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Feature: The Sarah Jane Adventures

Sarah Jane

For 30 years, journalist Sarah Jane Smith has been protecting the planet and reporting on the results... and as her new series becomes a major hit we take an unclassified look at her career…

Who is Sarah Jane Smith? Of course, the answer’s easy – she’s Britain’s foremost investigative journalist when it comes to the bizarre. Despite officially being attached to the lifestyle magazine Metropolitan for much of her career, she’s exposed a string of front page stories over the past 30 years, from the true circumstances of the death of astronaut Guy Crayford to the break-up of the treacherous conspiracy hatched by the apparently respectable Scientific Reform Society. Yet the rumors persist that she’s never let slip the truth about even more sensational events, and even details as apparently clear-cut as the dates of those which are on the record seem curiously nebulous. What does this woman know?

Of course the answer to the conundrum is that Sarah Jane is a fictional character, played since 1973 by actress Elisabeth Sladen, and the confusion over dates comes from the inconsistent ideas of the producers behind Doctor Who over the last 35 years. But as she becomes the biggest star of British children’s television in The Sarah Jane Adventures some facts are clear.

Born, to judge by the occasional slip of her accent, in Liverpool, Sarah Jane lost her parents as a child. Some say it was a car accident when she was five, others that it was something more sinister. But it’s clear that from an early age Sarah Jane was brought up by her Great Aunt Lavinia, a renowned virologist of Novel Prize status, and a self-willed feminist long before Germaine Greer first put pen to paper. This attitude rubbed off on the young Sarah, and within two years of leaving university she was an established freelance journalist with substantial retainers from newspapers and magazines to support her, and some trusting contacts on the inside of the greatest secrets around.

Perhaps the greatest of these was forged when Sarah Jane was 23, and she posed as her aunt to infiltrate a safe house for valued scientists established during a wave of kidnappings. Whatever Sarah Jane’s role in retrieving the missing men, it seems to have gained her trusted status within UNIT, the shady international agency established a decade earlier, accused by some of being a worldwide secret police force, rumored by others to be our crucial and invaluable last line of defense against threats from this world and beyond.

Exactly when this happened is unclear – it might have been 1973, it might have been 1980 (which makes Sarah Jane’s current age equally nebulous – she could now be 57 or a mere half century), but over the next year Sarah Jane was involved with the evacuation of London, the break-up of a cult at a Buddhist monastery improbably established in southern England, the defeat of the SRS’s scheme to impose a scientifically-led dictatorship on the world, and a serious incident at a nuclear power station – not to mention debunking the rash of silly season sightings of the Loch Ness Monster everywhere from Scotland to London that summer!

Read the full feature and more on Doctor Who in
Xposé #105

Photos © BBC
Feature © Visual Imagination 2007. Not for reproduction

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Xposé #105
Winter 2007
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