Sunday, 30 January 2011

The Sarah Jane Adventures: Secrets of the Stars

Part One

“This time, Sarah Jane… you lose.”

I liked this a lot more I did on the original broadcast. In fact, I liked it quite a lot. Russ Abbott is great, giving exactly the sort of performance that’s needed- a bit of scenery chewing, yes, but that’s the character. And while the rationalist in me once worried about the use of astrology here in a children’s programme, this time round I’ve lightened up a bit. We don’t really need an explicit “Astrology is a load of pants, mmmkay?” Still, I like the comments Clyde makes.

I love the very succinct pre-titles sequence, where Trueman admits that he’s a fraud before, suddenly, he’s not. And the regular characters are dealt with well, too. I really like the treatment of Rani’s parents- they’re quite friendly with Sarah Jane and therefore less likely to show any tiresome suspicion about what she’s up top with their daughter. Plus Gita continues to be lovely. And Rani gets some nice treatment with the “apprentice journalist” angle continuing- also of course one of the reasons why her parents seem to be cool with their daughter hanging out with this mysterious woman from over the road.

I love the confrontation scene between Sarah Jane and Trueman; at first it’s a clash between the worlds of reason and superstition but evolves into some delightfully entertaining chewing of the scenery. And, unusually, we get a fairly coherent explanation of what’s going on; astrology hails from a previous universe where astrology works. I’m picturing Russell Grant as a Great Old One. That’s not a sentence I ever envisioned myself writing.

Part Two

“Mars has entered the Milky Way and Aero is in conjunction with the Galaxy.”

It’s such a shame that, in a story with such a strong plot and some genuine twists courtesy of Gareth Roberts, the recap at the start should contain such a blatant spoiler. Among a very few scenes from last episodes is one in which Luke reminds us that he wasn’t born and has no star sign- we can immediately guess how it’s going to end. But then again, perhaps that’s me as an adult being unfair and this sort of thing is appropriate to the young children watching. That’s my problem with fully enjoying The Sarah Jane Adventures, really: I’m just not the target audience.

The situation gives us a real sense of threat and of the clock ticking as Trueman takes over everyone, star sign by star sign. The stakes are high: not only do we get the now-traditional montage of world news, but even Trinity Wells herself has been taken over! But more immediate, of course, is Clyde, and his escape from mind control is a nice clue to the audience of how all this is going to be resolved.

I really like Sarah Jane’s comment that “I know what it’s like to be taken over”…

So, not quite good enough for top marks, but a solid piece of drama, and a 4/5. But I’m beginning to wonder whether a 33 year old man like me is really competent to judge!

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