‘I see clowns that don’t exist.’ Stephen King’s IT reimagined for a family audience, but there’s enough to make the parallel undeniable (the children being kidnapped; the sinister floating balloon; the clown’s ability to change shape; the old pictures and woodcuts depicting it through history; its identity as ‘Odd Bob’ which echoes Pennywise’s name Bob Gray; Clyde, as the ‘joker in the pack’ referencing the wolfman – the monster that menaced the similarly jokey Richie).
The other obvious reference is The Greatest Show in the Galaxy. Sadly, McCoy era director Michael Kerrigan didn’t handle that one, but the scene of Spellman’s clowns coming to life to menace Sarah Jane recalls a similar moment in the Psychic Circus repair shop, continuing the idea that The Sarah Jane Adventures is partly reimagining the old classics for a new audience.
Bradley Walsh makes his Doctor Who universe debut in the multiple roles of Spellman, Bob and the Pied Piper, and is very good indeed. But it’s Anjli Mohindra as Rani who steals the show: a tough gig, coming in to replace Yasmin Paige, but Mohindra nails it, giving Rani exactly the right mix of journalistic pluck and vulnerability that the role needs – and making her a much more plausible Young Sarah Jane than Maria ever was. With the neat reveal that her dad’s the headmaster, and Mina Anwar as overbearing mum Gita (and the running joke of calling Sarah Jane ‘Sarah’ continuing, in a way, Chrissie’s habit of calling her things like “Mary Jane”), there’s a sense of the show brazening out its first major recast.
Next Time: The Day of the Clown – Part Two