Invasion of the Bane

Posted in Episode by - January 18, 2022
Invasion of the Bane

Aired 01 January 2007

SOME SPOILERS FOLLOW

During the classic run of Doctor Who, few companions made such an instant and enduring impact as journalist Sarah Jane Smith. And although the 1981 K-9 and Company did not lead to a proposed series, it was wholly unsurprising that Elisabeth Sladen was asked to reprise her beloved role in the 2006 Doctor Who episode ‘School Reunion,’ expertly blending the two eras of the franchise and just as adeptly creating a backdoor pilot for the younger-skewing spinoff The Sarah Jane Adventures that premiered with a New Year’s special from Russell T Davies and Gareth Roberts, ‘Invasion of the Bane.’

Premiere episodes must always balance the fine line of introducing their main characters while still telling an intriguing story that hints at the potential this new world can present, and for the most part ‘Invasion of the Bane’ succeeds in that task. The audience is quickly introduced to Maria Jackson, a young woman who has moved to Bannerman Road with her father following her parents’ divorce, and it’s clear that these events are still tremendously affecting her given the subtle and overt emotions that Yasmin Paige is able to convey during these initial scenes. It’s through her, as well, that the strange goings-on of this street are introduced, and as Maria attempts to reconcile what she saw with what she knows, Sarah Jane Smith makes her triumphant return to screens, albeit this time as more of a hermit who has not completely gotten over the Doctor leaving her behind so very long ago yet who continues to carry on her investigations into the otherworldly and to make the world a better and safer place.

The plot hinges around the new beverage taking the world by storm, Bubble Shock, a drink that is a constant presence on every screen and poster and that seems to cause a fanaticism in nearly everyone who tastes it. A bus that conveniently takes its occupants to the beverage’s factory for tours is a succinct entry point into the inner workings of this empire that has so quickly gained authorization to sell its product in Europe. While Sarah Jane sneaks in, Samantha Bond’s Mrs Wormwood presents a stereotypical but formidable foe, and the more minimal appearances of the visually-impressive Bane creatures make for a truly effective menace that will more than capably entertain and frighten its intended audience. The episode doesn’t spend much time going into the backstory or motivations of its foes like might be necessary for a show aimed at a more mature audience, but the Bane Mother is still a suitable threat that allows for a surprising amount of character development to result.

While Sarah Jane and Maria are the undoubted focal points for this premiere, however, Kelsey is the exception. Presumably intended to provide a local knowledge and viewpoint that the newly-arrived Maria could not, Kelsey is unfortunately too rude and overbearing to be likable and here only really serves to create conflict. It also seems unnecessarily cruel of her to mock Sarah Jane when she says that K-9 is her only friend, and though Porsha Lawrence-Mavour does well with the material presented, the characterization simply is not sustainable for a heroic figure as is. Luke Smith, on the other hand, remains something of a blank slate which is fitting given his reported nascent life, and that he should be the young man that Sarah Jane should choose to open her life to after she has effectively been on her own for so long is telling of the immense potential and good intentions he holds. It’s clear that Luke and his story will be a much bigger factor in future episodes while others receive the limelight here, but Tommy Knight makes a memorable first impression and helps to round out the core cast with another charismatic and precocious presence. ‘Invasion of the Bane’ is by no means perfect, and Sarah Jane’s giant supercomputer is more of an afterthought than anything else here, but the heart and energy at its core anchored by the always-enthralling Elisabeth Sladen help to create a strong foundation for another intriguing corner of the Doctor Who universe.

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