Steve Goble

Choose life. (Deuteronomy 30:19)

It's raining fish.


In the world of The Sarah Jane Adventures this sort of bizarre occurrence goes on every day, so it's no big surprise when everyone rationalises it and just gets on with breakfast. (presumably with fingers, and custard) Well, apart from the kids, who are all running away screaming. Hey - the bewildered fish are still alive. Sheesh, that new kid at school must be putting up with such a lot of flack for having a name like 'Sky'.

In other news, Clyde is planning to create a comic strip series entitled Susie June Jones - Alien Slayer, boldly declaring "Look out Stan Lee - here comes Clyde Langer!" He says this in exactly the same way as no self-respecting comic-fan ever would. In real life Stan is rightly beheld with even higher awe than the Beyonder.

In other other news, the local museum has just imported a totem pole which promptly curses Clyde, causing him to lose his friends, his family and his home. By episode two he's sleeping rough under a bridge, adopting the alias of 'Enrico Box', and burning his own artwork for warmth. Well, that's what a totem pole will do to you for insulting Stan Lee.

Sadly, Stan The Man™ does not cameo as a homeless version of himself, however that doesn't stop us all incredibly imagining what inconceivable encouragement he might have amazingly offered, had The Sarah Jane Adventures been that hip.

"The answers you seek are sealed inside of you, Enrico Box. Excelsior!"

Well, 'nuff said. Literally.

Also absent are Luke and K-9, leading to one of those empty one-sided phone conversations that TV budgeters still think are a pretty neat idea. Another missed opportunity.

Anyway so far, so good. In fact all of this story is quite watchable. Part two moves so slowly that it feels much more like it's building up to a second cliffhanger, rather than the pale conclusion that we get. That the pole is defeated by our heroes merely having to say Clyde's name to it is utterly pathetic, yet it's played and directed so well that somehow they get away with it.

However the muscle of this story really lies in Clyde's new life as the tramp Enrico, and in particular his friendship with Ellie, who gets a truckload of great dialogue.

(on how to beg) "Whoever heard of a homeless person having charisma?"

"It's like everywhere else - there's good people and there's bad."

"That's Max. He used to be a boxer, then he got too old. He's been on the streets years. That woman in the duffle-coat - Polish or something - came over to get married. Got dumped, can't get home. And that's Polly the Porsche. She used to work in the city, always telling everyone what she used to drive. Now she pushes everything she's got around in an old trolley. All of them - ignoring us on the street - they wouldn't believe how easy it could be. One day it just all falls apart, and you're here."

Best of all is how gentle a learning curve this all is for Clyde. There's no big realisation on his part that a whole nother culture exists in London alongside his one. He already knows about it before his life collapses around him, and as such is already helping those within it. Sure, his 48 hours of poverty teaches him more, but not that much more than he already knew. More empathy, really.

Despite such a great backdrop, the story again suffers from SJA's still extremely tired formula of mind-control being reversed by something quite arbitrary. The opening flash-forward, which usually has its context changed by the time we catch up to it in the story, has this time even been refilmed and performed for a comedy meaning. The Clyde that we see at the start darkly asking "Where were you the day of the storm?", ultimately turns out to be him making light conversation about fish.

Neither the actress playing Ellie, nor the person writing her lines, seems to know what the 'Night Dragon' is ultimately going to be revealed as at the story's conclusion.

Overall, I found this one of the most watchable Sarah Jane Adventures. The brevity of the plot enabled much more room than usual for us to see the characters and take in their situations. Even the ubiquitous music seemed quieter.

And as for Ace Bhatti portraying Haresh with his mind externally dominated for a third time, well, I can't really criticise. After all, with so much experience, he must by now be quite an authority on how to play that.

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