Invasion of the BaneBookmark and Share

Wednesday, 21 September 2011 - Reviewed by Nicole-Anne Keyton

n Maria Jackson moves into the empty house on Bannerman Road, everything seems normal. But then, she discovers a neighbour across the road who seems peculiar and different and more or less frosty to others, and a fizzy orange soda that’s a revolutionary drink in town with an odd taste. Oh yeah, and some bizarre aliens trying to take over the world.

The first alien Maria saw seemed nice and relatively harmless. As she heard it pass over her house, she found it hovering in the strange neighbour’s garden. And the supposedly mad woman was outside, too, accepting something from it, like a gift. It seemed beyond strange. But what’s even stranger are the events that take place the next day.

Maria and her dad receive their first visitor: a girl called Kelsey Hooper, who rattles on about the importance of music channels, too many carbohydrates, and this addicting soda called Bubble Shock. What’s more, Kelsey wants to take Maria to the Bubble Shock factory itself. But what seems like an ordinary soda production company turns out to be not so ordinary after all.

Apparently, the use of mobile phones is sensitive to the technology used in the factory, but when Kelsey ignores the no-phones rule and calls up her friend, her phone goes haywire and sets off the factory’s alarms. The people touring in the factory are ordered to evacuate in case of emergency, but Maria suddenly remembers Kelsey running off and leaves the tour group to find her. Instead, she stumbles upon a peculiar boy in what appears to be a hospital gown and, again, the strange lady who lives on Bannerman Road across from Maria. The lady, named Sarah Jane Smith, helps Maria and the boy escape through a window in the women’s toilets, to her car parked outside, and they all leave the factory unscathed.

After finding out from Kelsey (who returns to Maria’s from the factory) that the tour guide from the factory is on Bannerman Road looking for Sarah Jane, Maria heads off to Sarah Jane’s house to warn her about his presence. But it’s too late: an alien in the form of a one-eyed squid-octopus-type-thing is chasing after them. Maria, Kelsey, the boy from the factory, and Sarah Jane all run up the stairs to the top floor of her house, Sarah Jane runs into the attic to fetch something, and orders the others to wait outside, returning with an object that attacks the alien, turning it back into the human form of the tour guide from the factory. He flees, and, curiosity killing the cat, the three kids storm into the attic and come across a setting one wouldn’t see every day.

Alien artefacts lie about all over attic, covering shelves, desks, even walls. Several photos from the past can be seen along one wall, including snaps of a robot dog and a man dressed in a green uniform. What is this place? And who is Sarah Jane Smith?

Sarah Jane has no choice but to tell the three children about what she does. Yes, she’s an investigative journalist, but she also hunts aliens. Well, I wouldn’t say “hunt”; she finds any aliens who get lost and come to Earth (like the one Maria saw the previous night) and sends them back on their way, and she stops the ones who want to invade the planet. In the example of the hostile octopus-squid-like alien, Maria learns that they are in the middle of an alien invasion.

The Bubble Shock factory is run by those octopus-squid-like aliens disguising themselves in human form. They are an alien race known as Bane, and they intend to use their addicting orange soda to convert the human race into Bane. They created an Archetype, that boy in the factory who was found by Maria, and scanned every human mind who entered the factory into the Archetype to improve the drink so everyone would drink it. Once Sarah Jane, Maria, and the Archetype discover the Bane’s attempt to dominate Earth, they set out to stop them.

I’ve seen many children’s shows (thanks, Disney Channel), but I can tell from this pilot episode that The Sarah Jane Adventures is spectacular. Sarah Jane’s methods of hunting down aliens and stopping the ones that want to invade are completely non-violent and very effective. You don’t have to watch Doctor Who to understand what goes on. I mean, sure, the Doctor makes an appearance a couple times, and Sarah Jane talks about him and how he’s influenced her life, but it’s all explained and not inferred. To compare The Sarah Jane Adventures to American children’s TV, it’s kind of like Power Rangers, except there’s no fighting and a lot of running.

Speaking of Sarah Jane’s methods, she’s got the best technology on Earth, rivalling Torchwood and UNIT. She’s got sonic lipstick, a version of the Doctor’s own sonic screwdriver, and it’s so very stylish. She’s got a watch that can detect the presence of an alien, how old you are in minutes, and more. And, the best of them all, she’s got Mr Smith, an alien supercomputer. Mr Smith can hack into any computer, call any number, access any map, document, file, or website, and talk to you while doing so. I must say that Sarah Jane is well-equipped.

Being such a huge fan of Sarah Jane, I was not disappointed in her choice of outfits. In fact, I’ve finally purchased a pair of brown boots and a coat in yellow similar to her purple one so I can go to school dressed like Sarah Jane. Yeah, I do that a lot.

Also, who else is now shiftily drinking orange soda? It’s become my favourite party drink. Yes, I react quite oppositely than intended to realistic aliens and their concoctions. See a statue? Take a photo. Turn out the lights? Hastily turn on a torch. See a gas mask in a World War II film? Mumble, “Are you my mummy?” to myself. Find orange soda in the store? Buy it. Drink it. Get more. But I love how the writers create stories about how this realistic, earthly thing is actually something involving aliens and could be dangerous. Yes, at any moment now, I’m going to become a slave to the Bane and run around the room chanting “Drink it!”

“I saw amazing things out there in space. But there’s strangeness to be found wherever you turn. Life on Earth can be an adventure, too...you just need to know where to look!” I’ve seen The Sarah Jane Adventures in entirety multiple times, and one of the things I love the most about the show is that Sarah Jane almost always has a little monologue of how great the universe is. The show is mostly revolving around chasing the hostile aliens off Earth and leaving humanity in peace, and we oftentimes need a little reminder from Sarah herself that even though there are dangers out there, the universe is also brilliant.