Sunday, November 29, 2009

"i may have made a social blunder. i showed them how to destroy the world."

a few passing thoughts for your sunday morning on the first episodes of the second season of the sarah jane adventures.

you will definitely need to have watched the first season to be au courant with events since the season opener doesn't even bother with a brief "detective exposition and sergeant plotpoint" sort of recap. (i did some desultory searching for a first season trailer to post here and had no luck; no time to search further! try the bbc america website if you're really keen.)

the adventures, for those of you not in the octopus-like grip of russell t. davies, is his third reboot of the doctor who series and the second successful spinoff -- torchwood being the other one. i can only say that if you're not watching torchwood you're missing something very special. but i say that a lot when it comes to doctor who-related things.

sarah jane herself -- the eponymous character of the adventures -- is an old-school companion; she travelled with the 3rd (jon pertwee) and 4th (tom baker) doctors back in the 1970s-1980s. she's one of the absolute all-time knock-down drag-out top ten best companions ever and they tried to give her her own show before in the mid-'80s with k9 and company:

that's the first nine minutes or so of the one episode it got. if you want the rest, it seems to be mostly present between google video/youtube and dailymotion. it isn't a bad way to spend an hour or so but you can pretty much see -- with doctor who at the time still going strong -- why the show didn't go too far. if nothing else, k9 was something of a sensitive point with fans; a lot of people -- including some of the crew of the show! -- hated him and wanted to see him thrown into the nearest collapsing star. presumably this is why, in the new adventures, k9 is barely present, being busily occupied repairing the damage done by a runaway physics experiment and only accessible when he spins past earth every few weeks. i hear rumours that he will get a spin-off of a spin-off of his own, based out of australia? but i think that might be too spin-off-y even for me.

regardless of all that, the new adventures is a blast. elisabeth sladen (if you watch the new who, you saw her in "school reunion") is clearly having one hell of a time playing sarah jane but with some of the doctor's best tricks up her sleeve (sonic lipstick!). her companions are three young teenagers: her adopted son luke, and two schoolfriends of his, clyde and maria. maria's dad, alan, also gets in on the show in the later episodes of the first season; his ex-wife and maria's mum, chrissie, has a disturbing habit of waltzing in at odd minutes and anna and i took to shouting at her to go away because she's just dreadful. but the first episodes of the second season seem to hint that perhaps, just perhaps, she will improve.

i thought that, with doctor who as the angst-fest of the millennium and featuring some remarkably angry, violent, and difficult episodes with torchwood not far behind in tormenting its fans by doing awful things to their favorite characters (russell, you and i still need to talk about that season 2 closer!), that the adventures would be more aimed directly at little kids -- originally doctor who's target audience! and it is noticeably gentler than the davies's other two series, but i can't say he pulls a lot of punches to gather in a younger audience. the first season features episodes where parents are possessed and try to harm their children; a rearrangement of the space-time continuum such that people are randomly plucked out of their proper time and forgotten by everyone except one or two people; and some gripping depictions of the consequences of childhood actions in later life. (not to mention a great guest star turn by phyllida law playing a woman suffering from the effects of age-related memory loss who has forgotten the importance of a piece of critical alien tech she has hidden among her jewelry.) while the adventures aren't, for example, doctor who's "turn left" or "midnight" or torchwood's "meat" or "countrycide," they're not dumbed down fare to make kids feel happy. some of this stuff would have scared me stiff as a child; i would've watched anyway, probably with my mouth hanging open, but the prospect of your parents being taken over and controlled by something you can't see and them coming after you? not okay!

and, while i couldn't find teaser trailers for either season, i did find the first section of the first episode, invasion of the bane from season one which may, if you're into this sort of thing, make your netflix queue longer by a few discs (the rest of bane, at least, also seems to be up on youtube in 9-10 minute chunks if you're into watching things that way):

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