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The Sarah Jane Adventures: Invasion of the Bane

January 9th, 2007 (11:53 pm)

Thankfully sententious pieces of manifesto-waving dialogue like the text in the cut only topped and tailed this episode and didn't make up all of the script, which was very well judged and was more enjoyable than 'The Runaway Bride', because it didn't try too hard. The teenage cast were believable and gave disciplined performances - lots of teenagers of either sex stomp around in an ungainly fashion like Kelsey, and there must be plenty of those who wish they could manage to question prevailing orthodoxies, like Maria, without becoming socially ostracized. There's something comfortingly applaudable about a character whose integrity is established by her rejection of BubbleShock with the words "I'd rather have a cup of tea." The introduction of Luke should help this if he is used well; despite his turning up in conventional teen fashion at the end, questions such as "Why do men never go to the ladies?" are not just good gags but emphasise an open-mindedness about social conventions that will contrast well with Kelsey's urge to conform, explored so well by Mrs Wormwood's mind-scan.

So much of the episode revolved around the sort of fantasies that I had as a child, or could see my childhood self having now. It's never explained why one has to turn off mobile phones in all kinds of unexpected locations, for example; perhaps there are alien life forms around the petrol pumps, or stowed away on aeroplanes or in hospitals? There seemed to be so much going on; the appearance of Blue Peter's Konnie and Gethin could be interpreted as a comment on the uneasy relationship between BBC children's television and the heavily commercialized environment of modern childhood.

Elisabeth Sladen's Sarah led this episode in a way that was never the case in K9 and Company a quarter of a century ago. The only disappointment was that Sarah only seems to have seriously set up as an independent investigator of otherworldly affairs since her last encounter with the Doctor in 'School Reunion'; this contradicts her reason for being at Deffry Vale School earlier in 2006, and runs against the Sarah that we knew in the 1970s and even in K9 and Company, who had more independent initiative than that. Still, it was pleasing to see that she has pictures of her old chums from Doctor Who on her wall. I don't know enough about cars to recognise the model that she drove, but it's more appropriate for her than the Metro we saw her driving back in 1981; I always thought of Sarah as someone with individuality and style.

Torchwood's 'Everything Changes' had Jack's early conversations with Gwen echo those of the Doctor and Rose when they first met, and Sarah's dismissal of Maria, urging her to go home and get on with her life and stay out of Sarah's, was all but a direct lift from the ninth Doctor's order that Rose should go back to her life of beans on toast and let him swan off. Events make Sarah realise her responsibility to those who get involved in her investigations just as the Doctor had to accept Rose's resourcefulness.

One of the dialogues in the episode that I noticed was the contrast exploited between Sarah's childlessness and Mrs Wormwood's praise of motherhood; without children of her own, Mrs Wormwood thinks that Sarah has had a 'wasted life'. As in the other Russell T Davies series, it's emphasised that biological families can let you down (Maria's mother deserts her and her father drinks Bane and is possessed) and that you don't need to have your own biological children to pass on your experience. Even the reunion of the Tyler family in Doctor Who is an unorthodox family, because Jackie and Pete are 'married' to alternative versions of the people they were married to, Rose is not Pete's daughter, and Mickey seems to be hanging around for other reasons. In Torchwood, John Barrowman has noted that Jack has a father-son relationship with Owen, even though physically they are close in age. Russell is avowedly sceptical of the hereditary principle, and the Bane mother or Mrs Wormwood could be roughly parallelled with that other imperialist, the Queen Victoria of 'Tooth and Claw'.

My six-year-old first cousin once removed, Duncan, watched some of the episode with me on New Year's Day and opined that this was just like Doctor Who, except that Doctor Who was about a boy who rescues a girl, while The Sarah Jane Adventures was about a girl who rescues a boy. This looks to be a good assessment of part of the dynamic of The Sarah Jane Adventures, as Sarah and Maria educate both Luke and Maria's father, one way or another. The series doesn't go before the cameras until April, which means that we might not see the series until the autumn. It's going to be a long wait.


Posted by: parrot_knight (parrot_knight)
Posted at: January 11th, 2007 09:46 am (UTC)

I think, though, that there is a certain continuity between it and Bessie, which for those in the know isn't a vintage car either.