Monday, October 12, 2009

My Review of The Sarah Jane Adventures 2x04: "The Mark Of The Berserker"

Written by Joseph Lidster
Directed by Joss Agnew

Clyde: “Sometimes people think I’m not bothered by stuff. That I’m always …”
Sarah Jane: “Clyde, you don’t have to be cool all the time.”

In this show, we’ve been lucky with the fathers so far. It’s hard not like Alan as a character and in the last story, Haresh has also shown himself a fairly decent bloke. Sadly when it comes to Clyde, the phrase ‘deadbeat dad’ really is applicable to Paul, who makes a very unforgettable visit to Bannerman Road.

Clyde hadn’t seen his father in five years and was naturally reluctant enough to get to know him. Even when he offered to go to the park with his father, he wasn’t best pleased. To side with Clyde, Paul didn’t exactly seem like he was all that bothered.

Even their conversation was strained. Paul asked Clyde all the usual questions but rather out of need to talk than a genuine interest in his son’s progress. Plus Paul didn’t exactly endear himself with the snide remarks he made about Luke, did he?

Like many people, Clyde did want approval from his father and blabbing about what he got up to with Luke, Rani and Sarah Jane was his way of trying to do that. Paul only accepted that Clyde was telling him the truth when he went to Sarah Jane’s attic and spotted all the paraphernalia in the place.

During those scenes, Paul’s true colours did emerge more. Instead of being wowed by the confirmation of alien existence or even afraid, he saw this stuff as something to sell. The second he stole the pendant Rani had left for Sarah Jane, I knew trouble wasn’t far behind.

We had already seen the consequences earlier on in this story with both Jacob and Rani using it, so Paul was always going to take that to further extremes. Getting Haresh to exercise was one thing but having Clyde forget about Luke and Rani was worse.

Of course when it came to Paul, his use of the pendant continued to get crueller and crueller. Anytime Clyde tried to ask him deeper questions, Paul kept him quiet with the pendant. The worst thing however was making him forget about Carla. I know Paul was also being affected by the Berserker influence of the pendant but it was pretty hard to feel that bad for him.

Thankfully because of Sarah Jane largely being underused in this episode, we did get a much welcomed reappearance from both Maria and Alan. I was kind of hoping that the two of them would be more finale bound, but seeing them in the second part of this story was a delight.

For one thing, I liked that there was no rivalry between Maria and Rani. I think the fact that Maria knew about Rani helped matters and that there was serious danger with Paul’s corruptive influence over Clyde for the girls to develop any rivalry. Besides it was a lot more entertaining to see them bonding with one another.

Maria and Alan were the ones who brushed up the gang on the Berserker history and it was Maria who also got Alan to fiddle around with Carla’s sat nav to locate when Clyde and Paul were heading. I also got a kicking at Maria scoffing over the idea of leaving her alien fighting days behind her. Maybe one day she will return from Washington.

As for the climatic confrontation in this story, we did get some stirring moments. Paul’s weakness was the very thing that had the Berserker hold such an influence over him but his feelings for Clyde and Carla were what broke them as well. As bad a father as he is, he did show some signs of caring.

Clyde’s scenes with his dad showed maturity on his part. While I can understand why Clyde elected not to make his father forget, I did wonder why he chose to have Carla’s memories taken away. It’s a shame because we didn’t get to see Carla really react to the evidence of aliens whereas we had seen Paul do so.

Where Paul largely lacks as a character, it seemed that Carla made up. Seriously, I thought Gita was lovely but Carla pretty much usurped her here. I loved her little bonding scenes with Clyde and the advice she gave to Luke. I’m hoping that this will not be the last we get to see of her. She’s definitely worth bringing back again.

The story’s last scene with Clyde and Sarah Jane however revealed the mother of all spoilers. A lot of stuff has been mentioned or hinted at about Sarah Jane’s parents in the season, so I guess she’ll be meeting both mummy and daddy in the next story. She was right about Clyde not always having to be cool, though I think he might get that more from his mum rather than his father.

Also in “The Mark Of The Berserker”

There was a good moment of slight horror when Jacob got all of his classmates and teacher to be silent.

Sarah Jane: “How are you?”
Carla: “Well, I’d tell you over a cup of tea if you ever had the time for one.”

I think there’s a hint there for Sarah Jane to become a bit more social with her neighbours. Well she and Gita are friendly enough to each other.

Haresh (re pendant): “What’s that?”
Rani: “It’s a hamster.”
Haresh: “Why do you have a hamster in your pocket?”

Rani: “Jacob, what are you doing here?”
Jacob: “Show me your hand. It’s already happening, isn’t it?”

Rani getting Haresh to do Bianca off EastEnders, a lion was funny until she realised that Haresh might have killed himself.

Carla: “What the hell are you doing here? Don’t you care about Clyde at all?”
Paul: “Yeah, that’s why I’m back.”

Paul: “It wasn’t your fault.”
Clyde: “I never thought it was and don’t try that. You ran off with Auntie Mel.”

Paul revealed that he ran away from Mel when he discovered she was pregnant and he mentioned the Daleks. Clyde also revealed his talent for drawing.

Maria: “Hi, Rani, yeah? Luke’s told me all about you. How are you finding the whole alien thing?”
Rani: “Yeah, it’s cool. Alright, it’s more than that. It’s uber cool.”

Carla: “Who are you talking to?”
Rani: “Oh, just one of Luke’s geeky mates.”
Alan: “Geeky? Thanks for that, Rani.”

Briefly in this episode we saw Sarah Jane chasing after a three eyed alien called a Travast Polong in a hospital.

Maria: “And that’s it? We just sit here and wait?”
Alan: “What else can we do?”
Maria: “I’ve got an idea. Get typing Dad. And you thought we left it all behind?”

Carla: “What have you done to him, Paul? I knew you were trouble but I never thought you were a … monster.”
Clyde: “He’s not a monster.”

Standout music: I guess Mika’s “Grace Kelly” but sometimes the music slips me by on this show.

Clyde (re Paul): “I shouldn’t have brought him here.”
Sarah Jane: “You wanted to impress your Dad. I’d probably have done the same.”

We didn’t really get Mr Smith in this episode and Gita was also nowhere to be seen.

“The Mark Of The Berserker” is a good story for giving Clyde some depth and also successful in not taking the easy way out with Paul as well. The reduced role for Sarah Jane however will probably be rewarded with the next story.

Rating: 8 out of 10.

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