The Sarah Jane Adventures

Common Sense Media says

Doctor Who spin-off is fun for tweens+.

Age(i)

2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
10
11
12
13
14
15
16
17

Quality(i)

 

What parents need to know

Positive messages

Unlike most American shows that focus on female characters, this show makes no effort to hide either Sarah Jane's age or her brains. She seems resigned to being perpetually single, and she and others sometimes pointedly remark on her lack of a husband or boyfriend. Maria's parents are divorced, and the show makes no effort to hide the downside of divorce, including parents who bicker over money and revel in their ability to date new people while neglecting their children.

Violence & scariness

Sarah Jane and her friends frequently tangle with hostile aliens, but they use their wits rather than weapons, and she makes a point of noting that they're almost always outgunned. The violence is very tame, with a few less-than-dramatic explosions, some rather unconvincing alien costumes, and very little shooting or punching.

Sexy stuff

No sex or nudity, though there's a bit of subtle innuendo. The show does not ignore sexuality -- middle-aged Sarah Jane's lack of a husband or boyfriend is occasionally mentioned, both by her and other characters. Maria's parents are divorced, and her mother sometimes hints at romantic encounters with a new boyfriend.

Language

"Fart" is about as bad as it gets.

Consumerism

Few obvious product placements, though Sarah Jane is frequently seen driving a sporty green Nissan Figaro. Several episodes center on alien plots to take over the Earth using successful corporations as fronts to hide in plain sight (perhaps a not-so-thinly-veiled metaphor for capitalism's potentially adverse impact on society).

Drinking, drugs, & smoking
Not applicable

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that this family-targeted Doctor Who spin-off is heavy on aliens trying to take over the Earth, but light on violence and scares (the characters prefer to use wits over weapons, and the effects aren't very sophisticated). There's no iffy sexual content, drinking, or particularly strong language, either, and main character Sarah Jane is a plucky, ingenious single mom who -- in a rarity for TV -- looks and acts her age, speaks honestly about her feelings, and comes across as a very real person. That is, a real person who spends her days tracking down aliens and sending them packing without resorting to violence.

Parents say

Kids say

What's the story?

Sarah Jane Smith is anything but your average action show heroine. As the main character in THE SARAH JANE ADVENTURES, she (Elizabeth Sladen) must save the world from a seemingly endless supply of hostile alien races bent on world domination. But unlike most sci-fi shows, Sarah Jane emphasizes her brain over muscle -- and diplomacy over combat -- and is the first to admit that a complete lack of weapons makes her a poor choice to tangle with such dangerous creatures. Her alien-fighting associates are equally unusual for a sci-fi action show. Maria (Yasmin Paige) is a high school student who lives across the street, and Sarah Jane's adopted son Luke (Thomas Knight) was manufactured by an alien race. Together, they're a highly unlikely bunch of alien hunters.

Is it any good?

QUALITY
 

The group's "weaknesses" are strengths for the series, because they force Sarah Jane to come up with innovative strategies to defeat her foes, which ends up being much more fun for viewers. Storm into an alien stronghold with guns blazing? Most fans have seen that over and over again. But destroy a hideous beast with an intergalactic mobile phone? Now that's something new.

Sarah Jane has a complicated, well-loved backstory. THE SARAH JANE ADVENTURES is a spin-off of the immensely popular Doctor Who series, and Sarah Jane (who's always been played by Sladen) spent several seasons in the mid-'70s traveling through time and space with the Doctor. Now, decades later, she's a middle-aged single mother who looks and acts her age (a refreshing rarity on TV in the age of Botox and cosmetic surgery). The series has the same defiantly low-budget feel that's always made Doctor Who so much fun, especially when it comes to oh-so-obvious alien costumes and massive monster puppets. But ignore the cheesy effects, and The Sarah Jane Adventures stands out for its unique characters, unusual plots, and, above all, its original thinking.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about aliens. Do you think there's intelligent life somewhere else in the universe? If so, do you think they've ever come to visit Earth? Why do so many TV shows assume that aliens are real, here, more advanced than humans, and bent on taking over the planet? And if an alien creature could look like just about anything, why do so many fictional ones have two legs, two arms, and a head (in other words, a lot like people)? Families can also discuss how this show compares to Doctor Who. Is it more age-appropriate for kids? Why or why not?

