Do you know, I really can’t think of an introduction to this story that won’t be a spoiler in some way to Americans and people who haven’t seen this episode? So instead of wobbling on for a bit out on the front page, I’m heading off for the protective enclosure of the jump.
Join me if you will.
Last week, of course, Sarah Jane Adventures‘ popular heroine Maria left for the US, along with her cool dad and estranged not-so-cool mum. This two-parter, also by Phil Ford, is our introduction to new girl, Rani, and her nuclear family – scary dad and even-less-cool mum.
Her and Team Sarah-Jane’s first task is to investigate how some missing children who were all hallucinating clowns with British teeth have managed to disappear. No one believes Rani, who’s also seeing the clowns and thinks they’re aliens, and even team Sarah Jane are playing it cool for fear of being exposed as loonies. Eventually, everyone bumps into each other at the local clown museum run by the surprisingly creepy Bradley Walsh, who turns out to be the Pied Piper. Cue clowns and end title sequence.
Was it any good?
This was a bit more of a family piece than the slightly childish Last of the Sontarans, and fingers-crossed, there should be a few six year olds traumatised by the episode (although I’m not entirely convinced the fear of clowns isn’t just an adult thing. Certainly, the fact that Torchwood also did a fairground episode would seem to back up that particular theory.)
For the adult, there were far fewer moments of "Oh, don’t be so silly," and most of those involved the Family Rani and in particular the mum. Sub-text of SJA: mums are daft, dads aren’t, which is refreshing but slightly insulting – how about neither mums nor dads are daft? The quivering of Sarah-Jane and co at the end was also unnecessary: the jessies.
The big revelation, though, was that Bradley Walsh can do a reasonably decent German accent and be scary at the same time; and that George Garfield from The Bill is Luke and co’s new teacher. Nice use of the Pied Piper, although I’m still waiting for the supposed The Celestial Toymaker visual reference to pop up (did I miss it?), although probably too much of the episode relied on the concept of clowns being inherently frightening rather than having them do frightening things (no, just popping up doesn’t count, but the balloon gifts from the mirror were intriguing).
Rani, who to old-school fans who know their Time Lady villains might as well be called "Dalek Cybermen", isn’t too bad – piece-perfect for the Sarah-Jane jigsaw puzzle since she wants to be a journalist and believes in weird things; she’s also inserted into the proceedings relatively subtly. She’s not quite as interesting as Maria, though, but let’s give her time.
Not bad – looking forward to part two now.