Wednesday, 7 February 2018

Revenge of the Slitheen - SJA 1.1

In which Luke Smith attends school for the first time. He has one person there who knows him - Maria Jackson - and he makes a new friend in Clyde Langer, who finds Sarah Jane Smith's mothering of her son amusing. Luke is incredibly intelligent, but everyday social interactions are a mystery to him. At the school assembly the headmaster, Mr Blakeman, informs the students that they will be visiting their new science block for a look around later that day. There is a strange smell about the new block, and at dinner time everyone notices that their food has gone off. The science teacher, Mr Jeffrey, confiscates Clyde's chip sandwiches. He is starting a new science club, and Luke agrees to join. Another pupil, Carl, also joins - and Mr Jeffrey encourages a rivalry between them. That night, the local area is hit by a power cut. Strangely, even candles go out. The computer Mr Smith identifies the school as the locus for the power loss.

Sarah decides to investigate the new block after hearing of events at the school. She is helped by Maria's dad Alan, as he had done some work on another school and has plans which show an area which is sealed off. She visits this other school and learns that they were also plagued by a strange smell, and by food going off. Sarah notices that the science blocks are identical to a number of other schools in a ring all around London. At the school, it transpires that Blakeman and Jeffrey are really Slitheen - cousins of those who had infiltrated Downing Street and attempted to provoke World War Three. They are out for revenge for their lost kin, and plan to destroy the Earth by draining the sun's energy. Their machine for doing so does not work, and Mr Jeffrey intends that Luke should unwittingly provide the answers they need to make it operational.

Sarah visits Coldfire - the construction firm behind the new buildings - and discovers that it is run by Slitheen. Clyde finds out about Sarah's attic, and learns of her alien encounters, and that Maria and Luke know about these. He gives Sarah a clue as to how to combat the Slitheen. Jeffrey had confiscated his sandwiches as the chips were soaked in vinegar. At the school, Carl is unmasked as another Slitheen, the child of the one impersonating Jeffrey. Luke has given the aliens the means to complete their energy draining machine, when it was set as a problem in the science club. There are other Slitheen bases around the world, and as they start to come on-line, everyone sees the sun darken. Spray bottles filled with vinegar destroy the Blakeman-Slitheen, but Sarah, Luke, Maria and Clyde are all then captured in the science block. Luke sabotages the machine, halting the energy drain on the sun. The machine is about to explode, but Sarah is able to allow Carl-Slitheen to escape before the science block blows up.
Clyde is now part of the gang, and agrees to help Luke develop his people skills.

Revenge of the Slitheen was written by Gareth Roberts, and was first broadcast on 24th September and 1st October 2007. It marks the opening story of the first season of Doctor Who's second spin-off series, following the launch of the adult-orientated Torchwood. The series was executive produced by the same team as the parent programme - Russell T Davies, Phil Collinson and Julie Gardner.
It followed the successful pilot episode - Invasion of the Bane - which had been broadcast the previous New Year's Day, which was in turn inspired by the return of Sarah Jane Smith in the 2006 Doctor Who episode School Reunion.
Davies had been asked to devise a spin-off series that would be aimed very much at younger viewers, to air on the CBBC digital channel. He had originally been asked to come up with a "Young Doctor" series, but did not like the idea, and was instead keen to build on Elisabeth Sladen's popularity and eagerness to revisit her famous role.
Each story of the series comprises 2x 25 minute episodes, providing the cliffhangers which were now only occasional for Doctor Who. For this opening adventure, Part One was broadcast on BBC 1, with the second part following on CBBC the next week.

The story sees the return of the Slitheen clan, making it a sequel to the Series One episodes Aliens of London / World War Three, and they would make a number of return visits to the show. In many ways, The Sarah Jane Adventures provide a more natural home for them than the parent series. The headmaster, played by Martyn Ellis, certainly plays things for laughs.
The character of Kelsey, who had featured in the pilot, has been dumped, mercifully, and her place is taken by Daniel Anthony, playing Clyde. It certainly makes sense to introduce a male peer for Luke, as his unworldliness will be a recurring theme throughout the series, and Clyde is there to help him navigate everyday human interactions. Anthony is one of those actors who can play younger roles. He turned 20 just after the second episode of this story was broadcast.
Other cast members include Ian Midlane as Mr Jeffrey, Anton Thompson McCormick as Carl, and Imogen Bain as Janine, the Slitheen who works at Coldfire. A further link to the parent show is the inclusion of Lachele Carl as newscaster Trinity Wells - who reports on all the alien disasters in Doctor Who. All the adult Slitheen are played by Paul Kasey, whilst Jimmy Vee is inside the Carl-Slitheen costume.

Overall, it is a cracking start to the new series. Clyde makes for an inspired new addition to the team. In many ways The Sarah Jane Adventures are closer to old-school Doctor Who than the parent show.
Things you might like to know:

  • A number of references to classic series Doctor Who feature: 
  • Sarah calls upon UNIT to do the clearing up after the defeat of the Slitheen, and is heard to send her love to "the Brig". 
  • At one point she is attempting to repair a dynacron star drive. The Zygons had dynacron technology. 
  • One of the Slitheen says "For the love of Clom..." - a reference to the twin planet of Raxacoricofallapatorius and home to the Abzorbaloff. 
  • The Slitheen remark that they bought something from the Wallarians - a reference to Carnival of Monsters.
  • Earth is described as a Level Five world - which is how it was described by Romana in City of Death. Roberts is a known fan of the Fourth Doctor / Second Romana pairing
  • Sarah comments that it would be ridiculous to be investigating alien activity at a school - reminding us of how she was re-introduced in School Reunion when another race of aliens impersonated school teachers.
  • She recognises the name "Slitheen" as Rose had mentioned encountering them in Downing Street.

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