Saturday, 29 January 2011

The Sarah Jane Adventures: The Day of the Clown

Part One

“Both of you- promise you’ll never breathe a word about what we do.”

Well, we’ve come across clowns twice before in the Marathon: in The Celestial Toymaker and The Greatest Show in the Galaxy. But by this point the gradual shift in the perception of clowns is almost complete, and the “clowns are creepy” meme has completely taken over. Everyone in this story seems to find clowns unnerving right from the start, and I certainly do.

Blimey. Been a while, hasn’t it? At least for the last week and a half I’ve had the excuse of my right arm being in a sling which made it rather hard to take notes, but the hiatus in my Marathon has been going on for several months longer than that! I just ran out of steam for a bit, really. Plus I was less than enthused with the prospect of a season of Sarah Jane Adventures to put behind me before I get to the stuff I want to see, but on the other hand determined not to skip anything as I’ve come so far without doing so. Still, I’m definitely back now, and at a pre-hiatus pace of several reviews a week. It’s a New Year’s resolution and everything. Honest!

Phil Ford’s back, and so’s Michael Kerrigan, helming what I believe to be his first story in the wider world of Who since Battlefield. And there are still echoes of Maria, and rightly so. But this story is mainly about the new family moving in at Bannerman Road, and the introduction of Rani. It’s quite a shock in the context of the Marathon to see a character who seems to have been around so long being introduced so late on.

The whole conceit of Rani’s dad, Haresh, being the headmaster is rather well developed throughout by means of his rather amusing antagonism with Clyde, but this does come at the cost of the character appearing as something of a caricature during his early scenes. Still, Rani’s mum, Gita, is lovely and warm, has a very pleasant Lancashire accent, and gets a nice introduction scene with Sarah Jane coming round with some tea and sarnies. (Aren’t people so much more neighbourly on the telly than in real life? Sarah Jane is supposed to be a bit of a recluse, as well.) Plus she’s played by Nina Anwar, who, in one of those nice Actor Spotting Moments that have added so much to the Marathon, played Constable Habib in The Thin Blue Line. I’ve, er, got a bit of a crush on her.

Oh, and how come Sarah Jane doesn’t like it when Gita calls her “Sarah”? It seemed to be fine for the Doctor and Harry to do it but not now, apparently.

There’s not a lot of plot this episode but that’s ok; we need to introduce Rani. The concept of the clown works rather well in that respect as we can get lots of creepy premonitions of what is to come without anything having to happen. We finish with the plot all poised to start…

Part Two

“Annoying ringtones have their uses.”

Rani is rather nicely made a member of the team here as Sarah Jane’s reluctance is simply overtaken by events. I like Rani; she’s brave, inquisitive and has a very different, more light-hearted, family set-up than Maria did.

I had a bit of a Fanboy moment at the bit where Sarah Jane’s looking at pictures of clowns on her laptop and up pops Clara the Clown from, er, classic tale The Celestial Toymaker.

The plot is by-the-numbers here, although there’s a nice moment between Sarah Jane and Professor Rivers of the Pharos Institute, played by everyone’s favourite Lib Dem peer Floella Benjamin. Also, Gita continues to be fab as she walks into an invisible wall without even spilling any tea. Classy.

The ending is surprisingly effective, with Clyde making a load of actually rather good jokes and an almost Gaimanesque element of the dark side of fairytale in the image of children caught by the Pied Piper being kept in a kind of limbo ever since Hamelin, but fading away after a time. Brr! 3/5, I suppose: somewhat by-numbers, but a nice introduction for Rani.

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