Episodes 1.03-4 Writer: Phil Ford Director: Daniel O’Hara
THE ONE WHERE The Nekross send an alien monster called a Grazlax to kill Tom, who then finds himself trapped in Benny’s house with the creature as it starts to multiply…
VERDICT We’ll say it outright: this episode is basically just a re-run of Gremlins, right down to the fact the critters reproduce when their environment changes (with Gremlins it’s water; with Grazlaxes it’s heat). However, these particular Gremlins have been substituted for Sesame Street’s Cookie Monster with added fangs. And by jiminy, they’re HILARIOUS.
While Tom and Benny exchange wisecracks and jokes almost non-stop during the story, not all of them hit the spot (although, to be far, most are aimed soundly at pre-teens rather than jaded SFX reviewers), yet one look at a Grazlax snarling at the camera and it’s as though it’s twanging your funny bone like a pro. Maybe it’s the blue fuzzy hair. Maybe it’s the ludicrous little horns on their heads. Perhaps it’s the teeth, or the silly red eyes, or their spindly legs. Actually it’s all of these added to the ridiculously over-the-top sounds they make, plus the way the creatures move like scuttling Muppets. They’re possibly the most brilliant monsters we’ve ever seen in a kid’s show. Bravo!
When you’re not laughing at the Grazlax hordes there are some lovely character moments, such as Benny’s parents being desperately nice to Tom because he’s their geeky son’s only friend (awwww), and Tom and Benny having a heart-to-heart about magic and science, which ends with Tom revealing how happy he is that he can talk about his powers with someone. Bearing in mind this is a show for children, there are all sorts of themes about acceptance and tolerance which may seem obvious to us but will hopefully seep into younger ears and make a difference. Well, we can hope.
Mainly, however, these episodes are all about the Grazlax. Just look at them!
LOOK AT THEM!
They’d make terrible pets, but we kind of want one.
THE SOUND OF MUSIC There’s a funny throwaway gag when Tom finds a Jedward CD hidden in Benny’s music collection (or does it belong to his seriously uncool parents?), but elsewhere there’s deft use of opera as a weapon, as well as a fabulous sequence in which Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture accompanies the creatures as they explode in huge showers of orange goo. Utterly, hilariously and messily brilliant.
AH, THAT’S CLEVER… Last week the wizards escaped from the Nekross but it seemed a little silly that the aliens wouldn’t just follow them down to Earth to finish the job. This week, however, the wizards cast a “shrouding spell” so the aliens can’t find them easily. Now that makes sense, and should also enable the show to last longer than three episodes…
SIBLING RIVALRY Varg and Lexi may be brother and sister but they’re coldly exchanging insults and bitchy barbs like two bitter divorcees stuck on a long Bank Holiday bus journey together. Delicious!
BLESSED BE! Brian Blessed, as the voice of the Nekross leader, outdoes himself this week. “Set the Grazlax on the boy wizard and… await… his… screams!” he bellows with his usual relish, before adding the best, “Mwah ha ha ha!” laugh in the history of television. Go Brian!
FIRE HAZARD The Chamber of Crow is lit by so many candles and flaming torches we’re wondering how the hell they keep it from turning into a giant fireball (although perhaps the magic in the air stops it all going up like a barbecue). Must be hell for the BBC health and safety team to deal with, though…
LOVE IS IN THE AIR Tom can’t help taking a few minutes to flirt with his friend Katie when she stops by, despite the fact Benny’s inside the house being chased by ravenous ankle-snappers who want to kill him. Teenage boys, eh?
BEST LINE Tom: “It didn’t explode – it had kids!”
New episodes of Wizards Versus Aliens air on CBBC every Monday and Tuesday at 5.15pm