Tuesday, 23 January 2018

Invasion of the Bane - Sarah Jane Adventures: Pilot

In which schoolgirl Maria Jackson and her father move into a new home on Bannerman Road in Ealing, West London. They have moved house as Maria's parents - Alan and Chrissie - have recently divorced. She notices a large house opposite. When the owner emerges she is very abrupt with them, not wishing to get into conversation. She does introduce herself, however - journalist Sarah Jane Smith. That night, Maria sees strange lights coming from Sarah's garden and she sneaks across the road to see what is happening. She spies Sarah with an alien creature, which hands her something before flying off into space. Maria goes home, intending to keep what she has seen a secret from her dad. The next day a girl named Kelsey turns up at the house to say hello. She insists that Maria accompany her to the Bubble Shock! factory. This new soft drink has taken the nation by storm, but Maria does not like it. Regular bus tours go to the factory, where visitors can look round and get free samples. At the factory, everyone is ordered to turn off their mobile phones by a young man named Davey. Maria does not like the way he continually tries to push the drink onto people. She spots Sarah, and wanders away from the tour group.

Sarah has come to interview the manager - Miss Wormwood. She tells her that she has tried to analyse the drink, but found that it contains ingredients which can't be recognised. She comments on Miss Wormwood's name - in the Bible it refers to a star that will fall to Earth and fill the world with bitterness. She knows that Miss Wormwood is an alien - and Miss Wormwood knows that she knows. After she has left, scans reveal that Sarah has residual traces of Artron Energy - meaning that she has travelled through time and space. Miss Wormwood orders that she be prevented from leaving the factory. Maria meanwhile has found a boy in a medical bay in a secure part of the building. Kelsey uses her phone, which triggers an alarm. The boy wakes up and Maria decides to take him to safety - and encounters Sarah. Sarah uses her sonic lipstick to get them out of the factory. Kelsey finds herself in Miss Wormwood's office, where she reveals her true form - that of a huge squid-like creature. She is an alien Bane. She scans Kelsey's mind and learns the location of Sarah's home. Davey is sent to kill Sarah, and to retrieve the boy.
At Sarah's house, the boy proves to be only a few hours old, yet looks like he is almost a teenager. He also lacks a navel. He can learn rapidly. Sarah is forced to tell Maria that she investigates aliens, and tells her of her time with UNIT and with the Doctor. In her attic is her study, and behind one of the walls is a supercomputer which she calls Mr Smith. A safe contains a portal to a black hole which is being held in check by K9. When Kelsey turns up - her memories of what happened in Miss Wormwood's office wiped - they realise that the Bane know where to find them, as Davey had given her a lift. He arrives and reverts to his natural tentacled form. Sarah uses an alien gas to chase him away.

Back at the factory, Davey is killed for his failure. Miss Wormwood decides to advance her plans. Bubble Shock! contains extract of Bane and is deliberately addictive. When a signal is transmitted from the factory, those who drink it will fall under the mental control of the Bane. The boy was genetically created from the DNA and memories of all the visitors to the factory in order to develop the drink's addictive properties. The signal is sent, and everyone is zombified - lurching through the streets forcing the drink onto those unaffected. Sarah decides that they must go to the factory to stop the Bane. They break in and discover that hidden within the compound is the Bane Mother - a huge specimen of the race. It is susceptible to mobile phone signals. Sarah has with her the object which had been given to her by the alien in the garden. This was a star poet, and the object is a communications device. The boy uses this to boost the signal from Maria's mobile phone, and this destroys the Bane Mother. They flee the factory before it explodes, but Miss Wormwood is able to make her escape before the blast. Those affected by the drink wake up, unaware of what has just happened.
Back at Bannerman Road, Sarah has Mr Smith plant a false story in the news to cover up the incident. She decides to adopt the boy as her son, and he takes the name Luke. Maria is now part of her secret world, investigating aliens and helping to defend the Earth. As much as she enjoyed travelling with the Doctor, Sarah knows that the Earth can be just as interesting and exciting, having come to terms with her life back home after meeting the Doctor again the year before.

