The Nightmare Man

nightmare manWe’re back with season 4 of The Sarah Jane Adventures and I’m reminded what an odd show this is.  We start off with Luke recording himself on a video camera to let the audience know about The Nightmare Man.  While this is a cool effect, it loses something when we consider this was in 2010, one year after Torchwood’s Children of Earth wherein a similar visual cue is used.  (The Nightmare Man even calls out to the “children of Earth” at one point, so someone was capitalizing on an idea!)  But let’s take this on its own merits.  I’d be content to let that go if not for the fact that we have another flashback (1 year earlier) to yet another Slitheen story and a Slitheen story wouldn’t be complete without one of them exploding their Nickelodeon goop all over the team.  This has been done to death and I never need to see it again.  Not to mention, it’s a horrible thing to consider that Clyde doesn’t just kill the creature; he does it calously and somehow I suspect blowing up an enemy is a violent death.  It’s done like a comedic thing because comedy works when you go for absurdity, but the truth is, it’s not a comedic act and it shows a side of Clyde that we don’t want in our heroes.  Where’s the “other way” that the Doctor is always saying we should find?  Then to add one more reminder of oddness, we’re in another season that starts off with the departure of a major cast member, like what happened with Maria, 2 seasons ago.  Episode one of season four… and Luke is going away.

I can’t say I’m particularly upset about this.  Luke is, for my money, the weakest character.  He should be the best as the alien learning what it means to be human, but I don’t find the actor that skilled.  Until he pulls an “Adric”.  What’s that now?  It’s when the final episode of the character is a tour de force and you end up reevaluating the character as a result.  The Nightmare Man has targetted Big Brain Luke and locks him in nightmares.  This gives us a Nightmare On Bannerman Road story complete with eerie camera tricks and odd angles, exploring themes every child faces: fear of change, fear of abandonment, fear of being the “loser”, fear of being alone in the crowd.  Suddenly what started off as a weak story is ramping up quite nicely, reminding us that good science fiction has its roots in reality.  Going off to college is a major change for a kid; my own is facing it now.  Will life go on the way he’s known it?  No, of course not!  Nor should it.  Life is about change.  But that’s scary and Luke shows his doubts even as a genetically grown life form; he’s still as human as the rest of us.  Clyde and Rani have to cope with the idea of losing their friend.  Rani is envious because she wants to do what he’s doing.  Clyde is coming to terms with the breakup of the team.  And Sarah Jane has to say goodbye to her son.  The emotions are real and the entire cast really carries the believability factor to the max.

When part one ends, things are looking bleak.  The Nightmare Man has escaped and is spreading nightmares to the world.  But then the moral of the story becomes clear: we are never alone.  We have friends and family who care for us and we need never face the nightmares by ourselves.  Luke, Clyde and Rani defy expectation and break down the walls of nightmares just to be together and cast the Nightmare Man back into a nightmare of his own creation.  Together they are stronger than the evil being.  The triumphant music drives it all home and one can’t help but cheer as the story reaches its very happy ending.

Was the “sentient concrete” believable?  Nah, but who cares!  The whole idea of being stronger together is exactly the right message for everyone; parent and child alike!  Then to add a little extra heartbreak, after finally having K-9 back for good, he is going off with Luke.  The comedic tension that has existed between K-9 and Mr. Smith ends with Mr. Smith offering K-9 a hand should he ever need it.  K-9’s parting comment is marvelous, “I knew you would miss me!”  And Luke and  K-9 head off to their own adventures.

So what does that mean for Sarah Jane, Rani and Clyde?  I guess we’ll have to stay tuned to find out.  ML

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