SARAH JANE ADVENTURES - Enemy Of The Bane Parts 1 & 2

Part 1 / BBC1 - 8th December 2008 - 4.35pm
Part 2 / CBBC - 8th November 2008 - 5.15pm

I don't know how many of you remember Les Dawson and Roy Barraclough and their double act as fishwives Cissie and Ada but it struck me at about ten minutes into Enemy Of The Bane that Mrs. Wormwood and Sarah Jane had started how they meant to go on. And on. And on. As the highly camp Samantha Bond and our Lis traded insults in a disused factory I did imagine them leaning across their garden wall as they bickered about the Archetype, Bubbleshock and Bane. And no, that's not a firm of solicitors. Mrs. Wormwood's elaborate calling card - pretending to buy flowers, subduing Gita (permanently I'd hoped) and leaving a cheque to pique Sarah Jane's interest - seemed a tad on the excessive side but who cares when Bond and Sladen take the crackling dialogue and run with it, trading bitchy insults whilst running away from monstrous CGI blobs. You could tell director Graeme Harper was savouring this in the way he shot the sequence of Mrs. Wormwood and Sarah Jane belting down the corridor to get out of the factory. A frenzy of close-ups, medium shots and some great low angle stuff are joined by a quick flash of Samantha Bond's high heels clacking along very camply. I'd also like to know Mrs. Wormwood's tips for keeping a violent purple hood permanently stuck to her head too.

...the Tunguska scroll looks...well...a bit like an ornate dildo

It transpires that the Bane are out to get their revenge on Mrs. Wormwood for the Bubbleshock affair but Sarah Jane's having none of it. After Clyde's priceless, 'But I thought you said she was an ugly bug-eyed squid thing' and Mrs. Wormwood's exasperated retort of 'Children!', the first hints of what writer Phil Ford is actually wanting to talk about in the drama start to emerge, even after the rather tongue in cheek one-upwomanship between Sarah Jane and Mrs. Wormwood as they mark out their territory in the attic. This is about family. Yes, the major theme of this second series is brought out again for another airing. It's clear from Luke's reaction to his Bane mother/creator that there are issues a plenty lurking under the surface of these witty and rather arch episodes. Both women squabble rather broodily over the confused Luke and there's a whiff of a strangely skewed Oedipal love-hate undercurrent emanating from the relationship between Luke and Mrs. Wormwood. In fact, I'd go as far as to say she displays a certain amount of sexual desire for Luke, with her purring, 'I made you rather handsome, didn't I?' One could also argue that the displaced bits of Horath, a sort of dismembered father-figure, represent the absence of mature masculinity in a world populated by brooding mothers and immature teenagers. It's also significant to note that the Tunguska scroll looks...well...a bit like an ornate dildo.
Sladen and Courtney play the reuniting of Sarah and Lethbridge-Stewart to perfection
And the dildo is kept in the Black Archive. That mention of UNIT and their stash of alien artefacts neatly swings the script towards the highlight of the episode. The return of Nick Courtney and Sir Alistair Lethbridge-Stewart. Even before we meet him, UNIT is posited as another symbol of the story's play on the role of the masculine with Clyde getting scolded by Sarah Jane for thinking the use of guns will solve all problems. Still, it is a delight to see him back and Courtney is in fine form as he dresses down the rather annoying Major Kilburne who prattles on about 'homeworld security' in front of a living legend who has dealth with his fair share of what he charmingly refers to as 'space thuggery'. Kilburne's an odd one and Simon Chadwick's performance is angular and brittle, indicating that he's not quite the full shilling, especially with that unsettling moment where he peers at himself in the metal lamp. And Sladen and Courtney play the reuniting of Sarah and Lethbridge-Stewart to perfection even though it's purely a fanboy pleasing moment and the kids watching won't have a clue who the hell he is. Perhaps this will usher in a cameo in the parent series for good measure.

The brief moments between Clyde and Luke, discussing Clyde's dad, leads us to the inevitable scene where Luke's confusion about his parental stock will necessitate a confrontation with Mrs. Wormwood. Clyde recognises that without his dad he wouldn't be alive and this spurs Luke into demanding to see her, despite Sarah's wishes to the contrary. It's a nicely played scene, showing off both Daniel Anthony and Tommy Knight to great advantage. The following scene between Knight and Bond, as Wormwood turns on the charm to escape from the attic, is also a triumph and again emphasises the themes of children and their relationships with their parents that's been running through this series. Here, it is Luke's turn to shed some light upon the woman that created him within the context of nature versus nurture in the development of adolescent social orientation.

