The Sarah Jane Adventures
The second spin-off show from Doctor Who in a year — and if anything, I’m more excited about this than I ever was in the lead-up to the Torchwood launch. Seventies icon Sarah-Jane Smith (Elisabeth Sladen), fresh from her guest role in an episode of Doctor Who in the spring, gets her second stab at leading a show after the Eighties’ dire K9 and Company. This special, to be followed by a full series later in 2007, sees the intrepid journalist team up with a team of kids to unmask the evil forces behind a suspiciously addictive new soft drink… With the guest villain role taken up by Samantha “James” Bond, and a cracking script from Gareth Roberts and Russell T Davies, miss this at your peril.
The Wind in the Willows
I have to say, I don’t think any adaptation of Kenneth Grahame’s classic novel could ever surpass the brilliant Cosgrove Hall stop-motion version, voiced by David Jason and Michael Hordern. While the cast list for this new version is stellar — Matt Lucas, Mark Gatiss, Bob Hoskins — and their performances convey the animals they are portraying particularly effectively, somehow the charm of anthropomorphised animals doing silly things palls a little when they look so human.
Suranne Jones and Dean Lennox Kelly lead a great cast in another one-off drama from ITV1 that’s better than the channel’s current reputation may have you believe. There’s nothing especially ground-breaking at work here, but you’llenjoy the two hours you spend in its company.
The Vicar of Dibley
This is apparently the last-ever episode of the ever-enjoyable village sitcom — although whether that’s “last-ever” in the normal English sense, or the “Only Fools and Horses” sense, we shall have to wait and see. Whatever, Geraldine’s ridiculously unbelievable romance and engagement, as seen in the Christmas Day episode, culminate in the vicar getting hitched tonight. And Alice turns up to the wedding dressed as the Doctor, flanked by a couple of Daleks. Doesn’t everybody?
A double bill of episodes ends Torchwood’s first series. It’s been an up-and-down ride, with the show not really finding its feet until well past the halfway mark. However, with Jack and Toshiko stranded in the 1940s, and the others encountering an American serviceman introducing himself as Captain Jack Harkness, it looks like Cardiff is heading for an apocalypse… Unforutunately, the final episode is written by series co-producer Chris Chibnall, whose scripts so far have tended to be the most clichéd and wearisome of the lot. Hopefully he’ll redeem himself here.