Sarah Jane Adventures: The Day Of The Clown Part 2
Over to CBBC for Part 2 then (or BBC1 a week a later if you're reading this now) and, alas and alack, it doesn't deliver on the promise of Part 1. The phone signal interference schtick isn’t the greatest of get outs, but never mind the slipshod plotting when Phil Ford gets to develop the Sarah Jane back story itself through flashbacks to her childhood fears of puppets coming to life in a thunderstorm lashed bedroom. It’s that primal anxiety again that most of us have experienced and is part of that catalogue of irrational scares such as discarded clothes assuming unfamiliar shapes, creatures under the bed waiting to grab your legs, tree branches taking on a life of their own as they clatter against the window pane.
This is pure Bruno Bettleheim via The Uses Of Enchantment in that Ford is using the series, particularly here in this story, as fairy tale to inform the youngest of viewers about how to negotiate through life’s toughest times and personal fears. It’s there in how Luke must deal with the absence of Maria and get along with Rani, in how Sarah must conquer those troubling childhood skeletons in the closet, and (nice idea, shame about the realisation) in how Clyde uses his humour to overcome the fear creating, and all devouring, Odd Bob. Whilst this second part isn’t as successful in maintaining the threat from the fantastical situation, and I put that partly down to the way the story is trying to scientifically rationalise the myth of the Pied Piper via the meteorite at the Pharos Institute, it still asks the child and the parent to consider fairy tales as "...suggestions in symbolic form about how he/she may deal with these issues and grow safely into maturity."
...it still asks the child and the parent to consider fairy tales as "...suggestions in symbolic form about how he/she may deal with these issues and grow safely into maturity."
As well as this symbolic playing out we also get Rani’s induction into Team SJA. This is definitely one of the best scenes in the episode and again Anjii Mohindra plays it beautifully and all the signs are that she’s going to work well with Daniel Anthony and Tommy Knight. Via the character’s interest in journalism, a new dynamic is also forming with Sarah Jane and I hope they develop this part of their relationship. Sarah Jane's offer to Rani, either go back to her normal life or go with her, actually makes her sound more like the Doctor than Metropolitan's greatest roving reporter. And as the kids climb to the attic, Luke stares wistfully at a photo of the original gang, including Maria, and Ford's script also acknowledges that life goes on for Luke and he must accept change.
Loved Sarah laying down the ground rules, including not keeping score of how many times they've saved the world and, later, the moonlit conversation between her and Rani which is played so beautifully by Anjii and Lis. And for us continuity whores out there - did you spot the picture of Clara the clown from The Celestial Toymaker on Sarah's laptop gallery as well as the name-check for Aunt Lavinia as Sarah explains her fear of clowns in the flashback? I did wonder at that point whether the kids of today can actually relate to this same fear or if, watching this, they've laughed their heads off and lost all respect for that wuss Sarah Jane Smith. Still, that scary encounter between Odd Bob and Sarah in the Pharos Institute would surely cause mass incontinence amongst young and old.
Which is lovely, but then Ford's script starts to disintegrate. The nice continuity link to the Pharos Institute, with Floella Benjamin popping in again, is just starters orders for a series of plot devices that actually encumber the story. Yep, meteorite containing said force will be used ultimately to imprison it again; yep, mass mobile phone thing just reeks of leftovers from the parent show and is a bit of a ho-hum solution to what was the promising spectacle of balloon obsessed kids biting the dust in a pleasingly nasty fashion. I can just about forgive them. Up to this point it has been a good little story overall with solid performances from the ensemble cast, Bradley Walsh as Spellman/Odd Bob is deliciously entertaining and the far more successful hall of mirrors sequence is such a deliriously surreal homage by director Kerrigan to The Lady From Shanghai, Enter The Dragon and The Man With The Golden Gun that it makes the unsatisfactory conclusion just about palatable.
I doubt Daniel Anthony will be adding 'light entertainer' to his CV either after blotting his copybook with this irritating performance...
But the mouldy icing on the cake is the groan inducing moment where Clyde's 'laughter is the best medicine' approach is used to deal with the fear munching Odd Bob. Never mind the onslaught of obviously daft jokes, appropriate for a kids show I admit, it's just the fact that the solution was screamingly telegraphed ten minutes before it occurred. It all fizzles out a bit and that's a pity because the central idea's very sound. Clyde's stand up career is well and truly over based on that routine and I doubt Daniel Anthony will be adding 'light entertainer' to his CV either after blotting his copybook with this irritating performance. The trouble is this episode can't make its mind up when to stop and does tend to untidily pile up one conclusion after another in order to tie up narrative lose ends. And when it does, we're given more star-gazing and tweeness that has already been trotted out in the previous story. If someone's trying to underline the 'wonder of the universe' metaphors then there's no need to do it with a big fat black crayon. Message understood, OK?
Next week they seem to have a repeat of Russ Abbot's Madhouse on.