The series starts off similarly to Big Finish’s Companion Chronicles, with the stories told in the first person by one of the characters, although the crucial difference is that here it’s mostly Lis Sladen who has to do all the voices. On many occasions, a second voice could have taken the adventures to another level, as Sladen sometimes struggled with the gruff vocal requirements of the relevant villains. However Sladen was good at recreating the vocal mannerisms of her three co-stars, nailing Daniel Anthony’s Clyde particularly in Stephen Cole’s The Glittering Storm, and getting a note-perfect Yasmin Paige in The Thirteenth Stone. Oddly there were a couple of moments early on where her Sarah Jane wasn’t quite right – the one voice you’d have thought wouldn’t present a problem!
The Glittering Storm is the stronger of the initial two stories set during the first season, partly because it feels more like an episode of the series. Something impinges on both Sarah Jane’s adult world and the kids’ school life, and they investigate, leading them to the discovery of alien interference. Justin Richards’ The Thirteenth Stone is set on a school trip, and while this gives the excuse for our heroes to go to the necessary locale, it doesn’t really feel right, particularly given the interplay between Sarah Jane and Luke over school in Revenge of the Slitheen. Both neatly reference Sarah’s TARDIS travels, linking Classic and New Who as tightly as the TV series did.
The Ghost House and The Time Capsule are set in the second season, with Rani replacing Maria, although it’s interesting to note that without the different actresses playing them, the characters are pretty interchangeable. Stephen Cole’s The Ghost House is a spooky tale of a house swapping places in time, allowing Sladen the chance to demonstrate a very interesting accent for the alien! Peter Anghelides’ The Time Capsule sees a weird anomaly appear in a supermarket where Clyde is working. Both again reference the show’s Doctor Who roots, and are enjoyable listens.
The next two tales take the regular cast away from Bannerman Road. Gary Russell’s story, The White Wolf, is a spiritual successor to K9 and Company, the 1981 Sarah Jane spin off, with a village keeping its secrets close to its chest, and Sarah Jane discovering that people are not what they seem – in some cases, quite literally. Festooned with continuity references, this is a slight but enjoyable tale.
Scott Handcock’s The Shadow People plays more to audio’s strengths with campfire tales an important part of the plot development. There’s a bittersweet air to the team’s victory, which matches the third season tone. 7/10
The fourth season tie-ins begin with Wraith World by Cavan Scott and Mark Wright, a quite frightening tale of creatures that come to life from the pages of a book (think Inkheart or The Book of Lost Things), which benefits from some good accents by Lis Sladen, but is let down by the constant repetition of the show’s musical sting. That also affects the other release, Jason Arnopp’s Deadly Download, which also features a possessed Rani.
The set concludes with the two very recent releases, Children of Steel and Judgement Day, set during the final year. Martin Day’s Children of Steel sees Daniel Anthony step into the role of narrator, and unsurprisingly get the inflections for Clyde’s lines better than anyone else’s – although it’s good to see that the whole story isn’t told from his point of view. The story moves along rapidly (although avoid reading the back cover too closely – it gives far too much away), and Day creates some interesting scenarios that would have been great to see on screen, particularly the steampunk element to the story.
Scott Gray’s Judgement Day is a much more reflective piece, in the style of some of the show’s most successful stories. Anjli Mohindra demonstrates an interesting talent for mimicry as she brings her character’s parents to vivid life. If this does end up being the final Sarah Jane Adventure in any format – and somehow, I really don’t believe that will be the case – then Gray, like his predecessors, has served Lis Sladen and the team proud.
The Glittering Storm: 7/10
The Thirteenth Stone: 6/10
The Ghost House: 7/10
The Time Capsule: 7/10
The White Wolf: 6/10
The Shadow People: 7/10
Wraith World: 7/10
Deadly Download: 6/10
Children of Steel: 7/10
Judgement Day: 8/10