Doctor Who #768: Revenge of the Slitheen Part 1

"What a bright future you've all got, children of the world, etcetera."
TECHNICAL SPECS: Episodes from Revenge of the Slitheen through The Lost Boy, including Invasion of the Bane, are available in the Sarah Jane Adventures Season 1 DVD set. First aired Sep.24 2007.

IN THIS ONE... Clyde is introduced and the Slitheen are brewing trouble at Maria and Luke's school.

REVIEW: Sarah Jane, Maria and Luke are back for a full series, and we can all breathe a sign of relief... Kelsey is not. Of course, we haven't yet escaped the cheesy nonsense plot syndrome that kept me from fully enjoying Invasion of the Bane. Was there really anyone waiting with baited bad breath for the Slitheen's return? I can understand pitching this series to a younger audience, and that the baby-faced monsters were also an attempt at catering to the younger fart joke demographic, but essentially inserting them into School Reunion's plot isn't doing them any favors. For Sarah Jane, this means 2 of her last 3 televised cases were essentially built on the same premise. Except this time, it borrows liberally from Aliens of London, with giggling, flatulent fatties and a very similar cliffhanger structure. The Slitheen AREN'T interesting in this, played even more as comic relief than in AoL, although there is some amusement to be had with the Slitheen child. It's certainly a nice reveal that there's an extra layer to Carl being put down by the teacher. Of course, it also means a child was murdered in the background of this episode.

Thankfully, the cast of regular and recurring characters is incredibly charming and worth watching. Maria gets to do a fun little recap of the pilot in the opening minutes, and is immediately winning, and I love the relationship she has with her father Alan. Sarah Jane does too, wondering how to establish that kind of bond two weeks into her adoption of Luke. Sarah may be sharp as a tack when interviewing nasty aliens, but it makes sense that she would be out of her depth with something as every day as taking her son to school. Compared to Alan, she's over-protective, awkward and a little cold, but at least she's not comedy mom Chrissie, well-meaning but too self-centered to make a good guardian for Maria (and she liked Manimal, so, INDICTMENT). Fresh-smelling Luke isn't complaining, but he naturally feels a little lost, only a couple weeks old and as uncool as a bow tie. As a fish out of water, his plight is amusing of course, but there's also a positive message that quickly comes to the surface - it's okay to be different. Luke is that "X-Men metaphor", of teenagers feeling like they are freaks, isolated by some innate (but oh so wrong) knowledge that everyone's got it figured out except them. But this isn't a show about teenage angst. After Luke succinctly expresses this idea, it doesn't take him long to turn it around, ultimately rejecting Clyde's idea of normal/cool.

Ah, Clyde Langer. He's a lot like Kelsey, the comic foil who cracks jokes and doesn't want to believe in this alien malarkey, but while he can be annoying in that vague way excited kids can be, he doesn't have a negative attitude. That's what made Kelsey so irritating. Her idea of cool was based in materialism and she viciously attacked the things she thought were out of fashion. Clyde's "cool" is an obvious front. Here he is, a kid raised by a single mom, with a deadbeat dad "somewhere", the class clown, and what does he do? Hang out with the school freaks. Like Maria and Luke, he's new to the school, but the way he talks, he should have been able to get into a cool clique already. He hasn't. He's just as much an awkward outcast as they are, he just hasn't gotten the opportunity to save the world yet. Once he does, he'll be the academic underachiever of the group, but just as adventurous as the rest. I can't imagine Kelsey filling that role across a series.

REWATCHABILITY: Medium - The characters are where the show's heart is, but those Slitheen are making it hard for me to sell the show to those who express no interest in the "kiddie version" of Doctor Who.

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