Kids and grown-ups loved it so, the wonderful Doctor Who spinoff that was The Sarah Jane Adventures. And now, speaking exclusively to RadioTimes.com to celebrate the series' 15th anniversary, one of the show's producers has explained why - in his opinion - it became such a demographic-spanning hit.
Premiering in 2007 and running for five series before wrapping up in 2011, The Sarah Jane Adventures (SJA) was created by Doctor Who's then-showrunner, the fan favourite Russell T Davies. From the second series onwards, Phil Ford was the head writer and co-producer on the Elisabeth Sladen-starring show.
Speaking to RadioTimes.com for our RT Rewind retrospective on The Sarah Jane Adventures, Ford summed up the show's broad appeal like so: "Russell always was of the opinion there was really no story that you couldn’t tell kids, as long as you told it in the in the correct way."
"We never really pulled our punches so much on The Sarah Jane Adventures," Ford added, "and I think that’s one of the things that made it such a big hit with kids and with their parents as well." Essentially, then, the show's ability to tell bold stories in an unfiltered way - even stories with hard-hitting, real-life topics - gave the series a resonance that appealed across numerous age groups.
Ford elaborated on that point with a specific example from one of his episodes: "In The Eye of the Gorgon [Ford’s first script for the series], a lot of it is about a woman who has dementia. I remember, very early on, Russell talking about the responsibility that we had, because there would be kids who would have grandparents who were going through the same thing.
"We didn’t want to magically take that away from her through the sci-fi story: it was important to Russell and to us that we were true to the condition. We didn’t want to tell kids, 'It’s okay, because your grandparents who are suffering awful conditions could be magically made well again'. Telling mature stories and finding the truth was something that we tried to do all the way through."
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Another prime example of an SJA episode that tackled a big topic in an emotional way, The Curse of Clyde Langer is still remembered for its unflinching representation of real-life homelessness. It was another bold script for a family-friendly production.
Bolstered by brilliant performances from the late, great Elisabeth Sladen and her co-stars, those brave scripts helped make The Sarah Jane Adventures a series that fans are still celebrating to this day.
The Sarah Jane Adventures is available to watch on BritBox, and you might have spotted an Easter egg referring to the show in last year's Doctor Who mobile game, The Lonely Assassins. Surely, fans will still be remembering this series in another 15 years!
Plus, with Russell T Davies returning to Doctor Who, it'll be interesting to see if he cooks up any other spin-off series with this kind of broad appeal. Time will tell.
Read our big SJA interview: ‘We were like a family, and it was beautiful’