It's not a criticism but Scott Gray's THE SARAH JANE ADVENTURES - JUDGEMENT DAY seems like a eulogy to the series' main character, on television since 1974, as if she will never appear again and this was an opportunity to say goodbye. And you would think that it was a sad and tearful affair if not verging on the sympathetic or, heaven forbid, morose.
It's joyous and encapsulates the strengths of the children's drama series; intrigue, morally justifiable, witty and character-led.
In her first mainstream audiobook release based upon the series, Anjli Mohindra (playing Rani Chandra from the series) is surprisingly confident in the narration & performance, deftly skipping from such diverse characters as an alien race (known as `Veritas') seeking `truth' to a uncharacteriscally beligerent Sarah Jane Smith to the gloriously comic creation of Rani's mother, Gita ("Hello, my darling"). Should this series of audiobooks continue, Mohindra (along with Daniel Anthony) must surely be called upon to regal the adventures from Bannerman Road.
The success of THE SARAH JANE ADVENTURES - in all its media formats - works as it is grounded on planet Earth - in fact a tiny corner of planet Earth, Ealing (West London) that seems to attract the unexpected - with all its frailties, misunderstandings and paranoia in-built. As Jon Pertwee (the Third Doctor, if you didn't know) once commented that the familiar is more frightening than the unusual ("There's nothing more alarming than coming home and finding a Yeti sitting on your loo in Tooting Bec") and in JUDGEMENT DAY the writer exploits this assertion to a creative effect (setting the action in an everyday shopping centre/mall. An affectionate acknowledgment to both Robert Holmes' SPEARHEAD FROM SPACE and Russell T Davies' ROSE Auton gambit?). The `unusual' aspect to the story could be very familiar to DOCTOR WHO CLASSIC SERIES fans as Scott Gray revisits the idea of the Megara, justice machines featured in the 1978 story, DOCTOR WHO - THE STONES OF BLOOD, yet, here, his creations are less comic and, with a tortured backstory, far more threatening as dispensers of justice in the form of summary execution.
Strangely, the Magician, plying his trade within the shopping centre, is almost forgotten as the aliens unceremoniously snatch Sarah Jane, Rani and her mother but his importance cannot be underestimated as listeners eventually discover.
In examining what is determined as truth and lies and justice, Scott Gray forces the main characters to highlight their own motivation, morality and very existence with the benefit of both hindsight and time travel (yes, we observe a Sarah Jane Smith that we have never seen before) holographic technology. Its clever and, above all for the listener, believable, devoid of pastiche or glibness or parody.
Delivering a twist (more a revelation) in its conclusion, THE SARAH JANE ADVENTURES -JUDGEMENT DAY completely satisfies (yes, you'll want to listen again), ticking all the dramatic boxes employed throughout, and, for a change, nobody dies today.