Part 1/BBC 1 - 29th September 2008 - 4.35pm
Part 2/CBBC - 29th September 2008 - 5.15pm
S P O I L E R S for Part 2 if you haven't yet seen it!
You say potayto, I say potahto. Unlike Dan Quayle, I'm not about to call the whole thing off. Well, not entirely. And McCain's do make a lovely oven chip. Indeed, it was whilst I was tucking into my oven chips that I had to pause mid-bite whilst watching the first part of The Last Sontaran. Our Maria is leaving us. I wondered why she went through that litany of previous SJAs in the pre-titles and then Sarah's line, 'There's so much more to discover' was, it turned out, a bare-faced lie as, post titles, Maria's dad stuck the knife in.
Lucy freaks out as a BBC camera crew creeps up on her in a dark wood. Surely, director Joss Agnew isn't that frightening, close up, in person?There was a lump in my throat as her dad opened that letter (probably from RTD, telling Joseph Millson to pick up his P45 at the production office) but I had a little cough and discovered it was a bit of potato that was making my eyes water. It was a bit of a downer after that atmospheric opening at the Tycho radio telescope installation. You see I got all excited by those whizzing fluorescent blobs in the sky. Oh, oh, oh...a Sontaran skirmish with the Rutans! Continuity porn squee! No such bleeding luck. Just Ronan Vibert's Professor Skinner, doing a passable impression of Alan Rickman, getting taken over by Sontaran Kaagh whilst his daughter Lucy freaks out as a BBC camera crew creeps up on her in a dark wood. Surely, director Joss Agnew isn't that frightening close up, in person? He certainly made a fairly routine script from Phil Ford a lot perkier than it should have been.
Lis Sladen mentions something about 'Goblins Cocks'The relationship between Clyde and Luke was nicely built on, starting at the top of the episode with the sweet banter over the computer game (the 'isn't historically accurate' dig at Star Wars was excellent) through to the scenes in the woods, the chase with the Sontaran and the discovery of the cloaked ship (great effects there from The Mill). Tommy Knight and Daniel Anthony are now well and truly established in the ensemble cast and Anthony's cheery playing of Clyde has now banished all memories of the dreadful Kelsey from Invasion Of The Bane. Mind you, we just breeze through that opening scene nicely when Lis Sladen mentions something about 'Goblins Cocks' and mouthfuls of my tea go spraying across the room. The other half sternly corrects me. It's Goblins Copse, apparently. But every time it's mentioned I have to utter a little guffaw. Off to Goblins Cocks, I mean, Copse for a mooch about and much moodiness with those swaying, wind blown trees and some heavy breathing peeping tom with fat hands salivating over the SJA gang. Filthy pervert.
There was a lot of standing or sitting around and gabbing in this which might have bored the kids to tears, all that daughter-dad bonding stuff between Skinner and Lucy, and the rather overplayed angst between a sullen Maria and her dad, lots of tapping at computers and looking at screens discussing lights in the sky and even the info-dump final encounter between Sarah and Kaarg. It's rather wordy. And Sarah-Jane's a right cold fish, all frosty denial, when Maria breaks the news of her departure to her. It's quite distressing and Lis and Yasmin are excellent in that scene together, with Maria wanting reassurance and Sarah refusing to give her any. The watcher in the woods turns out to be Predator...no...an invisible Sontaran with a snazzy CGI helmet. Saves him carrying it I suppose. But it's a neat little upgrade for our clone friends. It's all building up to that scene, the one you know is imminent. Sarah seeing the ship and meeting Kaagh. Except, haven't we already had the 'Sarah Jane meets old adversary' knicker wetting in her encounter with Davros? This isn't quite in the same league but it's a suitably dramatic moment emphasised by the fantastic crane shot of the ship and the locations.
I did get distracted by a daydream about just what kind of experiments Kaarg would perform on Clyde.Kaarg's a slayer apparently, but I'm not sure 'da kids' would get Clyde's Conan joke and it strikes me that it's in there for the dads pretending not to watch this over the top of their newspaper, and Anthony O'Donnell plays a bloody mean Sontaran and I'm loving that facial scar added to the prosthetics. Phil Ford rightly goes back to first principles and has a single Sontaran crash land on Earth and concoct a plan to wipe it out in retaliation for the humiliating defeat seen in Series 4 of the parent show. It's also just like The Time Warrior gene spliced with The Sontaran Experiment too and if you add that to the epic visual effects reprise from The Poison Sky and the crash landing scene it seems you can have your continuity cake and eat it. Yum. The showdown, where Kaarg reveals his dastardly plan, is, as I've said, a tad too talky but builds effectively towards the cliffhanger but I did get distracted by a daydream about just what kind of experiments Kaarg would perform on Clyde. There's a slash fiction opportunity begging there. Before I knew it, the titles came crashing in to break my reverie and end 27 minutes of pleasant, undemanding hokum that knocks Merlin even further into the particularly disastrous cocked hat it's rapidly become.
