Tuesday, 22 February 2011

Torchwood: Children of Earth (Day Three)

“John Frobisher’s a good man. And, better than that, he’s expendable.”

Blimey, it’s Trinity Wells again!

Last episode was getting the pieces into position; this time there’s a lot going on and lots are revealed. And in spite of some nice humorous moments courtesy of RTD and James Moran’s script, this is a tense and dramatic episode.

The gang are back together, and after a few minutes of The Real Hustle they can start to plan their fightback. And it’s an interesting fightback. The thefts are morally compromising in an obvious but arguably petty way, but Gwen’s use of Lois is arguably worse, especially in terms of Kantian morality, quite blatantly using another person as a means and not an end, if I can just be a pretentious git for a minute. Lois says “Giving you information is one thing, but that’s putting me right on the front line.” This talk of the “front line” means I can’t help but wonder if we’re looking at a parallel with the prime minister’s rather cowardly comments to Frobisher last episode. Instinctively I think not, but the parallels in the dialogue mentioning the “front line” are striking.

Meanwhile, Jack and Ianto are having another one of those conversations where Jack doesn’t quite open up as much as Ianto would like. They fail to get intimate in more ways than one, but everything’s ok because there’s talk about Jack watching Ianto grow old and die. This in no way tempts fate or indicates anything bad is going to happen to Ianto. I’m sure things will be fine.

We get hints at this point that Jack is morally compromised to a much greater degree than Gwen, as we get our first hint about his links to the incident in 1965.

Lois, on the other hand, is brave, heroic and incredibly resourceful. I suspect she won’t have a happy ending, not after Gwen offered her a potential job last episode. I love her way of getting a world-wearily resentful Bridget Spears to include her in the activity at Thames House. Spears’ “You’re not the first, you know,” speaks volumes about both her (repressed?) feelings for Frobisher and of course Frobisher himself.

The big moment is, of course, “We are here.” And the children pointing. This section is, once again, brilliantly shot. The visuals of the aliens hidden in the glass behind an opaque gas are superbly effective. Less is more. And the tension in Frobisher’s initial dialogue with the 456 is palpable. The long pauses, the subdued lighting, the slight hint of claws and the magnificence of Peter Capaldi give this scene such incredible power. Oh, and the vomiting. That too. And the magnificence of Peter Capaldi, every second he’s on screen, just can’t be emphasised enough.

It’s amusing to see the PM get a right good telling off from the military representative of UNIT and the USA (where have I seen the American actor from?), but of course the fallout is that the PM drops Frobisher even further in it. It’s clear from the conversation in the lift that Spears understands this.

But then we’re reminded that Frobisher is far from being a saint as he speaks on the phone to Jack who, we’ve already established, is equally compromised following the events of 1965. Yet, although each is able to threaten the other’s children, Frobisher knows that Jack won’t act on his threats “because you’re a better man than me.”

There’s just one short light-hearted interlude, in which we learn how you can do almost as many things with a pair of contact lenses as you can with a stopwatch, before we’re back to the heavy stuff. The 456, with their silences and monosyllabic comments, are sinister as hell. They seem to be colluding in the cover-up with Frobisher. Oh, and they want ten percent of all the children in the world. And just when we think things can’t get any worse, Clem forces Jack to tell the truth: he personally handed twelve kids over to the 456 back in 1965. I’m sure everyone watching had already worked it out, but it’s a powerful ending nonetheless.

Monday, 21 February 2011

Torchwood: Children of Earth (Day Two)

“If you’re the bad guys, why doesn’t it say that on your file? And, if you’re the good guys, who am I working for?”

RTD hands over to John Fay, whose dialogue (polished by RTD though it must be) doesn’t quite sparkle as much. This is still brilliant, though, much as it doesn’t actually advance the plot very far. It’s about the character moments, and the fun and fascination of seeing our heroes regroup from their lowest point until they’re ready to fight back.

