Saturday, November 14, 2009

My Review of The Sarah Jane Adventures 3x05: "Mona Lisa's Revenge"

Written by Phil Ford
Directed by Joss Agnew

Mona Lisa (to Luke): “I’ve just had five centuries hanging on a wall, sugar. What is it you think I want? It’s time I had a bit of fun and I think I’ll start with a bit of target practice.”

They say that you should never meet your heroes because they’ll only end up disappointing you. If that’s really the case, then a suddenly made flesh Mona Lisa really does one worse, doesn’t she? I never knew the object of Leonardo’s painting was such a psychopath until this story surfaced.

Flown in from the Louvre, Mona Lisa’s arrival was going to generate much attention. If Doctor Who can give us Dickens, Shakespeare and Agatha Christie, then building an alien related story around the Mona Lisa was always going to be a walk in the park. In a way it painted a very different picture behind the famous lady.

Of course Mona Lisa coming to life from her painting had to involve the gang, so Clyde winning a competition to see Mona Lisa was a good way of getting them right into the action. Let’s just say that Clyde’s artistic talents are a big part of this story. After all, he drew Sontaran blasters on his own prize winner and Lisa certainly had fun using one of them at her disposal.

Suranne Jones, mostly known for her role of Karen McDonald in Coronation Street was an interesting choice for the title role. Certainly not what I would’ve envisioned for the role but it worked out very well. Provided you put your pedantry about the real Mona Lisa aside and switched your brain off.

In some ways, watching her in action as Lisa was like watching her Corrie alter-ego all over again. Lisa might have boasted about being the classiest woman around but she certainly didn’t act that way through the whole story. Even in the 1500s they must have had ladette culture.

Still her allure was enough to get Lionel Harding mostly trying to appeal to her better nature. This story wouldn’t have been complete without at least one person gushing over the Mona Lisa and Lionel was the very fellow who worshipped the painting and the woman come to life as a result.

It meant because of his worship that he chose to ignore Sarah Jane’s warning about Miss Trupp’s awful fate being bound in a painting. It was also the same fate that befell Sarah Jane and pretty much everyone else as well as a result. Well, Lisa did need something other than a Sontaran blaster at her disposal, didn’t she?

So, apart from escaping a painting, where else could they have gone with the character? It seemed that the writer Phil Ford wanted to strive for a bit of an emotional arc. That meant Lisa wanting to release her brother from the painting that he had been trapped in. If you think that underneath it all, there’s a touching story here, look again.

Not only was Lisa utterly clueless about what her alleged brother actually looked like but it turned out very fast that the mysterious was also something of a sociopath. As if one nutcase wasn’t enough, this story was going to throw two into the mix. At this point, even Harding was beginning to realise that Lisa’s release from her painting was a bad thing.

Discontent with the fact that she was trapped in the museum itself, releasing her brother was going to be the best revenge she could get. After all, he went by the name of the Abomination, apparently drove people insane who gazed upon and once released would burn the world. It was also due to their connection and both of them being in the same building that she was able to get free in the first place.

With Sarah Jane mostly out of the loop, it was up to the kids to save the day with this one. Mona Lisa herself delighted in taunting Luke about his mother being trapped in a painting and she also wasted no time in releasing the Dark Rider to try and keep them out of the way.

The macguffin of the story however lay in the Chinese lock the story was under. When Luke agreed to help Lisa get her brother after Harding smashed the lock, the plan seemed obvious enough. Clyde drew a new lock; Mona Lisa brought it to life and inadvertently K9 along with it. K9 destroyed the Abomination and Mona Lisa found herself going back into her painting.

There was an air of simplicity to it but it was effective enough. Mona Lisa went from being affronted by the idea of being living art (Harding’s original offer) to seeing it as the lesser of two evils. I guess the moral of the tale here was that some things really are best left to where they originally were.

As a concept Mona Lisa did work. She was evil enough to drive the story, had a fairly original take on wanting to be reunited with a lost family member and Suranne Jones, despite being a bit OTT in places really seemed to have a lot of fun with the role.

As for Harding, I actually felt a little sorry for the bloke. He wasn’t a terrible person, just blinded by his appreciation of the Mona Lisa but at the same time, I did think it was a smart idea for Miss Trupp to tell him off for the way he treated her. That was something that he needed to hear, even if he did do the right thing in the end.

The other part of this story then fell into Luke and Sarah Jane. For the first time we saw Luke act like a real teenage with his argument with Sarah Jane. We also saw Sarah Jane beginning to realise that he’s growing up and like other teenagers, was definitely prone to being a bit lazy from time to time.

Rani’s part in this story by comparison fell a little short. Not very much happened with her at all but there were some moments with Clyde. There was definitely something rather telling with the way he talked to Luke and Rani about drawing for company and even Haresh were forced to admit that Clyde had talent.

Also in “Mona Lisa’s Revenge”

Clyde’s picture contained three scantily clad girls with Sontaran blasters. Not my thing but I can see why it would appeal to others.

Luke: “I don’t know what you want from me. You say you’re trying to give me a normal life but when I act like a real teenager, you want me to be perfect again. The way the Bane made me.”
Sarah Jane: “I’m sorry you feel like that.”
Luke: “So am I.”

There’s a wonderful reference to “Planet Of The Dead” where Harding commented about the cup of Athelstan. I guess the cops never did catch up with Christina and her flying bus.

Phyllis: “Do you know how lucky you are? Lionel worships you. If only he looked at me with the same eyes.”
Mona Lisa: “Oh, quit your moaning love. Do us all a favour.”

Rani: “Good cover story.”
Luke: “No, I really need the loo.”
Rani: “Oh, well like Dad said, be quick.”

One of the things that was promised this season was Haresh and Gita getting more to do but apart from their Judoon encounter, they’ve been pretty underused this season.

Mona Lisa: “Seems like no-one wants you around, Sezza, not even your son.”
Sarah Jane: “What?”
Mona Lisa: “Heard him talking before. He’d like you to keep your nose out. So would I.”

Luke (re Sarah Jane): “What have you done to her?”
Mona Lisa: “Do you not like it? I know art’s meant to be subjective but I think she looks pretty as a picture. Well, most pictures.”

The alien element of Mona Lisa’s appearance seemed to be paints derived from the rocks were from a meteorite.

Lionel: “Can’t you appreciate the wonder of what’s happened today?”
Clyde: “Can’t you appreciate that she’s nuts?”
Mona Lisa: “I’m standing right here, boys.”

Lionel: “I’ve been a fool.”
Mona Lisa: “Well I could’ve told you that any day. Now give me the puzzle.”

Lizo Mzimba was a guest star in the first part of this episode. And I liked Sarah Jane’s reaction when Mr Smith was reading Miss Trupp’s personal ad.

Mona Lisa: “You know, Clydey, this Sultana blaster -”
Rani: “I think you mean Sontaran.”
Mona Lisa: “Whatever.”

Mona Lisa: “I can’t go back into that frame, I won’t.”
Luke: “You’ve got no choice.”
Mona Lisa (to Lionel): “Please. That room you promised me, a living work of art, that’s what you said, I’ll do it. I’ll do anything if you let me stay here. If you let me live.”

Chronology: None was exactly specified in this story, was there?

“Mona Lisa’s Revenge” seems to have divided some online posters. I choose to look at it as a bit of silly fun. Not the best use of an historical character as such but definitely a fun, frothy story. I just hope the finale can be just as good.

Rating: 8 out of 10.

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