Wizards vs Aliens makes a welcome return to CBBC with ‘The Secret Of Room 12’, the first two-part adventure of the show’s third season, penned by co-creator Phil Ford.
Our story begins (after a teaser in which sinister forces cause an innocent teacher to make a mess of his shirt) with a report on What We Did Over The Summer Holiday – life for Tom (Scott Haran) has been pretty quiet – save, it seems, for the occasional amusing magical incursion.
Meanwhile, Benny (Percelle Ascott) has been at MIT for the summer, getting his science on. It would be pretty anti-climactic if the alien threats that so plagued our heroes in the first two seasons were genuinely gone for good, and the illusion of a continuing normal life for Tom, Benny, and the gang, is thus pretty short-lived – as if going back to school weren’t enough of a profoundly unpleasant experience in itself.
There is some genuine uncanny creepiness present in this episode, namely in the form of that mass of hollow, replacement school-folk, all beckoning our heroes to be recruited. This story’s new alien threat, the Prospector, tows an odd line between threatening and cute, and by the story’s end, I honestly almost felt a bit bad for him.
His role is morally dubious at best, but it’s hard not to sympathise a bit with someone who has been tasked, by whatever means possible, to meet a production quota – especially after Ursula’s inspired bit of magic (played adorably as ever by Annette Badland) reduces him to little more than a lovesick, big-eyed puppy.
It’s nice that we haven’t seen the last of the Nekross either, and Varg’s politically convenient new wife will no doubt prove a formidable foe. Indeed, Alex Childs’ performance as the alliterative Lady Lyzera – a scheming, self-serving political manipulator – is as smooth as silken 70% dark chocolate spiked with habanero pepper. Plus, her pet bird looks a little like something out of Jim Henson’s The Dark Crystal.
As the season opener sees a new reluctance on Tom’s part to use his magical gifts to the fullest of his ability, fearing how that much power may affect him, I expect, and indeed hope, that we’ll see how he works through these issues over the next few episodes. We’re already seeing how he is beginning to cope with this fear, and I’m sure it will make for an interesting arc as the series continues. (Not to mention some especially fine mouse-acting on Haran’s part.)
Aired at 5.30pm on Monday 27 October 2014 on CBBC.
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