The Sarah Jane Adventures 5.3-4 – The Curse of Clyde Langer (parts one and two)

I made the mistake of misusing the word “fun” when I was attempting to tell our son that this story was a good one. It was certainly the wrong word. It’s fun to me watching the story, written by Phil Ford, come together and go in unexpected directions, but it is not at all fun in the sense of it being a pleasant and entertaining and possibly funny adventure. The poor kid spent the hour wondering when this moody tale of a spirit-being completely destroying Clyde’s life and turning everybody he knows against him was ever going to get “fun,” and it doesn’t, not in that way. It’s a very atypical Sarah Jane Adventure, with a surprisingly unflinching and downbeat ending.

Anyway, I really enjoy this story, and everybody involved really deserves a round of applause for making it work. Once the curse does its whammy on Clyde’s name, so that people instantly start to hate him as soon as they either see or hear it, it means that the characters we love turn incredibly cruel and hateful. This isn’t “teevee possessed” acting; it’s gut-punchingly real and you just want to invite poor Clyde home and give him your spare room.

Part two sees Clyde having to abandon his name to keep anybody else from hating him, and he finds help from a homeless girl called Ellie. The depiction of homelessness is very stark and very real, and all the business of the spirit-thing needing to be defeated takes a back seat to his story. Neat design and special effects, but Clyde has to do his world-saving duty, tries to get back to Ellie, and doesn’t get a happy ending. After the hellish three days he’d gone through, he doesn’t get a happy ending. There’s a very neat twist to resolve one element of the story – there’s a troubling notion that a “night dragon” is kidnapping or stealing homeless people – and maybe somewhere out there, Ellie might have one, but it doesn’t look like it. Sometimes saving the planet from space monsters is thankless and awful work.

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