‘No one listens to you when you’re old.’ Between this and Revenge of the Slitheen there’s a clear template for the Sarah Jane Adventures: first episodes are the mystery and investigation, second episodes are the action and climax. Which absolutely makes sense, but it does mean – unless there’s a significant twist – that the back end of the stories largely involve lots of breathless running around. Meanwhile, the parent show is reaching for a more sophisticated way of working its multi-part stories by radically changing the setting and tone between episodes (as in Utopia and The Sound of Drums). Doctor Who is going to push further down that route once Moffat takes over.
As for this: it’s entertaining, with lots of good bits of Sarah, Clyde and Luke cornered by chanting, mind-controlled nuns; the Gorgon Queen attacking (I love the on-brand serpent-shaped tendrils of energy), and a final race to prevent the Gorgons from taking over the world. In between, it’s pleasing that this finds time for some quieter moments, such as Chrissie giving us a glimpse of the real person as she pours out her insecurities to the “statue” of Alan, and Maria seeks help from Bea, lost in her own inner world of Alzheimer’s.
I especially like that a children’s TV show should find time to address a difficult subject that must have affected many families watching, and that Sarah and Maria find the time to return to Bea at the end. Rightly, there is no miracle cure, but a message of listening and treating the elderly with respect rather than locking them up forgotten. Overall, this is a very good story, which builds on its two central double acts (Sarah and Maria, enjoying a much better mother/child relationship than in their own families, and Clyde and Luke as a comedy partnership), and drops more hints that Mr Smith might not be entirely benevolent, as he seems more keen to find out about the Gorgon than to cure Alan.
Next Time: Warriors of Kudlak – Part One