This third series of this Doctor Who purely-for-kids spin-off is the one that really hits its stride. The new addition to the cast, Rani, is of course a schoolgirl but has more maturity than her predecessor while Elisabeth Sladen continues to play Sarah Jane, companion to Tom Baker’s Doctor, with consummate ease (although what she’d have said in 1974 if you’d told her she’d be playing the same part in 2010 is anybody’s guess).
The season feels slightly braver than its predecessors. Yes there are favourites like the flatulent Slitheen from DW (and which are far better suited to this younger person’s series than to the more whole-family-oriented parent series) and the Judoon, the talking rhinos also from Doctor Who, but there’s also an ageing Rani who’s accidentally wiped out the rest of the characters and a living Mona Lisa who turns out to be a slack Northerner in a story that still manages to creep the kids out a bit.
Oh, and there’s the final appearance of David Tennant’s Doctor. In story terms he went out in Doctor Who proper of course but this is the actor’s last performance and he relishes it. Its simplicity makes it a better send-off than the one he had on screen, and it’s all the better for being in a story with some depth, involving Sarah Jane finally finding love and having it cruelly taken away. The programme’s just pushing itself a bit harder than before and benefiting as a result.
When I was a kid, Doctor Who was aimed more at children than it is now and my parents would enjoy watching it with me – probably enjoying my being enthralled as much as the programme itself. I’m now getting the same enjoyment from watching this spin-off with my daughter, and would recommend it to anyone with children of their own.
EXTRAS ★ A bit of a talking book and that’s more or less it.