Wizards vs Aliens The Daughters of Stone

10&11/11/14; Written by Phil Ford / Directed by Lee Haven-Jones / Starring Scott Haran, Annette Badland, Michael Higgs, Trevor Cooper, Manpreet Bamba, Adjoa Andoh
After the emotional conclusion to last week’s story, this starts off as a lighter follow up though the threat to wizard kind could hardly be bigger. As such the tone seems slightly uneven with characters stating the dangers of breaches in the Line of Twilight (the beautifully named barrier that separates magic from real life) yet this danger seems initially rather playfully presented.
Spoilers after this point

"Is that Simon Cowell...?"

One of these gaps appears in an abandoned theatre which just happens to be looked after by Katie’s grandfather. Arriving in plumes of smoke and a hail of cackles Adjoa Andoh’s Old Bethesda runs through the gamut of witchiness so effectively you keep waiting for a post modern punchline. That she is genuinely a threat becomes harder to put across the longer she goes on but it’s an enjoyable performance nonetheless. Later creeping about in a subterranean set and shot from interesting angles she does become more threatening.
The crucial moment for the first episode is Katie discovering her boyfriend’s secret and placed centre stage for the first time in a series in which she has hitherto been a recurring supporting character Manpreet Bamba delivers a strong performance suggesting a new Tom / Katie dynamic could anchor the series in a different but just as satisfying manner as did Tom and Benny. Katie is feisty but not to the point where it becomes an issue and she shows adaptability well suited to the world she is plunged into. Her scientific knowledge is more down to earth than Benny’s super intellect. It’s surprising therefore to see her choosing to have her memory of the whole thing erased at the end but it does keep us guessing.

Despite the danger, Tom's father spots the sandwiches

Lady Lyzera is proving to be an interesting addition to the Nekross side of things. She spends much of this story in human guise as a journalist who tags along with the others yet at a crucial moment procures some wizard blood. You’d think Tom or Ursula might be more suspicious of her though given their previous experience with Nekross being able to disguise themselves.
The main development for the Clarke family though is the arrival in part 2 of Tom’s grandfather Simeon Swann played by the familiar face of Trevor Cooper. His appearance adds a further dynamic though it might be that having this and Katie discovering magic all packed into the one story relegates the plot to second place. There is certainly a ragged feel to the latter stages though Simeon’s act in saving Ursula is well played and for a moment really makes you think that another character is  being written out.
Visually director Lee Haven-Jones gives us plenty of seats moving by themselves, an evil looking ventriloquist’s dummy and spooky atmosphere though the appearance of creatures who appear to be people with black cloaks over their heads is unlikely to scare a generation who may well be familiar with such gruesome delights as the Harry Potter film’s Dementors or any number of Doctor Who monsters. More effective are some glowing eyes and later there are some great shots of vaguely seen stone faces inside the cave. It works but overall seems familiar though perhaps not to its intended audience.
The season is pursuing a much tighter over arching plot than the show has before and it certainly adds to a believably more complete world. `The Daughters of Stone` is a significant and enjoyable step in this re-tooling of the show though paced unevenly  compared to its two predecessors.

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