The Sarah Jane Adventures has definitely moved into the realm of classic Who at this point. It’s no longer just a kids show, as it actively holds the attention of the adults too. Day of the Clown is a terrific piece of writing that would appeal to the kids while not losing the adult audience but as creepy as it is, it’s not flawless.
Ok, so sticking with themes, Luke and Clyde are still missing Maria, who has moved to Washington (as we learn early on from an email Luke is reading). This is picking up from the previous week where Maria moved away and briefly tackles the idea of loss. There are new people moving in across the street, into Maria’s old house: Rani, Gita and Haresh. Gita, like Chrissy before her, can’t get Sarah Jane’s name right, referring to her simply as “Sarah”. Haresh comes off as a jerk in school but we’ll see just how long that lasts. Rani, played brilliantly by Anjli Mohindra, rapidly replaces Maria in my eyes. I liked Maria, and she played her part well, but Rani has a maturity that Maria lacked and I really love her journalistic hunger. I think she’ll make a great addition to the crew. Clyde gets a winning line with new headmaster Haresh too; “I tell jokes, not lies!” This might go unnoticed by the casual viewer, but I took it as a judgement on liars. Being a joker is not the same as being a liar, and I respected that line! Phil Ford, the writer of the episode, deserves credit for that! (And some of Clyde’s jokes at the end of the episode are marvelous!)
Sticking to the remit of Doctor Who that the show should offer some educational material, we learn that Johnny Depp has coulrophobia: the fear of clowns. Hey, we don’t need a lesson, as long as we can say we learned something. In this case, we learn what the fear of clowns is called, that it’s a real thing, and that Johnny Depp has it. I’d call that a three-pointer. (How many wins have you seen today? There were three wins!!)
The story is intensely creepy but the cliffhanger isn’t that great. Odd Bob the Clown states eerily that Sarah Jane and company “are mine to feed on”. Sarah Jane meanwhile seems to convulse to indicate that she is afraid, but it’s nowhere near the quality of some cliffhangers. And Odd Bob is played by Bradley Walsh which was a shock since I had long ago forgotten that he was in this story. How can we see Graham from the current series of Doctor Who as a bad guy? It seems impossible!
There are some things I liked about the episode, like learning that Sarah Jane was brought up by her Aunt Lavinia, who we knew about from the classic era of Doctor Who. I also loved that Sarah Jane offers Rani a choice just like the Doctor gives many of his companions. It’s the infamous “do you want to come with me” speech from Eccleston’s time as the Doctor. And who doesn’t love the use of a house of mirrors? I also love that the Pharos Project has returned from last season’s finale, and the director is appreciative of Sarah Jane’s discretion in keeping their project out of the papers. But for all the positives, there are negatives to go along with it. When Sarah Jane tells the director of Pharos that she’ll take so little of the meteorite that no one will notice, I was not expecting her to lop off as much as she did! And Luke claims that they’ve saved the world 12 times so far, but try as I might, at best that’s about how many weeks the show would have been on, but that just means 6 stories. (7 if you count The Last Sontaran and 8 if you count Invasion of the Bane!)
The worst part for me was the resolution. Odd Bob stands strangely still, unwilling to so much as move to attack the joker and his pals as they perform the Classic Star Trek resolution from Day of the Dove, laughing and having a good time in the face of danger. (Odd that that title is so similar to Day of the Dove, too, huh?) The Dove and the Clown scurry off together, no longer a threat. For all Walsh’s menace, when put in a bind, he stands there, not even lifting a creepy finger.
The story is a good one, but it needed work. Walsh plays Elija Spellman with all the right menace, but I was stunned to read he was also playing Odd Bob, with his Southern drawl. He was a great addition to the story but it needed more menace, not just the creepy factor… But we’re still getting terrific stories, so I can let that go. Overall the show is still impressing me to no end, but this one should have been far more impressive than it was. Perhaps we’ll see more of that with the next one… ML