Doctor Who #813: The Mark of the Berserker Part 1

"You know, when you left, at first I pretended it hadn't happened. That you'd just gone on holiday. And then I realised, no, you'd gone. Do you know what I did? I blamed Mum. I figured she must have done something really bad to drive you away. I messed about at school, got into trouble. I got expelled."
TECHNICAL SPECS: First aired Nov.3 2008.

IN THIS ONE... An alien pendant gives Clyde's deadbeat dad the power to make people obey him.

REVIEW: SJA's extended family grows in this episode as we (finally) meet Clyde's parents. His affectionate mom Carla embarrasses him, but she's genuinely sympathetic, a woman who was dealt a bad hand and still made a good home for her kid, one could easily assume, from sheer positive attitude. It's too bad Sarah Jane can't stand her gang members' moms, because they're very nice people. I love the moment where Carla transposes her own family situation onto Luke's, thinking he's got a dad out there somewhere just like Clyde. What else would people think? And then there's Paul, the deadbeat dad who left the family five years ago without so much as a goodbye, to shack up with Carla's sister in Germany. I bet skipping countries allows you to skimp on the child support. He's a jerk, of course, but one Clyde shares some character traits with. They're both jokers and rebels, and it's possible Clyde would have gone down a dark path if he hadn't met Luke and Maria. Perhaps we'll see just how dark in Part 2 when he'll be operating without any memory of them. While I can't defend Clyde's need to show his dad the Attic - sons and fathers, eh? - I do love him in this episode. He stands up to the old man, calls him on his bull, and defends both his mom and his values. In other words, this man who doesn't know his age and takes him to an infantilizing playground for a chat is no authority figure at all and has none of that weight. Until Paul becomes an authority figure artificially...

The plot allows this through an alien pendant found by a student in the school yard, which is very Torchwood of writer Joseph Lidster (does the Rift extend to Ealing or what?), an artifact that whispers sweet evil nothings in your ear (preciousssss) and allows you to make people obey your commands until you eventually hulk out like Bill Bixby. And so a bullied boy because the ultimate bully, but he eventually rejects the power (though he is clearly drawn to it later). It passes to Rani who uses it on her dad by accident, though somewhat cruelly, as a game. The scene's creep factor is supported by that giant picture of Rani in their living room; it's like she's this makeshift goddess, a mistress of puppets (no wonder I kept waiting for her to turn into a certain Time Lady; where's the fobwatch?). She rejects the power too, and it ends up in Paul's possession, who uses it to reclaim his son, hoping to undo the last five years. A not ignoble motivation, but as usual it seems, Paul goes about it the wrong way.

Interesting to note Sarah Jane is almost entirely absent in this one, and even switches Mr. Smith off. Just goes to show the kids will get into trouble regardless. You know, and I can only say this because I forgot the details of the next episode, I hope the kids sort this one out themselves, without any help from Sarah Jane. That'd be neat.

- A welcome look into Clyde's family life, converging with the discovery of a creepy alien artifact.



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