The Sarah Jane Adventures 3.11-12 – The Gift (parts one and two)

One thing after another got in the way back in 2009, and we never actually watched this episode. In fact, when I got the DVD and saw a familiar villainous face on the cover art, I said to myself “I don’t remember any Slitheen in this series!”

There are a couple of Slitheen in this story, but the main baddies aren’t the green baby-faced fiends that we’ve seen before. These are orange-yellow Blathereen, a different family who claim to be much nicer, although no less disgusting, than their distant cousins. They are voiced by Miriam Margolyes and Simon Callow, who I hope really enjoyed the experience of doing something that actors of their caliber rarely get to do: play some belching “simple farming folk” with terrible table manners. And as for their different skin color, the BBC have come a long way from the days when they painted a red Axon costume mostly green for a different monster in “The Seeds of Doom.”

While there is a plot that has to do with the Blathereen, our son was most focused on the B-plot. Clyde brings K9 to school to help him cheat on his biology test. Every line, every camera revelation, every slow burn as Rani silently lets Clyde know what she thinks of this scheme, had him in stitches. Eventually the comedy turns serious when an alien plant sends some spores into the teacher’s face, and the kid was too busy roaring to notice the tone had changed.

That’s all for The Sarah Jane Adventures for now, but there’s more to come. We’ll start series four in October, a couple of weeks after we finish series five of Doctor Who. Stay tuned!

The Sarah Jane Adventures 1.9-10 – The Lost Boy (parts one and two)

I just adore watching the way our son responds when friends or foes from the past resurface. Toward the end of part one of Phil Ford’s “The Lost Boy,” the baddies start unzipping their foreheads, revealing themselves to be Slitheen, and the kid bellowed “You have GOT to be kidding!” Then at the end of the adventure, K9 gets to come out of hiding for a contractually-obligated cameo and he shouted “Yay!” He also joined in with my laughter when he absolutely no idea why I was laughing. Maria explains to her dad that Slitheen are not a race, but a family of chancers, like Only Fools and Horses, but green. So I got a very good giggle and he fake-laughed atop me despite clearly not getting the joke.

Should I tell him that Only Fools and Horses is the same program that Jackie Tyler was referencing when she called Pete a “Del Boy” back in “Father’s Day”, and that it starred David Jason, who he knows as the wonderful Captain Fantastic in Do Not Adjust Your Set, which we watch together every couple of weeks? Probably not.

Anyway, “The Lost Boy” is a fine season finale. It does what the Who world typically does in a finale: bring back an old baddie, pull the rug out from under us, threaten the unity of the heroes, threaten the planet, that sort of thing. It’s incredibly fun watching it all unfold, and realizing that the Slitheen cannot trust their mysterious, unseen ally. I especially like how Clyde proves that he’s more essential than anybody credits him, believably using his wits in a couple of key scenes. And while nobody’s heart is broken by the Slitheen returning to the shelf for a couple of years, I just can’t help myself. I really enjoy the big green farting chancers!

The Sarah Jane Adventures will return to our lineup in the summer, after we have watched series four of Doctor Who. Stay tuned!

The Sarah Jane Adventures 1.1-2 Revenge of the Slitheen (parts one and two)

And now back to September 2007 and the first proper series of The Sarah Jane Adventures and the debut of one of my favorite Who characters, Clyde Langer, played with a perfect mix of disbelief and teenage swagger by Daniel Anthony. He’s a fine actor who hasn’t worked nearly enough, I say.

“Revenge of the Slitheen” was written by Gareth Roberts and it’s a pretty perfect mix of everything that an eight year-old Who fan would want to see. It’s got the return – as the title promises – of the big green baby-faced farting aliens and it’s got evil teachers planning the end of the world from secret rooms, which is more than a bit like “School Reunion,” the Who episode that brought Sarah Jane back. Gross cafeteria food, aliens that explode in slime and goo when they’re not seriously overacting, kids feeling left out and trying to fit in at their new school… it’s honestly like throwing things that worked in Who into a blender with Captain Underpants.

So of course our favorite eight year-old critic loved this to bits and can’t wait to see more. I decided to throw out my moratorium against the “next time” trailers and he’s super-excited for the creepy, shrouded monster that’s coming up in a few days. As much as he smiled and cheered with the craziness here, he says that he was most pleased by deducing that the shrouded monster is a creature like Medusa. Me, I deduce that the print on the wall behind the kids is the Jagaroth spaceship from “City of Death,” but how Sarah Jane knows anything about that caper I couldn’t tell you. There’s probably fanfic.