Invasion of the Bane was co-written by Russell T Davies and Gareth Roberts, and was first broadcast on New Years Day 2007. The Sarah Jane Adventures were created by Davies as the second spin-off from Doctor Who after Torchwood. Whilst Torchwood had been targeted at more adult viewers, The SJA were aimed squarely at the younger ones.
The inspiration had come from Elisabeth Sladen's highly successful return as Sarah Jane Smith in Series 2's School Reunion. Sarah would now fight aliens on the streets of London, carrying on the work of the Doctor. She is joined only briefly by K9. He is stuck in a safe monitoring a black hole which threatens the Earth - caused by a scientific experiment going wrong. This is merely a cameo appearance, as K9 was about to get his own independent spin-off series developed by co-creator Bob Baker, to be filmed in Australia. In his place we are introduced to the supercomputer Mr Smith, voiced by Alexander Armstrong. Sarah has been very much a loner, who never settled down with a partner. She suddenly finds herself a mother to Luke, and a surrogate one to Maria, whose own mother has gone off with her dance instructor and split up the family. Sarah has her own Doctor-ish gadgets, including a sonic device, in the shape of her sonic lipstick. She has a scanner built into her wristwatch as well.

Her attic study is full of references back to Doctor Who - with pictures of the TARDIS and photos of the Brigadier and Harry Sullivan (whom she fondly recalls, in a manner which suggests that he is no longer with us). For some reason she has a blueprint for a Jagaroth spaceship as well. In trying to come up with a name for the boy, she briefly considers Alistair and Harry.
The character of Kelsey (Porsha Lawrence-Mavour) would not survive to the full series (mercifully, as she is totally annoying). The regulars who do get to stay on are Yasmin Paige (Maria), Tommy Knight (Luke), and Maria's parents - Joseph Millson (Alan) and Juliet Cowan (Chrissie).
The guest star is former Miss Moneypenny Samantha Bond as Miss Wormwood, with Jamie Davis playing Davey.

Overall, it is a cracking start to what will prove to be a wonderful series, at times much more like the original run of Doctor Who than the newer episodes. Its target audience is clear from the beginning, but it never talks down to them.
Things you might like to know:

  • The black hole K9 is monitoring is said to have originated in Switzerland. This is a reference to the CERN project, which some people feared might cause such a thing to happen. It has featured in a Torchwood radio serial, broadcast to coincide with its inauguration, as well as making an appearance in Extremis, though this was in the artificial construct created by the Monks.
  • The Star Poet is a reused CGI creation from the Torchwood episode Greeks Bearing Gifts.
  • The Bane Mother was originally created as an audition piece by effects company The Mill, in order to get the CGI contract for Doctor Who. It was based on the Nestene creature as it appeared on the cover of the Terror of the Autons Target novelisation.
  • People affected by Bubble Shock! have an orange glow round their heads - the same effect as used for those mentally enslaved by the Sycorax in The Christmas Invasion where it was blue.
  • We see the presenters of Blue Peter endorsing the drink on screen. Blue Peter had previously featured in Aliens of London, where the presenters were inspired to make a spaceship cake. This scene was designed to show just how much impact Bubble Shock! was having on the country, as the BBC are not allowed to endorse any products other than their own, especially in children's TV.
  • It was originally intended that the series would be set in Croydon, South London, as this was where Sarah had said she lived back in The Hand of Fear. However, the 1981 K9 and Company special had established that this house had been sold.
  • Instead of Davey attacking Sarah and her friends at her home, it was originally intended that another species of alien would be sent, hidden in a parcel. This idea was later used in The Wedding of Sarah Jane Smith.
  • Gareth Roberts had previously created a drink called Bubbleshake for one of his Virgin New Adventures novels - "The Highest Science".
  • Before Davies settled on the continuing adventures of Sarah Jane Smith, he had been asked to develop a series about the teenage Doctor for CBBC.

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