Sarah Jane Smith
Mirror, Signal, Manoeuvre

Starring: Elisabeth Sladen
Big Finish Productions
RRP 9.99
ISBN 1 903654 96 1, BFPSJSCD05
Available now

A 1940s bio-warfare scandal takes Sarah to a remote island in the Indian Ocean. But why won't she contact her friends in the UK? Can it be that Sarah has spent so long looking for pursuers in the rear-view mirror that she hasn't noticed who's now in the driving seat...?

I was expecting great things from this instalment - the last in the series, at least for now - following the dramatic build-up over recent episodes regarding the return of an old enemy. However, Peter Anghelides' script is not nearly as thrilling as any of the excellent novels he has penned for the BBC's Doctor Who range.

Perhaps it has something to do with the fact that these CDs are always set on present-day Earth, but in general I haven't found this series as exciting as Big Finish's Doctor Who, Dalek Empire or Benny Summerfield audios. Somehow Sarah Jane's adventures just don't seem as "big".

However, I am gratified that the status of poor old K9 has finally been resolved - sad fans like myself care about such things! He is not referred to by name, but Sarah (Elisabeth Sladen) does mention a certain box of broken machinery in her attic... machinery that is presently beyond repair because suitable replacement parts haven't yet been invented. This ties in well with the robot's deactivation in the short story Moving On (from the Decalog III anthology), although the two-part novel Interference states that K9's innards have been replaced by contemporaneous devices (perhaps a few crucial parts could not be substituted).

Guest star Louise Faulkner, in the role of Sarah's accomplice Wendy Jennings, sounds remarkably similar to India Fisher (alias the Eighth Doctor's companion Charley), so I did a double take when I first heard her. However, the snide tones of Peter Miles, as the unethical scientist Brandt, are as unmistakable as ever.

Elements of the series' ongoing storyline, including the defunct K9, have been left open with plenty of scope for continuation. Even though this hasn't been my favourite series, I would still be interested in hearing more from Ms Smith some time in the future.

Richard McGinlay