Wednesday, 8 April 2015

Warriors of Kudlak written by Phil Ford and directed by Charles Martin

What’s it about: Combat 3000 are abducting children…

Until Next Time…Miss Smith: Sarah walks a fine line between asking probing questions and being a shoulder to cry on. She takes umbrage to Maria suggesting that she sees aliens under every bush – she’s not a conspiracy theorist! Sometimes it is good to just help people. How awesome is it to see Sarah Jane making a machine out of insane odds and ends just like the Doctor used to – she’s like the female Willy Wonka taking her crazy contraption up the hill and making it rain jelly beans! Sarah Jane has been banned from saying anything is ‘the nuts’ ever again. You get scenes of Sarah wandering corridors with her assistant Maria and being threatened by the villains – this show has definitely taken on the style and tone of classic Doctor Who and can you think of a better female protagonist to take up the role? Grantham is impressed that Sarah has had weapons from other planets pointed at her before. UNIT training, you never forget it! The scene where Sarah Jane sees the Earth from space means so much to the fans of Doctor Who – its something she has longed to see for years.

Sarah’s Gang: Oh dear Luke is still trying to get his head around humour, Data style, and he has the essential facts about jokes correct but isn’t relaxed enough to pull of the delivery. He feels really bad about taking the mickey out of Lance and not realising his dad was in the army and died. Grantham says that when Luke fights his way through the laser quest hall it is as though he has something to prove. Luke gets his first kiss and now his questions aren’t about slang and jokes but the ladies… The scenes between Clyde and Luke in the park are very sweet and see this bromance flourishing very nicely. Clyde reveals the truth about his dad in this story that he ran of with his Auntie Melba. Whilst it is a throwaway comment here it would become much more important (and personal) later. Clyde thinks that laser quest is for kids but wants to keep playing because its all part of Luke’s education (not that he’s enjoying it or anything). Clyde becomes the mouthpiece for the kids and the message of the story comes through – they don’t want to be sent to war because they aren’t ready for it. Maria states the inexplicable female creed: you can never have too many bags. She's slowly falling into the role of a Doctor Who companion but has a bit more gumption and brio than that. 

Sparkling Dialogue: ‘Last week you said a gaff was were dude lives!’ – this dialogue should be painful but it’s very funny in context.
‘I’m betting you don’t get invited to too many parties, do you?’ – Grantham on Luke.
‘Do you know why people come to Combat 300, Ms Smith? They come for the guns!
‘Children adore war games’ – that is one chilling line.
‘A conscience is like a stone in your shoe. You cannot begin to imagine the relief when you get rid of it.’
‘Are you going to beam onto the Uvodne spaceship and take them all on with your lipsteek?’ – I really wish Grantham had returned, he gets all the best lines.

The Good Stuff: Speaking as a 34 year old man who absolutely loves Laser Quest this episode might as well have been written for me alone! The teaser is visually stunning with Lance being lead along a fluorescent tunnel and beamed off into space by an alien (and the music is fantastic). Chook Sibtain as Grantham is one of those actors who simply gets how to perform in a Doctor Who/Sarah Jane adventure – it's a heightened performance but with just enough realism to make him a scary villain. In a season of villains that range from giant octopi to petrifying Gorgons it says something about his performance in this piece that as a mere human he is a very memorable villain. Once again SJA is dealing with surprisingly sensitive issues such as children going missing and families that have lost someone in Iraq. Kudlak’s mask is simple but very effective; his swivelling eyes keep the face moving and convince you that it is real. Sarah’s machine is like an old lawnmower with a trumpets sticking out of the top and the scene where the entanglement shells falls is another example of the wonder this show can provoke. Mr Smith is proving to be an invaluable tool this season; he pulls up all the news reports on missing children, examines the shells and pinpoints the exact location where there was a meteorological black spot. The woman on the front desk (‘welcome to the unique gaming experience that is Combat 3000…’) is bloody hilarious! You’ve got more tilted angle running sequences (ala Invasion of the Bane) which make the action far more dynamic. Kids are being locked up in crates and when you think about that for a second that is really creepy. Whilst Clyde tries to prove he is the man about the spaceship his new lady friend proves far more adept at showing him how to evade capture and the scenes of them running around the spaceship being shot at (for real) are really pacy and exciting. There is a dizzying moment of CGI as we shoot out of a window with the kids look out at space and fly out to the spaceship in orbit of the Earth. Sarah’s line of ‘I bet man like you don’t fare too well in prison’ works on so many levels. Its one of the best spaceships we have seen with its multi levels, dripping decks, bold lighting, smoking pipes…clearly this has been filmed in a huge warehouse by my God to they make the best of it. It looks massively expensive. My one complaint about this episode would have been that the Mistress is a little too inflexible in her thinking but even that is dealt with when it is revealed that she is a battle computer and not a person. Sarah taking Lance home is one twee ending that feels perfect.

The Bad Stuff: James Bellamy is not a natural born performer (‘are you calling me a liar?’ he says Catherine Tate style).

Result: This show is just so much fun – Warriors of Kudlak is extremely engaging throughout and ripped the child in me out until I was beaming with delight by the end. Whoever thought up the idea of training kids for combat in a laser quest environment is a genius, it’s a concept that works for both kids (its exciting as hell) and adults (it is frightening to think of kids being exploited and kidnapped like this). It's magnificent to see the show in space and both Sarah Jane and the kids’ reactions to seeing the Earth from orbit is surprisingly emotive. Visually the story extremely impressive, considering it is made on the budget there is a wealth of locations, some vibrant action, a great new alien and the lighting and music both work extremely well. Brilliant, energetic fun with lovely touches of depth and character, the fact that this first season gem is everyday business for Sarah Jane shows how good this show is: 9/10

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