We start with Ianto and Gwen, dirty, shocked, with the whole world suddenly against them. These scenes are brilliantly shot by Euros Lyn, and give a real sense of paranoia. We’re then quickly reminded that Frobisher, who is generally presented to us with sympathy, is the one who has ordered this cold-blooded assassination. And here’s the sinister Dekker again, revealing that the 456 have asked the British government to built something without telling them what it is. Things are going all A for Andromeda.

There’s comedy too, of course, not least with Tom Price being great, as usual, as PC Andy. I love his “I mean, we’re not going in there all guns blazing, are we?” followed by the clicking of the guns!

Gwen- and Rhys- are on the run, the enemy has eyes everywhere, and as both of their accounts have been frozen they can’t even withdraw any money. Everything between the two of them is great. They’re a fantastic couple, and I love Rhys’s lines. And that it’s his knowledge of the haulage industry that allows them to get down to That London. Better still is Gwen’s revelation that she’s pregnant. You just have to love the pair of them.

Ianto’s interaction with his family is great, too; it’s fab how everyone just rallies round. I love the army of chavs which distracts the government surveillance agents so that Ianto’s sister (what’s her actual name, he asked, knowing he’ll be googling it within minutes?) can sneak away to meet Ianto.

Oh, and there’s a scene early on where Ianto sees a copy of The Times. The wonders of the pause button tell me that it’s “Wednesday September 2009”. Aren’t all these present day Whoniverse stories supposed to be set one year in the future, then? Has someone much cleverer than me been keeping count to see if it all fits or not? Am I the only one sad enough to think about this? Don’t answer that! The pause button also shows Gwen’s date of birth at one point. She’s a year younger than me. I feel old.

There’s more ominous-sounding emphasis of the 456 only contacting the UK. And also more evidence of what an utter **** the prime minister is. His comments to Frobisher are toe-curling: All I’ve done is put you on the front line. That’s what the front line’s for, John. First to fall.”

And then… “We are coming… tomorrow!” it’s all going to kick off.

Questions about Jack that we’ve all wondered are answered here as the remaining bits of him gradually, painfully and horribly heal to become a living body. And his fate is horrible- encased inside a concrete block, fated to die painfully of asphyxiation again and again, a fate worthy of Dante’s Inferno, for all eternity. Or the rest of the episode, anyway.

Lois makes her fateful choice in meeting Gwen and Rhys, explaining to them that the Government really does want them dead, and literally committing treason on only her second day at work. This is a very big decision and a very big deal; the Official Secrets Act is a very serious thing. I can’t remember how this ends for her but, unfortunately, I suspect she’s going down. A shame, because she’s a good person who’s doing the right thing for the right reasons. I love that she approaches the whole thing like a PA!

Gwen and Ianto’s rescue mission, wrapping up the episode, fails as we knew it must, only for Ianto to save the day with a forklift truck. The gang are all back together, and next episode seems likely to be eventful…

Wednesday, 16 February 2011

Torchwood: Children of Earth (Day One)

“Severn Bridge… I’m going into England. Farewell forever.”

“Good luck. Have you got currency?”

“Yes, and I’ve had my injections.”

Right. Well, that’s an awful lot of notes for a single hour-long episode. No way am I waiting until I’ve finished and then writing one big review; there’s so much going on in this episode alone. Expect five separate posts on this thread in the near future, all of which should be quite unnecessarily long. Next one probably not till Sunday or Monday though; pub quiz, pub, possibly pub again, possibly some non-pubby stuff, etc. The rest should follow through next week.

Anyway, this is bloody good so far. And I mean I, Clavdivs / The Sopranos / The Wire/ State of Play / The Second Coming bloody good, although a comparison to something by Nigel Kneale might be more appropriate. I might as well say it before I’ve even said anything; I won’t vote until I’m reviewing Day Five, but there’s zero chance of this getting anything less than a 5/5 if the rest is as good as I remember. Still, pre-Marathon viewings don’t count, so I’ll try and ignore them.

