First there were monsters versus aliens, then came cowboys versus aliens, and now CBBC wades in with its own genre mash-up, Wizards vs Aliens. Extraterrestrials, I can’t help feeling, have every right to feel hard done by.
Shamelessly leaping onto the Harry Potter bandwagon before it disappears over the horizon, Russell T Davies’ latest offering finds the UK’s wizard community under siege from a race of malevolent space beings and their tyrannical king, who happens to have an insatiable appetite for magic – not watching it, you understand, but feeding upon it as a source of nourishment.
Orbiting Earth in their mother ship, the Nekross have already kidnapped one boy wizard, prior to draining him of all his magic and transforming him into a middle-aged character actor. However, the Nekross king is impatient for more magic. Given that his voice is supplied by Brian Blessed, you can imagine how impatient that sounds.
For all its non-stop action, impressive special effects and fabulous costume and make-up design, there is something disappointingly safe about Wizards vs Aliens
So when young wizard Tom and his geeky school friend Benny find a talisman throbbing with supernatural energy while on a field trip, the Nekross are immediately alerted and waste no time in turning the boys’ teacher into an alien cyborg, the better to hunt them down.
A chase through the empty school follows, which leaves a very satisfying trail of carnage in its wake – hardly surprising, given what trigger happy, terrible shots alien cyborgs would seem to be.
But for all its non-stop action, sense of fun, impressive special effects and fabulous costume and make-up design, there is something disappointingly safe about Wizards vs Aliens. Take the Nekross. They look great – clad neck to toe in royal blue body armour, with heads that resemble plates of pineapple chunks – but they are basically your bog-standard, conquest focused, stompy, clumpy, grumpy, growly variety of alien, and, frankly, pretty boring at that.
Also, why are the protagonists all boys? There is a solitary girl character, but in episode one she was peripheral to the point of invisible. Come on Russell T, unleash some girl power into the equation.
My final gripe, before I disappear up my own black hole, is the marked lack of humour. I can understand the producers not wanting their show descending into a send-up, but with just two good gags – the downstairs toilet doubling as a chamber of secrets, and the kitchen exploding with bottles – cosmic depths of comic potential were left unexplored.
There were also a couple of plank-like performances from some of the young cast, but then it wouldn’t be a CBBC production without them.
To borrow a phrase from their theme tune, hooray for Harry and Paul. Messrs Enfield and Whitehouse have been bounced around the schedules and now occupy a late-night Sunday slot, helping to take the edge off the end of the weekend.
As well as the return of the yobs with a dog, who terrorise innocent bystanders, and spiteful traffic warden Parking Pataweyo, new characters include a minor royal couple, who in episode one enjoy a walkabout in Willesden.
The show also manages to smuggle in the C-word, which must be a first for a mainstream BBC comedy.
Wizards vs Aliens, CBBC, Monday, October 29, 5.15pm
Harry and Paul, BBC2, Sunday, October 28, 10pm