The Day of the Clown

Posted in Episode by - February 13, 2022
The Day of the Clown

Aired 06 – 13 October 2008


Following a strong return with ‘The Last Sontaran’ that saw the shocking departure of Maria Jackson from Bannerman Road, Luke, Clyde, and Sarah Jane cautiously welcome the Chandra family to their neighbourhood in the midst of a series of child disappearances in Phil Ford’s ‘The Day of the Clown.’

Understandably, the spotlight for this story is on the new addition to the cast, Anjli Mohinder’s inquisitive and brave Rani Chandra. Rani, fairly or not, will inevitably draw comparisons to Maria, but Ford has wisely chosen to write her as a unique individual rather than a carbon copy with a different face, and Mohindra capably steps into the role with an endearing and charismatic performance that already hints at how seamlessly she will integrate into the Sarah Jane’s investigative operations with time. Indeed, there are flashes of Sarah Jane within Rani, highlighted by her showing not fear when a dangerous clown begins appearing at her school but instead curiosity that quickly leads her to surmise its connection to the missing children.

Fittingly, though, ‘The Day of the Clown’ focuses just as much on the adult characters as on the younger leads through the introduction of Rani’s parents. In a nice nod to previous events with the Slitheen, Ace Bhatti debuts as Rani’s father and the school’s new headmaster, instantly presenting a foil for Clyde’s clownish personality in class and lending a certain air of authority in both scholastic and personal elements of Rani’s life. Mina Anwar likewise makes an instant impact as Rani’s caring mother, and she shares a wonderful scene with Elisabeth Sladen in which Sarah Jane ostensibly welcomes Gita to the neighourhood while furtively checking for any sort of alien activity. Sladen herself is once more superb as she effortlessly guides the investigation into the mysterious clown and its links to the Pied Piper tale of old. That Sarah Jane should have a genuine fear of clowns after the many wonders and extraterrestrial dangers she has encountered is a surprising but brilliant bit of characterization, and although Bradley Walsh’s accents are at times a bit dubious as his shape-shifting menace taunts, tempts, and pursues in equal measure, the two elements blend together to create a suitably unnerving menace that hits a slightly more intimate note than previous threats have managed.

Although the clown itself is an unsettling amalgamation of fearsome and humorous and the extremely clever resolution unfolds far too quickly to fully resonate, ‘The Day of the Clown’ never shies away from more adult material and themes. As such, this also means that Maria’s departure is not simply glossed over as if life remains unchanged for the leads, and this is perhaps best exemplified by the fact that Luke feels so guilty about making friends with Rani so soon after losing his best friend. This is yet another important part in Luke’s development as he continues to learn about the human condition and the ups and downs that go with it, and Tommy Knight once more impresses when asked to delve into slightly more emotional and nuanced territory while Clyde resorts to humour in his own attempt to move on. It’s by no means a complicated exploration of dealing with grief and loss, but it’s nonetheless layered and poignant in its own right and helps to create a unique dynamic against which Rani’s strong introduction to the core group can unfold.

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