Wednesday, October 13, 2010

My Review of The Sarah Jane Adventures 4x01: "The Nightmare Man"

Written by Joseph Lidster
Directed by Joss Agnew

Nightmare Man: “Get away from me.”
Luke: “So there we go. The boy that was made by aliens to destroy the world, saves the world yet again.”

To be fair, Luke’s, it’s not like you managed to defeat the Nightmare Man all by yourself. Everyone in the story literally contributed in their own way to send this particular pest packing but at the same time, there’s no denying that this is Luke’s story, through and through.

For an opening story, it definitely takes a creepier and atmospheric style than we’re used but if there’s one thing I like about this show, it’s that it does actually refuse to play safe and this is definitely a great story for Luke Smith.

Never experiencing nightmares should’ve been one of the few pleasures that Luke generated from not being human but on the last couple of days that he had left before he would head off to Oxford, all Luke managed to do was to experience them and it’s no shocker that his bad dreams would provide such a feast for the Nightmare Man.

None of the nightmares in this story that we see are in anyway original, which is perfectly fine because all the stuff our main characters fear but don’t talk about is nicely addressed. Luke’s excited about going to university but he’s fearful of the fact that he’ll be forgotten by everyone, replaced or resented for his achievements.

The sequences where Sarah Jane was delighting in Luke’s absence, marked with Clyde and Rani’s anger over him getting to leave home a year earlier than them were certainly effective moments. The kind of stuff that the Nightmare Man thrived on and that Luke would then find himself in the unfortunate position of being trapped in his head.

After seeing Thorne a couple of days, I don’t think I was in the mood to see anything that alluded to be locked inside your head but while Luke’s fate is never really that scary, it’s still frightening enough for the narrative to work. I also expected that once the Nightmare Man got free into the real world that he would target Clyde and Rani too.

Clyde’s nightmares of failure could’ve easily been traced back as early as the first year, what with his family history and his lack of academia but Clyde’s always been a street smart kid and has had the support of him mum and Sarah Jane and the gang, so in a lot of ways, I think his nightmare worked the best.

It’s clear that Clyde sees Sarah Jane as a mentor, so the fact that a demented older version of the woman on a mobility scooter berating him over his working in a fast food joint was going to hurt the most. It’s also probably a blessed relief that the story itself doesn’t stay too long inside Clyde’s nightmare as a result.

Rani’s nightmare though was probably the least predictable one in a way. She finally got success by becoming a journalist but had an irritating co-worker in Louise Marlowe desperately trying to get her to expose Sarah Jane as a menace to society. Given that Rani does actually have journalistic aspirations, I can’t help but wonder if perhaps a future plot line was being teased here. At some eventual point, Sarah Jane is going to get close to becoming exposed for her alien fighting activities.

As for Sarah Jane, she was the only main character not to fall asleep, so it meant that there was a nice little confrontation scene between her and the Nightmare Man. I liked that Sarah Jane tried to goad him in making her fall asleep but after Luke’s failed attempts of tricking him, I also knew that Sarah Jane wouldn’t succeed either.

Still defeating the Nightmare Man itself will probably be criticised but to be fair, it was a logical enough solution. Of course having Luke, Clyde and Rani join forces in their nightmares and stand up to the Nightmare Man would do it and seriously after witnessing Amy Pond literally willing the Doctor back into existence a couple of months ago, is it really that much of a cop-out solution? Not really to be honest.

As much as I liked the Nightmare Man as an overall villain (and one I suspect could return), he was just background to the bigger issue of Luke’s departure. Although it was never really announced during the build up towards the fourth season, it’s been known for a while that Tommy Knight was going and this was a great exit story for him.

Luke got to go to Oxford but at the same time, we managed to get believable reactions from Sarah Jane, Clyde and Rani from it as well as Luke wondering whether or not he was making the right decision. There was no overly sentimental mush, just a well told story for the end of a long serving character to the series.

Speaking of long serving, I was slightly sorrier to see K9 go than Luke but packing him off with Luke made a lot of sense too. If there’s one thing I will definitely miss, it will be the sarcastic banter between K9 and Mr Smith. I even felt bad for Mr Smith when he admitted that he would miss the tin dog.

Now that it’s Sarah Jane, Clyde and Rani, it will be interesting to see how the dynamics shift in this series. I know there’s a new character due for the fifth season and that Luke will also appear in another story in this year but overall, a big change has kind of swept the show and I can’t help but wonder if Rani and Clyde’s respective parents will get suspicious over their children’s continued involvement with Sarah Jane Smith.

Also in “The Nightmare Man”

For once, it was Luke who got the big narration in this story but that makes sense, given that this was his big exit.

Luke: “Mum, Oxford?”
Sarah Jane: “I think you need to do what’s right for you, so yes, Luke, I think you should go.”

Obligatory Slitheen appearance at the start of this episode as one of them tried to blow Sarah Jane and Luke up. Their green was somewhat different.

Sarah Jane: “For years I was alone, just K9 and me. You gave me my life back. You gave me something real to live for. I’m terrified of what’s gonna happen when you go. I’m so scared.”
Luke: “Why?”
Sarah Jane: “Because it feels like I’m gonna lose you.”

Mr Smith: “I thought Luke didn’t dream.”
Sarah Jane: “That’s why I’m asking you to scan him.”
K9: “Do you require everything to be pointed out to you, Mr Smith?”

Julian Bleach has previously played the Ghost Maker in Torchwood and Davros in Doctor Who and now he played the role of the Nightmare Man in this one.

Luke: “Who are you?”
Nightmare Man: “I’m the Nightmare Man. You belong to me.”

Old Sarah Jane: “Are you still serving burgers? I always knew you were a stupid boy.”
Clyde: “Sarah Jane?”

Sarah Jane in the mobility scooter almost reminded me of Nan from The Catherine Tate Show.

Luke: “Come back and face me.”
Nightmare Man: “Hmm, no.”

Rani: “Why do you want to destroy Sarah Jane?”
Louise: “Why do you think? She’s a menace to society.”

The Doctor was referenced at least twice in this story and in two weeks time, Sarah Jane will meet the 11th Doctor and Jo Grant in “Death Of The Doctor”.

Louise: “Breaking news, Rani, Luke’s leaving you. He’s got his A-Levels and he’s going to university. He’s leaving you behind.”
Rani: “I know.”

Sarah Jane: “I’m not scared of you. What’s wrong – not used to someone answering you back? If you’re so strong, send me to sleep.”
Nightmare Man: “You want to have nightmares?”

CBBC are airing the series this year, Mondays/Tuesdays at 5.15pm with BBC1 airing them on Wednesdays/Thursdays at 4.30pm.

K9: “You were adequate company.”
Mr Smith: “You could always contact me, if you need to.”
K9: “I knew you would miss me.”

Chronology: September 10th 2010 by the end of this story.

“The Nightmare Man” certainly opened up the new season on a great note and with so many other stories along the way, the next few weeks should definitely be a blast of entertainment for kids and adults alike.

Rating: 8 out of 10.

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