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Review: Sarah Jane Smith: 6 Buried Secrets


Blue Box Bill's picture

Blue Box Bill - Posted on 04 September 2012

Buried Secrets Cover Art

Part 6 of the Series is deeper and darker than the last episode. Full of twists and turns, Buried Secrets does not disappoint. Pacing is right on the mark and the cast, as always, turns in a top-notch performance.

The Skinny: Liner notes: Having lived a life of adventure as a traveller in time and space, returning to a quiet life on present day Earth was never going to be easy. Ex-journalist, Sarah Jane Smith is determined to make a difference in her own way. Fiercely independent, Sarah relies on her own wit, judgement and keen sense of morality to challenge the evils of the world. Life is never quiet for long. Trouble has a habit of finding Sarah -- even when she’s not looking for it.

Sarah Jane Smith believes her days as a crusading investigator are behind her, safe from those who tried to destroy her. But others believe she has a destiny and they will stop at nothing to prevent her fulfilling it. A trip to Florence to help an old friend leads to the unearthing of a murderous conspiracy buried within the city’s catacombs...

And now, the rest of the story...

Enter Will Sullivan, Harry Sullivan's step-brother. Harry Sullivan, portrayed by Ian Marter, was attached as medical officer to the United Nations Intelligence Taskforce (UNIT), the military organization for which the Doctor acts as scientific advisor. Harry's first Doctor Who appearance is in Robot which also happened to be the fourth Doctor's first episode. Without a doubt Tom Chadbon's portrayal of Harry's brother is one of the best in the Sarah Jane Smith series, not that any of the players or their characters are weak or lacking, but Mr. Chadbon got it right. As a fan of Doctor Who you may remember him as Duggan in City of Death or Merdeen in The Mysterious Planet (Trail of a Time Lord Parts 1 - 4). Ties to Sarah's past are brought front and center in her first encounter with Will and it is those ties, those memories which treat listeners to a glimpse of Elisabeth Sladen's talent and range.
 
Incidental music keeps getting better. There were hints of this in the last story however this time around the music is more integral to the overall tone of this tale. And I would be remiss were I not to mention the arrival of what sounds like a bona-fide signature tune for the series. A bit late in coming but a welcome addition nonetheless. It must be a tough call for any production team to develop a signature tune / theme song for such a well established character like Sarah Jane Smith. Her identity is so wrapped up in Doctor Who. How do you go about giving her a musical identity?

Were I to describe the new theme music, haunting is the first word that springs to mind, but it's also playful, melodic, dark, mysterious, moody and precise... all aspects of Sarah Jane at one time or another. The lead "voice" in the composition dates back to the Middle Ages and was a key player (pun intended) in Renaissance and Baroque music. The instrument? The harpsichord. I'd imagine what we're listening to isn't the real deal but it sounds authentic enough. Augmented through a rather unique combination of what sounds like synthesized harps, violins as well as other, larger orchestral stringed instruments, plus what sounds like an electronic drum track in addition to what are most likely synthesized human voices, a choir if you will, the harpsichord features heavily, is unafraid of the spotlight and I must say is the cement that holds the piece together. Subtract the harpsichord and it falls apart.

It's always a pleasure to hear a familiar voice animating a character in a polished widescreen audio drama like this. As a Blake's 7 fan I was pleased twice over with Buried Secrets for it features Jacqueline Pearce (Servalan) and Steven Greif (Travis) who played baddies in B7. Haven't seen Blake's 7? Look around on the web. I'm sure there's enough out there to whet your appetite. At times a really good actor seems inseparable from the character they portray which is to say they "become" the character. I believe this can be said of Jacqueline Pearce as Servalan and Steven Greif as Travis, both quite unforgettable characters because of superb writing and acting so if you're a fan of Blake's 7 don't be surprised if it takes a little while for you to get past the fact that these are voices you loved to hate. Incidentally, Tom Chadbon also appeared in B7 and Jacqueline Pearce appeared in Doctor Who.
 
A change in directorship with the end of Season One into the beginning of Season Two from Gary Russell to John Ainsworth also marks a change in liner composition. Gone are multi-page notes complete with behind the scenes photos, something I rather miss. Liner notes from the first five stories give you the impression that what you are about to hear was ripped right from the headlines of METROPOLITAN Magazine. Okay, so maybe it was a bit of a gimmick but it gave the liner a sense of urgency and grit. Enough said.

Buried Secrets earns a 5 MOBILE Rating

What's this?

PRODUCTION NOTES: Cast: Elisabeth Sladen (Sarah Jane Smith); Jeremy James (Josh); Sadie Miller (Natalie Redfern); Tom Chadbon (Will); Ivor Danvers (Professor Edmons); Daniel Barzotti (Luca); Shaun Ley (Newsreader); with Jon Weinberg, Jacqueline Pearce, David Gooderson, Patricia Leventon and Stephen Greif

Writer: David Bishop; Director: John Ainsworth; Music: Steve Foxon; Sound Design: Steve Foxon; Cover Art: Lee Binding

Trailer link: Trailer_6_Buried_Secrets.mp3
Product link: http://bigfinish.com/Sarah-Jane-Smith
Detailed Synopsis: http://www.drwhoguide.com/sj_06.htm

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