The Sarah Jane Adventures: Writing for my childhood heroes

Monday 11 October 2010, 12:08

Phil Ford Phil Ford Writer and Co-producer

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Set your sonic lipsticks to thrill - The Sarah Jane Adventures is back. And I don't care if I've already seen the scripts (even written some) - I'll be on the edge of my seat watching them all over again. Just as I adore Doctor Who, I love this show.

When I was a kid Lis Sladen was my Doctor's companion. That was the suave Jon Pertwee, and then the barmy be-scarfed Tom Baker. Why wouldn't I love this show?

Elizabeth Sladen as Sarah Jane Smith, with the rest of the gang - Luke, played by Tommy Knight, Rani, played by Anjli Mohindra, and Clyde played by Daniel Anthony.

Now I've written four series of adventures for her. I am the biggest kid in the playpen and I'm playing with my favourite toys. Being a writer who gets to write for his childhood heroes is the best of the best.

When I wrote my first Sarah Jane, The Eye of the Gorgon (the one with the nuns who drove around in a hearse) people said it reminded them of Doctor Who from way back. There's no greater compliment. Now we are on the fourth series and the show just keeps getting better.

And scarier. I like the scary stories. My favourite episodes have been last year's haunted house story, The Eternity Trap, and The Day Of The Clown from the year before. Bradley Walsh, who played Odd Bob, scared the pants off me on set.

This year, Joe Lidster's Nightmare Man is right up my scary street. Gareth Roberts' Empty Planet is just about as big a mystery story as you can get - complete with robots. And Goodbye Sarah Jane Smith, which he has co-written with Clayton Hickman is both emotional rollercoaster and action-packed gobsmacker.

The Nightmare Man from the first episode of series four of The Sarah Jane Adventures, with Luke, played by Tommy Knight

Rupert Laight's Lost In Time is three stories in one and then there's Russell T Davies' return to Sarah Jane writing duties with a story that not only features Matt Smith but Katy Manning returning to her role as Jo Grant, the Third Doctor's other companion.

Then there's my Vault Of Secrets, which sees the return of a familiar reptilian face and some sharp-dressed villains with something nasty up their sleeves. It's going to be so much fun.

It's a bit different from Waters Of Mars - the Doctor Who special that I co-wrote with Russell last year. We visited a very dark part of our favourite Time Lord with that one.

People ask me about the differences in writing something like Waters Of Mars and Sarah Jane's adventures with Luke, Clyde and Rani. Is it a different process? No. It's just about writing the best story I can.

Instinctively you pitch the story differently, but I'm still using the same parts of my brain - the bits that get scared, the bits that laugh, the bits that get fired up by adrenaline, and the bits that cry,

Because stories are all about emotion. And I guarantee this year you will laugh, cry and hide behind the couch. I know, because I'll be there with you.

Phil Ford is lead writer and co-producer on The Sarah Jane Adventures.

Series four of The Sarah Jane Adventures starts on CBBC on Monday, 11 October at 5.15pm.

To find out times of future programmes, please visit the upcoming episodes page.

Until Friday, 5 November you can press the red button to test your knowledge of the show with a Sarah Jane Adventures Quiz.

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    Comment number 1.

    It has to be an amazing job working with the writing team of Doctor Who, but as big as the flagship is, its so called spin-offs having taken life of their own!

    Torchwood and SJA have both been great additions to the Who-niverse, but as a girl who inherited her father's old VHS tapes of Destiny of the Daleks and even Sarah Jane's first outing with the fourth Doctor in Robot, I've always been left wanting more of the classic series along with our new heroes in time and space.

    SJA fills that nicely for me, it's like a stepping stone for kids who want to go back and see the old series too, Colonel Lethbridge Stewart, the first mention of Sontarans before they returned in the main series, K9 and Sarah herself...

    There's always a little element of the old, along with giving life to ideas that may not have time to fit in the main show:

    I doubt many grown up fans would look forward to the Slitheen facing the Doctor once more, but I enjoy seeing them in SJA with new life, as well as the Blathereen's appearance last season from one of the first novels that came in Eccelstone's era as the Doctor!

    Highlights of the show as well have went from its own ideas Day of the Clown was brilliantly done, especially Odd Bob...

    And on a personal favorite, your Prisoner of the Judoon had me laughing until I received funny looks for enjoying the misadventures of the Judoon officer going around and 'patrolling' while hunting his alien convict!

    SJA just breathes life into the old and gives it something new for kids and old fans alike, here's to you and all the other's who've made it possible!

    And here's a thanks to another season ahead, with plenty more to come from Elizabeth, Katy, Matt and all the new kids shining on the show!

    Cheers, Phil!


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