Sarah Jane Smith

As we’ve recently established, TARDIS Guide is the place for “delightfully civilised disagreements”, as such this should be just the place to throw a fandom curveball that flies against this “received fan wisdom” that one sometimes comes across.

Here goes…

For years I thought I was just being a contrarian for not particularly liking Sarah Jane Smith in the Classic era, but have come to the conclusion that that isn’t the case - which I’m kind of happy about as you can almost feel excluded from fandom when you go against “mainstream” opinions (luckily that hasn’t proven to be the case in this corner of the internet :blush:)

The way I see it Sarah Jane is the most generic companion there was in those 26 seasons, every single other companion had more defined and distinguished personalities - I have always found her rather bland personality wise. I am almost afraid to say that I find her boring in too many of her numerous stories.
What carries weight with Sarah Jane for me is Liz Sladen. Liz Sladen is probably the very best actor ever to be cast as a companion, period. Her chemistry with both Jon Pertwee and Ian Marter was so effortless, unfortunately with very few exceptions (i.e. her leaving scene) I think her chemistry with Tom Baker was way too forced - he had so much more chemistry with Louise Jameson, Mary Tamm, Lalla Ward and even K-9, plus I just love every interaction between Tom Baker and Ian Marter.
Also before Sarah Jane we had Jo, Liz, Zoe and Jamie, and she was followed by Leela and Romana, all of them characters that I find way more exciting and fleshed out.

In the Sarah Jane Adventures it is a totally different feel I get from her, her characterisation is much more based on her personality and character traits. Plus she just demands attention with every single muscle moved, every single inflection (though the less said about her performance when possessed by Androvax the better :grimacing:). Her relationship with Rani and Clyde especially was fantastic, and her double-act with Katy Manning was a thing to behold.
She left behind a legacy in the Whoniverse that is almost unmatched. The short “Farewell, Sarah Jane” is so moving and just a perfect denouement to her story.

Please enlighten me as to why my opinion is wrong, nothing would make me more happy than to have a change of heart :tardis:

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In our continued road to fan marriage - I’ve long thought similar. I just don’t rate Sarah Jane very much. I mean I don’t dislike her but she’d never end up in my top 10.

(Hides from the fan thought police!)

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I liked her a lot when I watched the classic stuff but I watched that after watching the modern era and that might have influenced me because you are right that other companions of the era are more exciting and fleshed out but I still rate SJS high.

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I also first experienced Sarah Jane Smith on her own terms in The Sarah Jane Adventures, where as you say she is much deeper and more fleshed out a character.

So when I watched Classic Who I probably brought a bit of that with me, and so I probably liked her more than if I had watched Classic on its own.

I do agree she is rather a ‘generic’ character. But she felt like one of the first ‘modern’ companions - yes she often got into a ‘damsel in distress’ trope but she also felt like a strong, independent woman.

I’d have to go and rewatch to get a better idea, but I love Sarah Jane Smith, mostly due to the NewWho stuff she did. I feel like she lives on, with the recent Rani boxsets. :heart:

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I tend to think of it not so much as that Sarah Jane was the best companion ever as that Doctor Who had a really strong run of companions from Liz Shaw to Romana II which included her.

People like to point out her being a feminist, but then, so was Jo Grant, Liz was a highly professional scientist, Leela might need to be persuaded not to kill you, Romana could easily upstage the Doctor, etc…

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It honestly feels like she’s only popular for the same reason Tom Baker is: she was on the show for a really long time.

As an aside, I really want the modern show to try their hand at an investigative journalist companion (or a vlogger/influencer, someone with an audience), because I feel like they’d do so much more with the concept. But that’s likely never going to happen because “they’ve done that already with Sarah-Jane” (as I recall, her being a journalist barely came up in her first season, and then never mattered after that)

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I just started reading “1984” for the first time in almost 20 years yesterday, seems apt :wink:
Big Brother is watching you!

I LOVE Sarah so I am possibly biased here, but honestly my first introduction to her was in SJA when I was young, so that has really impacted how I feel, and showed me her in the best possible light.

