The Empty Planet

Posted in Episode by - November 15, 2022
The Empty Planet

Aired 01 – 02 November 2010


With a test on Great Expectations looming in the morning, Clyde and Rani return to their homes to study after Sarah Jane and Mr Smith pick up an alien trace that disappears a second later to open ‘The Empty World’ by Gareth Roberts. The young pair awake to find the world’s population vanished, however, with only two menacing robots walking the deserted streets of London.

Wisely, Roberts focuses initially on the familial lives of Clyde and Rani, the pairings of Anjli Mohindra with Ace Bhatti and Daniel Anthony with Jocelyn Jee Esien showcasing a warmth and intimacy that can often be somewhat sidelined amidst the spectacle and threats Sarah Jane and her friends so often encounter. This approach also allows for the revelation that Clyde and Rani just may be the only two remaining people on Earth to achieve its maximum effect as the characters and camera explore their empty homes and eventually the nearby streets. Unquestionably this bold choice of deserted setting to support the plot is one that could have failed to find success on screen, but the amplification of atmospheric and environmental sounds along with the steady direction of Ashley Way ensures that each shot accentuates the stark emptiness of the world in its current state.

This fourth series has also seen something of a burgeoning romance develop between Clyde and Rani, both coming to realize their mutual feelings even if they rarely acknowledge them to each other. It’s fitting, then, that each of their first thoughts in this situation should be about the other; although they dare not consider that they may have to spend the rest of their lives together alone, circumstances by necessity make them look at each other differently and draw them much closer as a result even if there does still remain something of an air of ambiguity about their relationship progressing further at this point. In what is almost a two-hander, Mohindra and Anthony are tasked with shouldering an immense load throughout this story, and the more sensitive and resourceful aspects of Clyde that Anthony is again able to explore alongside the intelligence and determination of Rani that Mohindra adeptly brings forth as her character capably follows in Sarah Jane’s footsteps offer yet more definitive proof of just how incredible this young pair is independently and together and just why The Sarah Jane Adventures continues to resonate with viewers of all ages.

Still, ‘The Empty Planet’ does falter somewhat more than recent episodes, partially because there is an immense amount of exposition to cover with only Clyde and Rani present to deliver it. The pacing and energy of the story falter significantly in the moments this immense amount of information is revealed, and though it does lead to a wholly natural series of questions about the consequences of a friendship with Sarah Jane, the callback to their encounter with the Judoon to provide context here feels somewhat arbitrary and convenient rather than earned and consequential. Unfortunately, guest actor Joe Mason is also unable to do anything meaningful with the fairly contrived writing for the only other survivor, Gavin, and even the unsurprising discovery of his alien nature fails to elevate one of the most bland supporting characters this franchise has yet offered. Clyde is at his best when he has a character such as Luke to bounce off of, and the utter flatness of Gavin as written and portrayed again showcases just how fortunate The Sarah Jane Adventures has been with the immense quality of its young cast and its characterization since even Anthony cannot quite find a rapport and suffers somewhat as a result as he flits somewhat strangely between lead and supporting roles in relation to Gavin.

Despite the incredible visuals that the robots on the street offer and the deepening feelings between Rani and Clyde on display, ‘The Empty Planet’ ultimately feels somewhat detached and empty compared to the usual offerings of this franchise. While part of this is undoubtedly a function of the barren environment that is brought to life so vividly, the dialogue and supporting performance lack the typical sparkle and don’t quite allow the immense concept to reach its full potential. There is an incredible amount to enjoy here as Mohindra and Anthony boldly take centre stage, but ‘The Empty Planet’ as a whole- through no fault of its leads- can’t quite match the incredible standard that this series has created, especially coming right after the brilliant ‘Death of the Doctor.’

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