Doctor Who #896: The Curse of Clyde Langer Part 1

"I love art. Even when it does bite back."
TECHNICAL SPECS: First aired Oct.10 2011.

IN THIS ONE... Clyde gets a Native American curse from a totem pole, and now everyone who hears or sees his name hate him.

REVIEW: Though the episode pays more than lip service to Sky's integration into the show and world, showing her first day of school and healthy attitudes to both learning and obeying her adopted mother, this is really Clyde's story, as made evident by the title. He's really well used in this. It's his interest in art that makes him touch the cursed totem pole, and his signature on his art glows eerily when the curse takes effect. The lone figure of the Silver Bullet, his comic book character, might even have some noir relationship with his own plight. Will he have to take on a secret identity if his name is turning people against him? And there's that kind moment when he gives a homeless teenage girl some money, not judging her, which of course will be reflected in his own life by episode's end - being judged a pariah and becoming homeless.

Structurally, once the problems start, it's a lot of the same gag played over and over. Sarah Jane, then Rani and Haresh, then the museum woman, then his mother and the cops, each in turn hear or see his name and start to hate and fear him. And that might seem repetitive if what they said when it happened didn't have so much truth in it. Clyde may claim he's done nothing to deserve this treatment, but he has; he just hasn't done anything NEW to deserve it. Small annoyances, easily forgiven, become reasons to shun him. Putting Luke down. Playing class clown. Lying about where he goes after school. Even the museum people could be sore at him for having touched a priceless artifact. Writer Phil Ford continues to tap into adolescent anxieties with this. It's a time in your life the judgment of others stings more than it ever has or probably ever will. And it turns Clyde into a runaway overnight, which is a less universal problem, but a more tragic one.

This is going to be a pretty dramatic story, but it's not without moments of light. Sky is still sparkly. Raining fish is a neat trope to use from the annals of the unexplained. And it's great to see Clyde's mother again, especially in the scene where she's happy and full of prouds for her son. A lovely character I wish we'd spent more time with, and one worthy of exploration. After all, she has a son with a secret life, and given how her marriage ended... Well. It's too late to ask for more Carla.

- A strong Clyde story is building. Phil Ford knows what this series is ABOUT beyond the characters and plots.



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