Harry, Hermione and Ron Luke, Rani and Clyde face the Nightmare Man, with super-dramatic speechifying. Remaking one of Voyager's silliest episodes was a weird move for Doctor Who's kid-friendly spin-off, but I defy you to watch that scene without squeeing.
The Star Trek: Voyager episode, of course, was "The Thaw," in which a campy clown traps Harry Kim and a bunch of redshirts in a dreamworld, where he torments them with nightmares and stuff. It was campy when Voyager did it, and it was campy when the Sarah Jane Adventures did it, too. This time around, instead of being called Fear The Clown, the evil clown-face guy is named the Nightmare Man, and he fixates on Luke, using Luke's nightmares to become super-powerful and enter the real world.
The main problem was the one that Sarah Jane Adventures has come up against before — unless they're named the Joker, evil clown villains just aren't that scary or effective, really. (Although now that I think about it, was the Nightmare Man a clown or a mime? He might have been a mime, except that he talked a lot.) In any case, he was beyond campy, into a whole new realm of post-post-post-ironic silliness, with the cackling and the laughing and the weird accent. (Julian Bleach, who played the Nightmare Man, also played the uber-campy silent movie villain in one of the worst Torchwood episodes. Although he was okay as Davros.)
This episode had a few things going for it, though.
For one thing it was a nice idea having Luke be the one who's at the center of the Nightmare Man's machinations, because he never dreams - the Bane never bothered to give him that ability. It adds a nice extra layer to the creepiness of his scary dreams, the fact that he's not used to dreaming at all.
This story did a pretty decent job of tying in the "Luke going off to school" thing with the Nightmare Man's plot to isolate him from his friends and play on his fears of being alone. I also liked Rani and Clyde's dreams in the second half, showing their fears about what they'd grow up to become, and Rani's fear of having to betray people she cares about once she's a journalist.
And because the episode built up Luke as this super-awesome boy who was made by aliens to destroy the world and winds up saving it instead because of his mum and his friends, it was probably the perfect note for Luke to go out on. Now that he's fully Harry Potter-ized, it's the perfect time for him to disappear for a while. Although he will be missed — just as we still miss Maria, even though Rani is great too.
I also loved the continuing sniping between K-9 and Mr. Smith — and the fact that all Sarah Jane needs to connect them up is a standard USB cord. The next time I'm having a bad dream, I'd really love to have K-9 beam in and explain to me how to get out of it. That would be ace.
All in all, this was another nice episode of the little spin-off that could. I do miss the show's first season, when there were some adversaries with a bit more bite to them, like the Kudlak. I still love this show, but I feel like its first season was its high point in terms of strong storytelling and non-cardboard foes. But what did you think?
And in case you missed it, here it is: