's walls and who would be freed by the Bannerman Road gang.
However, Davies became uncomfortable with the logistical complexity of a live production, and the idea was soon abandoned. In its place, BBC Interactive suggested that an animated special be created, given the recent success of two similar Doctor Who projects: 2007's The Infinite Quest and 2009's Dreamland. Phil Ford, who had scripted Dreamland, prepared a storyline entitled “Night Of The Spectre”. As a special attraction, this featured the return of two of the programme's original characters, Maria Jackson and her father Alan, with actors Yasmin Paige and Joseph Millson confirming their interest in the project. Sarah Jane herself appeared in Ford's treatment, as it was hoped that Sladen might be well enough for a day of voice work. “Night Of The Spectre” saw Sarah Jane and Luke travel to the town of Ravens' Fall in the United States to attend Alan's wedding to Lauren Proctor on Hallowe'en. Lauren's daughter, Sable, would join Luke and Maria in confronting the alien Spectre, who had been tasked with collecting Sarah Jane's soul.
Sadly, any plans to prolong The Sarah Jane Adventures would ultimately come to naught. By April, Sladen's health was deteriorating rapidly and she was receiving palliative care. Elisabeth Sladen died on April 19th, leaving to mourn not just her husband and daughter, Brian and Sadie Miller, but the children of an entire nation, and Doctor Who fans around the world. Despite subsequent media reports to the contrary, it was quickly agreed that there would be no attempt to keep The Sarah Jane Adventures going without its leading lady. Producer Brian Minchin contacted the Millers to ensure that they supported the broadcast of the three remaining serials; they agreed, believing that it was what Sladen would have wanted. The Man Who Never Was would now become the final story of The Sarah Jane Adventures.
As a result, two significant changes were made to the end of part two. First, the departure of the Skullions was edited to remove Plark warning Sky of something hiding inside her, trying to break free. This had been intended to foreshadow the season's climactic revelation that Sky was really the daughter of Sarah Jane's old nemesis, the Trickster, but was now unnecessary since the rest of this story arc could never be recorded. Finally, a new montage of clips from the programme's five-year history was compiled to mark the programme's conclusion. This was backed with a voiceover by Sladen taken from The Lost Boy and Invasion Of The Bane, the show's very first episode.
The final episode of The Sarah Jane Adventures aired on October 18th, 2011. But although the show had come to a premature end, this was not the last the world would see of its young stars. Often credited as “Tommy Lawrence Knight”, Tommy Knight appeared regularly in programmes such as Waterloo Road, Glue and Victoria. Daniel Anthony was on Casualty for a year, while also filming a role in the movie Brotherhood. Anjli Mohindra's recurring credits included Cucumber (created by Russell T Davies) and Paranoid. Sinead Michael had a part in the action movie Montana.
And even after her passing, Elisabeth Sladen's legacy lived on in the annals of Doctor Who. Not only would viewers continue to enjoy revisiting Sarah Jane's adventures in time and space and on Bannerman Road, but Sladen's family maintained their connection to the programme. In 2014, Brian Miller returned to Doctor Who for Deep Breath, the debut adventure for Peter Capaldi's Twelfth Doctor. And in 2016, Sadie Miller made her debut as a novelist with Moon Blink, part of Candy Jar Books' Lethbridge Stewart range of novels, featuring Sarah Jane's former UNIT compatriot in the days before he became the Brigadier.
|Updated 17th September 2017|
|Main Page||Spin-Offs||Sarah Jane 5|
|Previous Story: The Curse Of Clyde Langer|