So far, this series has been good fun, but with a handful of caveats; I’ve mostly been watching it and appreciating the skill that’s gone into its crafting, rather than immersing in it fully. This time, everything seemed to click, and I was finally able to get lost in the story like I do with a good Who episode. Maybe it’s because I always loved Laserquest, and the mere sight of such an establishment immediately brought to mind the smell of musty vest packs and post-skirmish Slush Puppies.
I think it’s also notable that this is the first story without Maria’s parents, and therefore the first time that she’s been free to adventure without any distractions, which immediately makes the gang feel more like a team. Mostly though, it’s just a really good story; the first half trundles along quite nicely, but it really kicks up a gear when the action switches to the spaceship.
Luke functions like a mini-Doctor, jerry-rigging gizmos and leading the escape party, whilst generally being two steps ahead of everyone else. Then, while each story so far has had a fun, gimmicky twist leading in to the cliffhanger, this one deploys its twist towards the end, and it’s one that you could easily see the main show using – in fact, I’m not sure it hasn’t already. It’s so much more sophisticated than most people would expect from a kids’ show, which is exactly why there’s no such thing as “just” a kids’ show.
The best thing about the twist is that it makes General Kudlak a much more complex and interesting character than the generic shouty alien man we see in the first episode. It befits what is a seriously impressive prosthetic job, considering what I assume is a tiny budget; I guess the hordes of henchmen in motorcycle helmets are the price you pay for that. Also, when Sarah Jane went to the missing kid’s house in the first episode, he had fifteen identical posters on his wall, laid out in a perfect grid. Top notch set design.
The one thing I wasn’t keen on was Clyde’s strange reaction to finding a girl in a crate – “wahey, things are looking up” or some such. I know he’s a teenage boy, but that shouldn’t be your first thought upon finding a girl in a crate, and call me a libtard cuck if you will, but it’s not an attitude that should be expressed by an aspirational character in a children’s programme. Later, there seemed to be some sort of group vote among the non-speaking abductees, that leads to the same girl going over and kissing Luke as a reward for his efforts. Fuck the patriarchy.