While the fate of Torchwood is still up in the air, kiddie Who spinoff The Sarah Jane Adventures has a much more secure future after its recent recommmission for a fourth AND fifth series. Keen to know more about what's to come for SJ and friends, we called up executive producer Nikki Wilson for a chat.
Why were you picked up for two series in one go?
"It's an opportunity for us to plan for our characters over a two season arc which gives more stability to the show and also, CBBC want more, which is fantastic!"
Are you going to film both series back to back?
"No, we're going to film some of series five this year but the rest will be shot next year."
You've now been promoted to exec producer, congratulations! What does that mean for you day-to-day?
"Well I won't be as hands-on on the floor while shooting as I was as producer. It's still being very much across scripts and casting but I wont be around on set as much as I was last year. I'll miss it because I love it and I love the team but Brian Minchin has taken over as producer and he's going to be fantastic. I've left it in a very safe pair of hands."
Russell is sticking around as executive producer - how involved will he be going forward?
"It's Russell's baby so he absolutely loves the show with a passion and will always be very involved in the scripts and storyline process. He also will give notes on the edit at the other end as well. Although, because he's out of the country, he's less of a physical presence but we're still in daily email contact with him."
And I assume you upload all the rushes to the internet for him...
"Yes, he gets an opportunity to see things as the go along, absolutely."
Where are you up to with the fourth series?
"We're three weeks away from the start of filming so it's all gearing up."
How long does that run for?
"We film an episode a week - it's fast!"
In series four the team will be meeting the Nightmare Man and the Shansheeth. What more can you tell us?
"The Nightmare Man is part of a really big emotional journey for Luke which involves him facing his fears and excitement about the future. The Shansheeth are vulture undertakers who get embroiled with the gang on a big adventure for the middle of the series."
Also the group will be visiting an alien world for the first time - will that be difficult production-wise?
"It's part of a bigger episode - we're not setting a whole two episodes on an adventure off Earth so it's fairly containable. With Sarah Jane it's very much rooted in contemporary London and Bannerman Road will always be the heart of the show. We're not Doctor Who so we don't go flying off around the universe but this is an opportunity for us to get a glimpse of that."
Sarah Jane stories tend to be quite self contained and there aren't many ongoing threads across a series. Will that ever change?
"No, I think the format works as it is. Kids enjoy that sort of thrill of the two part adventure and coming to a satisfying conclusion. Obviously our central characters are growing up and things they have learnt in previous adventures will inform future adventures but no, we haven't got plans to have big serial arcs in the series."
The series has never really needed much Doctor Who crossover and holds its own quite well, but David Tennant's appearance last year was an undoubted highlight. Did the success of that story make you reconsider crossovers?
"It's brilliant that this show had its origins in Doctor Who - Sarah Jane was a character created for Doctor Who. We will always maintain our links with the show but you're right, Sarah Jane is a show in its own right. Yes, there will always be room for crossovers in the future but it won't be a bigger feature than it has been in the past."
Sarah Jane returns for its fourth series on CBBC this Autumn.
Are you looking forward to Sarah Jane series four? Do you think there should be more Who crossovers? Add your comments to this entry below!