The Lost Boy (Part One)

TV Re-writing the year’s Doctor Who season overview last night to make it slightly more coherent than the sprawl that accumulated over the past six months pretending to be real text I was struck by how thematically coherent this past series has been; I don’t mean the plot twists and mythological connections but the treatment of time travel for example or this Doctor’s connection with humanity in which he seems more likely to want to connect with the more exceptional members, rather disregarding the rest, unlike Ninth, where it’s precisely the unremarkable people he seems to get mixed up with because they have what he never can.

As we enter the home straight, or last story of …

The Sarah Jane Adventures

… do these six stories (if you include Invasion of the Bane) have anything in common. Well, to some extent it’s the kind of thing you’d expect – that kids are more able to accept the fantastic than adults, that there are more things in heaven than on earth than are dreamt of in our general philosophy and in the case of Sarah Jane, that it’s up to you to define exactly when the best time of your life is, but that you shouldn’t necessarily spend the rest of your life trying to live up to that. But from the Slitheen onwards, it’s also a parable on not taking anything for granted or at face value and expect that there’s more to it than that. The return of the Slitheen in …

The Lost Boy: Episode One

… are an example of that as they burst out of their new thinner skin suits with better gas exchange system (no more farting). There’s also Mr. Smith, you unsurprisingly turned out not to be as benevolent as everyone assumed (apart from me, who thought Clyde was the baddun after the first Slitheen story). Also the teaser for this episode (full of handy exposition heavy flashbacks) suggested that Maria’s Dad had rejected the paranormal as being too dangerous, only for him to come around a couple of minutes later (which might have something to do with the twinkle in Sarah Jane’s eye).

Much as I enjoyed this episode I think it’s the first which really suffered from the twenty-five minute format and budget. The idea of Luke being identified as a lost kid was a good one, even if it seemed to be one of the few occasions when a Who related story clashed with the real world Spooks-style, particularly with the length of time since these fake parent’s son went missing. There’s enough material in there for a whole story, with Luke experience family life in a real house with ordinary parents and Sarah Jane’s adventures being investigated by the police. Sadly, all we really got was an expectation that he should like football and be able to skateboard and Sarah Jane getting off the hook easily (and logically) via her UNIT credentials (squee etc).

There’s no denying that’s a more psychological approach to drama and rather heavy for this end of the series. But the script seemed to lack the spring we’ve seen over the past month, less funnier especially as the plot spun on the Pharos project (squee again), evil Mr. Smith and the Slitheen. It’s a neat idea to bring back the young one in a new skin, but to deliberately sound like one of the old audience survey’s that were republished in The Television Companion, I’m getting rather tired of these green aliens and their plans and would like to see something new. When it was suggested in the previews before this episode that everything we knew about the series was revealed to be wrong, that it would be something related to its main character, that her agenda was far more complex.

Perhaps it’s right though that kid Slitheen should be turning in the most knuckle strippingly annoying characterisation the series has produced, and certainly the broadest bit of acting we’ve seen. Since the performances of the people playing the Slitheen tend to be quite large, let’s give him and his alien parents the benefit of the doubt. It’s just a shock to see this kind of thing going on after the rather subtle work everyone else has been putting in over the weeks. Not sure what was quite going on with Floella Benjamin though with her interesting line readings and emphatic emphasising of certain words. At least Alexander Armstrong’s weekly monotone suddenly makes sense – like Hal from 2001, if he’s going to kill you, he’ll at least be doing it genially.

It’s a good job the rest of the ensemble are still on form, especially Joseph Millson as Alan, now less of the bewildered adult and part of the inner circle. Doctor Who Magazine ‘revealed’ that Daniel Anthony (Clyde) is twenty, which makes his work even more impressive as at no point in the preceding episodes has that been apparent. Yasmin Paige (Maria) continues to be a force of nature and full marks to Tommy Knight for capturing well Luke’s bewilderment and going some way to filling the emotional gaps. The only moment that didn’t really work was Sarah Jane’s banishment of Maria which was rather simplistic and Liz had a real job with it, since it went right against what’s been established about the character. It's just wrong that she’d be as cold as she was here without some outside influence, despite having the kid’s best interests at heart, particularly since she seemed less devastated than she should be afterwards.

Next week: Moonfall. And whatever you do, don't look at the Wikipedia page for this episode. It gives away a rather surprising surprise.

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