Friday, August 28, 2009

My Review of The Sarah Jane Adventures 1x04: "Warriors Of Kudlak"

Written by Phil Gladwin
Directed by Charles Martin

Maria: “You don’t think there’s anything weird about Lance, do you? I mean, you’re not doing this story because you think there’s aliens involved or anything?”
Sarah Jane: “I don’t see aliens behind every bush, you know, Maria. I’m not a conspiracy theorist.”

A storyline involving the disappearance of children is hardly new for a sci-fi series, especially one aimed at younger audiences and neither is a commentary on children’s enjoyment of violent video games but it does make for another well thought out story in this series.

The opening scene had a nice moment of creepiness as Lance had the misfortune of disappearing via transmat beam just as he was getting into the Combat 3000 levels. From there on in, it was just waiting for the next batch of children to disappear as a result.

It’s good that at the start of this story, Sarah Jane’s reason for wanting to write an article on Lance’s disappearance had nothing to do with aliens. In fact it hadn’t been until later on that Sarah Jane did consider alien interference but when Maria first suggested it, Sarah Jane did shoot down the theory.

It’s not that Sarah Jane was being snippy but I suppose a lot of her actual work as a journalist has nothing to do with aliens. In fact, the majority of stories she submits are unrelated to any of her adventures that we’ve seen with this series and her times with The Doctor and UNIT.

The scene where she empathised with Lance’s distraught mother was poignant. Sarah Jane can probably relate more to Carrie’s distress now that she’s a parent than she might have done before Luke became such an integral part of her life.

Lance had an interesting relationship with his mother following the death of his father. Anyone who loses a parent at a young age can probably relate to Lance in this way. It’s also a shame that garnering an ill advised nickname from Luke was how his peers had seen him.

I get that Luke wasn’t being intentionally malicious but this did remind viewers, not that reminding is needed that Luke is still alien to human feelings. Clyde spending most of the time teaching him slang and how to fit in raised some good comedy. It’s becoming harder not to like Clyde as the series goes on.

One thing I’m also noticing about the series, especially with this story and the previous one is that our gang seems to split in two. Maria and Sarah Jane are usually investigating on one hand and Clyde and Luke are usually getting caught by the baddie on the other.

This could be an interesting case of role reversal, it could also be incidental but it is quite noticeable too. While Clyde and Luke are sucked into the grips of Combat 3000, its Sarah Jane, Maria and Mr Smith who are doing the grunt work into figuring out how and why so many children have recently disappeared.

Mr Grantham really was a Pied Piper type of man, wasn’t it? Luring children into the realms of computer madness, all so that his alien partner, the Kudlak could test them out as warriors. Choon Sibian brought a very slimy quality to the character, more so during his confrontation with Sarah Jane and Maria.

Slimy as he may have been though, he was also quite thick as a villain too. The Kudlak could barely tolerate him and both Sarah Jane and Maria were able to escape and knock him out at different points (damn, Maria is good). He was even dumb enough to assume that both of them wouldn’t make it off the Kudlak’s ship alive as well.

Sarah Jane’s reaction to that really interested me. Here, she was really confident that she would save the day and survive the ship. It’s not always a bad attitude to have (expect the best get the best) but it did sort of surprise me too. Maybe we weren’t supposed to see the Kudlak as a real threat.

He was determined to use the kids to fight in an intergalactic war with the Malakh but by the time we got into the second half of the episode, we saw more to him. There was the Mistress, who was far more bloodthirsty for war than the Kudlak himself. Even when the Kudlak attempted to embrace the idea of peace, she appeared affronted by this.

Other things I loved about this episode was Luke and Clyde. Sure they got snared by the baddie, but like all good companions, they banded together and tried their very best to escape along with the other kids captured. Too bad that their attempts were thwarted but it did give Luke a chance to point out that none of the kids were ready for an actual war.

The discussion on war in this episode could be seen as a little topical. Maria went to lengths to point out that there was a difference between kids enjoying mindless violent video games and actually going to war while Lance discussed his father’s history of war and Jen also realised that they were going to be forced to fight.

In the end, the reveal of the war being over saw an incredible reverse from the Kudlak. He shot his Mistress in anger (no surprise she was a computer) after Luke showed him the Emperor’s message and even offered Sarah Jane the choice to kill him. It’s nice to see alien characters given dimension on this show too. Naturally though, Sarah Jane declined on killing Kudlak.

As for Grantham, I really wanted him to get his just desserts in this story but sadly he got away. Sarah Jane did point out that people like Grantham were unable to stay out of trouble so hopefully she’s right in guessing that he’ll get his due in time. As for Luke wanting to know more about girls, I can imagine the future plots with that one.

Also in “Warriors Of Kudlak”

Mr Smith really does do that booming fanfare with some gusto, huh? It’s going to make a future reference so accurate.

Luke: “At breakfast, I am so hungry; I could murder a box of cornflakes. Does that make me a cereal killer? You’re not laughing.”
Maria: “It wasn’t very funny.”

Grantham made some horribly patronising comments about Luke being close to his mother before realising his potential.

Sarah Jane (re Luke): “Is he really finding it hard to fit in, Maria?”
Maria: “No harder than the rest of us. Clyde will talk to him. It’ll be alright.”

Luke: “How did you grass me up?”
Clyde: “Look, we’ll get back to Slang 101 another day.”

Clyde mentioned that his dad left him and his mother for his aunt Melva. That’s cold.

Kudlak (to Mr Grantham): “Neither of us is irreplaceable. Not I and certainly not you.”

Sarah Jane (to receptionist, re Combat 3000): “Apparently it’s the nuts.”
Maria: “Okay, let’s agree to never say that ever again.”

Nice little take on when a companion says something to fit in but sounds silly doing it. Maria basically channelled The Doctor during that moment.

Mr Grantham: “I know, I probably should’ve called you first, but.”
Sarah Jane: “Not at all, Mr Grantham. I’m always delighted to study new forms of human low life in the comfort of my own home.”

Mistress: “Welcome my warriors.”
Luke: “We’re not warriors, we’re kids.”
Kudlak: “None of those before you had the initiative to escape the holding deck. None forced my return to the ship to deal with them. You are good warrior stock.”

What was the name of that machine Sarah Jane and Maria to cause the weather patterns to change?

Mistress: “You seem weary, general.”
Kudlak: “It has been a long war, Mistress. I grow old, dreaming of peace.”

Lance: “It doesn’t make a difference if he can fly it or not. We’re not going anywhere.”
Luke: “You wanna make a wager?”
Clyde: “Respect, Luke, respect.”

For the only time in the first season, there are no appearances from either Alan or Chrissie. Pity, I would’ve liked to have seen the former in this story.

Maria: “It’s incredible. Even after seeing everything, I never thought I’d see this.”
Sarah Jane: “Maybe if everybody could see the Earth from up here, they might appreciate it more. Come on, Maria, let’s go.”

Mistress: “We have no home, Kudlak, except on the battlefield. Peace is a strangers land, we have no place there.”

Chronology: It seems that a short period of time has passed since Clyde’s debut in “Revenge Of The Slitheen”.

Commentaries on bloodlust, computer games and wars aside, “Warriors Of Kudlak” might not be as strong as the previous story but there’s no denying that this series is on a roll with good material as well.

Rating: 7 out of 10.

No comments: