When Russell T. Davies left Doctor Who in 2009 it seemed the world was his oyster. However following the middling reception of Torchwood: Miracle Day, we haven’t seen much from him, largely due to the fact his partner was diagnosed with a brain tumour and so he moved back to the UK from California to look after him. The return to Britain also gave him time to team up with The Sarah Jane Adventures writer Phil Ford to create the CBBC show, Wizards Vs. Aliens. Now the 12-part first series has reached DVD and Blu-ray.
As you might have guessed from the title, in the series wizards are real, with certain ‘enchanted’ people able to perform three acts of magic each day. One of those is young Tom Clarke (Scott Haran), who’s got the magic but doesn’t yet understand the responsibility that brings – he thinks it’s just about clicking your fingers to get your homework to write itself.
Things change for him on a school visit to a stone circle where he finds a magic ring. What he doesn’t know is that it was dropped by a pair of wizards who were abducted by the alien race, the Nekross, who travel the galaxy looking for magic which they feed to their enormous king (voiced by Brian Blessed). Soon the aliens are after Tom and his witch grandmother, Ursula (Annette Badland), which sets off a series of adventures where the colourful baddies try various ways to get to Tom and the world’s other wizards. He must fight back with the help of his new, nerdy friend, Benny (Percelle Ascott).
The series definitely has a bit of a Doctor Who/Sarah Jane Adventures vibe, not least of which is presenting what are essentially very silly stories at such a breakneck speed and with such verve and humour that it’s difficult to not fall under its spell. The series knows it’s daft and it doesn’t care, but that doesn’t mean it’s like much kids’ TV, which often seems to feel that as it’s just for children, nobody’s really bothered to fully think things through. There’s a whole mythology behind the show that keeps its anchored, from the three spells limit to a history of warrior wizards and a dark magic that’s powerful but very dangerous.
The young, vibrant cast do well, led by Scott Haran, who looks like a younger Harry from McFly. While he and friend Benny do occasionally get a bit close to sounding like modern versions of Enid Blyton characters on an adventure, most of the time they’re just a lot of fun, with the series often giving them a chance to talk about the problems of young people, from not fitting in to feeling you’re different. The special effects range from the very good to the incredibly cheesy – but even when silly little blue puppets are attacking Tom and Benny, the show knows enough to sell it as entertaining daftness.
Although adult sci-fi fans might find this a bit too young for them – despite it coming from the mind of Davies – youngsters should love it. The pace is lightning quick, with a tone that has real threat but which isn’t too scary and mostly carries you along on a wave of amusement.
The 12 episodes are split into six two-parters, with each of these focussing on another way the Nekross are trying to get to Earth’s magic and harvest it, with Tom becoming increasingly central to their plans. By the end it all goes a little Harry Potter, with Tom having nightmares about the day his mother died protecting him from an alien force. It’s a good ending for a show that’s well worth taking a look at, and will hopefully lead to a second series.
Overall Verdict: Often silly but very fun, Wizards Vs. Aliens succeeds on a mix of pace, charm and a mythology that keeps things grounded enough to ensure there’s real threat but not too much scary darkness.
Reviewer: Tim Isaac