Wednesday, October 20, 2010

My Review of The Sarah Jane Adventures 4x02: "The Vault Of Secrets"

Written by Phil Ford
Directed by Joss Agnew

Androvax: “Sarah Jane Smith, I need your help.”
Clyde: “My hearing must be going. Did Androvax the destroyer of worlds ask us for help?”

I know, how unlikely is that? Oh, wait, this is the same show that had a Sontaran save the world two years ago, so maybe the idea of a creature as destructive as Androvax seeking the Bannerman road crew for assistance isn’t the most farfetched of ideas that this show could come with, is it?

I really enjoyed the antagonist Veil from “Prisoner Of The Judoon”, so I was happy to learn that he was due back for this season and it was timely that he would appear in this story of all of them. You would’ve thought though that after his previous encounter with Sarah Jane that Androvax would’ve been wise enough to stay away from Earth though.

Still, most aliens never learn and usually wind coming back for seconds (or multiples if they’re Slitheen) and the opening few minutes of Androvax legging it from the Alliance of Shades certainly helped to amp up the action for this story in an impressive way.

But this is a story that also showed a more depleted side to Androvax as well. He was skulking in bushes, poorly taking over Rani and then forced to admit when snared by a containment force field thanks to Mr Smith that he was on the verge of death. Even I found myself feeling bad for Androvax this time around.

However it seemed that Androvax’s mission this time around involved bringing his race back to life. Now I’m not sure that the idea of a restored race of creatures that can take over people’s bodies is the best of ideas but despite her obvious mistrust with Androvax, Sarah Jane still felt compelled enough to aid his plight.

After all, she believed that his people deserved to live but even Sarah Jane wasn’t prepared for the fact that by aiding Androvax’s quest to restore his race that she would have to put the Earth in danger. Of course there would be a catch to this. It wouldn’t be simple enough to let Androvax bring his people back without some form of consequence.

And it also wouldn’t have been a good idea just have relegated the androids Alliance of Shades, led by Mr Dread as little more than thugs wanting to eradicate Androvax and wipe away any human memory knowledgeable of alien encounters too. The levels of grey area in this story are definitely its biggest strength.

Androvax itself was as menacing as ever as it went through the whole story possessing Sarah Jane, Rani, Clyde and even Gita at different moments and while it failed to care about putting the Earth at risk, it was hard not to sympathise a little with his desperation to want to save his own people.

Similarly the brutal tactics and all too willingness from Mr Dread and his androids to resort to extreme tactics of their own to accomplish their goal of protecting Earth, regardless of who was in their way was hardly commendable either but again, their motives were understandable to a certain degree and I can’t help but enjoy some of the scenes between Sarah Jane and Mr Dread.

Rarely has their been a story where she’s really gotten to be flippant with a main antagonist and I think there was a cheeky sense of glee from Elisabeth Sladen over certain lines she got to say to Mr Dread as well. It’s a side to Sarah Jane that might not work every week but is certainly amusing in its own right nonetheless.

However for all the jeopardy that was being thrown about over Androvax’s plan, the solution did seem pretty quick fix though and you can’t help but wonder why Mr Dread didn’t just make the sacrifice with his energy supply earlier to transport Androvax’s ship with his people into space. It certainly would’ve saved the Alliance of Shades, Sarah Jane and Androvax a lot of time when you think about it.

And speaking of easy solution, there’s one big issue I have with this entire storyline and that’s Gita. What was the point of finally having Sarah Jane, Clyde and Rani explain more about alien life to her and take a central role in the story if the end result was Mr Dread erasing her memories?

It’s like with the use of retcon in Torchwood and also, I can’t help but think that Sarah Jane made the wrong call here. I know Gita was getting overexcited about the idea of going public with alien life but couldn’t Sarah Jane and the gang have sat down and explained to her why it would be better to keep schtum instead of having her memories erased?

Plus, there’s also the glaring fact that her obliviousness to alien life may have future consequences. Haresh for example is still aware of his previous encounter with the Judoon and Androvax, so if anything, I think Sarah Jane might have caused a problem instead of trying to solve one this week. There’s no way that this can’t come back to bite her in the backside down the line (or more accurately, next season).

As for the BURPSS plot of the story, it could’ve done with some better plotting. Apart from Ocean Waters (what is it with aquatic names in this universe nowadays?), the rest of the characters were a little too background for my liking. Also, in relation to Ocean, she was crucial in Androvax getting the discs to help with his spaceship/surviving race but even with her history of alien encounters with Mr Dread, she was still kind of brushed aside as a result. Then again, maybe she’s another storyline that will have future consequences for Sarah Jane and the gang.

Also in “The Vault Of Secrets”

To get the obvious of the way, Mr Dread and his men were previously seen in the animated feature, “Dreamland”.

Luke: “You see that’s what mum does now that I’m not around to keep an eye on her – sabotages NASA projects.”
Clyde: “She’s so out of control.”

I was thinking that maybe the race that Sarah Jane was trying to prevent NASA from discovering on Mars was either the Ice Warriors or the Flood but I think for the latter, it’s 49 years too early for them.

Haresh: “Sounds thrilling.”
Ocean: “Believe me, Mr Chandra, Ealing is a thrilling place. The aliens are watching us and maybe just waiting for the right moment.”

Mr Smith: “Rani, I sense you’re not quite yourself today.”
Androvax/Rani: “You’re just as annoying as the last time I was here.”

BURPSS stood for British UFO Research And Paranormal Studies Society. Ocean mentioned a few times Ealing, indicating that there was more than her branch out there.

Sarah Jane: “We only want to save Androvax’s species. Why won’t you help us?”
Mr Dread: “The equilibrium must be maintained.”
Rani: “What does that mean?”

Mr Dread: “Impressive, don’t you agree?”
Sarah Jane: “Mr Dread, what happened? Did you call out the AA? Oh, no, no, in your case that would be Androids Association.”

I have to admit that Luke’s appearance in this episode caught me off but then again, he’s still mentioned in Clyde’s opening introduction each week so it’s nice to know that he will still appear on the series from time to time.

Mr Dread: “You have alien technology. It must be confiscated and you must be processed.”
Sarah Jane: “Sorry, hands off.”

Androvax: “And now what, Sarah Jane Smith? Will you help when the rebirth of my civilisation means the end of yours?”
Sarah Jane: “You know I can’t do that.”

There was a moment in this story where Clyde and Rani seemed to be getting closer. Clyde’s take on Terminator lines was pretty amusing as well.

Sarah Jane: “Thank you.”
Mr Dread: “I need a holiday.”

Gita (to Ocean): “I’m sorry, I don’t believe in aliens.”
Rani: “But if you ask me, my mum’s out of this world.”

Chronology: None is specified since the events of “The Nightmare Man”.

“The Vault Of Secrets” definitely continues this show’s records of quality storytelling and while there were certain things that bothered me, overall I did immensely enjoy this one a lot. Next week, it’s Jo Grant and the Doctor – Yay!

Rating: 8 out of 10.

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