Sarah Jane Smith
The Tao Connection

Starring: Elisabeth Sladen
Big Finish Productions
RRP 9.99
ISBN 1 903654 93 9, BFPSJSCD02
Available now

The body of an old man is found in the River Thames, although his DNA matches that of an 18-year-old. Sarah heads for West Yorkshire to discover why teenage boys are being kidnapped and whether this is connected to a retreat that hosts the Huang Ti Clinic...

It comes as little surprise to me that this tale of Chinese philosophy and medicine comes from the pen of Buddhist Barry Letts (the Doctor Who Producer who co-created Sarah Jane Smith back in 1973).

Letts has written audio dramas before this, including the Jon Pertwee Doctor Who radio serials The Paradise of Death and The Ghosts of N-Space. Thankfully his storytelling techniques have gained some subtlety since then. Whereas in those 1990s serials characters simply spoke their thoughts out loud to nobody in particular in order to explain the action to the listener, now Letts uses more realistic methods, such as having his characters relay reconnaissance information to each other over mobile phones.

This is also a more coherent story than the previous month's introductory tale, Comeback. With the series' concepts now established, there is no detailed back-story to convey this time around, and so the narrative is able to get on with telling its primary storyline.

I am really warming to the regular back-up cast, particularly Josh Townsend (Jeremy James). He is the incredulous companion to Elisabeth Sladen's Sarah, who herself has developed some Doctor-like qualities of detachment and laid-back calm. Sadie Miller (Sladen's daughter) betrays no hint of youthful inexperience in her role as Sarah's "guardian angel" Natalie Redfern, an old friend from the journalist's television career, although she hasn't had much to do thus far.

This is an entertaining - if sometimes rather grim - little story, with plenty of energy. Or perhaps I should say "chi".

Richard McGinlay