Doctor Who #857: The Nightmare Man Part 2

"I'm called Luke Smith. I was made by aliens to destroy the world. But this brilliant woman, Sarah Jane Smith, she found me. And she made me good. And she found others. A boy called Clyde, and a girl called Rani. This world has faced so many nightmares but there's always been someone there to stop them. Us. You know, I was so scared because I thought my mates wouldn't be there for me. Never mind Oxford, they followed me into my nightmares. Three kids breaking down the walls of dreams to be together. Something no one's ever done. Because together, we're unbeatable."
TECHNICAL SPECS: First aired Oct.12 2010.

IN THIS ONE... The Nightmare Man traps all the kids inside their dreams, but they team up and destroy him. Luke leaves for university.

REVIEW: We know Luke's nightmares are based on his fear of isolation, itself sourced from his anxieties about growing up. Writer Joseph Lidster stays with this theme in his approach to Rani and Clyde's nightmares as well, and relates them obliquely to Luke's departure. Rani is drawn into the television and forced to confront her central paradox, namely that she wants to be a journalist, but has been forced into keeping Sarah Jane's secrets. What does she betray, Sarah's trust or her own journalistic integrity. She's sent into the grown-up world and finds she's not ready. This speaks to her mixed feelings regarding Luke's opportunities, wanting to be at that level, yet having to admit she isn't, at least not yet. Clyde's nightmare is that he might turn out to be an under-achiever, all but forgotten by his scholastic betters. He's a disappointment, and it's the only person whose opinion he cares about that tells him so, a nightmare version of Sarah Jane that borders on crazy cat lady.

But if Clyde isn't very good in school, he does have other qualities, and is first to reject the dream reality even if it's Luke that's the key to escaping the nightmare world. It's Luke's last episode as a regular, after all, so it's entirely appropriate for him to get the badass speeches and rally his gang around the idea that they can defeat the monster. It's a great moment in which Luke basically takes the heroic role usually reserved for Sarah or the Doctor (see the quote above). That "mission statement" would have been cool enough - and a goof jumping-on point for new viewers - but it's what follows that really kicks ass. The Nightmare Man belittles Luke's efforts, saying words can't defeat him, and Luke says "I wasn't speaking to you", breaking his hold over Clyde and Rani and effectively defeating him with the power of friendship. Or to put it in a way that's less cheesy, minds united and the absence of fear drives the extradimensional psychic vampire away and into one of his cells.

As with Part 1, the darkness and bittersweet farewells are well balanced by humor. Sarah Jane bringing all her alien tech to bear when Mr. Smith really only needs a USB lead. The awkward hug between Clyde and Luke (and in a kind of mirror of their bromance, Mr. Smith kind of upset K9 is leaving). And sometimes, it's just sweetness without the bitter, like Sarah Jane viewing the party she missed via the camcorder, and the adventurous music underscoring Luke driving off to his new life.

REWATCHABILITY: Medium-High - In the real world, Tommy Knight needed to focus on his studies, and K9 couldn't be used as much because of his Australian show, so both were written out. And they go out on a high. The Nightmare Man's plot has a simplicity that belies the richer themes at play, and Luke especially gets strong, decisive moments.



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