Doctor Who #810: The Day of the Clown Part 2

"There is a time and a place for an interview, and being chased by a clown from outer space is most definitely not it!"
TECHNICAL SPECS: First aired Oct.13 2008.

IN THIS ONE... The Pied Piper is defeated by mobile phones and bad jokes.

REVIEW: This is a genuinely freaky episode. While I'm not scared of clowns (though I do have a healthy mistrust of mascots), Sarah Jane's fear of them is palpable and infectious. The story she tells from her childhood, with the dancing puppet in the storm, is justly spooky, and imprinted itself on her vulnerable psyche after the death of her parents. This, by the way, lays in her status as an orphan which will become important later (though since we only ever heard about an aunt, it's a retcon that makes a lot of sense). And if clowns don't creepy you out, how about an army of zombie kids holding balloons? At the same time, I keep failing to mention it, but the Sarah Jane Adventures can also be genuinely funny! I don't mean the stand-up climax (we'll get to that), but every episode seems to have at least one laugh-out-loud moment, usually due to Sarah's reaction to a kid or parent's comment. In this case, it was Luke keeping world-saving score that did me in.

Anjli Mohindra as Rani is sinking her teeth into the role, but still feels a little too precocious. Yes, perfect on paper for the Sarah Jane team, but she needs to sound a little more natural. Perhaps I'm just going through my own Maria withdrawal. The boys have always been a bit actor-y, but for them it makes sense. Luke isn't a normal person and Clyde is always putting on a show. The parents are perfect though. I do like Sarah Jane's melancholy look after Rani chooses "the life", wondering what she's done to the girl, ultimately. By taking her on as an apprentice and swearing her to secrecy, could she be relegating her to a life of loneliness like hers has primarily been? Is she cutting Rani off from her parents, just as she was cut off from them by fate?

Now, if I'm less enthusiastic about Part 2 than I was Part 1 it's because the resolutions don't really work all that well. The bit about sucking Odd Bob/The Pied Pier into a piece of meteor is standard Doctor Who hoodoo, but I am concerned that Sarah vandalized a prized specimen to such an extent and no one at the Pharos Project batted an eye (I say UNIT had to intervene again). The kids are freed from mind control when, working from earlier evidence, Mr. Smith calls each student's mobile, interrupting the clown's power. Fine and clever, but they missed the boat on the explanation. It just so happens phone signals have just the right frequency? That's way too close to how they defeated the Bane in the pilot, and it would have been far more thematically consistent if the TUNE were to blame. Music used against the Pied Piper, you know? Not saying it would have made much more sense, but every little bit counts. And then you have Clyde's bad jokes draining the clown's power, which seems right out of an original Star Trek episode. I don't know where the laughter is coming from though, and mockery is a strange kryptonite for a clown figure. A good bit for Clyde's unique talents, but doesn't quite pass the logic test.

- Some good freaky bits, some nice humor, we just needed the plot not to RTD itself to death - if you know what I mean.



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