Friday, August 28, 2009

My Review of The Sarah Jane Adventures 1x03: "Eye Of The Gorgon"

Written by Phil Ford
Directed by Alice Troughton

Sister Helena (to Maria): “I’d shut up if I were you or the Abbess might show you her idea of solving a problem like Maria.”

Nuns, nun and nuns. In the words of Father Jack Hackett – reverse, reverse. Only in a sci-fi would this lot be less than a heart warming presence. The opening scene even had Mrs Randall frightened by the presence of a ghostly nun so that’s a big indicator that they’re going to be up to no good in this storyline.

Having the gang investigate the goings on of a retirement isn’t the most unprecedented thing that could happen. Even we do take on some real life reports of abusive staff in places like these, there was always the chance that one of the young characters or even Sarah Jane could have a family or friend in somewhere like Lavender Lawns.

With Clyde, it was seemingly that Mrs Randall was a friend of his grandmother but it was nice that it was him who brought Sarah Jane in on the case, which was something that he even mentioned at one point as well. Modesty might not be Clyde’s strongest asset but he did have a point.

Of course Sarah Jane didn’t deliberately try to hog the limelight and anytime she might have told him to stay put was more to do with his safety and less to do with, er jealousy. I liked that Sarah Jane wasn’t deliberately condescending with Mrs Randall, which is evidently not the same thing that can be said about the lady who ran Lavender Lawns.

As soon as Luke met up with Bea, I knew that she was going to play a role in the alien threat of the episode. The fact that she handed him a talisman and made him swear not to tell anyone that he had it was also a good giveaway. Luke must have one of those faces if Bea could instantly trust him the way she did.

Of course by giving Luke the talisman, she also put the boy in the attentions of the nuns, who were obviously working with the bad guy this week. Clyde may a fantastic point that when in the possession of something dangerous, you never tell the bad guy you have it. Luke’s a bright kid but even he blabbed to the sinister Sister Helena about the talisman and that was before she snatched him.

Beth Goddard is mainly known for her role as one of the dopey couple in Gimme Gimme Gimme but here, she certainly shines with a nasty veneer as the determined Sister Helena. Although I didn’t think she was possessed at first, it did make sense given the lengths she was prepared to go in order to protect her Abbess/Gorgon.

I love that Sarah Jane explained to the kids that both fairytales and myths have some foundation of truth in them. This helped when we discovered that the Gorgon was a set of three aliens and that she was literally the last one standing. It would be unreasonable of Sarah Jane to deny the Gorgon her chance to die in her own world.

So, it made complete sense that the Gorgon was really going to latch onto a new host and take over Earth with humanity serving it. I don’t think Sarah Jane would’ve been so resistant to have handed over the talisman if she didn’t believe that the nuns and the Gorgon had sinister motives.

Besides, the whole story gave us no reason to trust either the Gorgon or the nuns. Maria, Luke and Clyde at different points were being used as leverage to get Sarah Jane to play along and Alan had the misfortune of being turned into stone, the poor thing.

When it finally came to the part where Sarah Jane was being sized up as a new host for the Gorgon, it was really Maria who rose to the challenge. All the sonic lipsticks in the world weren’t going to get Sarah Jane out of this one. Luckily Maria and Bea’s mirror played a nice part in things.

If there was something about this episode that disappointed me, I guess it was the nuns being possessed after all and acting oblivious when they were free of the Gorgon’s control. It’s not a bad thing but it might have been more interesting if in their warped way they had believed in the Gorgon.

However that’s a very, very minor quibble in a story that kept firing cylinders all round. The Gorgon made for an excellent villain no doubt but what was more excellent was Phyllida Law as Bea. This story just further proves that children’s TV doesn’t have to equate dumbing down.

I loved how truthfully the series touched on the issues of Alzheimers and while Doctor Who and Torchwood have done this themselves, this is still something worth praising. Bea’s battle to remember vital information about her own encounters with the Gorgon coupled with Maria’s desperation to save her father made for a good moment.

While it was nice that talisman reversed the process for Alan, I wasn’t entirely shocked that it didn’t wipe away Bea’s Alzheimers however. Still, it was nice that she got one last memory of Edgar and there are some wonderful moments where Sarah Jane clearly related to Bea as well, coupled with humour and poignancy as well.

As for the home parts, I still think this show is using way too much of Chrissie. I like Juliet Cohen who plays her and while Chrissie does get some good zingers and isn’t a terrible person (though she is both clueless and selfish), do we really need to see so much of her when Alan is around?

Chrissie got a deserved dressing down from both Alan and Maria in this episode. I liked that Alan told her there was consequences to breaking up their family and I even found it immensely funny when she thought Sarah Jane was keeping a statue of Alan, only to be proven wrong. Better luck next time, huh, Chrissie.

Also in “Eye Of The Gorgon”

I just realised that Phyllida Law who played Bea in this story is the real life mother of Emma and Sophie Thompson. Cool!

Bea (to Luke): “There’s something different about you, oh don’t be afraid I’ve seen a lie … ahh, unusual people before. Perhaps you can help me.”

Bea mentioned the Sontarans in this episode, which was appropriate given that it had been leaked that they were returning to Doctor Who and of course, they were the first alien race Sarah Jane ever met.

Chrissie: “Anything I can help you with?”
Maria: “You and Maths, I don’t think so.”
Chrissie: “At school, the only figures I was interested in was fellas phone numbers.”

Sarah Jane: “She’s seen Sontarans?”
Bea: “The silliest race in the galaxy. That’s what Edgar used to say.”

For a brief second when we were learning about Bea and Edgar’s alien encounters, I was almost certain that Bea was going to mention The Doctor. I can’t be the only one who thought that, right?

Sarah Jane (to Maria): “The Greeks were always dishing out challenges. I think it must be a man thing.”

Mr Smith (to Sarah Jane): “I can only be realistic and to be candid, things look worse for you all the time.”

Sarah Jane got called “Sally Jean” and “Mary Jane” by Chrissie when she wasn’t going under the brief alias of Felicity Barnes.

Chrissie (re Sarah Jane, to Alan statue): “She really is a bunny boiler this one. Couldn’t have the real thing, so she made a statue. I bet you’d be flattered if you knew, wouldn’t you? You didn’t know, did you?”

Sister Helena: “Parasite? It’s such an unflattering word.”
Sarah Jane (re Gorgon): “It’s what they are. A life form that lives on another, that depends on another to feed and survive.”

Lavender Lawns is a terrible name for a retirement home. It’s sort of like something you’d call a garden house, isn’t it?

Alan (to Sarah Jane): “Pity really. Think I’d look good as one of those Greek statues.”

Chronology: It’s been six months since Chrissie first left Alan and Maria for Ivan.

“Eye Of The Gorgon” to me is this show providing a ripping yarn, playing nicely with mythology and also providing some discussion worthy topics on the nature of ageing and the like. How can anyone dismiss this series?

Rating: 9 out of 10.

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