I found myself suddenly enraged as I typed the title of this episode and then I realized, I must be a victim of psychophonic programming. But, having not said the name out loud, it was clearly a case of psychographic programming! Once I realized that, I typed the title again and overcame the programming. And thank goodness too, because it was raining all day until I did this and with my typing The Curse of Clyde Langer, the night just cleared up. How jolly ironic!
Phil Ford is back at it with The Curse of Clyde Langer, and this time he takes us to an alien world: that of the homeless person. After Clyde Langer (I have to keep typing the full name to overcome the psychographic programming, you understand) comes in contact with a freaky looking totem pole, his life is turned upside down and everyone shuns him. It’s actually very hard to watch because Clyde really seems to be on the verge of tears. Serious kudos to Daniel Anthony who plays Clyde Langer for selling his distress so well. He finds himself rescued by a girl who he just met and the relationship they start to develop really made me want to see her as a regular. More on that in a second.
There are a number of observations worth making here. First, the episode opener has replaced Luke with Sky, Sarah Jane’s adopted daughter. Truly, Luke’s time seems to be over. In fact, when Clyde Langer (Ok, I’ll stop now…) calls Luke, we don’t hear Luke on the phone because as far as I can tell, the actor has moved on.
Also of note is Ellie, the lovely blonde girl that befriends Clyde. The fact that she’s the cleanest homeless person I’ve ever seen is probably to make her more attractive to the viewer, but it would have been better if we saw her as a homeless person because that would have driven Ford’s point home far better; namely that homeless people are still people. The plight of the homeless in this story is made less real by the fact that they all look pretty clean and pleasant. That doesn’t take away from a meaningful story. In fact, when Clyde gives Ellie money earlier in the episode, Sky asks why he did it. He tells her she’s a “scrounger” but “it’s probably not her fault”. That sympathy he shows for Ellie even before he’s on hard times is what makes this show so special. It had constant reminders of how we can be more humane to one another woven into its very fabric. Unfortunately, when Clyde tells Ellie he didn’t recognize her later, that’s patently bogus because Lily Loveless, who plays Ellie, is strikingly pretty; a fact that further illustrates why it would have been better to have her look all grungy and dirty.
Speaking of looks, it has to be said that the cast of this show is a fantastic looking bunch. That might seem like an odd observation but in an episode that focuses on internal beauty and the kindness of strangers, it stands out even more. I know the picture I chose for this story wasn’t the sharpest in focus, but look at them! Clyde is a handsome young man who effectively carries this whole episode. Sky is an adorable girl who would have been a mere 13 years of age when she did this episode and she’s amazing. Anjli Mohindra was beautiful and elegant as the school girl detective working beside Sarah Jane, and let’s not ignore the ultra-charismatic and wonderful Sarah Jane, played forever in our hearts by Lis Sladen, who was 65 at the time and didn’t look a day over 45! If you don’t see it, blame those stupid ties! I almost tried to photoshop Clyde’s out of the picture, it’s so idiotic. But if you can see past the tie, you’ll know I’m right!
There are a few other fun bits. When the episode opens, Clyde appears to be talking to the camera, but we learn later that he’s talking to Ellie. The fact that she gets taken by “the night dragon” is heartbreaking because Clyde should have found her. It would have added so much to the episode. Perhaps, had the series gone on, we might have met up with her again. One can only speculate! Also fun: Clyde is “reading” The French Revolution, a book Susan Foreman once read at the start of it all. I wonder what edition it’s up to?
The biggest gripe with the episode is that the cliffhanger barely serves as a cliffhanger. It’s clear that the story didn’t need one. (I should complain about Clyde leaving his debit card in the machine after typing in his password, but then I suspect he’ll be upset with himself enough that I needn’t add salt to that wound!) The totem pole, on the other hand, was a major victory, looking utterly goofy at first, but later looking so weird and otherworldly that I felt like I was back in the uncanny valley; a place I genuinely love to explore! And as for things I love, that triumph music comes back from Death of the Doctor, and it’s as good now as it was then.
Overall, an excellent episode because of the warmth that we see between people who don’t have it all. This series had heart and I still say, whatever your age, it’s worth watching. Any show that has this much emotion is worth going on forever. I just wish Lis did too, so we could still be watching new episodes. ML