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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