Honestly, when I first watched her classic run, I was a little disappointed - here I was, expecting this wonderful woman, and she is in fact a little bit ornamental to the Doctor and much screamier than common fandom would have you believe. So I am glad she got SJA because that let reach that true potential to be the greatest.

I think a lot of why people love her is because of her wonderful connection with Tom Baker - they just have such a chemistry and even when she’s weeping over him being dead for the fourteenth time, I can forgive it because on that occassion when she gets to really shine, it’s worth it. It helps too that Pyramids of Mars and Brain of Morbius and, yes, Genesis of the Daleks (and more!) are all very beloved episodes at large, and many of them are very solidly good.

The more I’ve watched classic Sarah, the more I’ve come to love the episodes for what they are, and I honestly think she is at her best in The Time Warrior. Everything after that, she kind of loses her personality in favour of being the Companion, which is an unfortunately common issue. I also think the ‘jealous ex’ angle of School Reunion is pretty reductive, because the more interesting thing to think about is ‘I was uprooted from my life then just dumped back by my best friend and expected to adjust to being human again’ rather than any ~love~ angle.

And I think that’s something they did well in the BF audios too - I like that Sarah is kind of horrible and spiky and cold, and I like that this carries over somewhat to SJA too. I think it’s so interesting to show a companion who has had to live a life on earth and not know how to connect to people properly, and who fears alien danger everywhere.

This turned into an essay, so I’ll stop here, but tl;dr, I love her. I get why people think she’s overrated (I think the same about Rose…) but she is so speical to me and I think a lot of it comes from how wonderful Elisabeth Sladen was <3

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This is very true. I love her in The Time Warrior but she never quite reaches the same heights. This is true of most companions after their debut story though.

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Now that you brought up Rose (who I very much agree with you about) I got to thinking about when they met in School Reunion and their b***hy standoffishness and this certain piece of fanart that encapsulated that rather splendidly :sunglasses:

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I love Ace saying Professor and how angry Tegan looks :smiley:

But where the F is Barbara?!?!!?

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I’ve had this as wallpaper on my laptop for roughly 5 years and never noticed Babs was missing - clearly I’m a fake fan :joy:

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Honestly, I can’t say you are wrong. The Sarah-Jane Adventures was my childhood and I loved it. When Liz passed away, it devastated me but, when I watched some of her Classic Who serials (The Ark in Space, Genesis of the Daleks, Terror of the Zygons) of the ones I’ve seen so far, she’s not all that interesting.

More to the point, I’ve been told that she was some kind of feminist icon constantly but, she’s not really in any of the episodes I’ve seen of hers so far (Granted that’s not every story, there are loads of hers I’ve never seen). I mean, sure she tells the men that she doesn’t need their help and she can do it but in every one of those stories, she’s often in distress, screaming or needing rescuing. I don’t know, maybe I haven’t seen enough of her stuff yet.

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These are responses, but not the ones I was expecting :blush:
@shauny you were right, TARDIS Guide is the place for “delightfully civilised agreements” not disagreements :wink:

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Sarah Jane is great in Planet of Evil.

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I enjoy her. She’s not a top 10 companion for me but considering that I dislike a grand total of 2 companions of the ones I have experience with I’m honestly okay with her just hanging out smack in the middle as that perfect idea of a companion.

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Which two do you dislike?

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Liv Chenka (hot take, I know) and Thomas Brewster (not a hot take, I know)

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:hushed: why do you hate Liv?!?

I am currently listening to all of the Eighth Doctor’s audios (skipped Main Range for now, going to experience that first with the Audio Club) and Liv is one of the highlights for me.

I know they can argue and she can be a bit bitchy but that’s her charm :smile:

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Honestly, it’s just how bitchy she is. She rarely gets characterized beyond just being sarcastic and snide and rude. I think she’s really interesting when she’s presented with that deeper characterization. As it were though, Liv is just there stealing focus from other characters but not doing anything really interesting with the time she gets.

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