Director: Colin Teague
Starring: Elisabeth Sladen, Samantha Bond, Yasmin Paige
Forget McFly, MySpace and any other random piece of accelerated youth culture I’m too fossilised to even know exists. Give today’s kids what they truly need: octopoid Lovecraftian horror, lurking in a pop factory. It never did us any harm, by gad.
Elisabeth Sladen’s encore as Sarah Jane Smith in last year’s Doctor Who episode “School Reunion” was always going to be a shivery nostalgia-bomb for all right-thinking thirtysomethings. Whether it meant a fig to today’s youth was the question set to be answered by this New Year’s Day adventure, a taster for a full spin-off series following later in ’07. The title seems almost wilfully old school – and that school is probably Mallory Towers – but this is a glorious splice of trad kids telefantasy and modern, Tracy Beaker era storytelling.
The early seventies’ Tomorrow People is a clear influence. Not only do we have a sinister youth craze infiltrating humanity for its own ends (surely there was an episode of The Tomorrow People called “The Creeping Flares…”) but there’s also a TIM-style posh computer, depping for the contractually unavailable K-9. Elsewhere, the show’s sense of unearthly magic concealed within suburbia – not to mention its huge heart and optimism – reveal more of the DNA of its parent show than the ultimately unhuggable Torchwood.
Some smartly cast child stars, a slyly dry script (“She worships something called The Holy Oak… no, Hollyoaks…”), a deliciously arch turn from Samantha Bond, a smattering of Who in-jokes and, above all, Lis Sladen as Sarah, vulnerable and heroic and somehow immortally sexy, add up to a superior piece of kids’ telly.
And in a world where ITV slaps old episodes of Morse where children’s drama used to be, that’s a good and precious thing.