The Sarah Jane Adventures, and the importance of good children’s television

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At times there’s an inclination to see The Sarah Jane Adventures as trivial or unimportant – when considered alongside Doctor Who or Torchwood, the perception of The Sarah Jane Adventures is that it’s the third show. The one that matters least, by virtue of the fact that it could be summed up as “Doctor Who for children”.

But that’s very much a case of approaching it from the wrong angle; the value of The Sarah Jane Adventures comes not from its association with Doctor Who, but rather the fact that it was genuinely fantastic television for children.

It’s not hard to see why good children’s television is, broadly speaking, a good thing – if we’re shaped by the culture we engage with, then the quality of the earliest media we’re exposed to is important. It matters that children watch something of substance, rather than vacuous schlock – from that perspective, there’s a weight of importance attached to children’s television beyond much of the rest of media in general.

Two weeks ago now (to the day, actually) I wrote this article for the tenth anniversary of The Sarah Jane Adventures. It’s a programme I’m quite attached to, not only for nostalgia reasons, but because it was actually very good indeed.

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Why Sherlock’s return didn’t quite work

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Ambiguities notwithstanding, the presented explanations as to how Sherlock faked his death all had one thing in common: the intention to fool John. It’s all about his perspective – where he’s standing, what he can see, and so on and so forth. It’s understandable in some ways, because in that scene John is the audience surrogate; indeed, there’s a tradition dating back to the start of Watson acting in that role. Convincing John of Sherlock’s death is, in effect, necessary to demonstrate it to the audience. But, here’s the thing: in an instance of dramatic irony, it’s revealed to the audience that Sherlock is alive. Most would have been expecting it, of course, but the confirmation shifts our perspective away from John’s – suddenly, we become a confidante. We’re in on it. John isn’t.

The Reichenbach Fall indicates a need to fool Moriarty’s assassins; The Empty Hearse presents instead an attempt to fool John, with no explanation as to why. The ending of The Reichenbach Fall becomes less about Sherlock outwitting Moriarty against the clock, and more about Sherlock pulling a cruel and elaborate prank on his best and only friend.

Finally drawing a close to my series of Sherlock articles (at least until Sunday), here’s one that expands on some observations I made a few years ago.

It’s weird, I guess; I feel like pivoting away from the technicalities to focus on the emotional aspect was the most sensible – indeed, even essential – choice to make. But I don’t feel like the emotional aspect landed, given the above; I suspect that’s part of why so many people struggled on the technicalities of it. (Though it didn’t help that the technicalities were a bit ridiculous anyway.)

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On 2016

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I wanted to start with “At least it wasn’t a leap year”, until I realised that 2016 was in fact a leap year – not only did we get an extra day during this ridiculous year, it’s cruel enough to deny me a silly joke.

So, obviously, this has been a pretty horrible year. There’s not a lot of debate there, and I’m hardly inclined to disagree; I also fear that we’re going to be dealing with the repercussions of this year for a long time. Hopefully, we can find the positives in the coming years – and if we can’t find any, we can make them.

On a more selfish note, though, 2016 was actually a pretty great year for me in terms of my blog, my content production, and in fact my writing career – after all, in 2016 I started it. As of this year, I’m a paid professional writer; long may it continue.

I ended 2015 with one job at Yahoo; it was essentially an unpaid voluntary position. Now, however, my bylines encompass Yahoo (now paid), Heart Beings, Flickering Myth, and CultBox. I’m also soon to start a job blogging with the Metro, as a result of the connections I made with Yahoo. Each of these jobs have provided me with new opportunities; I particularly want to highlight Flickering Myth, though, because as part of my work with that website I’ve been able to interview a series of actors, writers and directors about their work. They were fantastic experiences, and I’m really glad to have done them; I’ve learned a lot about different creative processes, but also, to be honest, it’s just a lot of fun.

