The Nightmare Man

Posted in Episode by - October 30, 2022
The Nightmare Man

Aired 11 – 12 October 2010


Poised to leave for university a year ahead of his friends, Luke finds his first-ever nightmares haunted by a dark figure in Joseph Lidster’s ‘The Nightmare Man.’ As Luke, Clyde, and Rani become trapped in a frightening dreamscape, Sarah Jane must take action into her own hands as all of humanity comes under threat, and Luke must finally find the strength to face and accept the changing circumstances of his life.

In many ways, The Sarah Jane Adventures has mirrored its young casts’ growth and maturation, and this opener to the fourth series seems to quite overtly lean into this sentiment by showing the leads being less than enthused by yet another dousing by defeated Slitheen. However, through Luke ‘The Nightmare Man’ is able to explore coming of age themes and anxieties that are all too common for teenagers. After all, Luke has seen his friend Maria all but replaced in his adventurous group, and he’s naturally afraid that he will suffer the same fate and that, worse, Sarah Jane and his friends might be glad to be rid of him and his social differences. He’s never known any life other than this, and so he provides a perfect conduit by which an entity that feeds off of fears can attempt to breach this world. Of course, these intrinsic fears are perfectly complemented by Sarah Jane’s own conflicting pride and fear stemming from Luke’s impending departure, and both Tommy Knight and Elisabeth Sladen perfectly imbue a raw honesty to their performances that encapsulates just how much these characters and actors have been through together and how much Sarah Jane and Luke have changed each other and grown as a result.

Naturally, everyone deals with change differently, and ‘The Nightmare Man’ impressively explores the many possible responses by showing Rani as happy but jealous and Clyde as somewhat indignant and standoffish since he sees this as yet another person leaving him behind. Yet as truly brilliant as the very human displays of emotion are, the nightmare component as so viscerally personified by Julian Bleach’s painted figure skipping through Luke’s dreams with an equal measure of fright and humour is every bit as integral to this episode. Given how much Sarah Jane has changed the lives of those around her, it’s fitting that Rani’s nightmare should be composed of her being a reporter tasked with exposing Sarah Jane and everything she does, told that she has to stop caring about others’ feelings if she wants to be successful. Likewise, Clyde fretting that he will spend the rest of his life in a dead-end restaurant job while constantly being reminded by a senile Sarah Jane that he will never be as good as Luke perfectly showcases the mindset of this character who so often hides his emotions.

Luke gave Sarah Jane something to live for after being basically on her own for so long, and the powerful emotions on display as she comes to even better realize the tumult of sentiments that parenthood can bring are impressive for any drama, not just one targeted for a younger audience. With Bleach providing an incredibly menacing experience as a slightly darker tone than usual manifests, ‘The Nightmare Man’ provides a fitting ending to this particular Bannerman Road grouping with Knight as a regular and showcases the immense chemistry that Sladen, Knight, Daniel Anthony, and Anjli Mohindra have formed that underscores the immense respect and friendship seen on screen. The ending may be a bit saccharine following a strong display from K9, but the visual of Luke and K9 driving off is a poignant and powerful one to end a strong opener to this fourth series of The Sarah Jane Adventures.

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