Saturday, October 15, 2011

The Sarah Jane Adventures: The Curse of Clyde Langer

The Curse of Clyde Langer is one of those odd sort of stories that sometimes crop up in the Doctor Who universe. Odd in the sense that the menace driving the story is very much incidental and in the background - something not helped by the fact that Hetocumtek was a largely inanimate totem pole that did little other than some lightening FX and the occasional gurn. No, this was a character driven piece - much like, say, Turn Left from the parent programme. And as a result, it was an excellent addition to the series.

The notion of someone slowly being written out of their own life is hardly new, but the idea that Clyde loses his friends every time they say his name created a decent amount of tension as the characters suddenly flipped after saying those two words. Furthermore, the slow disintegration in his life - until he was living on the streets - was a surprisingly dark plot line for a programme from CBBC. It was also good that the reality of living on the street was alluded to without the story ever becoming too didactic (even if the strikingly clean and styled hair of Clyde's street friend, Ellie, was stretching the bounds of credibility perhaps a bit too far). Finally, it was good to see that those who turned against Clyde were not simply turned into hating monsters, but actually experienced an almost heart-breaking sort of grief that they felt but could not articulate the reasons for. So the script, here, not only works, but really works and offers the sort of emotional depth that comes as a pleasant surprise for what is marketed as a kids' show.

Of course, having a piece centred on one character is a bit of a risk - I mean, it is predicated on the person playing that character being able to effectively carry the show. Here, it is worth noting that The Sarah Jane Adventures is immensely lucky to have Daniel Anthony as Clyde (and Anjli Mohindra as Rani, for that matter). Clyde could so easily be a deeply irritating character, being cocksure, full of himself and, often, set up as the comedic element to the show. However, Anthony seems to have that ability to project a certain charisma without coming across as arrogant and/or deeply irritating. And here, he manages to balance his performance between desperation at losing everything and the sort of optimistic determination that make Clyde likable in the first place. The series made the right choice in ditching the one-dimensional Kelsey Hooper after the first story, and they are very lucky to have found Anthony. Let's hope he goes on to do other, interesting things as this show comes to an end.

In short, this was an exceptional piece of TV and makes the fact that we only have two more episodes of what has been a strikingly good series left even more tragic. And the quality of these scripts demonstrates that it has been too long since Phil Ford - co-author of the brilliant special The Waters of Mars - has written something for the parent programme. So if the Moff could make a space for Ford next year, that would be very welcome. As would an appearance by Clyde Langer - who has, after all, met the Doctor twice. Talent such as this deserves a wider audience than the one afforded to the (admittedly excellent) Sarah Jane Adventures...


At 7:30 pm , Blogger TonyF said...

Spot on!

At 9:48 pm , Blogger liminalD said...

Agreed... I personally would LOVE to see Clyde and Rani in the parent show, even for just an episode or two. 'The Curse of Clyde Langer' is, I think, one of the best serials in SJA's entire run, mostly because of Daniel Anthony, Lis Sladen and Anjli Mohindra's acting :)


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