As the end of Sarah Jane’s Adventures grows ever nearer, the penultimate story proves that the show was still in its prime when it came to a premature end. And to think it all started with that strange incident in 21st century Ealing when it rained herring. Where’s a hungry humanoid cat when you need one?
Without me really noticing, Clyde has slowly developed into a really strong character, and Daniel Anthony carries the episode exceptionally well. He’s more than capable of handling a much more emotional performance than we’re used to, and of showing a different side to Clyde: alone, vulnerable and scared. The amount of shit that’s heaped on the poor boy is off the scale, and it’s the type of psychological terror that SJA excels in.
His only ally is a friendly homeless girl called Ellie. When we first meet her, as Clyde hands her some change outside the museum, I assumed it was just there to emphasise his niceness, and that his little speech to Sky about how it’s not her fault that she’s on the streets was a very good message for the kids at home. But it turns out that virtually the whole of the second part is dedicated to really exploring homelessness as a social issue. It goes much further to address a real world problem than the show’s ever gone before, and it feels like it could have been a whole new direction had the series continued.
While Ellie is a remarkably clean character, both literally and metaphorically, there are hints of much darker and more adult issues in her life. It’s never spelled out to the extent that it would cause awkward questions for parents to answer, but it’s heavily implied that she’s the victim of abuse, both as the cause and result of her homelessness. It creates a sinister undercurrent to the mood, which feels more real and relevant than any alien threat. The show never shies away from the harsh reality of life on the streets, and it deserves a lot of credit for the respect this shows to its viewership.
The sci-fi element to the plot is really just a backdrop – an elaborate set-up that exists merely to allow the Clyde and Ellie relationship to play out. It comes to a head when Sky saves the day by figuring out how the curse works; it’s a handy way of proving her usefulness, but it does strike you as convenient that the curse doesn’t affect her. Presumably it’s because she’s not human, but I don’t think this is ever clarified.
The lifting of the curse provides a moment of joy, but it’s balanced out by the agony that it unintentionally causes. Maybe I’m tired and a bit hungover still, but man, it broke my heart that Ellie thought Clyde had abandoned her, after their blossoming romance was so lovely. It’s a really melancholic ending, which feels so unusual for children’s drama, but it’s something that the very best examples of the genre can pull off. And The Sarah Jane Adventures is undoubtedly one of the greats.
But hey, given that Sarah Jane carried on her life off-screen, we can assume that everyone else did too, and so who’s to say that Clyde and Ellie didn’t find each other again at some point in the last few years? It’s so sad that we’ll never find out, and it’s even more sad that the very next serial is the very last. It’ll take me a few days to get round to it now, thanks to my other, much more elaborate sci-fi fandom project, but I’m already bracing myself for tears.