Doctor Who 1.11 – Boom Town

There’s a delightful moment in “Boom Town” where our heroes are having lunch at a nice restaurant in Cardiff, listening to one of Captain Jack’s naughty stories, and the Doctor spots a familiar face on a newspaper. It’s Margaret Blaine, one of their Slitheen opponents who should’ve been killed six months ago, Earth time. Somehow she’s become Lord Mayor of Cardiff without getting her picture in the paper before now and without anybody in Wales asking “Hey, aren’t you the same Margaret Blaine who was in that brouhaha at 10 Downing Street when it got blown up a few months ago?” And somehow, she’s got a new nuclear power plant in the advanced planning stages as well as getting the demolition of Cardiff Castle – which you’d think would turn public opinion against you – approved.

I love the stories we don’t see in Doctor Who. I’ve mentioned before how the Fang Rock Murders must be the greatest unsolved mystery in folklore. Some people have grumbled that the speed at which Margaret puts this scheme together makes it a bit unlikely. But I want to read the book. I bet that the investigative journalist we meet in this episode wrote an amazing book about how the aldermen of Cardiff backed a Lord Mayor who immediately planned to tear down the castle, left a trail of bodies in her wake, and then vanished from the face of the planet leaving exactly one confirmed photograph behind.

What sells the moment to me is the sad and resigned way that Christopher Eccleston delivers the perfect line, “And I was having such a nice day.”

Doctor Who 1.5 – World War Three

There’s a long tradition in sci-fi and horror of the truth being covered up and a false story given to the public. I’ve always been completely fascinated by what these stories might be, which is why just about my favorite special feature ever made for DVD is a 45-minute documentary added to The Blair Witch Project, a film that I almost certainly love more than you do, that incorporates fake local news reports about the missing students and some 16mm clips from a cheesy 1971 TV series called Mystic Occurrences. I just eat up this kind of stuff.

So when Doctor Who came back in 2005, the BBC went to town and created “in-universe” websites to support the show. You could visit Conspiracy Clyde’s site shown in episode one, and a site that Mickey created that took up the flame, and even UNIT’s site, with the all-access password the Doctor used in this episode: buffalo. At the end of the episode, Mickey is reading the Evening Standard with its big headline, “ALIEN HOAX.” I want to read that article.

(As an aside, if you enjoy Doctor Who and also eat up this kind of stuff, I highly recommend the novel Who Killed Kennedy by David Bishop, which is presented as an “in-universe” expose of UNIT, written during the days when the Third Doctor was fighting Silurians and Axons. The original novel is long out-of-print, but you can dig through a delightful e-book re-presentation of it at TSV.)

Our son approached this as he often does: recovering from a super-frightening cliffhanger by enjoying the pants off of the rest of the story. People grumbled at the time about the farting and the Nickelodeon gak and slime when one Slitheen explodes, just as they grumbled about the burping Auton in episode one, but these were of course splendid additions to the show for its younger viewers.

Doctor Who 1.4 – Aliens of London

Here’s a story that our son was enjoying quite a lot until its cliffhanger ending, which I always thought went on a bit longer than it should have, but succeeded in delivering shock after shock for him. He was entertained by the aliens tremendously when they were in their human disguises, farting and shaking their booties, because he’s eight and greatly enjoys people farting and shaking their booties. However, they then unzip their faces and reveal themselves as the series’ first new recurring alien menace: the Slitheen. And our son was frozen, wincing, and not a little freaked out. Afterward, he asked “Who knows what those crazy baby-faced aliens do with the human bodies once they’ve made a skin? Maybe they’ve had lunch!”

I also enjoyed connecting the dots to the previous two adventures and their mentions of a bad wolf. Our son suspects that the bad wolf is the Doctor, and that somebody has given him that name because he wolves down bad things. Seems a bit unlikely, but that was all he had.

A couple of new recurring faces are introduced this time. Annette Badland plays one of the Slitheen, the only one who’ll make a return appearance. Penelope Wilton is here for the first time as Harriet Jones, MP for Flydale North. Naoki Mori is introduced as Dr. Tosh Sato, and this character would later be a regular in Torchwood, which we won’t be watching for the blog. Mori co-starred with Christopher Eccleston in the biopic Lennon Naked in 2010, which I really enjoyed.