THIS STORY TAKES
PLACE BETWEEN THE
TV STORIES "FROM
PATORIUS WITH LOVE"
AND "THE MAD WOMAN
'THE COMPLETE THIRD
SERIES' DVD BOX SET
IN NOVEMBER 2010.
The rhino-like Judoon
return, as their VEIL
prisoner crashes on
Luke, Clyde and Rani
must fight their most
fearsome enemy yet -
Sarah Jane Smith!
15TH OCTOBER 2009 - 16TH OCTOBER 2009
I wasn’t banking on The Sarah Jane Adventures returning for a third season.
Broadcast in a slightly earlier slot than previously, the show’s second run had only drawn
half the audience of its first, and series creator and executive producer Russell T Davies
had spoken of his reluctance to continue to produce the series in the face of inevitable budgetary cutbacks. But despite these obstacles, Doctor Who’s lesser-known spin-off is back for its third and perhaps most promising season yet.
The season’s two-part opener, Prisoner of the Judoon, is a delightful romp that really does
a fantastic job of reminding us of the magic of the Whoniverse. Fair dues, Phil Ford’s script is not his most inspired or intricate to date, but it is resplendent fun throughout and the cast have clearly had a ball in bringing it to life.
Ford’s story begins with a Judoon prison transport crash-landing on Earth, and the Judoon Captain’s charge escaping in the aftermath. As such the preponderance of the narrative follows the Judoon Captain’s attempts to recapture his prisoner, and Sarah Jane and her gang’s attempts to prevent any innocent human beings being diced in the crossfire.
“Who d’you think you are, Jack Bauer?”
Very much like Commander Rok Ma in Colin Brake’s recent Doctor Who novel Judgment
of the Judoon, Captain Tybo is an irresistibly amiable character; dedicated and decidedly dangerous, but clearly on the lighter side of grey. What makes him so fun to watch is his propensity for humour – whether the character is intentionally being funny in a deadpan, understated sort of way, or whether he is genuinely that enthusiastic about adhering to the letter of the law is anybody’s guess, but the net result is the same. Shooting Clyde with a water gun; ‘requisitioning’ a police car from two terrified coppers; driving the aforesaid police car at exactly 30mph to conform to road traffic laws; and then ordering the gang to ‘pay and display’ once he’s parked the same are just a few examples of Tybo’s comic gift.
The comedy is the story isn’t limited to Tybo, however. Rani’s parents Haresh and Gita Chandra are dealt a fine hand by the script, which allocates them a full-blown comic sub-
plot that brings them face to face with the Judoon and the truth that aliens exist! For me,
Ace Bhatti’s measured performance all but steals the show.
“It was like he just stepped inside her body…”
The Judoon’s prisoner, Androvax, provides the story with its darker moments. A bizarre and monstrous creature that can literally ‘step inside’ a person’s body and take them over, this “Destroyer of Worlds” certainly gives Tybo a run for his money. And interestingly, Androvax inhabits Sarah Jane’s body for much of the story, giving Elisabeth Sladen a rare chance to play things a little bit differently, showing us a much more wicked, even quite seductive side to her repertoire. An odd move for the season’s opening story, it has to be said, but one that works all the same.
I was also pleased to see that the story looked magnificent on screen, the story’s opening episode marking the series first venture into the world of HDTV. The second episode is particularly stunning, as Androvax uses nanotechnology to recreate the Roswell spacecraft
in an attempt to flee the Judoon’s jurisdiction. I assume that this is the same spacecraft that will feature in the upcoming Doctor Who ‘Area 51’ animation Dreamland; a much more restrained nod to The Sarah Jane Adventures’ parent series than the treat that is to come
in a fortnight’s time…
My only real complaint with this story would be that at times it needlessly tries to punch well above its weight. There is nothing wrong with a frivolous frolic every once in a while; you really don’t need to give your villain a disproportionately dark and sledgehammer-obvious sob-story that only serves to rub against the grain. I wasn’t impressed with the opening montage either; the whole skit feels like a cross between a send up of Torchwood and a CBBC trailer!
Still, with Doctor Who still noticeably absent from our television screens, The Sarah Jane Adventures at least go some way towards filling the gaping chasm. And when they are as compelling Prisoner of the Judoon is, it’s difficult to remember that you aren’t watching the real thing.
Copyright © E.G. Wolverson 2009
E.G. Wolverson has asserted his right under the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act, 1988 to be identified as the author of this work.
The Sarah Jane Adventures makes a triumphant return for a third series this week, and very welcome it is too. Not to downplay the series at all, but it seems a little
more special this year, with so little new Doctor Who on the telly. It keeps us going till the return of its parent show, whilst at the same time entertaining its many young (and not-so-young!) fans. After two successful series, there’s always a concern that a show like this
may run short on ideas. Thankfully, that’s not the case, with the series happy to take both elements from Doctor Who and mix them in with entirely original creations to great effect.
Prisoner of the Judoon, the opening two-parter, is a good example of what the show does so well. It’s silly, enjoyable, well-paced fun, taking an entertaining idea and running with it.
Not only do we have an appearance by the rhinocerotic Judoon, but we also have a new alien species, the Veil, to intrigue us.
The Judoon are used brilliantly here. A species of rhino-headed policemen is perfectly at home in a kids’ show, and Captain Tybo, employing the voice talents of the legendary Nick Briggs, is a fine character. It’s hard not to love a hulking space creature who follows speed limits and parking restriction with an almost religious commitment. He’s kept somewhat dangerous, continually threatening to execute our heroes for the smallest infraction, but we know this’ll never happen; in fact, you can imagine he just says these things to keep them in their place.
However, it’s the Veil that really impresses here. Androvax the Annihilator, to call him by name, is a masterful creation, a yellow-skinned, forked-tongued reptilian, looking something like a thorny devil lizard. It is a bit of a shame that, after creating such a brilliant make-up piece, the creature spends most of its time possessing humans. Nonetheless, this plotline leads to some great moments. First creepily possessing a little girl, Androvax then leaps
into the body of Sarah Jane herself. Lis Sladen spends much of the remaining time camping it up atrociously; narrow-eyed, slinky and sibilant. It’s tremendous fun to watch, and I bet she had a fabulous time doing it.
Androvax’s plan – to use experimental nanotech to create a getaway ship, at the expense
of the Earth’s survival – is suitably threatening. Nanites are already a bit old hat in sci-fi, but
I doubt that will bother any of the kids watching, and they do at least provide a potent threat. The creation of the Roswell spaceship, tying into the upcoming animation Dreamland, is also a nice touch. I also like the fact that Androvax is simply destroying worlds for the hell of it; he’s been driven over the edge by his own world’s destruction. The moralising can get a little twee occasionally, but again, I doubt that the youngsters feel the same way.
The only real issue with this story is the use of the three younger regulars. They simply don’t get enough to do, and spend a good deal of time just following either Sarah or Tybo around, making the odd sarky comment. It’s a shame really, because all three actors have really got
their characters nailed now. Still, that’s a hazard of having an ensemble cast in such a short programme, and hopefully they’ll all get their moment to shine during the run.
Better served are the Chandras, well played by Ace Bhatti and Mina Anwar, who finally get
to have a bit more character development and an adventure of their own. It’s great that they meet the Judoon here, quashing the hoary old ‘don’t let the parents know what’s going on’ plotline, which gets stale quickly. It does feel that the Chandra family is coming together and working in the show in a way that they hadn’t in Series 2. A good indication, I hope, of things to come. This series promises to be fine stuff.
Copyright © Daniel Tessier 2009
Daniel Tessier has asserted his right under the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act, 1988 to be identified as the author of this work.
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