Let’s get something out of the way straightaway: this is not a reworking of The Sarah Jane Adventures with the serial numbers filed off and a slightly-reworked set ups. It’s a similarly smart adventure series for the same age group that loved the SJA for its mix of fantasy, family and good old-fashioned story-telling.
The opening episode of any show has a lot to do, in terms of quickly establishing the characters and their relationships to each other, and Phil Ford does a good job here, with Tom’s attitude to magic, and the differing approaches to it of his father and gran set up in the first five minutes. Annette Badland is a million miles from Margaret the Slitheen, although there’s clearly a similar core of steel there which will come to the fore when her family are threatened.
As for the aliens, any group that’s got Brian Blessed voicing their king is never going to be accused of excessive subtlety, and there’s an interesting contrast between the grounded school-based scenes and those on the Nekross ship. A bit more shading would give them substance, but it’s always clear where your sympathies are meant to lie.
Verdict: A good start that should keep viewers tuning in on its own merits, rather than just its pedigree. 7/10