...a blog by Richard Flowers

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Day 2521: The Lost Boy


Oh very fluffy dear, we Liberal Democrats seem to have had a bit of a "lost boy" ourselves, with no coverage at all for one of our MEPs for the North West, Mr Sad Kareer, careeming off to join the Conservatories.

I don't think that he will be very happy in a party that goes to such lengths to support one of their councillors' rights to BIG UP a white supremacist. And jumping from the Liberal ALDE group in the European Parliament to the FAR-RIGHT, homophobe-friendly alliance that Mr Balloon proposes will also be a bit of a wrench.

No doubt he is facing this choice BRAVELY because he has had a look at the electoral maths and decided that coming ninth out of nine for the Liberal Democrats when the European Union's musical chairs are reducing the number of seats to eight may mean it is time to change partners before the music stops. He probably thinks that he can do more good for his constituents as an elected Conservatory than an unlucky Liberal Democrat.

Mind you, I am not QUITE sure I see how Mr Kareer squares being a member of the Facebook Group "Am I the only one who hates Mr Balloon" with saying he was convinced by the "vision" of Mr Balloon – or "Chameleon Dave", as Mr Kareer, being a personal friend, is allowed to call him.

I hope that he continues to serve his constituents well, though it will be interesting to see if all of those Conservatories who demanded that Mr Quentin Davis should resign his seat immediately will ALSO call on their new best friend to give up HIS. After all, Mr Davis has a better claim to hold his seat personally as it was his name on the ballot, whereas the people of the North West definitely decided that they wanted two Liberal Democrats. What a shame that they are being denied their democratic choice.

Anyway, while Mr Kareer's career comes to an end, so too does the first season of the Sarah Jane Adventures. On the other fluffy foot, we can be hopeful that Ms Sarah WILL be back next year.

Here is what Daddy Richard thought of the final story…
This would be what Russell T Davies (and the trailer) would call the season finale, and everyone's back for the climax: in the evil corner, the Slitheen – out for revenge for their defeat in, er, "Revenge of the Slitheen" – and in the good corner, hooray, it's the Dog!

Continuity is therefore understandably quite heavy in this story.

For the second time in two stories, someone is planning to smash the Earth into rubble with a cosmic collision. This week, it's Sarah's previously benevolent alien computer "Mr Smith" – in fact composed of a bit of Xyloc crystal welded to a heap of Microsoft and a Dalek cannon – who has decided go in for a spot of planet cracking, to allow the rest of his crystal race to break out. This has been – as he tells us at every opportunity – his "purpose" all along.

His plan is to double-cross the Slitheen, having them bring an alien telekinetic device to Earth, and make use of Luke's Bane-designed mental powers to drag the Moon out of orbit and sledgehammer open the planet.

Since we are getting continuity heavy, you do have to wonder why he didn't just let the asteroid from "Whatever Happened…" do the job for him. Let's be generous and assume that he'd calculated that the asteroid would be insufficient to serve his purpose. (After all, the Earth has survived gigatonne-level impacts before without the Xyloc escaping – Adric and a freighter full of Cybermen spring instantly to mind.)

And along with the Racnoss you have to ask how much else is buried down in the middle of the Earth underneath all those Silurians and the Stahlman's Gas. (Or whatever the Primord-making green gunge really is.)

The first episode is genuinely disturbing television at times. Maria and her Dad are already reeling from the end of the previous story where he was dragged bodily into Sarah's world of aliens and demons. The discovery that Luke is apparently a missing teenager called Ashley throws everyone into further confusion, with Sarah trying to do the right thing for her adopted son and Maria's mother Chrissie showing a really nasty side and turning Sarah and Luke in to the police. There are some serious questions of what is the right thing to do here – Luke is devastated to be taken away from Sarah, but under the circumstances she could easily be seen as the one responsible for his brain-washed condition. Just how easily did she accept that he had been created by the Bane? When "Ashley's" supposed mother challenges her with "And did you think the fairies left him?" this is actually quite near to the knuckle – substitute "aliens" for "fairies" and yes, that is exactly what Sarah thought.

The return of evil child-Slitheen, Carl also raises some difficult ideas. Clearly he is a psychotic murderer – he lusts for the "kill" that he thinks he has been denied. No, let's be fair, by his culture he has been denied. But he's also a boy orphaned by the violent death of his father. That's really not as funny as the giggling, farting, joke monsters that the Slitheen started out as.

Actually, there's some recognition that the joke had gone as far as it could be taken, with the introduction of new skinsuits – to explain quickly how the Raxacoracophalatorians can fit into bodies of any size while also writing out the farting – that go a long way towards making the Slitheen more threatening monsters. In fact, of course, it turns them fully into the Zygons.

Then there's a delightfully unexpected cameo for Floella Benjamin, turning up as director of the Pharos Institute (almost certainly named for but no relation to the Pharos Project in Logopolis – though ironically, this Pharos has had more success in attracting alien intelligences.) Actually, she's a little bit mannered in her performance, but it was lovely to see her nonetheless.

It's also a story for unexpected new talents. Clyde gets a TRON moment, zapped inside Mr Smith and using his previously unheard-of powers to communicate with the outside world, specifically Maria's dad, Alan. And Alan himself turns out to have what he refers to as "mysterious contacts", implicitly in the FBI.

(You have to wonder if we're supposed to infer that Maria's dad really is a spy… though it's probably a coincidence that we've seen him working with Daniel Craig's James Bond in the Madagascar scenes at the start of "Casino Royale"!)

This is actually a bit naughty: random talents coming out of nowhere just when they are needed is a bit of a cheat on the audience – it breaks the old Chekhov's gun rule. You can just about get away with it with Alan, but there is just no acceptable reason for Clyde suddenly to be able to do the one thing that the plot needs him to do.

These flaws tend to undermine the second episode a little, which is much less a creepy psycho-drama and more of a stop-the-evil-computer action adventure. It's got great pace and energy – and good effects: the Moon falling towards the Earth is rather beautifully realised – and you can't not raise a cheer when Sarah pulls her secret weapon out of the hat.

This is actually another interesting point – clearly Mr Smith cannot realise what Sarah keeps in that safe on the opposite wall. I mean he's hardly likely to conceive that it's a portable black hole with a robot dog stuck in it, but it is interesting that Sarah has never talked to both of her synthetic friends simultaneously, nor introduced them before her – admitted dialogue triumph of – "meet my dog!"

Checking back to the DVD of "Invasion of the Bane", though, she does indeed only call on Mr Smith after she has bid K-9 a fond au revoir.

In the end, I think the joy at getting K-9 back, and in action, even for only a minute or two more than outweighs the slight downsides.

It's been a terrific first series, and heavily hinted in the CBBC broom-cupboard that it isn't the last.

Next Time… so what has the Doctor been up in the meantime? He's caught the Flight of the Darned* sorry, the Voyage of the Damned.

* Hat tip, Daddy Alex.


Will said...

I didn't read that as Clyde having special powers but that he'd worked out that if he was in a computer he could message out - it was just represented in a weird way that didn't make much sense :)

The whole missing child plot was the latest element to make it one of the darkest children's series around - a worthy successor to Dark Season and Century Falls.

Millennium Dome said...

Daddy says he's sorry for not being more clear: what he didn't mean that this was some "supernatural power" but that Clyde has previously shown NO computer skills AT ALL.

(And actually, it might have been more interesting if "cool boy" had been shown to be a secret computer geek in class.)