TV details

Cast:Elizabeth Sladen, Thomas Knight, Yasmin Paige
Network:Syfy
Genre:Science Fiction
TV rating:NR
Available on:DVD

This review of The Sarah Jane Adventures was written by

About our rating system

  • ON: Content is age-appropriate for kids this age.
  • PAUSE: Know your child; some content may not be right for some kids.
  • OFF: Not age-appropriate for kids this age.
  • NOT FOR KIDS: Not appropriate for kids of any age.

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Quality

Our star rating assesses the media's overall quality.

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Learning ratings

  • Best: Really engaging, great learning approach.
  • Very Good: Engaging, good learning approach.
  • Good: Pretty engaging, good learning approach.
  • Fair: Somewhat engaging, okay learning approach.
  • Not for Learning: Not recommended for learning.
  • Not for Kids: Not age-appropriate for kids; not recommended for learning.

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Parent Written byobnoxiousm September 6, 2010
AGE
8
QUALITY
 

Why can't Doctor Who be this smart and family-friendly?

Sarah Jane Smith explored time and Space with the Doctor in classic Doctor Who, and after he dropped her off on Earth we got this. Turning her journalistic skills from getting the scoop to finding and stopping alien threats lead her to making friends with a few brave, curious local children and adopting an artificial human boy made by aliens. That's the story you get out of Sarah Jane Adventures, and it's way better than it sounds. SJA is generally better written than its parent show, with more consistent characters, better, if less complex, plots and themes that appeal to tweens and teens. It blends themes of responsibility to the world and society, the importance of courage but also discretion, and general ideas like that with frank discussions of divorce, parental influence, adoption, stepfamilies, and life milestones. A favorite example of mine is The Mark of the Berserker, which uses alien mind control technology to explore themes of parental alienation syndrome. It also attempts to put the risks of societal changes in context by using them as springboards for alien plots. Energy drinks are a target in one episode, promotional marketing to kids in another. Still, consumerism is not presented as the end-all-be-all of evil. Characters who have prestigious things have often been implied to have worked for them, and the introduction of Gita the florist in season 2 offers an opportunity to talk about buying local and supporting regional economy. Plus, brand associated with wealth are shown, but in value-neutral contexts (i.e. a rich man, neither hero nor villain, driving a mercedes). This can help young kids learn to navigate the tropes of a class-stratified world. One thing I love about this show is how real ethical power lies in the kids' hands. Sure, sometimes Sarah Jane is the wise voice of wisdom bringing them back to reality, but occasionally her son and his friends have to remind her the right thing to do. Sarah Jane, in her courage, brilliance, and constant concern for others's safety, is a decent adult role model, but Luke's innocent heart, crafty mind, and willingness to play along with villains if he thinks it will save lives are what really impress me. The odd educational content, such as the episode discussing the pied-piper myth and the one mentioning the near-universality of zodiac systems, sneak in and delight my teacher's heart. The Sarah Jane Adventures is one of my favorite shows and I only wish Doctor Who were as good anymore. It's great for children but do discuss the violence with very young kids and social commentary with older ones.
What other families should know
Too much violence
Too much swearing
Educational value
Great messages
Great role models
Parent of a 5, 5, 8, and 10 year old Written bywhovianmother April 18, 2011
AGE
2
QUALITY
 

We love it!

This is my nearly 6 year old daughter, Sarah Jane, favorite show! We named her after Sarah Jane Smith and I am so glad i did! This show has great role models for young girls and boys alike!
What other families should know
Great messages
Great role models
Kid, 10 years old February 4, 2010
AGE
8
QUALITY
 
spin off to the brillant show dr who
What other families should know
Too much violence
Too much swearing

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