For such a long story the story doesn’t waste time in getting straight to the plot; first there’s the flashback in 1965 Scotland, then all of the children on Earth… stop. And the reaction develops, slowly. First, though, we get some of Torchwood’s obligatory shots of Cardiff in the style of Angel. Then Gwen says “What’s occurring?” BBC Wales have obviously been making Gwen & Stacy in the Whoniverse, no doubt following on from their success with the revival of Professor X. Sorry.

Gwen and Rhys have a lovely, loving, easy relationship right through the episode; their issues have been dealt with. Issues are coming to the fore with Jack and Ianto, though, as we get several hints that Ianto wants to put their relationship on a more official standing. Oh dear. The rules of TV drama do not decree that this bodes well... what was that you just said to Ianto, Jack? “No, you get killed, not me. You die like a dog, an ugly dog.” Hmm. Still, this Rupesh looks a nice bloke. Bet he joins the team.

We get a nicely economic introduction to new characters Lois Habiba, the rather scary Bridget Spears, and Mr Frobisher, played with absolute sublimity by the magnificent Peter Capaldi. We’re on Lois’ side from the beginning- she’s running late as we meet her, which automatically garners our sympathy- while Bridget Spears is portrayed essentially from Lois’ POV. So we side with the likeable Lois as she slides down the slippery slope of committing more and more naughty offences against the Official Secrets Act…

A couple of namedrops later (Martha’s on honeymoon and that Colonel Mace is somewhere near Vancouver), and the children stop again, and start shrieking. Then come words: “We are coming.” Ooh. And this is worldwide. And in English. And, as Rhys cleverly points out, deliberately aimed at the British school run and British school break times. Oh, and there’s one 55 year old man in a mental institution saying it all too. There’s a lot going on; for a slow-paced, character-based drama this feels pretty pacey.

Things get even creepier with the appearance of Dekker, a strange kind of cross between the Cigarette Smoking Man from The X-Files (you’d never get away with such a character in today’s abstemious times!) and Sir Humphrey Appleby from Yes, Minister. He knows of “the 456”, and where the bodies are buried. Plus, he has no kids, so is he bovvered?

Frobisher has a short interview with the Prime Minister, who immediately ducks all responsibility for a difficult decision, the “blank page”, showing himself to be a moral coward. Capaldi’s facial expression here is just superb. He’s already under intolerable pressure and things can only get worse.

Our three Torchwood operatives get their individual family visits, all, fascinating. For Gwen the family connection is a little oblique (Clem can tell she’s pregnant) but the parallels and contrasts between Jack’s and Ianto’s expeditions to find a child are fascinating, seeing as both are prepared to use their own flesh and blood as guinea pigs. Gosh, could this be foreshadowing?

We see Jack’s daughter and grandson. And, while the fact that he never ages is a source of inevitable difficulty for his ageing descendents, this is very much secondary to the fact he just can’t be trusted. Ianto’s reaction with his sister, on the other hand, is much more natural and warm. RTD has a real gift for portraying the way working-class families talk to one another.

Oh dear: the blank page is a signal to kill a named list of people, one of whom is Jack. And the fact that this is communicated by the pre-arranged signal of a blank page (interesting how Frobisher now himself delegates the dirty work to Bridget Spears), so no one can possibly find out. Except, er, by email- nice little comment on the stupidity of keeping too much official information on official databases there. And Lois sees what’s happening.

The black ops team gets to work, not-so-nice Rupesh is one of them, and Jack gets shot. Twice. With a bomb being shoved inside his stomach in-between. Oh, and the team leader shoots Rupesh for good measure. This woman is bad-ass.

There’s one last nice little contrast (both Gwen and Jack have something inside them) until the Torchwood Hub blows sky-high. Even if they survive this, they’re now hunted fugitives. And the kids are at it again. And Peter Capaldi is shouting at his kids to stop. This is so, so good.

