Monday, October 12, 2009

My Review of The Sarah Jane Adventures 2x02: "The Day Of The Clown"

Written by Phil Ford
Directed by Michael Kerrigan

Sarah Jane: “I’m going to offer you a choice, Rani. Cross over the road, go back to your parents and the life you lived before you moved here and nothing will have changed or you could come with me. If you do that, nothing will ever be the same again.”
Rani: “I want to know the truth.”
Sarah Jane: “Then tell your Mum I’m giving you a little work experience.”

Seeing companions come and go is something that no longer should faze viewers. With this series we lost Kelsey and gained Clyde, something which has been more than beneficial to the show’s dynamic and now with the loss of Maria, we get Rani. No, not that one.

Inevitable comparisons between Maria and Rani will no doubt surface in the same way that some fans will continue to pit Rose and Martha against one another. There was a lot of talk about Maria, both Luke and Clyde feeling her loss and then there was Rani coming to live on Bannerman Road.

Moving into Maria’s house with her parents was another thing to set off the replacement issues as well but aside from the fact that they’re both teenage girls who get caught up in Sarah Jane’s world, there does seem to be some differences. Rani seems a bit more cerebral than Maria for starters.

Within the first few minutes of her debut, she adopted a snarky friendship with Clyde, combating his flirting with her with some ease. She also tried her best to get to know Luke, who seemed more than resistant at first to let her. He even said that she couldn’t replace Maria. Not that Rani is trying to mind.

What obviously sets Rani up as the new girl is her ability to see clowns. This was something both her and Clyde had in common but unlike Clyde, Rani didn’t try to tell an adult what she saw. It was only when her, Luke and Clyde noticed a rather sinister looking red balloon did she open up about the thing she was seeing.

Rani’s curiosity was something that did seem drilled in quite a lot in the story as well. Gita made a point of telling Sarah Jane that Rani wanted to be a journalist and it was only when Rani proved to be persistent in wanting to know the truth about the clowns and aliens did Sarah Jane decide to fill her in on things.

Rani certainly didn’t waste time in getting used to think. She confessed to Luke before the alien encounter that she believed in the weird and she certainly revelled in looking around Sarah Jane’s attic and asking Mr Smith questions. Yes, people, I think Rani is going to be a keeper.

As for the villain of the piece – I don’t particularly like clowns myself. Unlike Sarah Jane who has a fear of them, I just don’t like clowns all that much. Having a clown as a villain isn’t the most original thing to do but with the alien connection, there’s a lot of fun to be had.

Once again we got a nifty reminder that there’s often some truth behind fairytales and myths. Sarah Jane and Clyde went to Spellman’s Magical Museum and learned about the whole Pied Piper fable (something which Mr Smith had also touched). A clown stealing kids is always something that’s going to illicit a serious amount of fear in many an adult.

Bradley Walsh isn’t one of my favourite actors on UK television but he was absolutely perfect for this role. Donning three personas – Spellman, Odd Bob The Clown and Pied Piper isn’t an easy task but Walsh managed to make each role his own with the Spellman and Odd Bob roles being the most prominent.

From a psychological standpoint, the interplay between Sarah Jane and Odd Bob/Spellman was utterly brilliant. It’s great to see a villain that can get under Sarah Jane’s skin and even Luke found himself surprised to see his mother scared during the story.

The meteorite connection of the episode was something that flew over my head when I first watched it but now it made sense upon repeat. Being free from the meteorite and craving fear gave Spellman the perfect chance to feed and he wasted no time in trying to round up as many kids as possible to feast on.

The best part of stopping that part of his plan was Mr Smith being used to phone every child under Spellman’s influence. The unfortunate part was that Sarah Jane got a bit smug too soon and Spellman got back at her by stealing Luke. Granted there was no doubt he’d be seriously harmed but it was another power play in the battle of wits between Sarah Jane and Spellman/Odd Bob The Clown.

If fear was the thing that fed Spellman/Odd Bob The Clown, then laughter had to have been the thing to stop it. It’s great that Clyde’s sense of humour went from being criticised several times in this story to being the thing that actually stopped Odd Bob in this show’s evasiveness towards violence.

Clyde’s jokes might have been CBBC worthy (appropriate for this series) but not every joke has to be filthy to be funny and it end up being the thing that rendered Spellman back inside a bit of meteorite. You could say that it was an easy way to dispatch of him but Clyde and Rani’s quick thinking made it feel more organic, at least for me.

With villains aside and introducing Rani quite nicely, there was some other highlights in this story. First off unlike Maria, it seems that Rani has the annoying father in Haresh and the nice, if clueless mother in Gita. I am actually looking forward to seeing how both characters develop over the season.

Then there was also Sarah Jane’s flashback to a creepy clown puppet she had as a child. Elisabeth Sladen does benefit from the weighty material as Sarah Jane opened up to Luke about her childhood fears and her parents death. I suspect that this is another big theme for this season.

Also in “The Day Of The Clown”

Although we don’t see Yasmin Page on screen, we do have a voiceover of Maria’s email to Luke at the start of the episode.

Sarah Jane (re Maria): “How is she? Does she like Washington?”
Luke: “She says it’s awesome.”

What was the name of that protection device that Rani got from Sarah Jane? Come to think of it, did Sarah Jane ever give Clyde any alien tech to keep?

Luke (re Maria): “I’ve never lost anyone before.”
Clyde: “Well, it’s not going to be the same without her, that’s for sure. Who am I gonna have to save from Sontarans, Gorgons and Slitheen now?”

Clyde: “What are you?”
Odd Bob The Clown: “All I want to give you is a balloon?”

Clyde also made a point to reference the Kudlak and how they abducted kids before. It was nice that Sarah Jane also told Rani about helping aliens as well as stopping them too.

Luke: “Mum understands things like this.”
Rani: “Believe me Luke; whatever’s going on, no-one understands things like this.”

Rani: “But you’re a journalist?”
Sarah Jane: “I am.”
Rani: “Not with alien gizmos in her attic, who doesn’t bat an eyelid at a shape changing alien clown piper thing.”
Sarah Jane: “That’s more of a hobby.”

Speaking of clowns, we saw an image of Clara The Clown from the Doctor Who serial, “The Celestial Toymaker”. I’d recommend the “Lost In Time” DVD for that.

Spellman: “I don’t think you have any say on the matter, Miss Smith.”
Sarah Jane: “Perhaps I should phone a friend.”

Spellman: “Not scared of me, Miss Smith? Oh but I think you are.”
Sarah Jane: “If you hurt my son, Spellman. If you’ve done anything to him, I will destroy.”

In terms of returning characters, we briefly saw Professor Rivers and the Pharos Institute from “The Lost Boy” in this story as well.

Sarah Jane: “What’s wrong Mr Spellman, not game for a laugh?”
Spellman: “People have shuddered in fear at my shadow for over 700 years.”

Rani (to Gita): “Not weird, Mum, surprising. The universe is a surprising place.”

I wonder how long it will be before Rani learns about The Doctor from Sarah Jane as well?

For an episode devoted to clowns, “The Day Of The Clown” certainly tickled a funny bone, delivered some nice psychological moments of terror and insight and more importantly, introduced Rani in a brilliant way. It’ll be interesting to see where the writers take her but she’s more than a replacement for Maria.

Rating: 9 out of 10.

No comments: