Wizards vs Aliens: 207-208 “The Curse of Crowe” Review
Reviewed by Patrick Kavanagh-Sproull.
CBBC likes to up its ante with what it produces. Wolfblood, a terrific series devised by Debbie Moon (no relation to Randal Moon), frequently likes to prove itself as a programme for young adults. Unfortunately since there is no bridging channel – CBeebies is for infants, CBBC for children, nothing for teenagers – it has to show it is worthwhile on a regular basis. Wizards vs. Aliens is doing that as well, so it appears. I’ve noted week by week that each episode it’s ramping up the adult themes and content. In 100 Wizards we had Benny’s objectionable betrayal of Technician Jathro 13 and Chloe’s transformation, in Vice Versa we had Squiggly’s death, in The Cave of Menla-Gto we had the show’s hero crippled in a graphic magical accident. Now in The Curse of Crowe we see the ghastly Neverwas, the terrifying and quite believable creation. Now I am not looking at the explicitness of the new series from a concerned mother viewpoint; I am looking at this as a very happy and very overjoyed fan.
Gareth Roberts has already shown he’s on his mettle with Wizards vs. Aliens, his Series One story; Fall of the Nekross was a tense morality tale that showed what would actually happen if the gang won and the trouble that entails. His second outing, The Curse of Crowe is an out-and-out classic of the likes we’ve never seen before. Roberts’ script crackles with humour and charm as well as a fair dose of eerie mysticism. The Curse of Crowe is a close contender to be my favourite episode ever, it might actually be my favourite episode ever but some things do let it down.
If you read the synopsis before watching The Curse of Crowe (“Teenage wizard Gemma Raven makes a terrible bargain with the Nekross – if they save her mother’s life, she will cast a spell strong enough to destroy Tom and Benny’s friendship forever! And when Ursula is drawn into the evil plan, she discovers that a fate worse that death awaits her, in the shape of the terrifying Neverwas”) then you can guess what’s happening – Benny and Tom’s friendship will be broken up. From the off with Tom’s bragging about how he and Benny make the ultimate team, I could see what was coming. Sadly Roberts decided to lace the first half of part one with nonessential lines about how close pals Benny and Tom are and how, if they were to become enemies, a lot would go wrong. Eventually, after some exposition we finally get to the tragic moment – when Gemma Raven curses the pair and, inadvertently, Ursula.
Gemma and her mother were two of the best supporting characters the show has seen since Nathaniel Nightjar and Miranda Fisher in the opener. They’re well rounded by Roberts’ screenplay and wholly likeable people. Whilst Gemma’s actions led us to initially resent her we gradually see why she did what she did. Georgina Leonidas did a stellar job as Gemma but it was Josie Lawrence who was the real scene-stealer as Madeline, Gemma’s mum. Scott Haran and Percelle Ascott performed up to their usual standards and it felt good to have Tom back in the thick of it after Haran’s hiatus last week.
Annette Badland was a delight as usual, instilling Ursula with another level of cheeriness. But this week’s episode wasn’t an entirely happy one for her; Ursula’s sad reminiscing about her lonely childhood very nearly brought a tear to my eye. And her (rather unnecessary) sacrifice was, indeed, a very emotional one. Poor Ursula, poor scatterbrained old Ursula.
Technician Jathro 13’s mysterious plan behind the scenes is slowly gathering pace. Control has been revealed to be Chancellor Kooth from 100 Wizards (a pet theory amongst some of the commenters here) and she has stressed the Nekross King mustn’t know about their plan. But what have they got in store? And how will it affect Tom and Benny?
Another excellent edition of Wizards vs. Aliens, another week gone by. Do you know what… I’m really going to miss it.