Whatever Happened to Sarah Jane?

Posted in Episode by - February 02, 2022
Whatever Happened to Sarah Jane?

Aired 29 October – 5 November 2007


One day, Sarah Jane Smith exists; the next, only Maria Jackson remembers her at all as The Sarah Jane Adventures nears the end of its first run of episodes with ‘Whatever Happened to Sarah Jane?’ by Gareth Roberts. Andrea Yates has taken up residence in what should be Sarah Jane’s home, and Maria is sure that this woman has done something to remove her friend from existence. With Luke likewise missing and Clyde unable to remember anything Maria talks about, Maria must save the world by herself or consider revealing everything to her father.

Episodes featuring alternate realities without one or more leads is common narrative territory that countless series have exploited, but ‘Whatever Happened to Sarah Jane?’ takes a somewhat more novel approach by replacing said lead with another woman who has so clearly become a popular part of the community and who is also so clearly involved with Sarah Jane’s disappearance. However, while the episode successfully flashes back and tangentially integrates Maria into the fateful moment when the destinies of Sarah Jane and Andrea were switched on the pier so many decades ago, far more effective is the sheer remorselessness Andrea feels for taking away one life in order to extend her own. Through the Trickster who makes a brilliant debut as a creature living purely for the sake of creating chaos, Andrea is implicitly aware of what she has done and is more than willing to ensure that anyone who can piece together the mystery of her life will likewise disappear from existence. She does, of course, make the proper decision to restore the true timeline when the fate of the planet is threatened, but having a woman who is so squarely out for herself first and foremost is a unique dynamic for such a story and one that Jane Asher plays up exceedingly well.

Fittingly, it’s Maria whom Sarah Jane reveals she trusts more than anyone else who is thrust into the spotlight, and Yasmin Paige wonderfully captures the desperation and determination of a young woman who last lost her friend as well as the impetuousness of youth as she directly confronts Andrea and proclaims that she was meant to die. It’s understandable that her father would not immediately believe her since, to him, everything is as it has always been, but ‘Whatever Happened to Sarah Jane?’ finally allows Alan the chance to not only remember his exposure to alien affairs but to directly take action in a rather heroic manner when Maria succumbs to the same fate as Sarah Jane with nobody except him remembering that his daughter ever existed. The Graske and the skateboarding element are perhaps skewed more to a younger audience than the very serious material at this story’s core, but Joseph Millson makes the most of his opportunity with a dynamic performance that will hopefully lead to him becoming more directly involved in future stories.

The inclusion of a meteor set to directly impact Earth that only Sarah Jane and Mr Smith can stop is a fairly blunt approach of describing just how important Sarah Jane is, but it serves its purpose and provides an artificial clock against which Maria and Alan must work to change Andrea’s mind. Instead, it’s the incredible character work as each of the Jacksons in turn becomes the most important person in existence that makes ‘Whatever Happened to Sarah Jane?’ such a resounding success. The Trickster is a fantastic enemy that obviously holds so much potential, especially as he wonders about the Doctor and the chaos that removing him from the timeline could cause, and this is unquestionably the standout story of The Sarah Jane Adventures to date even with so many of the leads missing or else involved in a much reduced capacity.

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