Wizards vs Aliens: 201-202 “100 Wizards” Review
Reviewed by Patrick Kavanagh-Sproull.
I’m sure the plurality of those who watched The Sarah Jane Adventures and Doctor Who, to some extent, tuned into the first series of Wizards vs. Aliens just to see how it fared. In hindsight, it was shaky but still propitious and surprisingly adult. The Nekross’ manipulation of Tom’s late mother was barbaric and downright cruel. Imagine if the one thing you wanted in your life came to you before being brutally plucked away. You would feel some degree of anger towards those that took that thing away and I genuinely feel Tom dislikes the Nekross but he doesn’t loathe them. His relationship with Lexi (they had a brief alliance and, dare I say, friendship in the Series One episode Friend or Foe) is still civil and after what the Nekross did to him and his family in The Last Day, I would be bawling and shouting at them. Unfortunately this was only one of the many flaws in the Series Two opener, 100 Wizards.
After a high-octane opening sequence – a nice way of showing what Benny and Tom have been doing for the past year or so since the events of the last series – we are almost immediately plunged into this week’s adventure. A brazen young wizard has been flamboyantly displaying her magic on the Internet, sparking Benny, Tom and Ursula to pursue her. Chloe, the wizard in question, is a realistic character amidst the science geek cliché that is Benny and ‘Clyde Langer without humour’ Tom. She’s got relative fame from her online video and is basking in it, as Tom noted. Every teenager with a spotlight over them would act the way she did. Chloe, once sufficiently won over by Tom’s affections, conducted herself as a teenager in love. She was shallow (this isn’t a generalization, mark my words) but her disregard of Benny was out-of-order. He may not be ‘cool’ or “cute” but he saved her life more than once and she wasn’t at all grateful. And Tom has been a really bad boy. He got dumped by Katie in the first ten minutes and already, less than a day later, he’s flirting with another girl. Katie didn’t want to dump him and it’s neither characters’ fault but still he didn’t seem to be on the rebound when he met Chloe.
Other supporting characters included Miranda Fisher and Nathaniel Nightjar, two entirely unpredictable newcomers. Fisher started off as a cynical and sarcastic wizard that you expected to make jibes throughout and her shock betrayal of Ursula and Michael came as a surprise to me. The same can be said for Nightjar who changed his tune quickly. Nightjar’s faithlessness and willingness to direct the Nekross to the Neverside doesn’t characterise him as a bad person, he simply wanted to escape and not have his magic extracted. Fisher and Nightjar were two interesting creations and ones that I wish had been explored further. Moreover, I’m curious as to what happened to Mrs. Meeks, Chloe’s care worker when she stumbled upon the Nekross. She vanished thereafter and only reappeared with her knowledge still intact. Where did she go and what happened to her?
Now onto the titular aliens, the Nekross are still hell-bent on destroying wizards but I fear they are becoming like the Daleks of Doctor Who. The Daleks want to exterminate the Doctor yet every single time an opportunity has come up, they either stall themselves or he stalls them. The Nekross had numerous chances to shoot Tom or Chloe or Benny for that matter yet they shied away. Take the rooftop scene when Chloe and Tom are creating a windstorm, Lexi and Varg had ample time to fire at the pair yet when Technician Jathro 15 alerted them to the wizards’ escape they left. Granted the majority of the sorcerers in the building are more important than Tom or Chloe but all they would have needed to do was fire a couple of shots and that would have been them. And the pair were obstructing the Zarantulus, why didn’t the royal couple not be rid of the juvenile wizards? Speaking of Technician Jathro 15, his scene with Benny was rather lovely and I could see a connection forming like Tom and Lexi’s odd ‘friendship’ (I use that term in the loosest possible sense). Benny actually worded this (“you know this is really cool, us talking science”) and that makes his treacherous behaviour even more shocking. There are plenty of ways he could have fled the room, just by running once Jathro was distracted or tricking him into helping him leave. Making the microphone emit feedback was an entirely lowlife way to go about it, particularly after luring the technician into a false sense of security.
The Nekross King, a delightfully repulsive creation from the production team, still snarls and chitters in the wall, commanding his subordinates around. What I like about the Nekross King is his treatment of his children. Lexi and Varg were conceived through him (a unpalatable thought) yet he orders them like the nondescript guards (who are on the fast track to becoming as good shooters as Star Wars’ Stormtroopers). Brian Blessed feels underused, personally, his booming voice (“GORDON’S ALIVE”) is renowned but in spite of that I had to turn up the volume. He speaks in a rough whisper and it doesn’t have quite the effect you’d expect from Blessed.
Scott Haran and Percelle Ascott are a likeable duo. They’re not quite at Luke and Clyde standards but their friendship has been well drawn out and there’s not that much emphasis on the nerd-and-jock contrast. Doctor Who alumni Annette Badland seems so much more content here than making fart jokes in the former programme. Her humour is infectious (“I like fudge cake”) and she brings a good dose of comedy to proceedings. I’m also pleased Michael Higgs actually did something in 100 Wizards. He did little in Series One and finally it’s nice to see him in action.
The resolution also made little to no sense. I understand that the one hundred wizards’ magic combined could really do something to the Nekross but the Nekross feed on the stuff? And the Zarantulus was hovering over the studio, it could have easily teleported all of the wizards into individual extractor chambers. Tom and Ursula’s speech about how the combined force of “angry” wizards could do damage felt half-baked. They could have at least done something to the Nekross rather than just scare them away.
Chloe’s ageing in the closing few minutes was a definite shock and I was close to weeping as she sat, stony-faced, watching Tom. Their relationship could have been so much but I fear there wasn’t enough in the budget to cast another young actor in a lead part. What surprises me is why Chloe didn’t approach Tom because I’m sure he would have understood. What also confuses me is how Mrs. Meeks was there. She didn’t know anything of the Nekross’ power – Benny told her they were actors – and the fact that Chloe got kidnapped and aged overnight would have posed some questions that could hardly have been answered in a day. Given her boisterous attitude – and her reaction to the Nekross, when she flew out of the TV studio she was babbling on about “creatures” – it seems unlikely that she would have been considerate to Chloe but then I suppose her comment earlier that evening (“… I’ll still be here for you”) could justify her actions. Chloe’s transformation really hit hard, her conversation with Mrs. Meeks about how things would only get better was heart-warming and then Varg’s sudden appearance muddied the waters. What’s worse is that Tom will never know of Chloe’s fate, unless the Nekross tell him, and so he will never get payback.
The second series of Wizards vs. Aliens has got off to a wobbly start but it’s not entirely unpromising. There are a series of unforgivable plot holes but there’s prospect. If Tom ever finds out about what happened to Chloe then his vendetta against the Nekross will be fuelled further. The aliens think it’s them versus wizards but it is undoubtedly wizards versus aliens.