Tuesday, 15 February 2011

Doctor Who: Planet of the Dead

“I don’t believe it. Guns don’t work.”

Well, that was great. I really enjoyed that; a good swashbuckling romp. I’m glad we get a story like this right now, as the ending suggests we won’t be seeing another such light-hearted romp for quite some time.

I love the beginning; we have a cat burglar. As there are no cats available she proceeds to steal a Priceless Shiny Artefact from a museum in the coolest possible way, and then turns out to be played by Michelle Ryan. I love this sequence; it’s brilliantly shot. The many short glimpses of various police officers before Christina gets on the bus really make us feel that there’s no escape.

But there is, of course; the bus is off to another planet. Gareth Roberts has co-written this with RTD, and this whole scenario reminds me of the Eight Twelves from his excellent (though slightly metalhead-ist) Virgin New Adventures novel, The Highest Science. The whole visual aesthetic of a London bus in the (genuine) desert is most effective, too. I don’t think I buy the oft-stated view that they could have filmed this closer to home than Dubai and still had a desert which looked as good (this is the first story to have been shot in HD, I believe), but I’m enough of a wishy-washy liberal to wish it had been filmed somewhere with a better human rights record than the UAE.

There’s a bit of misdirection early on as we’re made to expect everyone to turn on the Doctor as per Midnight (Humans on buses, always blaming me!”), but that’s not how things turn out. Instead, Christina takes charge and shows herself to have a natural air of authority but also to be a pretty good leader. This scene is also good practical scripting, as Christina rather efficiently gets everyone to introduce themselves. That’s one of RTD’s many admirable qualities; making the exposition double as character development.

The most interesting of the others is Carmen, a psychic, and a genuine one, as the Doctor’s reaction makes clear. Already she can hear “voices of the dead”, and her premonitions are strategically placed throughout the story to build up the tension.

Back on Earth, UNIT have been called in, led by Captain Magambo from Turn Left. The best thing about them is the Sergeant Osgood-like Malcolm, who may be nothing but an absent minded professor stereotype but is brilliantly played by Lee Evans. Any you have to love anybody who name checks Bernard Quatermass.

We’re shown some friendly insect creatures, Tritovores (they remind me a bit of the Rills from Galaxy Four all that time ago), who are rather obviously there just to serve the plot, although this fact is subtly but deliberately played for laughs in a slightly fourth-wall breaking way. Before we discover they’re friendly, though, Christina gets a great and Tom-ish line “Ah, I’ll remember that as I’m being slowly tortured. At least I’m bleeding on the floor of a really well-designed spaceship.” Nice one! The Tritovores believe the Doctor (just there to serve the plot, so of course they do) and allow the Doctor to do one of the things he loves best; exposition. It seems that cloud approaching from the background consists of billions of large manta rays with metal exoskeletons, which despoil planet after planet through wormhole after wormhole. It’s a terrifying threat, an unstoppable plague of locusts, and it’s heading first for our heroes and then for Earth.

The scene where Christina retrieves the crystal is fascinating and nuanced. There’s a quasi-political class subtext here (“The aristocracy survives for a reason.”) which is more notable now, in Cameron’s Britain, than it was at the time. But I find myself not really minding it, although perhaps I should. Do I have something of the English forelock-tugging gene / disease in spite of myself, or is it just that Christina is so cool? Because she is, and she goes some way to redeeming herself for her criminal lifestyle here with here bravery and potential self-sacrifice. Besides, she and the Doctor are both thieves, with a parallel being explicitly being drawn between her threat of King Athelstan’s cup and the Doctor’s theft of the TARDIS.

As soon as the McGuffin has been retrieved, the Tritovores become superfluous to the plot, and as their sole function in life is to serve the plot, they are promptly killed. Hilariously, the dialogue even pretty much states this out loud at this point. I so love little fourth-wall breaking jokes of this kind.

