Saturday, November 21, 2009

My Review of The Sarah Jane Adventures 3x06: "The Gift"

Written by Rupert Laight
Directed by Alice Troughton

Clyde (upon being covered in Blathereen guts): “Why does this always happen to me?”

When it comes to finales, I won’t lie – I wanted something else. Anything else. Instead we got the Slitheen for five minutes and the Blathereen for the rest of the story. The phrase ‘mixed bag’ definitely seemed appropriate for this story.

The opening sequences had the gang chasing a young boy. Already this was a clue that he wasn’t human. As soon as it was mentioned that the boy had a matter compressor that was the second clue that he wasn’t human. To be honest if the trailers hadn’t spoiled it, I would’ve thought he was some other life form.

Instead the mystery angle was up reasonably quick when the boy’s assistant got out of his guise and revealed himself to be a Slitheen. Aren’t child Slitheen more annoying than their adult counterparts? This one certainly was. In terms of plans, it was another let’s crush Earth and make a profit spiel.

The only difference this time around is that Sarah Jane didn’t save the day. No, that honour went to husband and wife duo, Tree and Leaf who took out their rivals. Certainly a way to introduce the Blathereen but even their seeming act of nobility didn’t quell the gang’s suspicions of them.

Come on, why should we trust the Blathereen? Apart from the fact they’re orange, they look exactly like the Slitheen and they did come across as being a bit too good to be true. Rani seemed to be the only member of the team who was quick to embrace them. It could show recklessness on her part but I sort of got why she was eager to trust them.

Without their intervention, the Slitheen child might have killed Rani and the Blathereen themselves did apologise at great lengths to the gang for the Slitheen crimes committed on Earth. They even offered to come to dinner, which ended up having Clyde to use his culinary skills.

The dinner scene was certainly one of the funniest moments on the show this season. I think this is one of the first times we’ve seen an alien of their ilk chowing down on tomato soup and shepherd’s pie instead of something meatier. It still didn’t stop Clyde from making a few snarky comments though.

Of course the main reason why the Blathereen wanted to attend dinner with the gang was to give them Rackweed. Apparently it was the miracle plant, able to quell famines and the like. Sarah Jane did muse about the fact that aliens bearing gifts rarely turned out well but it didn’t stop her from accepting the gift no less.

I guess the disappointing thing about this story is the gift itself. There was no way that the Rackweed plant was going to be a benevolent offering. It would have to be something sinister and it also had to be something clever enough to even dupe Mr Smith as well. It also didn’t take long to spread either.

In less than a day, it seemed to spread all the way throughout London without Sarah Jane even making it public. Worse than that, it also began infecting people at random. Luke notably was the one who we saw suffer the worst from the plant’s effect, succumbing to the point of near death as well.

It gave Tommy Knight some good scenes to play off with Elisabeth Sladen but as bad as Luke’s predicament was, I never felt that we were actually going to lose him. I’m also glad we didn’t either. But I did find a more ruthless side to Sarah Jane far more interesting than the arrogance The Doctor displayed last Sunday in “The Waters Of Mars”.

When she was on the Blathereen spaceship, I actually wanted her to kill them on the spot. After all minutes before she landed on their ship, they openly ridiculed her stupidity for trusting them. They even managed to briefly turn the tables on her by keeping her captive for a few minutes.

The story did reveal two interesting things. One that the Blathereen had a bit of Slitheen in them and that they were ten times worse than their cousins and two, their addiction to the Rackweed. Seeing them chomp on the stuff was less funny, more grotesque but even they acknowledged that a planet filled with Rackweed would be too much for them.

It seems that the inhabitants from that planet are all just desperate to make money any way they can. Sadly in spite of all the danger surrounding them, that fact almost diminishes the carnage that ensued as a result of the story. Sarah Jane’s trapped on a ship, Luke’s near death and Clyde, Rani and K9 are trapped in the school with Rackweed after them. It doesn’t look.

The solution however of all the noise destroying the Rackweed was a little random though. However it did pay off when such noise also caused the deaths of both Tree and Leaf. Who would’ve thought that farting to death would pop up on this show? Not the most glorious of villain demises, now is it?

As for the end of the story, I thought the picnic scene was touching if a little twee. It’s been an interesting year for this show with the cast certainly more and more grounded into their respective roles. We had moments of Clyde’s silliness for trying to use K9 to cheat in a test, Sarah Jane fears of losing Luke and the snarky factor between K9 and Mr Smith. However for the next season, can we please have the Trickster?

Also in “The Gift”

The opening scene played a little similar to the trailer of the interactive game that was around during the promoting of Season 3.

Rani (re Slitheen): “How do we find him?”
Clyde: “We’d need a bloodhound.”
Sarah Jane: “Oh, why didn’t I think of that?”

This finale was scripted by a new writer, Rupert Laight. I wonder if he’ll be back next season.

Slitheen: “Sarah Jane Smith, how predictable.”
Sarah Jane: “I prefer reliable. Now I won’t ask you again, switch it off.”
Slitheen: “No chance.”

Clyde: “Look at me, cooking for the enemy.”
Sarah Jane: “I didn’t know you could cook, Clyde.”
Clyde: “I’m a man of many talents and it’s only shepherd’s pie. Mum taught me.”

The Blathereen have previously appeared in the Doctor Who book, “The Monster Inside”. This is their only TV appearance so far.

Tree: “Imagine the fame and the glory.”
Sarah Jane: “I’m not too bothered about the fame thing. We do what we do to help the world.”

Mr Smith: “I was going to thank you. A break from the dog is most needed.”
Clyde: “Bit annoying is he?”
Mr Smith: “I couldn’t possibly comment.”

I loved the little shout out to Perivale in this story. I’ll take my Seventh Doctor/Ace references where I can get them.

Rani: “Do you know what cynical means?”
Clyde: “I call it being realistic.”

Rani: “You’re actually going to go through with this, aren’t you? Cheating on a test, you’ve no morals at all.”
Clyde: “Oh and that’s why you love me.”
Rani: “Dream on, Clyde, dream on.”

Once again, both Gita and Haresh were absent from proceedings. So much for them getting bigger roles this season. And Tree was voiced by Simon Callow.

Tree (re Sarah Jane): “You have to feel sorry for her.”
Leaf: “Why? She took the Rackweed because she wanted glory. Same reason they always do. Get their ugly faces in the paper.”

Sarah Jane (re Slitheen): “You’re as bad as they are.”
Leaf: “For that remark we won’t kill you. We’ll keep you alive to watch your beloved planet Earth die and then we’ll kill you.”

The third season is due for DVD release in January 2010. Hopefully there’ll be no delays for it either.

As a finale goes, “The Gift” is a mixed bag. I can’t help but wonder if with some tweaking whether or not “The Wedding Of Sarah Jane Smith” would’ve been the better way to have ended the season. Still the Blathereen weren’t that bad and the character moments were nice as usual and here’s hoping for a fourth season. The show definitely deserves it.

Rating: 8 out of 10.

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