Big Finish Productions
Sarah Jane Smith:
|Written by||Rupert Laight|
|Starring Elisabeth Sladen|
|Also featuring Jeremy James, Ingrid Evans, Brian Miller, Robert Jezek, Elizabeth Faulkner, Mark Donvan.|
|Synopsis: Sarah is awoken in the night by a terrifying apparition. Is it a ghost or just a figment of her imagination? What is that unbearable noise? And will the others believe her story?|
Scooby-Doo's Never Around When You Need Him by J. Paul Halt 10/12/02
Well, after two solid stories and one excellent one, the Sarah Jane Smith series was about due for a dud. Surely enough, it got one.
It's no surprise that Ghost Town is the weakest of the Sarah Jane audios to date. It was clear from the pre-release material that this was going to be a "filler" episode. It takes place in a haunted village in Romania (even the characters joke that it's like an old Scooby-Doo plot). And it is the only entry in the series that doesn't even feature all 3 of the regulars, as Sadie Miller's Nat ends up sitting this one out (pun not intended).
Which is a shame, since I think Nat's presence might have added something to this story. There would have been plenty of room for her in the big mansion. And after the events of Test of Nerve, there would have to be some tension between Nat and Sarah, which would have added a much-needed serious undercurrent to this fairly lightweight story.
I'm afraid missed opportunities are the name of the game here. There is little humor present -- and what humor there is, tends not be very funny. The pace is slow. The sound design, usually a strength in Big Finish productions, is only adequate. We can hear everybody clearly, and there are no real visualization problems; but that's the audio equivalent of being "in focus." Moviemakers aren't praised when the shot is in focus; we simply expect, in a professional product, that it will be.
And in a story involving a haunting -- in Romania, no less -- there should be thick atmosphere. Given the slow pace and poor character development, strong atmosphere would have been about all that could have salvaged this. Sadly, the sound design fails to create much atmosphere at all. Even the scenes where Sarah "sees" the ghost come off as flat and dull, despite Elizabeth Sladen's best efforts.
Performances are OK; but even the regulars are no more than satisfactory in this outing. They are not helped by the blandly workmanlike dialogue that fails to enliven a dull and silly plot. As for the human villain -- I guessed the villain's identity in the character's very first scene. It wasn't hard to do. I just thought of the most likely suspect, and -- sure enough -- that's who it turned out to be.
In summation: bland dialogue, no atmosphere, a by-the-numbers plot that even the story's own characters admit belongs in a Scooby-Doo cartoon, and a predictable denouement. I still like the series, and I expect great things from Mirror, Signal, Manoeuvre. But I would have to rate Ghost Town alongside Big Finish's weakest productions to date.
Overall Rating: 4/10