Sunday, 10 May 2015

Enemy of the Bane written by Phil Ford and directed by Graeme Harper

This story in a nutshell: A return to UNIT for Sarah Jane as two enemies return to bring her down…

Until We Meet Again…Miss Smith: Sarah is wonderfully stroppy about taking Rani into Mrs Wormwood’s company because she knows how dangerous she is. Whilst Mrs Wormwood considers Luke a failed experiment Sarah stands proud as his mother and is willing to protect him with her life. She’s not past her sell by date yet. UNIT have their uses but in Sarah’s experience guns never solved a situation they didn’t first make worse. Sarah laughs that her UNIT files have a higher security rating than she ever did! She is scared of UNIT taking an interest in Luke because they will consider him an alien threat but she is happy to share the knowledge with her good friend the Brigadier. Mrs Wormwoods suggests that Sarah should be indebted to her for enriching her sad, purposeless life with Luke. The one thing Sarah never expected to see was the universe being saved by a Sontaran.

Chap With Wings: Had the Brigadier not appeared in Doctor Who or its various spin off shows it would have been a terrible oversight and some small part of me is so glad it was this show that earned his appearance. Clearly an old man now, Nicholas Courtney has lost none of his gentlemanly manners and military charm. The hug between him and Sarah is one of the most eye watering moments of television for me given recent tragedies and it is so affirming to see them together one last time. The Brigadier might be enjoying his retirement with Doris but he remains UNITs special envoy which allows them to dust him down every once and a while and send him off on errands. In his day UNIT maintained the benefit of common sense not like this new PC bunch! Now that the cats out of the bag about aliens Sir Alistair wants to write his memoirs about the old days. In a final punch the air moment that makes you want to reach into the screen and kiss him the Brigadier reveals that his walking cane that he has kept so close throughout this story is a loaded gun and he blows the Bane away!

Sarah’s Gang: Luke has so many questions to ask Mrs Wormwood about his ‘birth.’ He was born running but Sarah Jane gave him and name and made him a person. He enjoys his life even if he finds the world a complicated place to live in. Luke gets to tell his creator that she had no part in his upbringing.

Wily Wormwood & Killer Kaarg: I remember when I first watched this is was one whoop for joy after another as each recurring character was introduced. I had been campaigning for the return of Mrs Wormwood ever since her departure because Samantha Bond gave such a deliciously arch performance that was right down my alley. She has this ability to make the material seem serious no matter how ridiculous it is and yet still capitalise on every gag. This isn’t just a return appearance for the sake of it but a well thought through continuation of her character after her failiure to invade the Earth at the end of Invasion of the Bane. She’s disgraced and seeking help to defeat them on Earth with the very people she tried to kill. While you never trust her for a moment Mrs Wormwood makes a very good case for herself. She finds Sarah’s attic comfortingly unsophisticated until she is placed in a containment force field. There is a gorgeous shot of Mrs Wormwood and Kaarg peering around the corner of Sarah Jane’s house that always makes me chuckle. Kaarg could never return to Sontar after being beaten by a female and was reduced to working as a mercenary for the Bane when he recognised Mrs Wormwood as somebody with a high price on her head. She encouraged him to see things differently and they joined forces. Mrs Wormwood offers Luke the chance to be her son and she will give him an entire galaxy – its so nice that she is much more than just a ranting villainess but she has real feelings too. When Luke runs back into Sarah Jane’s arms Mrs Wormwood can barely hold back the tears.

Sparkling Dialogue: ‘I do so loathe amateurs!’
‘3000 years ago there was nowhere as primitive as Earth. Little has changed.’
‘In my day we took on Daleks, Cybermen, Autons, Zygons and all manner of space thuggery and it doesn’t get more hostile than that.’ 
‘Saving human beings has become a bit of a habit for me Miss Smith. I do hope I can recover the Scroll before I am scarred for life’ – Mrs Wormwood gets all the best lines!
‘The battle of the costume jewellery counter. How very female.’

The Good: Always great to see Gita getting in on the action and her abduction is treated very seriously. SJA never fails to surprise me with its sophisticated storytelling and the check being deciphered into a calling card is a lovely touch. The Bane were such a great looking monster because they were icky enough for the kids and dynamic enough for the adults and their rampage through Sarah Jane’s house was a destructively memorable set piece. Here they seem nastier than ever especially when they drag Sarah along the floor back into the warehouse to devour her alive. Can you imagine anything more awesome than a building called The Black Archive which just happens to be a UNIT vault of everything that shouldn’t be on Earth but is? Sod the kids – that gets me really excited! Not content with bringing the Brigadier back which is exciting enough he gets to be involved in some awesome industrial espionage, sneaking Sarah Jane and Rani inside the Black Archive and then later driving them away in a hail of bullets. There is a dazzling view inside the Archive that suggests it is a place you would love to have a good poke around in! If this was a Doctor Who episode people would be declaring it the best thing ever…UNIT soldiers surrounding the Brig and Sarah guns cocked and Bane squids attacking the house! The final nourishing twist to a great episode sees Kaarg return in a puff of smoke (or rather in the wake of an exploding Bane). This story couldn’t encapsulate more Pertwee elements if it tried! Horath winds up being a computer that can control the physical laws of the universe - that can destroy worlds and give birth to them in the blink of an eye. There is a gorgeously scored action sequence in episode two that sees Luke diving out of exploding oil barrels as Kaarg shoots at him. Sunny green location work gives the final breath of this adventure a stylish look. Brilliantly we don’t know where either villain winds up so they are ripe for a return visit.

Result: One last adventure with Sarah and the Brig, what a wonderful gift. The first episode is one of the best SJAs ever with one exciting surprise after another. Mrs Wormwood! The Bane! The Brigadier! The Black Archive! A Sontaran! Rather than the heroes and villains reunion that I suggest these revelations are perfectly paced to keep the piece exhilarating and tightly paced. The second episode is not quite as strong because all the plot elements have been introduced so there is some running on the spot but it is still packed full of great moments. The Brigadier gets to save humanity once again, Luke comes into his own, Kaarg achieves redemption and Sarah Jane rids herself of two enemies in one go! All in a days work. The fact that there is so much packed into this adventure and it isn’t even this show at its peak might give you and idea of the high quality it maintains: 8/10

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