Monday, October 12, 2009

My Review of The Sarah Jane Adventures 2x01: "The Lost Sontaran"

Written by Phil Ford
Directed by Joss Agnew

Maria: “It’s me or the Earth.”
Sarah Jane: “No, one life is as sacred as an entire planet.”

When I first saw that exchange in the trailer for the second season, I mistook it for a petulant moment for Maria. Of course in all respect, while Maria might be a teenager and therefore prone to strops, there’s a lot about this story that highlighted her maturity as a character.

I guess when you’ve lived on Bannerman road for less than a year and faced off enough creatures (Trickster and Xylok I’d rank as most dangerous), you’re going to learn a few life lessons and Maria’s one was that you have to move on.

When Alan admitted that instead of London, they’d have to relocate to America for his new job, I thought Maria wouldn’t take it that well. If I hadn’t known that Yasmin Paige was leaving the series, I would’ve assumed that Alan would’ve jacked in the job offer knowing that Maria wouldn’t want to leave Bannerman Road.

Maria agreeing to go to America actually surprised me. I guess as much as she loves working with Sarah Jane, Luke and Clyde, her family always is going to come first and for that, I can’t begrudge her. It’s the scenes however where she has to tell everyone of her departure that are particularly well thought out.

Sarah Jane fell into the trap of cutting herself off when Maria told her. Sarah, you’ve had two incidents where that tactic does more harm than good, so I did feel for Maria when Sarah Jane was cold with her. I expected better.

Luke’s reaction was also similarly sad as well. He had that whole puppy dog look about him when Maria told him that she was leaving. I think Luke had a bit of a crush on Maria, one that he’ll never get to act on as well. Oh well, at least he still has Clyde around as a friend and he’ll be able to see Maria providing Sarah Jane does keep her promise to visit Maria and Alan in America maintained.

Sarah Jane did thankfully come around at the end of the episode and made one hell of an apology to Maria. The fact that Sarah Jane viewed Maria as the daughter she always wanted would probably would sound naff in other shows but the delivery was beautiful here. Sarah Jane and Maria did have a wonderful Doctor/Companion dynamic that was hard not to love.

Also brilliantly done in this story was Chrissie. Typical, she’s severely irritating in all of her previous stories but the one that definitely seems to be her last is the one where the writers decide to make viewers care about her. She might not be mother of the year but it was hard not to feel a bit bad for her when she told Alan that she was going to miss him.

I think the brilliant part was also her discovery of aliens existing. Sometimes Alan really should try to be more convincing in his lies. It was totally telegraphed that Chrissie would come back and break into Sarah Jane’s house to see what was actually going on.

I did think that as soon as Alan started talking about aliens, Chrissie would instantly dismiss him. The fact that she was able to tell that he was being sincere was almost as brilliant as the sight of her knocking out Sontaran Kaagh with her flipping high heels. Well, what else are you going to use when hammers aren’t available?

The other highlight about Chrissie was her remembering everything about alien life. Maria and Alan assumed the knock out gas would’ve stunted her memories but Sarah Jane found out quickly that Chrissie wasn’t half as clueless as she looked. I guess that finally means that whatever Chrissie has with Sarah Jane ended too.

As for the main plot of the episode, I’ve never been a big Sontaran fan but anything is better than Slitheen and they actually worked brilliantly for the opening story. Having a lone Sontaran, hell bent on vengeance over the ATMOS plotline in Doctor Who is exactly why the Sontaran worked so well.

“The Sontaran Stratagem” and “The Poison Sky” aren’t favourites of mine but the continuity references are fantastic and while a Sontaran is nowhere near as scary as a Dalek, the dread that Sarah Jane felt when she knew it was them responsible for the light show around TYCHO wasn’t unjustified.

There are plenty of great exchanges in this episode. Kaagh is far more interesting a Sontaran figurehead compared to General Staal and his exchanges with Clyde and Sarah Jane in particular are delightful. Kaagh doesn’t hold back on his feelings of superiority and he certainly did delight in revelling every time he had the upper hand in this episode.

Because of all this, it then became something of a massive humiliation when Luke managed to shut down all of the codes and Chrissie was the person who knocked him out. Damn, heels can be killer. I’m not sure if Sarah Jane letting him go was a smart thing to do though. Sure, we know her opposition to violence and the like but you also don’t have to be a genius to know that Kaagh will be back for round two come finale time.

Also in “The Last Sontaran”

The story opened and ended with a similar monologue of Sarah Jane lamenting about family and friends. These are always far better done than the ones Torchwood did in their first season.

Maria (re letter): “I think it’s come.”
Alan: “What if it’s a no.”
Maria: “Then it’s a no and nothing’s changed, has it?”

I felt sorry for both Nicholas and Lucy who got caught up in Kaagh’s scheme to destroy the Earth with the satellites.
Clyde: “An alien computer debunking flying saucers. Now I’ve heard everything.”

Luke: “Space is a big place, Clyde. All the radio telescopes in the world couldn’t monitor all of it.”
Clyde: “So, you mean they’re looking the wrong way?”
Maria: “And let’s face it, most aliens don’t want to be seen.”
Clyde: “Unless they’re ready to jump us.”

Given that two months prior to this season starting up, I’m surprised we didn’t get a sly references to Daleks and Davros in this one.

Sarah Jane (to Maria): “Nothing stays the same forever. If there’s anything I’ve learned in my life, it’s that people always move on.”

Lucy: “Spaceships? You’re talking about spaceships here?”
Sarah Jane: “Come on, in this day and age the idea of aliens shouldn’t be so difficult to accept.”

There were a few times in this story where Sarah Jane commented on Mr Smith gaining a sense of humour. I guess Alan did well in that respect.

Kaagh (to Sarah Jane): “You have encountered my kind and survived. You are indeed an extraordinary female.”

Sarah Jane: “The Doctor’s my friend, Kaagh, so you better watch out.”
Kaagh: “No, it’s you who is in peril.”

Clyde made with the spud related jokes like he was going to do. I did laugh when Kaagh referred to him as “Bitesize” though.

Chrissie: “I don’t believe you, Alan. I know when you’re lying. I’ve always known. Maria’s in danger, isn’t she and it’s got something to do with Calamity Jane?”

Kaagh: “Nothing will stop us.”
Chrissie: “Try my size eight, Humpty.”

The trailer for the next story did show that Rani Chandra would be moving into Maria’s house with her parents. Looks like Sarah Jane will have another fighter in her corner.

Sarah Jane (to Maria, re Chrissie): “Your mum will have saved the world. She won’t have a clue.”
Alan: “Believe me, it’s better that way. We’d never hear the end of it.”

Sarah Jane (to Maria): “No, I was wrong. You see for the first time, I felt as if I’d found a family and so soon, so sudden, I felt as if I was losing it. Losing the daughter I always wanted.”

Chronology: Six weeks passed at the end of the episode. I’m not sure how many since “Journey’s End” for Sarah Jane and Luke.

“The Last Sontaran” made for a good opening story, solid in many places and a bit more adventurous than anything involving Slitheen. You also have to give credit for the way Maria was written out of the series.

Rating: 8 out of 10.

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