Big Finish Productions
Sarah Jane Smith:

Written by David Bishop Cover image
Format Compact Disc
Released 2006

Starring Elisabeth Sladen

Synopsis: Sarah Jane Smith is still dealing with the tragic consequences of recent events when she is offered the chance of a lifetime: a place on the world's first tourist flight into space. The trip's sponsor, Sir Donald Wakefield, believes it is her destiny...


W sent T, just as C sent S (a.k.a. "How can I believe you! You've been lying to me for years!") by Stephen Maslin

Not such a surprise who survived the previous episode's cliffhanger shoot-outs. All carefully explained too, just in case you missed them. Then the familiar news headlines intro (failed bio-weapon plot, the world's first space-tourism flight, a mysterious comet) and another funeral. (We began the first set of audio stories with one, so that's all very symmetrical.) As we're driving away from it, Sarah Jane says "I never thought I'd have so much blood on my hands", which is odd as I wasn't aware she had killed anyone.


This is all about the three leads (Sarah Jane, Josh and Nat), and so it should be. Alas, there's only so much hand-wringing one can or should fit into one hour of audio (and there is one hell of a lot of it here). Lest we forget, this trio have been together for a mere eight one-hour stories prior to this one. This is not The Hand of Fear (culminating a run of 18 longer stories shared by millions) and yet we're being asked to grant it the same emotional weight.


Now, one doesn't begrudge the author the opportunity to stretch his legs and give the actors something on which to chew, but it does mean that nothing really happens until nearly halfway through. Which is not to say that the dialogue is completely without interest: the "I used to travel with this extraordinary friend" speech is rather prescient about matters soon to be dealt with in School Reunion. "For years afterwards, I kept expecting to see him reappear out of thin air... eventually... I stopped hoping." (Had David Bishop been told about the BBC's plans for Sarah Jane?) It also channels the thoughts of a die-hard fan of 'Classic' Doctor Who, realizing that the show as it had been was no longer a refuge. "The world had moved on, but I hadn't. I was out of synch with everything and everyone around me." (You and me both, mate.) In even more startling clairvoyance, it then flags up the sharp about-turn between Sarah Jane's globe-trotting journalism and her suburbia-saving role in The Sarah Jane Adventures: "Deep down, I've always wondered if he left me here for a reason but I never knew what it was. Maybe this is it..."

"And maybe it isn't" replies Nat.

Nat 1, Sarah 0.

When things finally do get moving, the build-up to the denouement is at first quite frenetic but is interrupted during its build-up by a highly irritating 'News Extra' insert before slouching back to "Remember the first time we met?". This is all very emotional (and both Elisabeth Sladen and Jeremy James - and later Sadie Miller - do a fantastic job with the tear-jerking), but is it too much to ask for a bit more momentum? The ending, when it finally arrives, is genuinely dramatic: a strange light, a roaring sound, a 'something' that she has been searching for and... that's it?!

We're left hanging, with only the rubbishy, rubbishy theme tune and finally that bloody newscaster to round things off by telling us what we already knew.

What to make of it. . . It seems that Dreamland was the culmination of a gigantic, partially retro-fitted conspiracy theory, extrapolated from two different Fourth Doctor TV stories (with references to plenty of others). Remember that these audios were made long before Big Finish's Fourth Doctor Adventures, from a time when the Fourth Doctor was once again as conspicuously absent as he had been in The Five Doctors, and are deliberately reminiscent of that much-lauded era. But there's no hiding the fact that what was wanted was Sarah Jane + Man With Scarf. No amount of back-referencing could make up for that absence.


6/10. The problem here, as with the rest of this second series of audios, is that the script is either dry, functional and over-stretched, or it is emotionally overwrought. Though it is dramatic when it needs to be, Dreamland does not have the style or mots justes to ever need to be heard more than once. That is the benchmark: every few years, one has to re-read Nightshade or re-watch The Pyramids of Mars or re-listen to The Chimes of Midnight. There are a few dozen Big Finish productions to which I can imagine myself returning for the rest of my days. Dreamland, by no means a disaster, is not one of them.


Just around the corner was School Reunion and beyond that, the unexpectedly wonderful Sarah Jane Adventures. I'm left pondering what we missed in the brief time between Dreamland and Sarah's much-heralded return to our TV screens. One must assume that the Tenth Doctor was somehow instrumental in saving Sarah Jane, though without revealing himself as such until the TV cameras had arrived. Precisely how, we shall never know. Nevertheless, after all the portentousness here ("You have a destiny, Sarah!"), the deliberate cosiness of Bannerman Road does make a great deal of sense. Such a pity that, in all the time living in that big house with Luke, Nat never once came to visit. Too many stairs perhaps.