The writing team of Russell T Davies and Phil Ford is credited with reinvigorating the Doctor Who franchise and is now launching a new kids series, Wizards Vs. Aliens.
The pair have previously worked in kids TV with Doctor Who spinoff The Sarah Jane Adventures, which came to a premature end after the death of its star Elisabeth Sladen. The show that replaces it differs and instead of being a straight-up action sci-fi offering, it introduces a world of magic and fantasy.
The action centres on Tom, an outwardly normal 16 year-old. However, Tom’s family are wizards and he is called into action, with his friend Benny, to stave off the Nekross, aliens intent on stealing the earth’s magic. Tom and Benny provide the ingredients for a buddy drama, with the former the wizard and the latter the science nut.
“We were working on The Sarah Jane Adventures and knew that, tragically, Liz had been taken ill. Everyone was set up and we wanted something new and kicked around a few ideas and what came out was a mash-up of magic and science fiction, which was, in a good way, something we had never done before,” says Ford. “I wrote the outline and then hacked it apart, refined it and put it back together with Russell.”
As with Doctor Who, some of the aliens are puppets and some are people in suits. None are, however, CGI. “We made a decision not to use CGI creatures, prosthetic driven work is so much better than CG for creatures on a TV budget,” Ford says.
He adds that as with Doctor Who, there will be some scary moments, but mixed with fun elements and characters that effectively hold the viewer’s hand as the action unfolds. “There’s a line you need to walk in kids TV and you want to get close to it, but not cross it. There are some hiding behind the sofa moments.”
A copro between the BBC and the Kids & Family Entertainment division of FremantleMedia Enterprises (FME), it will debut on digital kids channel CBBC in October. FME has ancillary rights in the UK and is distributing internationally and launched it at MIPCOM.
“It has elements of Doctor Who, but has a dash more comedy; it is Harry Potter meets Star Wars with a dash of Doctor Who,” says Sander Schwartz, president, Kids & Family Entertainment at FME.
He adds that the company has deliberately not shown any potential customers any of the show yet and MIPCOM will be the first chance they have had to see it. “Once it was announced, we immediately had interest from buyers around the world,” he says. “If it was just another live action show then it would be challenging to sell, especially as it’s not exactly low budget. But we believe in Russell and Phil and think it has great prospects, the response from buyers has been tremendous and we have already received sight-unseen offers.”
Ford and Davies are already planning ahead. “I’m already working on series two and have ideas for series three, this can run and run,” Ford says. “We want a big international hit with this. We see the Nekross take on wizards around the world so perhaps there could be a version in Japan or wherever.” Ford adds: “I can see at least one spin-off.”
The show: Wizards Vs. Aliens
The producers: BBC Cymru, FremantleMedia Enterprises
The distributor: FremantleMedia Enterprises
Airing: CBBC (UK)