Steve Goble

Choose life. (Deuteronomy 30:19)

The best element of this one is the sub-plot about Luke falling-out with his mum Sarah.

It's only over something as mundane as his messy bedroom, but the conflicting focuses that he's expected to maintain take us a little deeper into Luke's own personal lot, as opposed to those of any other stressed teenager.

Luke: "I don't know what you want from me. You say you're trying to give me a normal life, but when I act like a normal teenager you want me to be perfect again - the way the Bane made me."

The thing that hits home hardest about this scene is that the above dialogue is delivered in an incredible 41-second break from the drowning incidental music that usually suffocates this show. For a moment, it seems like drama. When the piano comes in at the end of the scene, it actually works, because it's in contrast to the plain room atmos that's preceded it.

There are some other occasions when it lets up in this too, and the music also sounds more like real instruments than synthesised ones. It's a welcome relief from all the usual noise.

Elsewhere in the soundtrack to part one, Elisabeth Sladen gets a terrific scene with the inanimate computer Mr Smith. Often Sladen has to fight her corner with the other players and make her whole performance bigger, but here she's performing on her own and much more subtle. This, too, works better than usual.

Mr. Smith: "Are you unwell?"

Sarah: "No, I'm fine Mr. Smith. It's Luke."

Mr. Smith: "But Luke has perfect health - that is how he was made by the Bane."

Sarah: "Yes, I know - the perfect human being. But nothing stays perfect forever, does it?"

Mr. Smith: "I'm sorry, I'm not sure that I understand."

Sarah: "Luke isn't ill, he's growing up."

Mr. Smith: "I believe it is a normal part of breeding patterns in most species."

Sarah: "Yes, I know. And I've tried so hard to make Luke's life as normal as possible. In a way it helped make mine a little more normal too. Before I met Luke, who was I? The lonely, frosty woman in the big house, who knew more about creatures from outer space than she did humans."

Mr. Smith: "I've always considered the intricacy of human nature excessively complicated in comparison to most other life-forms."

Sarah: "You and me both, old friend. And being a mum is just about as complicated as it gets. Most parents have years to get used to it - I'm still finding my feet, and already I'm realising that, one day, it's going to be over. One day Luke will be gone. One day, perhaps, very soon."

Alas, Mona Lisa's Revenge actually turns out to be Sarah's story off this series, although in turn this provides another good chance to see the kid-cast handling a case on their own.

Unfortunately, in terms of believability, this tale is about as close-to-the-line as the Doctor Who universe can get, without quite going over it.

London's International Gallery has acquired the Mona Lisa, and Clyde's won an art competition, to which the prize is for his whole class to go on a field trip to see it before anyone else.

If that's uphill work to read, then bear in mind that it looks like it was uphill work to plot as well.

At the gallery, artwork is coming to life, specifically the evil Mona Lisa of the title. Quite how a few paint molecules can assemble into such a greater, heavier mass of different elements and walk around is beside the point. This is science-fiction, or at the very least, fiction, so anything can happen. Including turning real people into a few strokes of paint and trapping them within pictures. (hence Sarah's absence for part two)

If all that doesn't sound throwaway enough, the story's biggest millstone is the nagging expectation that, as with most Who stories these days, someone is going to build a machine five minutes before the end that simply reverses everything that's happened so far.

Indeed, in a sluggish piece of pacing, this is exactly what ultimately happens. A small pencil drawing of K-9 is turned into a life-size metallic replica of him, who then simply wags his ears and utters the words "Maximum pigmentation dispersal."

Clyde: "Everything it did is being reversed."

Thanks Clyde.

The most watchable thing in this tale is Drop The Dead Donkey's Jeff Rawle as gallery bigwig Lionel Harding. I tended to find the plots of that show to be quite thin too, but here Rawle's comic performance is a delight to watch from start to finish. He really knows how to milk the comedy of every line, and he has a facial expression for every occasion.

Harding: "I told them security had to be improved here! I told them! After that Cup Of Athelstan fiasco at Easter! Ohhh, my beautiful Mona Lisa... the French will have my head!"

I couldn't help thinking what a good Doctor Who he could make...

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