Steve Goble

Choose life. (Deuteronomy 30:19)

Set in a school, this could do better!

I found I had high hopes for this kids' spin-off series from Doctor Who, free as it hopefully would be from the pretentious adult agendas that have so bogged-down both the main show and its studenty spin-off Torchwood.

And indeed, although SJA appears to be capable of winning the battle for quality, I'm afraid this opening two-parter falls down on just about every count.

First up, it's written by Gareth Roberts, whose work I've come across three times before, and been impressed by every time. (The Shakespeare Code, Attack Of The Graske, and The Tomorrow People: The New Gods, three-and-a-half if you count the co-written Invasion Of The Bane, which had a nice script but a weak plot)

Again, Roberts' dialogue does all the things it needs to do. All the characters remember what happened in the pilot, like we do. They also generally notice when plot-points don't seem to add up, like we do.

Unfortunately the plot itself has been thought-through much less. The Slitheen are constructing machines to sap the planet's energy. They're hiding them inside new school–buildings that they're constructing around the world. They're doing this only in cities that contain underground rail-systems so that they can vent the machines' heat down there.

Individually, those three ideas are fine, but they really don't fit together into one plan. If you wanted to erect buildings on railway lines, you'd build stations, or offices, or anything really. Any amount of heat that could be vented into underground rail tunnels could be better vented into the sky. And a machine designed to absorb and store heat really shouldn't be regularly venting so much of it.

At one point these machines absorb the power of the sun. There's no eight-minute delay however, so the effect on Earth is instantaneous. I'd like to think that the Slitheen were only absorbing the energy that was reaching the Earth, but that's not really what was said.

The Slitheen lumber slowly after their equally slow-running prey. None of them thinks to do the poison-dart fingernail thing from Boom Town. I don't like their flatulence, and neither does my mum.

And I'm sorry, but even much of the acting was dreadful, the kids' underacting accentuated by the aliens' overacting. (the director's fault)

Clyde's external monologue at the end is about as clunky as characterisation can get: "You were right – this is great. Weird, but great. And you lot need me. I can't believe you were gonna save those Slitheen. They tried to destroy the entire planet – billions of people. What was the big dilemma?"

I'd like to balance all that with some equally good observations, but the good things are really only average. Y'know, I could type something like "the sound was okay."

What this show does have in spades though is potential. I really hope it goes the way of last decade's Tomorrow People revival, rather than the more recent Who one.

Looking forward to the next story.

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