SJA: The Curse of Clyde Langer Review

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Clint Hassell reviews The Curse of Clyde Langer, the second story from Series 5 of The Sarah Jane Adventures.

There was so much I loved about “The Curse of Clyde Langer” that it’s going to be a struggle to discuss it all. Let’s get started!

I like that the opening credits now include a description of Sky, though I wonder why Luke is referred to as Sarah Jane’s “son,” while Sky is her “adopted daughter.” (Also: why does Luke call Sarah Jane “Mum,” while Sky still refers to her as “Sarah Jane”?) It’s odd that Sinead Michael is listed beneath Ace Bhatti in the closing credits, as if Sky was a recurring character. Surely she would have featured in every future episode.

(Side note: I find it interesting that, though he barely cameos in episodes, Luke is still mentioned in the opening, yet Clyde gets no special description. Of course, Clyde’s the narrator, but that unfairly casts him more as a male lead, and makes his character difficult to pin down.)

The bond between Clyde and Sky is sweet and builds on the previous episode where he entertained baby Sky with jokes that she later remembered. I love that he still calls her, “Sparky.” (Apparently, she does still have remnants of her electrokinetic powers. I hope that pays off.) Rani defends Sky as “one of the gang now,” too, while they are having lunch together. While I have no problem with how quickly Sky was introduced into the series, I find it unusual that Clyde and Rani – seniors in high school – would so quickly become friends with a girl five years their junior.

Then again, Sarah Jane sure didn’t hesitate to involve her new daughter in this investigation. Is it because she’s used to adventuring with Luke (and Maria, Clyde, and Rani)?

Of course, it’s expected that Sky would get to save the day. It’s a shortcut that TV writers use to get viewers to quickly love a new character (for example, Amy in “The Beast Below”). I didn’t mind – despite her alien origins, Sky has a very human heart and has learned from Sarah Jane’s compassionate, heroic example. Plus, I cheered out loud when Sky defiantly called out “Mr. Smith, I need you!”

On that “note” (pun intended), it was nice to hear Mr. Smith’s leitmotif (that’s a fancy word for the familiar piece of music that always plays when the wall covering Mr. Smith opens up). The music was missing from part of last week’s episode.

Despite the focus on Sky, this week’s episode was really about Clyde. My favorite line occurs after Sky and Clyde meet a homeless girl:

SKY: “Why did she want money?”
CLYDE: “Because she’s a scrounger.”
SKY: “Why did you give her some?”
CLYDE: “Because it’s probably not her fault.”

Is it weird to be proud of a fictional character? I love Clyde so much!

I thought that Hetocumtek fulfilling his prophecy of “[getting] into the hands of men” via a splinter was clever, and I literally laughed out loud when Rani gave Clyde the forehead “loser” sign in the museum.

Once cursed, I loved that Clyde knows Sarah Jane well enough to immediately realize that she is not speaking her mind when she attacks him. I also loved that, despite realizing that something is wrong, hearing Rani’s attacks really hurt him. The scene so subtlety played on their budding feelings, as revealed in Series 4. Finally, the scene between Clyde and his mother is effective and powerful because it was written very honestly. Surely, Clyde’s mum has noticed that Clyde isn’t totally honest about where he goes – he CAN’T be – and now all of that frustration and suspicion comes out. It’s much more realistic that her normal fears are heightened to the point of hysterics, and that adds to the scariness of Hetocumtek’s curse.

In Part Two, Clyde reconnects with the homeless girl, Ellie. I loved the conversation they have where he admits that he didn’t recognize her. Ellie responds, “People don’t look. They’re scared they might catch something.” The scene sets up Sarah Jane’s later comment that, “The most alien world is right here, and no one knows, because no one wants to.” Again, I love that this show uses science-fiction as a backdrop for discussing important life lessons.

I also appreciate that part of the concept behind The Sarah Jane Adventures is the investigation of what it’s like for a former traveler through space-and-time to return to a “normal” life – something not really addressed on Doctor Who. Clyde’s line, “Yeah . . . it was a wild life,” shows that he too is having a difficult time adjusting.

Clyde’s fake name is “Enrico Box”? I was SO hoping for it to be “John Smith” – a running joke from Doctor Who and Torchwood.

Why did Clyde need to use Ellie’s last match to light his comic book as kindling to make a fire? There were two (practically brand-new) lit candles right in front of them!

As much as I loved the rest of the episode, I did not enjoy its resolution. Clyde abandoning Ellie was unrealistically out-of-character. He couldn’t even take two minutes to say goodbye? They couldn’t bring her along? I wish that Sarah Jane had instead found Clyde via Mr. Smith, who then teleported Clyde back to Bannerman Road while Ellie was buying coffee – thus adding a more tragic element to their parting by eliminating Clyde’s decision to leave her. (Of course, at this point, it was obvious that Clyde wouldn’t get to see Ellie again. The episode had referenced the “Night Dragon” way too much for her to not disappear – another disappointing cliché.) And then Clyde defeats Hetocumtek by hugging the totem pole, saying he’s “a survivor,” and shouting his name repeatedly? Did . . . did he just . . . “blow it up with love”?

Random question: what’s up with the short ties on the school uniforms? We don’t have those here in the U.S.