Sarah Jane Adventures: Warriors of Kudlak
(2 episodes, s01e04, 2007)
Be all you can be in the Uvodni army.
In a laser tag facility known as Combat 3000, a boy named Lance Metcalf goes down a side corridor and is transmatted away. An alien named Kudlak reports the new arrival to his superior – the Mistress – who then demands more… so many more.
Luke and Maria are sharing a day in London and receive vouchers for half-price admission to Combat 3000 from a shady Mr. Grantham. It seems that he is the human liaison for the child-snatching aliens. Meanwhile, Sarah Jane is investigating Lance’s disappearance starting with his widowed mother Carrie.
The Bannerman Road Gang is “bogging” around in the attic, much to Sarah Jane’s chagrin. She asks them about Lance and learns about his nickname – the Corporal – which infuriates her since Lance’s father was killed in Iraq. Luke unknowingly coined the nickname and therefore takes Lance’s disappearance to heart. Luke storms out and Clyde goes to talk to him while Maria and Sarah Jane look for Lance’s friend Brandon.
Brandon relays a story about a stormy day when the weather was perfectly clear everywhere else. Sarah Jane and Maria are baffled. Back near Bannerman Road, Clyde talks with Luke as Sarah Jane and Maria research the isolated storm. The short-lived storms are linked to disappearing children across the country, prompting the ladies to build a gadget to solve the mystery. The device extracts entanglement shells – terraforming seeds and residue of transmatting – from the atmosphere. With Mr. Smith’s help, they isolate the epicenter of the freak storm to Combat 3000.
Luke and Clyde decide to visit Combat 3000 as a distraction (were Kudlak is taking his frustrations out on Grantham). Grantham takes interest in Luke based on his stellar performance during the game. Meanwhile, Sarah Jane and Maria investigate the facility – Maria makes Sarah Jane promise never to use slang again – as Luke and Clyde make their way through the increasingly difficult gaming levels. The ladies break into Grantham’s office and, when caught in the act, confront the man about the missing kids. He pulls a gun (from another planet) on them as a rainstorm begins. Sarah Jane tricks him with the sonic lipstick and they escape, set on finding the transmat device.
Meanwhile, Luke and Clyde make it through a surprise attack and enter what they think is the final room. The boys are trapped and transmatted away as Sarah Jane and Maria watch, finally meeting the mysterious Kudlak. They escape from Kudlak – Sarah Jane lightens the mood by quipping about her UNIT training – and return to Bannerman Road. Mr. Smith identifies Kudlak as an Uvodni, part of a planetary alliance that fought against the Malakh. After being injured, Kudlak was sent to recruit warriors from across the universe.
Luke and Clyde are forcibly placed in a wooden crate and rolled to a storage area. Luke uses the laser tag gear to break them out of the crate and free the other kids as well. Together they break out of the storage area and discover that they are on a spaceship orbiting Earth. They also meet Kudlak when he finds them and introduces them to the Mistress as good warrior stock. When they return to the storage room, Luke wires his mobile phone into the ship’s computer and locates a shuttlecraft. They are soon found by Kudlak and taken into custody.
Sarah Jane and Maria are interrupted by Grantham as he breaks into the house and tries to kill Sarah Jane. Maria uses an electrical circuit from the earlier device to incapacitate Grantham. Once they figure out that Luke and Clyde are in orbit, they take Grantham back to Combat 3000 to find the transmat device. Until the pressure of being sent to prison, Grantham transmats them to the orbiting ship.
Sarah Jane and Maria search for the kids, taking time for Maria’s breathtaking first look at the planet from orbit. They find the room where Kudlak communicates with the Mistress, but their discussion is interrupted by Kudlak and the missing kids. Luke shows Kudlak evidence that the war has ended while the solider was away, and Kudlak discovers that the Mistress is nothing more than a computer subroutine.
Kudlak destroys the computer and frees the humans, offering his life in exchange for his crimes against Earth. Sarah Jane pardons him and Kudlak offers to find the humans he previously sent away in exchange. The Bannerman Road Gang leads the missing kids back to Earth, and Luke gets a kiss from former fellow captive Jen as a reward.
They take Lance home and speculate about his future – perhaps he’ll be the first human man on Mars? – before Luke asks Clyde to explain the mysteries of girls.
This story was a step up with significant character development for Clyde and Luke. The continued friendship and deepening trust between Sarah Jane and Maria is also a great touch for the series. I was also impressed with the twist for Kudlak: The story’s enemy doesn’t die, despite his desire to sacrifice himself for the cause, and ends up seeking redemption in the end. That’s some classic-era-level storytelling.
The in-universe references were fun – background appearances include a Cyberman, Krillitane wings, and the Beast‘s horns – as were the cross-franchise references like Star Trek and Planet of the Apes, but the best one was musical. When Clyde jokingly identified as Luke’s Obi-Wan Kenobi, composer Sam Watts added a quiet nod to John Williams with a slice of the Force Theme.
The big distraction in this episode was Kudlak. Specifically, his eyes. Because they were all over the place. It echoes the classic era’s shoestring-and-ham-sandwich budget, but it really pulled me out of the story with modern television resolution.
Rating: 4/5 – “Would you care for a jelly baby?”
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