After all those years away from the TARDIS, only to find herself mixed up with the Tenth Doctor and Rose in the events of Reunion, you might have wondered what plucky reporter Sarah Jane Smith had been up to. Inevitably, she’d stuck to her roots and continued her efforts as an investigative reporter with a special perspective on the world. And Big Finish, in 2002, kicked off a standalone series that offers an insight. Licensed from BBC Worldwide and written by the likes of Terrence Dicks, I guess this forms a little bit of canon from the shadowy years between appearances on TV.
In Comeback, Sarah Jane has most recently worked as an undercover investigative TV reporter for Planet 3 Broadcasting, but six months before the kick-off of the story a botched report has landed her in hot water and out of employment. Sarah Jane has no doubt that the so called facts of the case against her and Planet 3 were fabricated, but she cannot prove it – and she’s certain that the shadowy organisation behind it hasn’t finished with her yet.
Sarah Jane has taken to a life on the move, using false identities and living on edge – never knowing when she might have to up sticks and move again, losing anything good will or connections she might have built up in the meantime. To help her, she has Natalie Redfern, a genius with technology who continues to work for Planet 3; old friend Ellie Martin, a bit of an eco-warrior protester, usually to be found living out of a backpack and fighting against big business and uncaring politicians; and, finally, Josh Townsend – a bit of a rogue with a checkered past, who serves Sarah Janes key companion for most of the adventures.
Josh reminds me a little of Fitz Kreiner from the novelisations of the Eighth Doctor’s Adventures, published by the BBC in the late 90s and early Noughties. They’re all about the rogue, keen on the ladies and with a taste for a pint – indeed, Josh never seems to manage to get very far without giving the local bar or pub a brief visit.
The Comeback story squeezes introductions and a tale of odd goings on in a small village within the confines of a 75 minute running time. And, in truth, it does it very well. We have enough time to get a glimpse of all the major players and a hint of the shadowy organisation that will arc through the series. There’s enough time for a cover-up, an explosion, and some witty conversation between varied parties – and for what it is, Comeback does it well enough.
It might well be the case that the combination of Elizabeth Sladen, Terrance Dicks and Big Finish make it work, because they’re all old hands at what they do. Sarah Jane has the no-nonsense approach to get the job done, no matter the danger; Terrance keeps the story moving; and Big Finish have enough wherewithal to get the right amount of atmosphere.
I’m not sure what I expected – other than that I’d made my commitment by buying both Series of Sarah Jane Smith in one splat of a purchase. I’m happy to say that I wasn’t disappointed and Comeback made for an engaging start – alleviating the boredom of the morning commute!