“Every good story needs jeopardy and excitement.”
Back in the 1980s, Sarah Jane Smith had a chance to interview Gregory P. Wilkinson about his sporadic Wraith World books – a never hugely famous but still steadily selling children’s series about the defenders of a portal between this world and a hellish dimension. 20 years later, Sarah Jane is mentoring Rani through her first school paper interview with the same author now that he has published a long-awaited new volume.
Unlike Sarah Jane, Rani has grown up with the Wraith World books and is a huge fan, to Clyde’s disgust. He doesn’t see how Rani could care about kiddie books about fake aliens after everything she and the rest of the gang have done for real. At the time Sarah Jane quiets him with a quote familiar to Fourth Doctor fans. But perhaps she should have listened. Everyone should have listened as Clyde insists that “There’s gotta be a catch” when Wilkinson gives Rani his journal with the original series notes and suggests that she be the one to write the next book. Because, of course, he has been writing from life…
Books becoming real is a fairly standard storyline, but Wraith World stands out from the pack. For one thing, it has the exact tone, pacing, and feel of an episode of The Sarah Jane Adventures while being optimised for the audio-only format. (In this case, it’s the experience of the writers showing through; Scott and Wright have teamed together for a variety of audio-only stories, most notably for several ranges of Big Finish tie-in productions.)
The story is perfectly balanced, veering from humour, characterisation, action, and danger though to derring-do. Just when you think the plot is going to be predictable, though, there’s a twist to keep you (and the characters) on their feet. Speaking of the characters, Clyde, Rani, Sarah Jane, and Luke all get their turn in the spotlight, which is rarer in an ensemble story than the casual listener might think.
All of this and a nod to the Doctor. Wraith World is as close to a televised Sarah Jane Adventure script as possible – only without the limits of the CBBC budget.
Wraith World (by Cavan Scott, Mark Wright; read by Elisabeth Sladen) was released by AudioGO in November 2010.