Doctor Who #814: The Mark of the Berserker Part 2

"There's a lot of my Dad in me. I saw that today, and I think, I think if it wasn't for you lot, I'd be weaker, like him."
TECHNICAL SPECS: First aired Nov.10 2008.

IN THIS ONE... Clyde's dad takes him on a shopping spree and turns into a monster. Maria and Alan Jackson guest star from America.

REVIEW: When Sarah Jane's away, Mr. Smith is deactivated, and Clyde's gone over to the dark/forgetful/shopaholic side, you call in some favors. It gives the Jacksons a nice opportunity to make an appearance, especially given Alan's more-or-less mysterious super-hacking skills. Of course, Maria is having all the insights and giving all the orders, so she's mini-Sarah Jane, while her dad is the substitute Mr. Smith. I quite like the idea of a Sarah-lite story, so long as it shows the kids' resourcefulness. She shows up at the end - the cartoony slug alien she was running after will be dealt with another day - but only with advice. It's still up to Clyde and Carla (who's been roped in by Rani and Luke) to make an appeal to Paul before the Berserker takes him over entirely. And she even lets Clyde deal with the Berserker pendant in the way he chooses.

Not everything can be laid at the pendant's proverbial feet. Paul has a lot to answer for, and it seems he was once again running from his progeny; his current wife/girlfriend is pregnant. Going on an insane bender with his previously-abandoned, but now emotionally-lobotomized teenage son is a gross over-reaction, but given his new-found powers, not an impossible one. Less credible is the pendant itself. It ties into Norse myth/history, and was apparently behind the Vikings' animalistic frenzied warriors, but it's hard to see how that fits in with the pendant's mind control powers. Seems if you could control people so entirely, you wouldn't need to fight them. Another flaw is that Clyde tells his mum to forget all about the alien business of the day, and then throws the pendant away, which has repeatedly been shown as the way to break the pendant's spell. So she should remember it all right then and there, no?

Emotionally, the last act is rather creaky. Carla accepts what's going on a little too easily, and with too cursory an explanation, but my main complaint is about the music. The incredibly sentimental piano is too loud in the mix, and just isn't needed. The dialog and performances, especially in the last scene between Clyde and Sarah Jane, worked well enough without Sam Watts' music trying to manipulate us like the episode's MacGuffin. Sarah Jane's wet eyes and melancholy remembrance of her dead parents - the subject of the next story - are enough to make your heart ache without it.

REWATCHABILITY: Medium - Things get rather too heavy in the last act, and the artifact du jour doesn't quite make sense, but it's still a strong family story that exposes Clyde's character.



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