The Sarah Jane Adventures
The Thirteenth Stone

Author: Justin Richards
Read by: Elisabeth Sladen
BBC Audio
RRP: £5.99
ISBN: 978 1 4056 7823 0
Available 05 November 2007

Sarah Jane Smith is helping out on a school trip. On the way home, the group stop off at the Stone Whisperers, a dozen standing stones enclosed by a dome. Set apart from the circle is a thirteenth stone, the King Stone. Legend has it that this was once an evil king who was captured in battle by twelve knights and turned into stone. To keep him imprisoned, the knights also turned to stone, holding him forever in their power. Nice story, but it’s just a myth - isn’t it? Luke finds himself strangely drawn to the King Stone. Over two metres high, and covered in moss, it glows with a strange, unearthly light. When the secret of the stones is finally revealed, the school party’s enthusiasm turns to terror...

“I had enormous fun writing The Thirteenth Stone,” explains its author, prominent Who novelist and editor Justin Richards. “It’s always slightly daunting writing a story that is going to be read aloud. You really have to be at your best. But knowing that Elisabeth Sladen - Sarah Jane Smith herself - was going to be reading it was a tremendous boost to the confidence as well as a huge privilege.”

Sladen is certainly no stranger to the audio medium, having played Sarah on vinyl in Doctor Who and the Pescatons, on radio in Exploration: Earth, The Paradise of Death and The Ghosts of N-Space, and in two series of Sarah Jane Smith CDs from Big Finish Productions. It remains to be seen (or heard) how Sarah’s precarious fate at the end of the Big Finish series fits in with her exploits in School Reunion and The Sarah Jane Adventures, but here Sladen succeeds in bringing the various characters to life, including different tones of voice for Maria, Clyde and two quite distinct versions of Luke.

Just as television episodes of The Sarah Jane Adventures are half the length of an episode of modern Doctor Who, so this CD runs to just one disc (70 minutes), as opposed to the double-disc releases of Tenth Doctor audio books. The author throws in a few subtle nods to Who history along the way, though I should point out that the Stone Whisperers have nothing to do with the Ogri from The Stones of Blood.

Richards’s story is lower on incident and humour than Stephen Cole’s The Glittering Storm, though his characterisation (and Sladen’s reading) of the desperately dreary teacher, Mr Bradbury, did bring a smile to my face.

Compared with The Glittering Storm, The Thirteenth Stone left me a little cold - but not stone cold.

Richard McGinlay

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