Christina gives up her treasure (another little moment of redemption?) and we have a flying bus. This is really very cool indeed, as is every moment of the final few minutes, from the Doctor’s meeting with Malcolm to the mutual respect between the Doctor and Magambo, who was trying to kill him moments earlier by closing the wormhole but, crucially, was doing it for the right reasons. This is a slightly cuddlier UNIT than we’ve known in the recent past, although the Doctor’s unease with the modern organisation remains.

I seem to be making a habit, these days, of saying I’m no longer bothered by something which annoyed me on original transmission. This time it’s the Doctor allowing Christina to get away; on second viewing I feel on balance that she’s been genuinely magnificent and redeemed herself enough to earn it. The kiss is cool too. But once again the Doctor is adamant that he travels alone. This can’t bode well.

Oh yes, and there’s Carmen’s prediction. I’ve had enough of things returning through the darkness- how many times is it now? But we’re told again that the Doctor’s song is ending. And that “He will knock four times.” Brr.

Magnificent. 5/5.

Monday, 14 February 2011

Doctor Who: The Next Doctor

“Are you thick or something?”

Bit off-topic for the Marathon, but it’s a bit deflating to arrive at the first Doctor Who DVD of the no-commentary era. Anyway, it’s good to be back reviewing actual Doctor Who again!

This is an odd one: indicative of RTD beginning to flag a bit in that the plot is little more than a collection of set-pieces, yet the characterisation is as psychologically astute as ever. Just one line of Miss Hartigan’s (“Yet another man come to assert himself against me in the night.”) hints so much about how she came to be as she is without dwelling it. This sort of thing is masterful writing. Both “Doctors” are characterised quite brilliantly, too. But still, I’m somewhat underwhelmed.

This is a proper Christmas episode, with snow, Dickensian scenes with urchins and lots of women in bonnets, and a rather amusing early riff on a scene from A Christmas Carol. But essentially this is a story based on one intriguing conceit; David Morrissey’s character apparently being the Doctor’s future self. Of course, the truth gradually unravels, bit by bit. The script is fantastic in its treatment of Jackson Lake, and so is David Morrissey, who puts in one of the finest guest performances we’ve seen.

Also admirable is the way that, although this is a suitably fluffy Christmas episode, the dark side of Victoriana lies beneath the surface. This is a world of workhouses, grinding poverty leavened only slightly by private charity, and not an ideal place to be a woman. Not only is there the aforementioned line by Miss Hartigan (Dervla Kirwan pitches the character just right- mainly cartoon villain, but with genuine hints of greater depths), hinting at her being raped many times in the past, but her line to the Doctor about him “not paying” Rosita for “that” seems to imply to me that she’s a prostitute, which would put Jackson Lake’s references to her as his “companion” in another light. In which case it is at least good to see that the story ends with Jackson Lake “rescuing” this “fallen woman” in suitably Victorian fashion, rather than having her die, as would happen in any Victorian novel to any female character seen to depart from convention. Importantly, none of this is too overt for the kind of story we have here.

Anyway! The Cybermen are back, they look great against the snow, the Cybermen are great, and the central funeral scene is a great set-piece. Of course, they benefit from having Miss Hartigan as this story’s Tobias Vaughn, and her taunting of Mr Cones, Mr Scoones, Mr Fetch and Mr Milligan” is quite delicious. On original transmission I was somewhat critical of this story’s use of Cybermen, thinking their plan (and the Cyberking!) to be silly and vague, and a return to the days when the Cybermen were used in such a way that they could have been any old monster. I must be lightening up, though- this time back none of that bothered me at all. It’s a well-established tradition for Cyberman stories, after all, and one that’s given a lot of fun. And this is another one of those RTD plots where the A-plot is really just there to play second fiddle to the character development. Also, steampunk Cyber-technology is well cool.

