‘Prepare to be incinerated.’ Probably Phil Ford’s best opening episode so far, managing to balance the CBBC comedy of BURPSS (British UFO Research and Paranormal Studies Society) with some interesting moments of reflection and moral complexity. There are a couple of scenes where Sarah Jane’s self-assumed responsibility for hiding the existence of aliens bumps up against the reality of members of the public who have had their own close encounters. In Gita’s case it’s played for laughs, but Ocean Waters has lived her life haunted by what happened to her in 1972, and Elisabeth Sladen has the savvy to make Sarah squirm in the face of it, having been almost smugly sassy during their first meeting.
All this in an episode absolutely dripping with continuity: the return of Androvax from Prisoner of the Judoon and the Men in Black from Dreamland, plus the Pyramids of Mars. Androvax’s last appearance was an opportunity for Sladen to play a baddie; here, he’s repurposed as a tragic villain, begging Sarah Jane for help – leading to another scene where she has to square her distaste for a murderous alien with the possibility of saving a species. This means the Veil duties fall to Rani and Clyde.
This looks great – the creepy old asylum is a vivid setting that contrasts well with the domesticity of the rest of the episode. Androvax’s prosthetics are impressive, but it’s the Men in Blacks’ arm blasters that are really cool.
Next Time: The Vault of Secrets – Part Two