Doctor Who #897: The Curse of Clyde Langer Part 2

"This is how it goes, isn't it? Everything you ever were, everything you ever wanted to be, it just gets worn away till there's nothing left."
TECHNICAL SPECS: First aired Oct.11 2011.

IN THIS ONE... Clyde is sleeping rough, but gets help from the homeless Ellie. The curse is eventually broken.

REVIEW: This story won a Writer's Guild of Great Britain's Best Children's TV Script Award for its honest portrayal of teen homelessness, honest in that it doesn't end with the usual Sarah Jane Adventures happy ending. Instead, the character of Ellie, homeless for the last two years, disappears off the streets. The "Night Dragon" that takes the homeless away is explained away in real-world terms, but no doubt, had the series continued, Clyde would have continued his search for her, and the vans taking people to a "second chance" in another city would have turned out to be more sinister. So it's perhaps better, in this case, that it never happened. Ellie's disappearance is a bit abrupt, especially given what she and Clyde shared, so if her disappearance is sinister, then it's a permanent kind of sinister, and speaks to the dangers people are exposed to on the streets. Clyde may be supernaturally cursed, but the setting shows us many more people who live a cursed existence, and not a fictional one either. At the very least, the montage of the team's search for her highlights just how many people, young and old, are subject to poverty and homelessness. It's all made more poignant by the fact Ellie becomes a viable love interest for Clyde, or at least a sweet, brave friend, one we want to see saved from this predicament, a strong character who might have joined the cast.

So no happy ending for Ellie, but that doesn't mean the plot itself doesn't suffer from facile solutions. We never find out why Sky is immune to the curse's effects, and she comes to the conclusion that saying his name aloud will lift it too easily. Sure, she's an alien, but that's not given as a reason. Perhaps a clearer link between her saying the name in surprise might have made for a tighter resolution. Similarly, Mr. Smith's hijack of a passing ship's transmat is a bit of a cheat to get the totem pole in the attic, and there's no exposition to explain why Clyde hugging the pole and saying his name would null the curse the way it does. He just does it and it works. We're missing a conversation in the car, or at least an indication that such a conversation existed. It's not even clear what would have happened to Clyde had the Native American demon escaped. Obviously, the focus is on Clyde's homelessness and showing how he and Ellie survive and even find a little happiness, not on the nuts and bolts of the plot. Sky, the new character, had to be instrumental in saving him (though Rani, Sarah and Carla's strange sense of loss touchingly reveals how strong their bond to Clyde really is), but The Curse of Clyde Langer probably should have been SJA's first three-parter.

REWATCHABILITY: Medium-High - Plot problems aren't enough to drain the life out of a touching human story.



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