Also well cool are Jackson Lake’s accoutrements: the “sonic” screwdriver, a delicious piece of misdirection with the fob watch and, of course, Tethered Aerial Release Developed In Style. And we get a rare series of clips of all ten Doctors. Is it just me who wonders why, every time we get to see clip shows like this, they conveniently stop at the current Doctor? Oh, and it seems McGann is definitely canon.

There are some nice twists at the end- Hartigan is to be the Cyberking (“That was designated a lie!”), but discovers, to her glee, that her personality is strong enough to control all the power she now has (“Joy is not acceptable!). And we get a massive Cyberpunk Cyberman, the Doctor ascending in a balloon to give the villain her traditional last chance, and the Doctor, for once, being appreciated for his efforts.

Not to depart from the chronology of the Marathon, there’s an intriguing couple of lines, which I’m guessing most people have already mentioned, highlighting the oddity of how this has been forgotten by history. It’s impossible to tell whether or not this is deliberately foreshadowing the next full season (I suspect not; it’s too throwaway for that, more along the lines of the Brigadier’s line about the Skarasen in the Thames in Terror of the Zygons), but it certainly doesn’t bother me; this sort of niggle only really needs to be acknowledged by the script for the honour of nit-picking viewers such as myself to be satisfied.

Some interesting stuff with the Doctor at the end, too, which we know is foreshadowing something; Jackson knows that he needs companions for his own sake, but the Doctor admits that “in the end, they break my heart”. Still, at least this time he gets to enjoy Christmas Dinner. A very solid 3/5.

Thursday, 10 February 2011

The Sarah Jane Adventures: Enemy of the Bane

Part One

“UNIT have their uses, but, in my experience, guns never solve a problem they didn’t first make worse.”

It’s good to see the Brig again. Of course it’s good to see the Brig again. But is it just me who’s a bit underwhelmed at this by-the-numbers attempt at a season closer?

Things start well, with lots of screen time for lovely, lovely Gita being particularly lovely. But then we get a load of quick set-pieces which don’t seem to add up to anything particularly coherent. It’s a bit of a surprise to see Mrs Wormwood again, but she’s a fairly standard example of the scenery-chewing baddie. Yes, it’s a bit of a surprise to see her people have turned against her and she apparently wants to help our heroes, but we (and our heroes) know she can’t be trusted. Sarah Jane believed the story about the Black Scrolls on very little evidence to the point where she decides to break into a top secret vault. And both she and Rani are cauight on camera- surely there should be consequences? This is the organisation that imprisoned Tosh without trial!

Worse, the Brig doesn’t question Sarah Jane’s reasons for doing this, either. Still, it really is great that we get to see the Brig one last time, especially as we’ll almost certainly never see Nick Courtney on screen ever again, given his health problems. It’s just a shame this wasn’t a more Brig-focused story, although I understand how that wouldn’t have been realistic, and he was a last-minute replacement for Freema Agyeman, intended to appear as Martha. I like the Brig’s comments to Major “Homeworld Security” Kilburne, making it clear that the good old Brig has no truck with the unpleasant undertones of today’s UNIT.

Part Two

“You alien chaps never get the message, do you?”

To no one’s surprise, Kaagh is back, and he’s as deluded and incompetent as ever. One of the more amusing and successful elements of this episode is the power relationship between Kaagh and Mrs Wormwood; she’s definitely the boss, however much he may protest.

Unfortunately, there’s not overmuch dramatic tension here. We know Luke is not going to be tempted by Wormwood (hmm…character called Luke… “I am your mother”… naaah, can’t think what that reminds we of). The reveal of Kilburne being a Bane does work rather well, mind, and it’s good that the Brig gets to deal with him, showing a bit of heroism in what must surely be his last ever appearance.

Unfortunately, the ending (Kaagh sacrificing himself to save the day out of sheer mardiness) is a bit predictable and a bit by-the-numbers, much as this whole story has been.

This whole story is shockingly uninspired. It may not quite manage to be awful, but the plot and the set-pieces just plod along mechanically, with absolutely no verve or excitement. 2/5.

