Having learned her lesson back in the audio The Thirteenth Stone, Sarah Jane did not volunteer to be a chaperone on the school camping trip. She had been looking forward to a quiet weekend at home – until Luke and Clyde miss the bus, having been distracted by “an extraterrestrial warlord disguised as a kitten.” So Sarah Jane tosses an overnight bag into the car and chases the school bus, which has broken down on the side of the road. It’s a beautiful place for it – crystal lake, rolling hills, deep valleys. It would be lovely and peaceful… if only Rani wasn’t hearing voices. Even a voice promising “it will be all right” isn’t very reassuring when it comes out of the blue!
Handcock has done a good job of putting twists into the story. It’s possible to hit all the expected tropes without having a paint-by-numbers plot, and The Shadow People is an excellent example of putting just enough new spin onto the story to keep it fresh. (This is a bit of a relief, as I felt that painting by numbers was the worst problem with Handcock’s Doctor Who audio-only adventure, The Rising Night.) I think the difference is his experience working for the TV series showing through – he was a production runner for the entire second season of The Sarah Jane Adventures.
These adventures are aimed at the youngest market of all of the Doctor Who franchise, so I was surprised at how dark some of the moments in The Shadow People were, especially in resolving the storyline. It’s not gory – although mildy scary, nothing in the audio will seriously terrify the children – but adults will pick up the grimmer implications of Sarah Jane’s ultimate solution.
The idea of red-eyed doppelgangers and voices out of the dark is quite timely for Halloween, making The Shadow People a nicely creepy story all around, something that both adults and children can enjoy.
The Shadow People (by Scott Handcock; read by Elisabeth Sladen) was released by BBC Audio in October 2009.