Part 2 is on CBBC straight after. Oh, it's like I've overdosed on Smarties! After a brief re-cap of Part 1, Sarah's been zapped and Kaagh is molesting Clyde. Said he was a pervert. No doubt trying to punish the lad for all the lame jokes about potatoes which unfortunately pass for wit in this story. Clyde, we get the point, yes, the alien looks like a King Edward. Or is that a Maris Piper? Jersey Royal? No, oh please yourselves.
Brace yourselves, because Part 2 consists of lots of running up and down corridors, stairs and through woodland. And Kaagh shouting a lot in frustration because the pesky kids have outmatched him. But Anthony O'Donnell does pissed off Sontaran really well and he gives a very physical and commanding performance. Joss Agnew's direction is full of vitality too. Look at that lovely shot as Sarah regains consciousness on the sofa (perhaps behind the sofa would've been more appropriate) as the camera angles round and follows her as she wakes up. Mind you, she could have been on the gin again. After spending some time out for the count, all that she's bothered about is her bloomin' lipstick.
Alan is all coy - it's as if him saying 'Mr. Smith, I need you' is going to undermine the very core of his masculinity...Yay, it's Chrissie! I'm going to miss her, the camp thing. And what on earth has she got on? A leopard print Bet Lynch style coat, a bright pink tassled top and a pair of pink high heels that will come in very handy for resolving the story. Juliet Cowan and Joseph Millson must be a bit disgruntled at losing some regular money now that Yasmin Paige has decided her GCSEs are more important. Never mind because Alan and Chrissie get to play more of that screwball bluffing as Alan has to try and sneak into Sarah's house to talk to Mr. Smith without Chrissie finding out (love her exasperated, 'Not Mary Jane!). As this is their last appearance for now, Chrissie doesn't fall for Alan's excuses and catches him in the middle of chatting up Mr, Smith. Honestly, the way Alan is all coy it's as if him having to say 'Mr. Smith, I need you' is going to undermine the very core of his masculinity. Perhaps he's secretly got the hots for Mr. Smith. As the camera pans round over Alan's shoulder, Chrissie's reaction is priceless and, later, the whole gag about treasure hunts and golden rabbits is brilliantly off the wall. And Chrissie's definitely not falling for it, this time.
The kids break into Kaagh's ship, accompanied by some excellent music cues - all drums and Sontaran war cries - and Sarah uses a teaspoon and an open mind to fling together a jamming device to prevent thousands of satellites using the Earth as a pin cushion. The episode's pace directly benefits from all these strands running in parallel and we still get a little moment for Maria to pine about her imminent move to America as Luke plays with the Sontaran ship's chemistry set. Its gets highly emotional as Maria pours her heart out to Luke. That is until she says, 'Please Luke, you have to make this gas' and it sounds like she's asking him to fart in Kaagh's general direction. Kills the scene stone dead.
'Try my size five, Humpty!' will forever be my battle cry from now on.After this it's chase after chase, jeopardy upon jeopardy as Maria and Clyde try and disable the telescope, Lucy tries to break the computer encryption and Luke multi-tasks to make his gas and crack the computer (sorry, that sounds like his wind could shatter a Mac at fifty paces). But that Sontaran is a crafty bugger and there's much fun as he uses plans A, B and C to trump every move made by Sarah and the kids. It does rather stretch the plot to breaking point and Lucy turning out to be his sleeper agent is perhaps a plot turn too many. 'Think like your enemy' he intones. What, worry about your handbag and lipstick in the middle of an emergency? Funnily enough, something like that. After much gloating, poor old Kaagh is bowled for six in the probic vent by Chrissie's well aimed pink slingback. That has got to be the gayest way of despatching monsters and makes Doctor Who's alleged gay agenda look incredibly butch in comparison. 'Try my size five, Humpty!' will forever be my battle cry from now on.
And so Kaagh is sent packing, signing off on his defeat with a variation of 'And I would have got away with it if it wasn't for these pesky kids'. The episode concludes with Maria and her dad deciding to leave for America. Sarah fesses up about her grump with Maria in Part 1, with Lis Sladen doing what she does best by emotionally twisting the audience round her little finger as she speaks of Maria as the daughter she always wanted. Aaahhhhh. Mind you, it does get very saccharine with the coda where Sarah pontificates about star gazing to remind you of loved ones you're missing. Still, it's heart is in the right place and jolly good it was as an opening story. Next week it looks like we get Killer Clowns From Outer Space and an introduction to new girl on the block, Rani (no, not that Rani).
Cathode Ray Tube Sarah Jane Adventures Series 2 preview