We get to see the Black Archive but I was slightly disappointed and had hoped for a few recognisable objects as a little treat for us older fans. All we ended up with was a nod to Raiders Of The Lost Ark and mention of Queen Victoria. A shame really. The episode's cliffhanger mixes Sarah and Rani stealing the dildo of Horath and causing a security breach at UNIT with Wormwood's battle against one of the Bane that hilariously turns up on the doorstep posing as a pensioner collecting for charity. Ah, but then there's the bluff and Wormwood it seems is in league with Kaagh, the Sontaran seen off by Sarah at the beginning of the series this year. Universal domination and the sweetness of revenge are on the menu once more. A good opening episode, well directed by Harper and full of wonderful performances, especially from Bond and Courtney, and a reminder of the sheer fun this series can be.
...a hint at ancient myth and Biblical symbolism with the story positioning both Sarah Jane and Wormwood as barren women
Over to CBBC for Part 2 then. 'Nice one, Mrs.W' as Clyde and Luke are smothered in exploding Bane matter. The gang realise that UNIT are on the trail and hide out in Gita's flower shop with Mrs. Wormwood and Lethbridge-Stewart. It's here that Sarah Jane asks the very pertinent question, around which the whole story is built, 'Don't you have any children of your own...?' This aimed at someone who gives herself the title of 'Mrs'. Again, we have some very accomplished playing by Sladen and Bond as the two women sensitively discuss...well...their barreness. Of course it then descends into bitterness as Wormwood takes a pot shot at Sarah Jane's new found sense of purpose as a result of her surrogacy of Luke. There's a hint at ancient myth and Biblical symbolism with the story positioning both Sarah Jane and Wormwood as barren women, with Luke perhaps indicative of some form of immaculate conception. It's again telling that Wormwood bitches to Sarah about the sonic lipstick being 'very female' and demands 'a more masculine influence' as they go for handbags at dawn in the shop. Of course, the male influence is revealed as Kaagh and the pair of them are double crossing the Bane in order to revive the 'father figure' of Horath.

Kaagh becomes Wormwood's fawning eunuch which is a rather demeaning role for a former warlord of the Sontaran race and a further reference to Wormwood's power representing an suggestion of anxiety about male castration. Samantha Bond caresses that scroll a little too sensuously for my liking and I'm pretty sure she has cottoned on to what exactly is going on and is camping it up for all it's worth. When Luke asserts himself and stands up to Wormwood she again gets rather aroused and wants to possess him. Her ownership of Luke comes at the price of breaking the mother/son bond between him and Sarah Jane. Their passionate declaration of their familial love for one another is something that Mrs. Wormwood would never understand. She simply sees her relationship to Luke as one of sexual and intellectual possession it seems.
...a mother bequeathing her son with the power of life and death
Oh dear. Bloody Gita's back, sticking her nose in again. Except, she stumbles across a rather oddly behaving Major Kilburne and it's at this moment that it becomes apparent that Kilburne isn't what he seems. Not someone you'd invite in for a quick cuppa then. Meanwhile Luke is dragged off to another desolate factory location where he denies Wormwood's aspirations for him to be her concubine. Tommy Knight is exceptionally good, getting across Luke's bile for the woman's plan of galactic revenge. Bond also gives superb value, managing that tricky balance between sincerity and ham that all good villains need to achieve. Luke establishes that Horath actually isn't a living creature and we learn that he/she/it is some cyborg computer capable of reshaping the universe and 'can destroy worlds and give birth to them in a blink of an eye'. Some sort of interstellar father/mother then, with a galactic cradle to which Wormwood compares herself. And with that she hands her 'prince' the glowing dildo of Horath, a mother bequeathing her son with the power of life and death.

Brilliantly, that scene sucks the audience in and just for a brief second you think Luke's fallen under her spell. And then he legs it. What a fantastic twist to a carefully built scene. After a bit of a chase, a couple of explosions and some gloating, Kaagh decides to finish Luke off. However, Wormwood puts him firmly in his place, completing her castration of the warrior and reducing him to the status of slave. Whilst this life/death struggle is played out, Clyde gets all 007 (the look on Lethbridge-Stewart's face is priceless) and the gang have to deal with Major Kilburne. Kilburne is, of course, Bane. But Nick Courtney rises to the occasion and obviously relishes the scene where Lethbridge-Stewart promptly shoots the creature with his walking stick gun! Pity about that appalling 'slimy creep' gag from Sarah Jane, though.
...he simply says, 'I don't want to be a God' when she offers him the universe on a plate.

The climax to all this running around is Horath's dildo opening a big hole in time and space at a neolithic stone circle. Hang on, let me read that again....yeah, that's about the right level of innuendo. And holes are very important symbols when it comes to fertility rites and fertilising power as well as standing for the 'opening' of this world into other planes of existence. Oh, whilst we're at it, it might be useful to flag up that the herb wormwood is often used as a tea to give to pregnant women to ease labour pains. When she prepares to insert the scroll in the hole (I'm sorry, I can't help it) Wormwood even gets a solicitor joke in when Kaagh reminds her of their partnership. But ironically, only the human Luke can enter the circle and open the gateway. I love that moment where he simply says, 'I don't want to be a God' when she offers him the universe on a plate. It's the culmination of a very strong character arc that's been developing for Luke over the series. And Bond's reaction when Sarah Jane arrives and Luke runs to her with a shout of 'Mum!' is beautifully played. She's defeated by very simple human emotions, especially unconditional love, and that resignation is there in her desperate pleading for him.

Kaagh does the honourable thing and with a shout of 'Sonta-ha!' he pulls himself and Wormwood into the black hole. The episode ends on a delightful coda that embraces true friendship, including Sir Alistair, and the visual motif of star-gazing wonderment at the universe. A great conclusion to the story and a script that gets the series on track again after a run of uneven stories that took liberties with character development at the behest of recycled ideas. Clyde and Luke did get some terrific episodes, Sarah went somewhat out of character in the penultimate story and I'm afraid Rani and her family ended up as the major casualties this year. There needs to be some serious work done to make Gita and Haresh more appealing. But at least this is a high note to end this series on.

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