Did the new CBBC show from Russell T. Davies and the makers of Sarah Jane Adventures live up to its predecessor?
Not long ago, Wizards Vs Aliens completed its first series on CBBC. This is one of those shows where behind the scenes stuff takes up my descriptive space, because to be honest, the plot summary kinda writes itself. There are these wizards, right, and they are fighting some aliens. I know.
More to the point, and of greater interest to the TV geek crowd, this is the new series from Russell T. Davies and Phil Ford, two main men from Sarah Jane Adventures, after that show came to an untimely end following the death of Elisabeth Sladen. So, is Wizards Vs Aliens as fun a piece of crossover TV as SJA was? Let’s see. Catch the final episode on iPlayer if you want to avoid a deadly invasion of spoilers.
How Seriously Could YOU Take A Giant Rubber Brian Blessed?
Much more than its predecessor, Wizards Vs Aliens is cultivating a knowingly lame cheesy sci-fi vibe. I mean, the lead villain is a gigantic wall-sized rubber puppet voiced by Brian Blessed, complete with maniacal laughter, screams about how they “won’t escape this time”, and… some other grunting evil noises. The other aliens are bright yellow, and in the second two-part story, they unleash adorably fluffy blue pom-poms of death against our heroes.
Who, of course, are the wizards – to be precise, a family of them with normal, healthy lives and emotions, except for the cave where they secretly do magic. Said magic is fast becoming extinct thanks to the aliens eating it. The lead is a teenage boy whose mother died in his youth, but promises to be one of the greatest magical warriors of all time (all resemblance to Harry Potter purely coincidental), and he also has a geeky friend to bromance with.
The removal of the Doctor Who franchise may have freed up Davies, Ford and company to go super-silly, but the feel is still familiar, especially the Earth-bound human bonding material. The action sequences are different enough to set it aside, at least. The big emotional beats and important lessons come thick and fast, especially towards the end of the series. The penultimate story, in which the Wizards attack the Aliens with a computer virus, is written by Gareth Roberts – the man behind the most dramatic/tear-jerking episodes of SJA – and he keeps that record up here. The finale has a good crack at topping it, though.
Still, the refusal to take anything seriously might put off adult viewers, I suppose. Don’t get me wrong, I’d rather watch this than Torchwood. Then again, I’d rather watch Loose Women than much of Torchwood. Nonetheless, if we’re talking crossover appeal, they’ve perhaps put it aside slightly in favour of camp shouting and sci-fi fun.
Boys Vs Aliens?
Also, and this is an odd criticism for a Russell T. Davies show, where are the female heroes? Don’t get me wrong, Annette Badland is great fun as the lead wizard’s grandmother, and Scott Haran and Percelle Ascott are reliable teenage leads, but the action is firmly driven by those two boys. There’s female alien Lexi, I suppose, giving the aliens depth with her crisis of conscience, and the dead mum turns up at the end to save the day, but I felt the void. Especially as Rani of Sarah Jane Adventures was a really memorable character – to be honest, I’d have been fine if they’d transplanted Rani actress Anjli Mohindra over, but maybe she’s moved on to grown-up telly.
Nonetheless, Wizards Vs Aliens is a fun show in its own right, as well as a worthy successor to SJA, and if you enjoy sci-fi action, even if it skews young, definitely give it a shot. The second series has already been commissioned, so clearly the BBC are as happy as me. Looking forward to it.
Wizards Vs Aliens has now finished on CBBC, but there’s more info on the BBC official site, and you can catch up with the entire series on iPlayer for another week if the review has intrigued you.
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