I love anything rooted in mythology or modern day artifacts. That’s why episodes like ‘Blink’ work, because you take something commonplace and give it a disturbing spin. Clowns don’t really need much work to make them disturbing. ‘The Greatest Show in the Galaxy‘ may not have been the height of the Seventh Doctor’s adventures, but the clowns made a real impact, because they’re naturally scary. Yes, sometimes they make you laugh, but you have this unsettling feeling somewhere in the back of your mind that they’d just as soon leap out on you and offer up a solid pant-wetting opportunity.
Here, Bradley Walsh (showing a quite reasonable grasp of accents) plays Spellman (and Odd Bob) with just the right measure of creepiness. Odd Bob has been trapped here for a long time and feeds on fear, and kidnapping children generates a lot of fear. When kids start disappearing, Sarah Jane gets involved… and with a little assistance from Floella Benjamin (as Professor Rivers) at the Pharos Institute (previously seen in the final episode of Series One) finds a way to put a stop to the nefarious Spellman’s plans.
Like the episodes in Series One, Series Two makes it hard for you not to like Sarah Jane. Tight, well thought out, exciting episodes, with all the running about you want from kids’ drama. The show builds up back story – Sarah Jane is scared of clowns, one of whom haunted her youth while living with her Aunt Lavinia – and gives plenty of screen time to the ensemble of child actors. There is a hint of Stephen King’s ‘It’ about Odd Bob, but in this instance the whole thing works pretty well (which is more than you can say for the movie version of the King story!).
On top of all that, the story provides a neat introduction to Rani and her family, a solid replacement for Maria.