Friday, August 28, 2009

My Review of The Sarah Jane Adventures 1x02: "Revenge Of The Slitheen"

Written by Gareth Roberts
Directed by Alice Troughton

Luke: “Sarah Jane, I’ve done something really stupid. A really bad social mistake. I told the Slitheen how to destroy the world.”

On the first day of school most people worry about being unpopular or struggling with subjects or dealing with the attraction of other students. When you’re literally born yesterday in Luke’s case, it’s only fair that you would actually have bigger worries than the usual stuff that teenagers would go through.

With a pilot that proved successful, a series was deserved and as an opening episode went, this was something that perfectly kicked things off (okay, it’s more of a second episode but what the hey?) for Sarah Jane and her young helpers.

Maria talked about how things after the Bane debacle had become more and more weird and she wasn’t exactly kidding. I guess school really isn’t the safest of places to be when you live that part of London that happens to be awash with alien invasions on a regular basis.

I guess to keep with the kids, the Slitheen were an adequate choice for alien enemies. I’ve made no bones about not liking the Slitheen in the past. I think the farting jokes that are generated from them aren’t funny (and I do on some occasions find farting a little funny) and without sounding like a kid, they just look rather naff for a threatening race.

Having them go from worming their way into Downing Street to Maria and Luke’s new school was an interesting step. Slitheen only blend in with society for malevolent purposes and this episode was no exception to the rule. The episode even opened by revealing who they were so early on in the plot.

Wanting to destroy the Earth purely for profit purposes and revenge aren’t exactly the most compelling of motives for them but they do make sense. The Slitheen we encountered in this episode were still smarting from the defeat they last suffered with one of their plans and they certainly managed to exploit Luke at the worst possible moment.

As social mistakes go, being the one to show the villains in question how to destroy a planet is off the chart bad. While Maria was right to try and get Luke not to be so hard on himself, I did have to admit to getting a little bit of a laugh when Clyde pointed out that only Luke and his big brain could’ve told the Slitheen how to decimate the planet.

Of course it was also Luke and his big brain (along with some contributions from Sarah Jane, Maria and Clyde) that also stopped the Slitheen’s plans yet again. Who needs a Time Lord or Harriet Jones when you have this lot to save the day?

However just because this show happens to be aimed for youngsters, it doesn’t mean that it’s impervious of delivering some uncomfortable moments. Although I didn’t feel much compassion for father and son killer Slitheen, I can see how and why Sarah reacted so disheartened when they ended up being fried. Yes, some Slitheen did escape and a rematch seems inevitable but it made for a really awkward moment.

The main plot of the episode raised some interesting moments but I think one of the most enjoyable things in this episode was Clyde. Getting rid of Kelsey wasn’t the worst thing the show could. I think having a gender balance is good and Luke really does need a male influence in his bid to fit in with everyone.

Also there’s another reason why Clyde works. He may be a teen but he’s this series equivalent to Donna Noble and the same reasons why so many viewers love Donna are going to be the same ones why people are going to like him. He’s not exactly afraid to call a situation for what it is.

When Sarah Jane and Maria both tried to shake him off (after he discovered that aliens existed), he refused to be dismissed and he made some good connections with the underground railways. Plus it was him who got Sarah Jane to come around to the idea of having Luke call her ‘mum’.

Also the scene where Sarah Jane told Clyde about her time with The Doctor was a good scene. Sure we had the same thing with Maria, Luke and Kelsey in “Invasion Of The Bane” but it still made for a poignant moment. And yes, Sarah Jane, you really are continuing The Doctor’s legacy. Torchwood could take some tips from you.

As for Sarah Jane and Luke, I love how organic they feel. Both of them are unused to the situation they’ve been put in and both of them are seemingly able to bond over social faux pauses as well.

The Jackson family dynamic also quite wonderful in it’s own way too. It’s nice to see Maria getting along with both her parents and I do like that Alan doesn’t seem to have a mistrust over Sarah Jane, though I suspect Chrissie will soon. Alan also deserves a medal for putting up with Chrissie’s pithy comments about him left, right and centre. Now that would require some serious patience.

Chrissie’s still a bit of a strange for me though. On one hand, I like that she isn’t as cold and standoffish as both Sylvia and Francine started off being but I also think she’s slightly more annoying that Jackie started off being as well. Plus I think the first season made the mistake of overusing the character as well.

Also in “Revenge Of The Slitheen”

This story was essentially a two parter, with the second part aired on CBBC a week before it’s BBC1 transmission.

Mr Blaketon/Slitheen (to the students): “The wife gave me beans and cabbage tartlets. Yet another reason to despise Jamie Oliver.”

Sarah Jane deliberately referencing The Doctor with that ‘Who?’ comment during her last confrontation with the Slitheen.

Maria: “The Headmaster keeps farting.”
Alan: “What, nasty smelly ones or the silent but deadlies?”
Maria: “Ew!”

Sarah Jane: “Remember you saved the world the day you were born. No-one else can say that.”
Luke: “No-one can say that. That’s the problem; no-one is like me.”

As a result of the Slitheen plans, all the school food was rotting and even candles wouldn’t light during their first testing of the capacitor.

Alan: “What sort of journalist are you?”
Sarah Jane: “Oh, just this and that. Local stories, nothing exciting.”
Alan: “Maria was saying you’d travelled a bit.”
Sarah Jane: “Could say that, yeah.”

Janine: “That was your last chance, Miss Smith but be fair, I did give you a warning.”

I know vinegar is great for Slitheen killing and the like but I hate the stuff and even I was surprised with the amounts that Sarah Jane owned.

Maria (to Luke): “Anyone could’ve made that mistake.”
Clyde: “No, only he could.”
Maria: “Clyde!”
Clyde: “Duh! Let’s have a High School Musical moment. A group hug will sort everything out.”

Sarah Jane (re Slitheen): “I told you we’re gonna stop them.”
Clyde: “What, the four of us? With vinegar and plastic squeezies?”

There was a wonderful teasing moment where it appeared that Chrissie might actually know more than she was letting on. Oh and she called Sarah Jane, “Sally Anne” and “Suzie Q”.

Sarah Jane: “You ask too many questions, Clyde.”
Clyde: “Too late to stop me now.”

Chronology: A few days since Luke’s birth but there was an eight month gap between this and “Invasion Of The Bane”. That’s longer than season finales and Christmas specials on Doctor Who.

“Revenge Of The Slitheen” makes for a good opening episode, lively in a lot of places and Clyde does work far better than Kelsey probably could’ve when you think about it. Very much confident in the series ability.

Rating: 7 out of 10.