I’d also like to draw attention to a couple of my favourite pieces across the duration of 2016:

  • As ever, I did a lot of Doctor Who reviews, looking particularly at David Tennant’s first series – my first full series of the show as well. It was a lot of fun rewatching those episodes, not just for the nostalgia, but also the validation – this show is fantastic, and I was right to love it then and still love it now. Two reviews in particular I’d like to highlight are those for Love & Monsters and Fear Her; the former because I think it’s an excellent defence of a much maligned episode I’ve always loved, and the latter because it’s the closest I came to addressing Brexit on the blog. Re-reading it now, it’s an interesting look at how I felt on the day of the result, and how I engaged with it through Doctor Who.
  • Another thing I did this year, particularly during the summer months, was write a lot about Arrow. I was trying, vainly, to set myself up as something of a definitive voice within what was becoming a fairly toxic fandom, hoping to set both the tone of the debate but also the prevailing interpretation of the programme. I did, of course, fail in this regard, and eventually burnt myself out to the point that I’ve adopted a “No Arrow” platform. However, I did come out with some of my best writing; Defined by an Absence, a slightly esoteric and stylised piece which was, if nothing else, an interesting experiment, as well as Arrow & The Disturbing Trend of Fridging Female Characters, a rather more weighty piece that tackled something that, I feel, is quite important. Certainly, I’m quite proud to say that the latter piece was my first paid article.
  • Another article I was quite pleased with at the time I wrote it was Why Diversity in Television is Important, which has essentially remained a thesis statement for a lot of my later work. It’s undeniably simplistic, but I think it makes the important points in a reasonably coherent and cogent manner – and with a lot of what came later in 2016, I think it’s important that articles like this are written, both by me and people who are far more talented than I.

Now also seems a good time to outline some plans, hopes, and aspirations going into 2017. I think, while I’ve been expanding my career and my output, it hasn’t quite been as consistently nor as reliably as I’d like; something I’ll need to do going forward is work on my productivity and general discipline. I’m also a little bit concerned that, despite everything I’ve been doing, I’ve been neglecting this website a little – while I did get it the shiny new URL of www.alexmoreland.co.uk, I’ve also largely stopped posting here.

So that’s something I’d like to change during 2017. Obviously, there are going to be a lot of Doctor Who reviews, both for Series 10 and Series 3, but I think it’d be nice to have more on here in general. After all, it’s perhaps worth taking an evaluative look at just what this site means, and what it’s for; I don’t really want to simply replicate the same content I’m producing for other websites. To that end, then, an idea: each week, in a 52 part series, I’m going to write a post detailing… whatever’s on my mind. Perhaps a roundup of my week, or of my current work, or simply the important concerns that keep me up at night, like Amy Pond’s career progression, or the fact that Harry Potter should have been Defence Against the Dark Arts teacher rather than an Auror. I’m looking forward to seeing how it all develops, and I hope you enjoy it too.

Another style of post I’d like to do more are those of a more creative vein, where I take an existing story and try to improve it. I gave it a go with the Star Wars prequels, which I actually highlighted in my 2015 end of year roundup; I’ve also partially drafted a series of them on Arrow Season 4, as well as Suicide Squad. I think it’s be a good for thing for me to do more often, actually; I think I’d benefit from it more, and frankly enjoy it more, than simple reviews. So expect to see more of those across the rest of year.

And now, to the sound of fireworks, I conclude this post. Despite everything, I must confess, I’m always going to remember 2016 fondly; it was, after all, the year in which I proved to myself that I could take writing further than just this blog. The year I realised that dream, and realised that I could make this work. That, in the end, I had the talent and the drive to make sure this would all more or less turn out okay. (And, of course, I’m humble too.)

This is to be my 902nd blog post; recently, Grammarly emailed me to say I’ve written 639017 words since I first downloaded it back in July. It’ll be interesting to see how I compare to that by the end of 2017 – a year which, I expect, may come to define me even moreso than 2016 has.

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