Monday, 26 December 2016

Sarah Jane Smith 1.4: Ghost Town by Rupert Laight (October 2002)

This is the first Sarah Jane Smith story to take place abroad - namely a small Romanian village nestled in the Carpathian Mountains. It doesn’t particularly broaden the scope of storytelling, mind, or alter what kind of adventures Sarah can go on. This could easily have been a village on a Scottish island (and, indeed, it reminded me of Night Thoughts at points, which is set on a Scottish island). Nothing about this story needed to be set in Romania. I’ve just seen Werner Herzog’s Nosferatu in the last few weeks, and that boasts terrific use of Romanian landscape and folklore: you can’t really set Dracula anywhere else! But this is much more Scooby-Doo than serious horror drama, and it’s got fewer twists and turns than the average Scooby-Doo plot as well (and no, a character saying "it's like a flaming Scooby-Doo plot" doesn't excuse this)! The villain - Christian Ian Abbotly, played by Elisabeth Sladen’s real-life husband Brian Miller - is just about the most transparent bad guy in the history of ever, and as such there is zero tension in terms of “who’s behind all this?” The contrast between the tense plotting of Test of Nerve couldn’t be greater, leaving Ghost Town feeling very lightweight and insubstantial.