Back in 1973, Jo Grant—the scatter-brained trouble-magnet who once began a perplexed question with "Look, Doctor, I know I'm exceedingly dim"—left the Third Doctor for marital bliss. Shortly thereafter the time lord teamed up with Sarah Jane Smith, a journalist and feminist who was very soon ensconced alongside her long-serving predecessor as one of the most popular of Doctor Who companions.
Once and future companions Josephine Grant (Katy Manning) and Sarah Jane Smith (Elisabeth Sladen).
And Jo wasn't heard from in a long time. Katy Manning, who played Jo Grant, left Britain for Australia after her stint on Doctor Who, while Elisabeth Sladen returned periodically to the role of Sarah Jane—most recently in the younger-audience Who spin-off, The Sarah Jane Adventures.
But when the show returns for a fourth season, airing in the UK this fall, Sarah Jane be joined by Jo Grant for their first adventure together, marking Manning's first time back playing Jo on TV in 37 years.
"Playing Jo Grant again is something I never really considered," Manning said. She's recently returned to the UK to live, and the producers of Sarah Jane Adventures rang her up almost right away. "I was gob-smacked when they told me and I am over the moon. What an incredible little treat. I come home and this is one of the first things that happens."
This isn't Manning's first return to Who: over the last eight years she's been in over a dozen Big Finish audio productions, playing Jo in some and other times playing an erratic time lord named Iris Wildthyme, from a series of Who books by Paul Magrs. Manning has also appeared in a few Who-related documentaries, including several installments of Doctor Who Confidential. But her best-known character, Jo Grant, hasn't been been seen on TV since 1973.
Fascinatingly, the return of Jo Grant is almost eclipsing the news that she'll be joined by the Doctor himself: Matt Smith is also guesting alongside Manning, following in the footsteps of his own predecessor David Tennant. The Tenth Doctor visited Sarah Jane on both Doctor Who and The Sarah Jane Adventures just before his regeneration.
"It's a fantastic script and I can't wait to work with another Doctor and hope Matt has fun with us," said Elisabeth Sladen. "I've known Katy for ages and I am delighted to be working with her."
And the news contains another surprise: the two-part adventure will be written by Russell T. Davies, who created Sarah Jane but hasn't written for it since the show's pilot. Davies, who handed over the reins of Doctor Who to Steven Moffat at the end of David Tennant's tenure, had indicated he would leave the shaping of the Eleventh Doctor entirely to Moffat and his team.
Executive producer Nikki Wilson says: "We are absolutely thrilled to be introducing Sarah Jane and the gang to both The Eleventh Doctor and Jo Grant, and to have a script penned by Russell T Davies is the icing on the cake! Viewers are in for a real treat, with an action-packed story full of Russell's usual wit and warmth, which takes the gang inside a secret base beneath Snowdon and introduces brand-new vulture aliens, the mysterious Shansheeth. All this, plus a trip to an alien planet—a first for The Sarah Jane Adventures."
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