The first two episodes of Wizards Vs. Aliens, the new show from Doctor Who/Torchwood maestro Russell T. Davies, have aired in the U.K. And for now, at least, they're on Youtube. And… wow. They are seriously demented fun, from Brian Blessed's muppety overlord to all the teenage heroics. Spoilers ahead…
I won't go into major spoilers here, but suffice to say that all of the stuff we loved about RTD's past work is here. There's the same mix of zaniness and emotion that frequently made RTD's Who so irresistible. There's the same creep factor that distinguished the better bits of Torchwood. And above all, there's the same warmth and child-friendly "family adventure" vibe that animated The Sarah Jane Adventures.
You might already know the backstory - RTD and producer Phil Ford were all set to keep making more of The Sarah Jane Adventures, when star Elisabeth Sladen turned out to be dreadfully ill with cancer. After her death, Davies and Ford decided to create a brand new show, with a Harry Potter-meets-Doctor Who vibe to it. WVA is that show, and it is definitely closer in tone and style to Sarah Jane Adventures than anything else Davies has done. The good news is, for now at least, it works just as well without Sladen's personality anchoring the whole thing. (And she's there, in spirit, as we find out in part two.)
The main hero, Tom, is your typical "slightly obnoxious teen who has to grow up and take responsibility," but Scott Haran makes him just likable enough, and it only takes about half an hour before we start properly rooting for him to save the day. Percelle Ascott is also pretty great in the mandatory "nerdy best friend" role.
And yes, a lot of the things you probably hated about Davies' past work are in evidence too - including the intense campiness. Tom's grandmother is a whole bag of camp, and the alien Nekross are already seriously pantomimey even before Brian Blessed's puppet face is unveiled. But you know, it's a show for kids, and the basic idea behind the Nekross is actually devilishly clever. I'm in.