The Mark of the Berserker

Posted in Website by - March 01, 2022
The Mark of the Berserker

Aired 3 – 10 November 2008


The strength of family has played a vital role in the continued success of The Sarah Jane Adventures, both as Sarah Jane continues to learn to open herself up to those around her and as her young friends learn to trust and rely on those around them to stay true to themselves and their lofty intentions. The exception to this so far has been Clyde Langer, but writer Joseph Lidster turns his focus to Clyde’s familial life in ‘The Mark of the Berserker’ as an ancient amulet appears at school.

With Sarah Jane away to pursue an alien named Travist Polong and Luke staying with Clyde, Rani discovers that a fellow student has found an amulet that grants the user the ability to control others’ minds at the cost of slowly being turned into a monster. After that student becomes afraid of the power and disposes of the amulet, Rani takes it to Sarah Jane’s for analysis, leaving it in the attic until Sarah Jane returns and Mr Smith is again operational. Unfortunately, this is also the day that Clyde’s father has chosen to return after leaving his family some five years ago; trying to understand just why his father left him and feeling the need to prove that he is a son his father should be proud of, Clyde boasts about his world-saving adventures and leads his father straight to that same attic and to the alien artefacts it houses.

Given that Clyde’s father left him and by all accounts has not been in contact for all of these years, the story does perhaps move too quickly to have Clyde pleading with his father to respect him while revealing secrets far too important for just anyone to know. Nonetheless, it manages to create a very personal element for Clyde and his friends, and Daniel Anthony gives possibly his strongest performance to date as he is tasked with delving into the bevy of emotions that any young man who is facing such an important figure who completely upended his life without warning would endure and have to process. Clyde is a character who uses humour and confidence to create a strong exterior, but it’s great to see that he enjoys art and cooking at home and that deep down he desperately wants his family to be whole once more. He is anxious to impress his father, and he’s not afraid to admit how much his abrupt departure and continued absence has hurt him and the fear he has developed of his mother likewise leaving him as a result. Anthony handles this range with aplomb and deftly proves again just how incredible the young actors on this series are no matter the weight of the material given to them.

In a fairly limited role, Jocelyn Jee Esien makes an instant impact as Clyde’s mother, Carla, and Anthony and she share a tremendous chemistry that perfectly hints at the mutual love any parent and child should have. Of course, Gary Beadle as Clyde’s father, Paul, is asked to do something entirely differently, and while he does well with the emotional confrontation at the end of the story when Clyde realizes that his family can never truly come back together, he also effectively portrays a man trying to absolve himself of all responsibility and to cruelly use any means necessary to make himself look like a better man. Using the amulet to thieve his way around town is bad enough, but ordering Clyde to forget his mother is a shockingly brutal twist that proves just how unscrupulous this man is while allowing Clyde to realize the man he might otherwise become without the positive influence of Sarah Jane and his friends.

The long montage of Paul using the amulet to impress Clyde while trying to suppress the increasing effects on him is fairly superfluous and takes away from some of the incredible emotional impact that so much of the episode otherwise has. However, whether this is a programme aimed at a younger audience of not, those profound emotions and the incredible performances at their core make ‘The Mark of the Berserker’ something far more memorable than its fairly basic premise might suggest. Even with Sarah Jane more or less sidelined, Daniel Anthony proves to be a sterling lead in his own right, and the overseas return of Maria and her own father to help Luke and Rani in their own search for Clyde continues to flesh out this series into a truly breathing and dynamic entity that continues to impress.

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