I’ve got to hand it to The Sarah Jane Adventures; it really does tackle some big subjects. In The Mark of the Berserker, Clyde’s dad, Paul, turns up after a long absence and disrupts the lives of all the kids, while Sarah Jane is investigating a slug in a hospital. (I would rip into the silliness of the slug if the episode were not so adult in all other respects!)
Right, so we are introduced to Jacob who has a pendant that allows him to make people do what he wants. Jacob has the wherewithal to ditch it, and Rani finds it. After having some fun with it at her dad’s expense, she too gets rid of it, leaving it in Sarah Jane’s attic. Clyde’s dad turns up and finds himself in Sarah Jane’s attic (because, why wouldn’t you follow your kid into another woman’s home and roam about freely…. nothing wrong with that!) When he finds the pendant, all hell breaks loose. And the story addresses some serious issues with it.
First, there’s the pendant itself. This thing is an addicts dream come true! The more you use it, the more you want to use it; you become dependent on it. While the kids fight it, it comes at a cost. Even Clyde uses it one more time even after all that has happened to his dad (although one might be inclined to agree with his usage.) Then there’s the magnificent cameo by Maria and Alan, getting a wake up call early in Washington DC. This isn’t a huge issue, but it does drive home the point that these people miss one another and had to move on. Nothing drives that point home more than Maria and Rani chatting. Maria has been replaced and is no longer part of the team in the traditional sense. And we address the love of a parent, and the poignant feelings associated with being forgotten as Clyde’s memory of his mom is erased. (This is compounded by his memory loss where his friends are concerned, but his mom has a far greater impact!) Then there’s the big one: “You left me. I was just a kid,” says Clyde to his dad. This episode deals with broken homes. To compound it, Paul is having another kid and Clyde has to be the big man to tell his dad “I don’t need you” and but the new baby will. This may be a kids show, but it does a heck of a job talking about things even adults have a hard time addressing!
So the handful of random thoughts to round out a really deep episode: mind control is a feature for the fourth story in a row! This season has really made a point about letting us know that mind control is evil. Then we have yet another polite alien! Even as Paul is fully in Berserker rage… he sits back flicking has hand in front of his face like a guy bothered by a gnat and doesn’t try to… I don’t know… go berserk on anyone? Come on man, do what the title says! No. Instead he politely waits for Clyde and Sarah Jane to have a chat before swatting at a few more gnats by the waterside. So generous. Lastly, Clyde knows how dangerous this pendant is so he utterly and completely … tosses it about 20 feet into the water, where anyone walking in will step on it and start the whole drama up all over again! Nice work Clyde. Sarah Jane doesn’t think to take it away? With such a heroic arrival, she just lets him toss it into the bay. Well, there goes a clever ending.
A very strong episode with some fun continuity, but really needed that ending to be enhanced! But with two stories to go, anything can happen… ML