‘I bet Sarah Jane never does anything like this.’ A Sarah Jane lite episode and already Anjli Mohindra is becoming her heir presumptive, investigating mysterious goings on at Park Vale Comprehensive. It takes no time at all for Rani to work out Jacob’s mind control powers are linked to a mysterious, alien amulet, and she immediately spots that Clyde’s ne’er do well father has nicked it. She’s great, leading the show in Elisabeth Sladen’s absence. I can’t wait to listen to her further adventures from Big Finish.
Daniel Anthony also gets a great role in the first episode to delve into his family background after numerous stories that dealt with Luke, Maria and Rani’s. Joseph Lidster’s script explores the impact of Clyde’s absentee father, who ran away when Clyde was 10 and has chosen this moment to saunter back into his son’s life as if nothing had happened. Gary Beadle is brilliantly detestable as Paul: a swaggering bully who assumes his son will follow in his dodgy footsteps. The worst – and most believable – thing about this is that Clyde may resent his father, but he also craves the approval he’s missed as a teenager. His attempts to impress his dad lead him to say far too much about his adventures fighting aliens, even to show off the attic in Bannerman Road.
The script appreciates the psychological reality of teenage lives, the craving for acceptance and belonging leading young people to make terrible decisions that they will regret: Jacob, wanting people to like him; Clyde, wanting his father to love him. It also includes some moments of pure horror as Jacob robs his classmates of their voices, and Rani almost accidentally commands her father to die. It’s a remarkably astute script, a tribute to the production team and CBBC’s commitment to making intelligent TV for kids.
Next Time: The Mark of the Berserker – Part Two