The Sarah Jane Adventure, series 4: The Vault of Secrets
'Look, it's a long story, okay, but we haven't got time now. 'Cause Androvax is after us and so are the men in black. Oh, and if we don't get a move on, the worlds' going to end." — Just another day on Bannerman Road
I don't imagine this entry will be on much interest to any but hard-core Whovians, though we are once again faced with a mainstream program that isn't "about" race with a mostly non-white starring cast and not a white male hero in sight. Well, maybe others among you will be interested as well. Click on if you will, it's not too long anyway.
I suppose a bit of a let-down after last week's thrill-ride was almost inevitage. Phil Ford's The Vault of Secrets was a fairly succesful and mostly light-hearted romp; an entertaining addition to the Sarah Jane cannon, but nothing more.
The story is no great shakes in the orginality department — men in black, led by what I believe is an actor channelling Tommy Lee Jones (I've never seen the movies, so don't sue me if I'm wrong about that) and a returning alien with a monstrous, snake-like tongue, a propensity for taking over the bodies of hapless humans and absolutely no concern for their welfare.
Yes, once again the destruction of the world is at hand, and only Sarah Jane Smith and her band of merry teenagers can stop it.
The adventure in other words, is a more or less a shoot-by-numbers outing, competently delivering enough in the way of fast-paced thrills and chills to keep us watching, but not enough (at least for the adults among us) to be genuinely compelling.
Similarly, there's not much in the way of character development — though there are deniable hints that Rahni and Clyde might be developing a thing for each other — this time around.
What we've got, really, is a a light episode played mostly for laughs, and we get enough of them for a good time.
I don't really have a lot more to say about it.
I'm a little surprised that I'm missing Tommy Knight; I didn't quite buy Anjli Mohindra's turn as the possessed Rani Chandra — but she gave it a brave try (Mina Anwar as her mum, did a more credible job); android's who are slower than humans and consistently terrible shots are getting to be a little hard to accept with a straight face; and I'm a little worried about Lis Sladen's health — we have yet to see her in a guaranteed-no-stunt-double running scene.
Other than that ... Well, Rahni is proving to be a pretty resourceful girl and a good complement to Clyde's brash improvisations.
I suppose it's also worth noting that of this episode's four principals (Sarah Jane, Ghita, Rahni and Clyde), only one is white and she's a sixty-year old woman. This isn't internally relevant at all, but watching from the outside, it seems significant of ... well, of something hopeful. (On the other hand, all four are very British whatever their skin colours, so anyone looking for cultural diversity will just have to keep looking.
For me, the subtext of teenage loneliness and heroism is enough.
Next week marks the return of the The Doctor and Russell T Davies as script-writer. I hope to hell the latter is channelling his Good Androvax — the funny, thrilling creator behind the first two series of the revived Who, and not the self-indulgent, bigger-always-bigger crowd-pleaser he became.
I'll be crossing my fingers.