On January 1, 2007, one week after the Doctor Who episode “The Runaway Bride,” BBC One showed a special preview episode of the forthcoming Sarah Jane Adventures series. “Invasion of the Bane,” co-written by Russell T. Davies and Gareth Roberts, functions as a pilot episode, setting up the unusual premise. It’s set more than a year since we last saw Sarah Jane in “School Reunion.” She’s had to temporarily part company with K9, who’s on a mission in space, and she’s using an attic room full of alien tech to help stranded or lost extraterrestrials find their way home. Occasionally she has to put her foot down when some visitors from space – like this story’s Bane – have a little more malice in mind.
The obvious question is where did Sarah get all this gear? I figure that as soon as she spotted Daleks in the sky above Canary Wharf, Sarah got down there just in time for the Doctor to clean up the mess, and loaded the back seat of her car with whatever space junk would fit before the government and/or UNIT figured out what was going on. From what we learn later, she picked up “Mister Smith,” the crystal alien that powers her supercomputer, around the same time. The sonic lipstick is a cheeky gift from the Doctor which he left inside the new K9 that he left her. Problem mostly solved!
In the first episode, Sarah meets a new ally in the form of 13 year-old Maria, played by Yasmin Paige, and an adopted son – an artificial human rescued from the bad guys – called Luke, played by Tommy Knight. The villains are a race of blob monsters called the Bane who take on human forms. Samantha Bond plays the nasty Mrs. Wormwood and her “mother” is a big CGI eyeball with a mass of thrashing green tentacles in the factory ceiling. Our son’s only complaint about this story is that we didn’t get to see the Bane Mother in full. “Invasion of the Bane” is centered around the aliens getting England hooked on a new soft drink, which is a pleasantly 2000s update to plastic daffodils. The baddies have even hired a big bus just like the Autons and the Master did thirty-six years previously, and darn if the Bane Mother didn’t look a lot like the original Nestene Consciousness. We never learn how these villains got their drink distributed to shops throughout the UK and afforded the massive advertising campaign, but at least their factory gets blown up real good.
I always felt that The Sarah Jane Adventures was a splendid companion to Who in its day. I love its goofy, kid-friendly tone, although, as much as I liked the character of Maria, the first run was the weakest of the five because they were trying a little too hard to come up with stories that would appeal to young teens instead of just flying by the seat of their pants and doing wild and ridiculous monster stories as they’d do later on. We’ll see whether it holds up in a few months’ time, and pencil it in for April, right after we finish series three of Doctor Who.