Monday, 7 February 2011

The Sarah Jane Adventures: The Temptation of Sarah Jane Smith

Part One

“She didn’t even complain when Steve Wright was on the radio.”

“ Not even when he played the Hoosiers…”

The pre-credits sequence wrong-footed me for a bit: I expected Sarah Jane to end up stranded in 1951, whereas in fact being stranded in time is in fact the only relevant bad thing which doesn’t happen this episode. But this is brilliant, the best SJA yet, although I do wonder if the timey-wimey stuff would have been a bit too complex for the very young kids. It matters not, I suspect; I don’t seem to recall placing much emphasis on the plots of the programmes I was watching back when I were a lad.

Right from the start our expectations are played with. The big reveals are made very early on- the ‘50s kid is a Graske, the Trickster is back, the whole thing is an obvious trap and every one knows it. In fact, we know exactly what’s going to happen throughout the whole episode from very early on, but that’s the point, and the fun of it. We get to see how all this happens, and experience the great pleasure of “I told you so” as a dramatic device. We know what Sarah Jane will do, because we know her, and the whole theme of her parents’ disappearance has been foreshadowed for a while now. This is a great piece of writing from Gareth Roberts.

The team dynamic is great here, too; Sarah Jane is fooling nobody. They all know her far too well by now, and Luke is very sensible in encouraging her to do what she’s going to do anyway because, after all, anyone would.

One slight niggle here, though: I know I keep going on about it but there’s the small fact that Sarah Jane is a Scouser, and this has continuity implications. It’s not just Lis Sladen’s not-quite-erased Liverpool vowels; in Invasion of the Dinosaurs Sarah Jane mentions the Liverpool Docks as something which are quintessentially normal to her. Sarah Jane grew up in Liverpool. Yet neither her Aunt Lavinia (who we met in K-9 and Company) nor her parents (who we meet here) reflect this in any way. It might not quite be up there with UNIT dating but this is still a fairly major continuity error.

On the other hand, it’s mentioned that if Sarah Jane ever touched herself as a baby then bad stuff would happen, in a nod to Father’s Day. Also, there’s fixed points in time and miners on Peladon. So, swings and roundabouts.

Great cliffhanger; I suspect the allusion to the 1980 scene in Pyramids of Mars for the older viewers is quite intentional, but it’s the perfect climax to the episode. Next episode, we won’t quite know what to expect.

Part Two

“ Yes, hello! Ethnic person in the ‘50s. Hi!”

Well, ok, this episode is not that unpredictable. Obviously, Sarah Jane can’t save the day by killing her own parents as this is a kids’ show, so her parents are inevitably going to save the day by heroically sacrificing their lives. Still, the details are up for grabs. This episode, unlike the last, runs on dramatic tension. And great characterisation. And a great performance from Lis Sladen.

There are lots of nice little touches: the police box; Rani pecking Clyde on the cheek and his reaction (“Cool. Must be heroic more often.”); Clyde having the presence of mind to bargain with the Graske, and the integrity to keep his word. Personally, I like the nicely economical explanation on how this alternate universe can have a version of Gita in it- after all, in a world which diverged so radically from our own as far back as 1951 it’s vanishingly unlikely for the same sperm to have fertilised the same egg. But we’re told that “When time goes wrong it tries to compensate, keep people on the same track.” That’s a nice little addition to the Whoniverse, I think.

Blimey, this story is really bringing out the geek in me!

The conclusion, aside from being very effectively moving, is also quite conceptually interesting; the whole reason why Sarah Jane alone in her pram is because of the Trickster’s machinations and Sarah Jane’s decision to change history. Which means this always happened, history never changed at all, and things have come full circle. Nice little paradox there.

Superb. 5/5. One thing I don’t understand, though- yes, Sarah Jane’s rather nice parents drive off to their fate, but what actually kills them?