Well, Phil Ford has a good track record, so I’ll throw him a bone here. This is a pretty weak story for a few reasons. First off, Mona Lisa’s Revenge tries to be funny and hip but forgets that one Tom Baker masterpiece, City of Death. Just today, before writing this, I had two seriously good discussions about World Building. (I might have to have a bonus day dedicated to it!) Doctor Who writers go for ideas, but have no sense of world building. It might be hard to do in a show about time travel, but it shouldn’t be impossible. City of Death effectively neutralizes the possibility of this story.
That’s not the only thing that bothered me though. The Abomination, a painting so Lovecraftian that to lay eyes on it will drive anyone mad, has never been seen before. But it resides, locked up, in the basement of an art gallery? What, was the gallery built coincidentally around a caged painting? How did it get there? Who had the wherewithal to cover it and cage it and lock it up with a puzzle box if it had never been seen? And is the creature that comes out of it really so weak that a couple shots from K-9 kills it?! Doesn’t his battery run down if he thinks too hard?
That’s still not all. I know it’s artistic (apt!) for a television show writer to allow two different people to walk around telling the story for the audience, but this should be done sparingly. Instead, Harders is giving us all the exposition in one place, while Rani and Luke read the rest somewhere else. The camera pans between them for the audience so we can get the full picture. But it comes off hollow and unrealistic. It comes off like they had no better way to make that happen and relies too much on backstory rather than allowing the action to take the lead.
And then there’s Luke, who “remembers everything he reads” but can’t remember where he saw a name just hours earlier. And then when he does, he says, “I remember everything I read!” like he had remembered the whole time! What was Ford thinking with this story? He clearly had a bad day! I’ll give him a pass because he really does a great job more often than not, but this one was just silly!
That all said, there are some things that retain the admiration I have for this series. A good deal of the episode deals with trouble between Sarah Jane and Luke, the latter of whom is growing up. Sarah Jane realizes there will come a day soon that he won’t be there anymore, as he goes off to college. The fight between them becomes poignant as Sarah Jane becomes trapped in a painting and Luke is desperate to free her. The love between a mother and son is heartwarming and their reunion is a sweet victory. In fact, there’s a lot to be said about the parent/child connection in this story. Same can be said for frienship, since Clyde was only entered into the contest by his friends, both of whom think he has real talent!
Suranne Jones plays Mona Lisa with a sense of humor and the fun she has in the part is evident. She’s no Doctor’s Wife yet, but the actress clearly enjoys the role. She has a few great lines too, especially telling Harders “I can see how you got the job here”. Clyde also gets a great line when the (deaf) Dark Rider catches him, “Do you know Dick Turpin?” But speaking of deaf enemies, the universe must be littered with them. I mean, Clyde, Luke and Rani are all 10 feet away from Deafy and he doesn’t hear them until they shout, but they were in an empty room! Oh, what’s the point! I give up. Go into this episode and expect a fun romp, but not a thought provoking trip into our favorite universe!
In a nutshell, it’s a fun episode but one of the weaker ones of the season. Only one to go now. I really hope its as strong as some of the earlier ones. That would be a gift indeed. ML