Wizards vs Aliens: 213-214 “All Out War” Review
Reviewed by Patrick Kavanagh-Sproull.
Finally, after a regrettably short second series, Wizards vs. Aliens has drawn to a close in epic fashion. Co-creator Russell T Davies has made his debut with a heart-pounding script that harks back to his The Sarah Jane Adventures scripts. Davies takes a smidgeon of romp, a handful of fun and whole lot of poignancy to make All-Out War, a fitting finale to a magnificent series. Yes, he has stolen a whopper of a deus ex machina from his Doctor Who days but nonetheless All-Out War is fun and a pleasing show-stopper.
The sinister plans of Chancellor Kooth and Technician Jathro 13 (good to see Benny backing up the pair’s difference in skin colour) have finally reached fruition and I had no idea they would affect Earth so much. Victoria Wicks is deliriously good as the conniving Kooth; she’s a woman born to play antagonists with that rich, lilting voice of hers. Tom Bell, who has been rather underused as Jathro, doesn’t do much other than stand to the side and watch his mother dominate, putting Bell’s talents to no use. Kooth’s plan had some coherency about it but the rather unconvincing inclusion of Earth just belittled what could have been an engrossing war between the royals/wizards and Kooth and her army.
Scott Haran pulled a tremendous performance out of the bag as Bad Wolf Tom (as I like to call him; I’ll get onto that in a moment) and it was harrowing to see him become wizened when his magic was depleted. Percelle Ascott also acted superbly as Benny who gets in on the action for once (The Thirteenth Floor was Tom and Lexi’s story, Endless Night was Tom’s) whilst Gwendoline Christie blew me away as she brought Lexi’s tale to an end. But the surprising highlight of All-Out War was Jefferson Hall as Varg, who flourished as the Nekross prince – only once his plan involving the Jacanas became apparent – and really proved he was his father’s son when he double-crossed Lexi. Both of them have actually proved to the king’s offspring with the chicanery; Lexi tried to weed Varg off the throne in Vice Versa, Varg does it here but only too save is own orange skin. Annette Badland was glorious, too (as per usual) and again I got dewy-eyed at her ‘death’ although I felt like cursing when Davies pressed the reset button in part two.
All-Out War is enjoyable and fits in with the dark tone of series two but the resolutions rang hollow. The brilliant cliffhanger at the end of part one had me chewing my nails down to my knuckles in excitement but I was a bit crestfallen that Davies resolved it so shoddily. Varg hitting a ‘escape immensely powerful battle-fleet’ switch, Helen telling Ursula that it’s “time to go… home”, Lexi hitting the off button on Tom’s transformation: I felt that bit cheated. Perhaps Benny’s escape from the Skorpulus (a creature that isn’t down a slide as seen in Friend or Foe in series one when Stephanie Gaunt was devoured instantly) was a bit more satisfactory but there could have been a better way. Then came Bad Wolf Tom. Russell T Davies took his own idea from The Parting of the Ways (the Doctor Who series one finale) and reshaped it here. Instead of Rose we have Tom. Instead of the time vortex we have the ‘salute’ and instead of a bunch of Dalek battle-cruisers we have a bunch of Nekross battle-cruisers. The ‘salute’ was only properly introduced in this story (I believe there were a few fleeting references across the series) and when Varg picked it up I couldn’t help but feel a certain unsubtly. The camera should have just zoomed in on it and a little arrow popped up with the word ‘resolution’ next to it.
One could say that Wizards vs. Aliens fell at the last hurdle. I can’t say it because I don’t think it’s true. Whilst this second series has had a dud or two (100 Wizards) the quality has been mostly of the highest standard. All-Out War may have copped out on several occasions but that’s not to say it wasn’t enjoyable. Russell T Davies’ return to fantasy/science-fiction is quite a triumph, full of poignant, funny, tense and sad scenes – but I won’t deny the resolution was clumsy.
Nonetheless here’s to series three and a long, happy and healthy future for Wizards vs. Aliens. Well done to everyone involved, you’ve made a magnificent kids’ drama that will be remembered by myself and many as one of the great highlights of 2013’s telly.