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Wednesday, 7 November 2012

Wizards vs Aliens

At the risk of alienating the adults amongst my readership, such as it is, I'm going to talk again about childrens television. Again. Sorry y'all.

With Wolfblood; CBBC's spectacularly well received supernatural drama created by Debbie Moon; having completed it's first run and disappeared from our screens for the time being it's time for CBBC to launch it's next attempt to take the sci-fi/fantasy world by storm and indoctrinate a new generation into it's charms. Namely, Wizards vs Aliens.

From the people who brought us The Sarah Jane adventures, Wizards vs Aliens is the tale of a bunch of aliens coming to Earth to steal it's magic, and being faced with opposition from a bunch of wizards. Pretty self explanatory really.

I had been operating under the impression that this show was put into production following the unavoidable early cancellation of The Sarah Jane Adventures, which came about when Sarah Jane herself, Elisabeth Sladen, passed away. It would seem, if this month's Doctor Who Magazine is to be believed, that that is incorrect; the show was actually conceived much earlier, as a stop gap to fill SJA's slot while Elisabeth Sladen underwent treatment for the illness that would eventually claim her life.

Regardless of the time frame though, the fact remains that this is a show created by, written by and made by the same team that produced SJA, and by that token will be judged to it's predecessor's very high standards. Sadly, it will be found wanting, when it is.

If we're being sensible though, we'd expect nothing less. That show caught lightning in a bottle. It had a lead of immense natural charisma in Sladen, 3 young cast members without a weak link among them; especially in the first season, because I don't care what anyone says, the show lost something very special when Yasmin Paige left; and let's not kid ourselves, in the Doctor Who universe, it had an incredibly deep and fully realised mythos to draw from. WvA doesn't stand a chance against that.

Scott Haran and his posse
If we take those comparisons out of the equation though, how does it fare? On it's own merits, as a new show, does it make you want to keep watching? At time of writing only the opening two parter has aired; though the second story will have by the time this is posted; and I have to say that yes, the opener did it's job. I enjoyed the show. I didn't love it, but I enjoyed it.

I'm still going to complain though. Come on, you knew I was.

Some of the aesthetics bothered me; the logo looks cheap and the theme music sounds like it should be attached to a sit-com, rather than a drama; the main villain, who is a puppet voiced by Brian Blessed which should make it awesome by default but doesn't, looks ridiculous; and the hidden base of the wizards is through a portal in the toilet. That last point just... it's a joke, I understand that it's a joke, I get the joke, but it's a joke that's mildly amusing, once; and they've tied themselves to it for the duration.

The Nekross alien dudes. Shiny.

All of that pales though, in comparison to the biggest of my problems with this show; something which I may have mentioned once or twice since the show was first announced; that bloody horrible title. It's not even that it sounds tacky and cheap and third rate sci-fi original movie-ie. I mean, it is that, but it's more than that; it's incredibly prohibitive, from a storytelling standpoint, surely?

Nekross King. Should be awesome, just looks stupid.

Think about it. The title tells you that the show is about wizards, fighting against aliens. How many variations on that do you have? Especially since the reason for the conflict; the Nekross want to consume the wizards' magic; means that they are tied to ONE alien race as the regular antagonists. This is a show that is, unless they pull off some extremely nimble creative gymnastics, going to get very repetitive very quickly and all for the want of someone saying 'you know what lads, it's great as a concept, but maybe we should just see it as a working title, eh?' But of course, this is the almighty RTD, so called genius, so I'm guessing there was a hell of a lot of yes man-ing going on in his BBC meetings.

All of this may seem like petty complaining to you, and yes, I'll concede, they are all small things. But they are the kind of small things that people notice, even if they don't realise they do; and the kind of small things that will cement a show in someone's mind as good, rather than great. Which is a shame.

Of course, you could say that it's only a kids show, so why hold it up to the same standards as primetime drama. You could say that, but I'd hate you forever. Because do you know what that attitude boils down to? It boils down to 'it's ok to give kids shit, because they don't know any better.' They do know better, they deserve to be catered to by people who respect their intelligence, and they'll respond when they are. Why do you think SJA was so popular? Or Wolfblood? Or what about Horrible Histories? I rest my case.

As I say though, I did enjoy the show, for all my complaining; I think it has huge potential, if they can escape from the traps they've set for themselves. Oh, and if the sidekick character becomes less annoying. I'm not worrying too much about that point though; when Wolfblood started I thought the best friend characters were awful, but by the end of the run one of them, Shannon (Louisa Connolly-Burnham), had become the absolute beating heart of the show and totally stolen it form under the leads noses.

Wolfblood's secret weapon
These things just take time.

Next: A post about the back half of Caprica, or 'Why Magda Apanowicz is awesome.'

1 comment:

  1. I liked Magda Apanowicz in Kyle XY. I had a hard time getting into Caprica though.