Saturday, 30 April 2011

The Sarah Jane Adventures: The Nightmare Man

Part One

“It’s all my fault!”

So, we still have the spiel at the start, narrated by Clyde. It’s different, though, with different footage. A whole new series. The Marathon may be over, but the post-Marathon starts here!

This is the first episode of The Sarah Jane Adventures I’ve seen since… you know. This was only on telly last autumn, and Lis is fantastic as always. I think it’s going to feel quite unreal for some time. I haven’t seen any of this series before; it’s all going to be a genuine surprise.

The beginning, with its “keep watching” and Luke speaking into a camera, is very metatextual. Surprising to see something like this in the Whoniverse’s show aimed particularly at kids, but Joseph Lidster’s script is fantastic, and very, very adult in the best possible way. It’s all a bit scary, even a bit Ghostwatch, for kids, I would have thought. But this is superb.

We start a year earlier than the main narrative- has a year passed, or did this happen a year ago? Whatever, Luke is taking his A levels a year early, and he got four A*’s. Lucky git. We never had A*’s in my day. Still, I only got four B’s and a D, and one of the B’s was General Studies, so I suppose I’m just not clever like what he is.

This all feels very real- University (Oxford, no less!) approaches, and the pace of change is all too much for Luke’s seventeen year old mind. This is quite close to home for me; I had the only depressive episode in my life aged seventeen and eighteen at the sheer conveyor-belt inevitability of A Levels, University, and so on. I ended up dropping out of uni until I was twenty-three and all grown-up. Luke’s a lot more sensible than I was, though, and I’m sure he smokes rather less weed than I did back then. Still, there’s sensible and there’s sensible. I think going to bed at 10.37pm is a bit much, frankly.

Luke’s nightmare sequences are brilliant, and tell us so much about his fears and insecurities- will his friends forget him? Will his mother abandon him? This is so very well-written and performed, and highly appropriate fare for teenagers, although I would have thought the target audience to be younger.

There’s a very tangible sense of melancholy at Luke’s current life ending, and what will feel at first like an end for his friendships. I love the party. Intriguing to see Luke apparently setting up Rani and Clyde- should I be watching this space?

The moment we finally get a glimpse of the Nightmare Man is eerie and effective. Yes, I know it’s only clown make-up(ish), and we’ve had clowns before. But it works. And the concept of Luke’s next nightmare giving life to the Nightmare Man and dooming the world is well scary. This is quite a cliffhanger…

Part Two

“I need a USB lead, Sarah Jane.”

Interesting to see the nightmares of Rani and Clyde. Rani’s has Doon Mackichan in it (yay!) but plays on her fears and ambitions surrounding journalism as she’s forced to co-present a programme exposing Sarah Jane. Interesting that the comments of the Evil Newsreader, that Sarah Jane is putting children in danger, are quite accurate! Clyde, meanwhile, is stuck in a dead end job, mocked by an elderly Sarah Jane. Both dreams say a lot about the characters.

Elisabeth Sladen is utterly superb as an elderly version of herself. Roles like this really give her a chance to show her range. It’s… weird to see her playing a role like this at the moment, of course.

There was a laugh out loud moment for me at the bit where Clyde exclaims “This isn’t a real burger bar. There aren’t real burgers. And you- you’re not the real Sarah Jane.” The Android Invasion, anyone? I love little bits like this.

The ending is satisfying and makes sense, and also wraps up the B-plot of Luke’s nerves at going to uni. But off to uni he is. And he’s taking K-9 with him...

This is superb. Possibly the best thing on SJA so far.

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