Saturday, 13 October 2007

Gradin' Sladen

I must admit, when they first announced Sarah-Jane Adventures, yet another spin-off of Doctor Who for those who don't know, I can't say I was too thrilled. I enjoy me some Doctor Who; and I know it's supposed to be a family show but there are a lot of times when watching certain episodes that I wouldn't have batted an eye-lid if it was on CBBC. Hell there were times when aliens started farting or used straws to suck blood that I expected to see the CBeebies logo in the top corner and Basil Brush to make a cameo. So when it was said that 'Sarah-Jane' would be a kids-centric spin-off of an already kiddy show, I feared that it would be more Chucklevision than Doctor Who; and that they'd stop the aliens through a series of slapstick mishaps that would end with an anvil dropping on the bad guys head. So it delights me to say that, after watching 4 episodes (5 if you include the New Years pilot), it is so far not absolutely terrible. In fact I'd say it's better than at least half of Doctor Who and about two-thirds of Torchwood.

My main worry before seeing the show was with the enemies. Doctor Who has always been hit-and-miss with it's enemy characters. For every brilliant evil like The Master or the Clockwork droids there's always been sheer crap like the Slitheen. And whilst the Slitheen are back for the first two episodes of 'Sarah-Jane', you can tolerate them more now they're in a kids show. In fact, it seems the Slitheen have been found the perfect place for them to stay. However, it was with the two subsequent episodes in which I was mostly surprised. My initial thoughts of aliens for a CBBC show would be things kids would think were cool. So skateboard-riding ninja aliens who kill people with Playstation and come from the Planet X it is then. So it was a nice surprise to see that the first original alien was based on the Greek Mythology story of the Gorgons, but with a relatively modern twist. WTF!? Where's my Space ninjas damnit!

Even more surprising is the level of drama outside of the main stories. Sure it doesn't have the adult intensity of the bonk-a-thon Torchwood, but considering it's audience, it has a nice range of child appropriate situations. It ranges from the age-old secret crush story, to hating homework, to the social awkwardness of a teenager starting school (admittedly a teenager that has not only been alive for 3 weeks but was genetically engineered, so quite rightly doesn't get the whole social interaction thing. But still, kids can relate to anything nowadays). But it can also get serious (yet still child appropriate) with the on-going divorce storyline between the main kids parents and her struggle being stuck in the middle of it. A surprisingly well-acted scene occurred with the kid complaining to her mum about her not being around for her anymore. It was quite welcome considering I thought the pinnacle of drama for this show would be the kid complaining to her dad about how he doesn't give her enough pocket money for make-up; and when you compare it to everyone falling in love with The Doctor or the Owen "sex-triangle" in Torchwood, it was quite original.

Overall, I'm pretty impressed with what I have seen so far, the use of CGI, the subtle references to both past and present Doctor stories. Even the two Slitheen episodes were pretty decent, touching on the subject of killing as well as, if not better than The Doctor's scary eyes in last year's Christmas Doctor Who as water poured around him. Let's just hope they don't balls it up now although, judging by the next episode preview, they may just do that. It's based around the gang joining in a game of deadly laser-tag to help find a missing child.

Let's just hope their opponents aren't ninjas.

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