May 07, 2012

Test of Nerve (2002)

The third instalment of this short lived (relatively) series is the best so far because it seems like the best structured. It’s been ten years or so since this story was released and several months since I listened to the previous adventure but my impression of those stories is that they were ok but didn’t feel like Sarah Jane Smith was the main character. In the first story, the series was trying to find its feet and the second one was better but seemed at times like a confusing adventure. This adventure sees a potential nerve gas being released into the public. The story is a race against time and with a limited number of options for Sarah Jane, the series had the problem of how was it going to get out of the corner that the put itself into following the previous two adventures.

It’s quite sad listening to these stories with Elisabeth no longer with us but in this story I feel like she’s given a story that suits her character and is closer to what would become the Sarah Jane Adventures. Sladen gives a strong performance where SJ conflicts with Josh and Nat and at times this reminded me of the Doctor’s relationships with his companions. The sort of danger that the Doctor was putting his companions in is mirrored in these stories except this time its SJ putting people in danger.  As the ‘companions’ in this story, both Josh and Natalie enjoy their fair share of the story I think the death of Claudia might be something that the producers regret because I thought that the character was a nice little yet subtle plot device. It doesn’t mean that her death wasn’t sad but I think it’s just one of those things that could have been saved for another time maybe.

As the villain of the piece, Harris was a very effective one and quite a nasty bag of washing as my mom would say. He seemed to carry himself very well as Robin Bowerman pulled it off with a fair amount of ease. The death of Carver was quite a grim one, especially for Big Finish. The idea of someone jumping in front of a train is something that I find uncomfortable because the thought is so sad. It was clear that the character was going to die in some way, I just wish that it had been something else. I didn’t realise this but the character of John Carver was played by the one and only the late Roy Skelton. That just makes the character even better, there was something about the character that stayed just ahead of wasteful. It was clear that the character was a puppet as the early scenes made the character look unstable and not capable of pulling off such an ambitious plan.

The ending is the perfect way to end this strong release. We have the return of Miss Winters who previously appeared in the 1974 adventure ‘Robot’. It promises that the Ghost Town will be just as good. Whereas the previous two stories were clearly to designed to move introduce the new characters and introduce Sarah Jane Smith to a new(ish) audience, this story was the unofficial start to the series and raced away with a solid story, solid characters and a thoroughly enjoyable release.

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