Timestamp #SJA10: The Mark of the Berserker

Sarah Jane Adventures: The Mark of the Berserker
(2 episodes, s02e04, 2008)

 

Clyde forgets everything he knew.

A teenager named Jacob West is in detention. He has an elaborate mark on his hand, ignores his teacher’s guidance, and tells a bully in the room to shut up. The bully loses his voice. Jacob demands that they all stay where they are and remain quiet, then runs from the room as he notices Rani watching the entire affair.

The mark climbs Jacob’s arms and face, turning his eyes gray as he screams.

Rani runs to find Jacob as the young man begs a pendant to stop before he casts it aside. The spell is broken and Jacob runs, leaving Rani to find the pendant on the restroom floor.

Sarah Jane drops Luke off at Clyde’s house as she prepares to leave town for the weekend, supposedly heading to Tarminster. They start by cooking dinner. Meanwhile, Rani discovers the power of the pendant as she compels her father to do silly tricks, but she stops when a slip of the tongue almost compels her father to die. She tells him to forget about what happened, and she notices the mark on her hand as Jacob stops by. He tells her that the mark fades when the bearer stops using the power. The power is addictive, however, and it is hard to stop before it consumes the user.

Rani tries to consult Mr. Smith, but Sarah Jane has shut him down during her absence. Following the advice of Sarah Jane’s Post-It Notes, Rani leaves the pendant hanging in the attic.

Luke and Clyde bond as they go to sleep, but Clyde’s good mood is broken the next morning as his estranged father Paul appears on his doorstep. After an emotionally-charged discussion that upsets Clyde and his mother, Clyde decides to fulfill his father’s request to spend time together.

Rani decides to investigate the pendant, calling in Luke to assist. Clyde and his father have a rather awkward and testy discussion, but when he brings up his adventures with the Bannerman Road Gang, Clyde takes his father to Sarah Jane’s attic to prove his story. In the attic, Paul (who knows in passing about Daleks) pockets the pendant before they leave.

Outside, they meet Rani’s father who demands to know why they were in Sarah Jane’s house. Paul accidentally discovers the power of the pendant, and Luke and Rani arrive and challenge Paul. Clyde is compelled to leave and forget about his friends.

Rani’s father is still doing push-ups, by the way.

Paul immediately starts digging a deep hole as he compels Clyde to sever all of his ties, including with his mother. As he plans to take Clyde away, Luke and Rani try to call Sarah Jane while she’s hunting a Travast Polong (an adorable three-eyed caterpillar alien) but have no luck.

So, they call Maria and ask her father to hack into UNIT and find anything he can about the pendant. While Alan searches, Luke tries to call Clyde and is rebuffed. Moments later, Paul effectively steals a sports car.

UNIT’s archive turns up a link between the pendant and Norse warriors called the Berserkers who were powered by the alien devices. Alan uses the UNIT satellite network to track Clyde’s mobile phone as the Langers wreak havoc on the stores of London.

Clyde asks his father why he left him and his mother, and after a heart-to-heart, Paul commands Clyde to forget about both his mother and Paul’s betrayal. The whirlwind tour continues.

Rani and Luke enlist Clyde’s mother to help them find her wayward son. Clyde ignores her attempts to call, but the Jacksons are able to rig her GPS to track Clyde’s phone. They finally find Clyde and Paul at the marina as the pendant takes control.

Sarah Jane arrives, and since Clyde still recognizes her, he begs for her help. She tells him that Paul needs to see who he really is underneath the Berserker exterior. Clyde and his mother remind Paul of the good memories as Sarah Jane shows him his reflection in a mirror. The Berserker recedes and Paul throws the pendant on the ground, breaking the spell over everyone that was touched by it.

Clyde remembers his family and friends, the car salesman stands aghast at his expensive loss, and Rani’s father finally stops his exercising.

Sarah Jane reveals that the Jacksons told her about the trouble and where to find them. As they walk away, Clyde offers to help restore his family with the power of the pendant, but he’s reminded that such a family would not be real. In fact, he has a real family with the Bannerman Road Gang.

Clyde’s father leaves to pay his penance while Clyde uses the pendant to ask his mother to forget about aliens and what happened. He tosses the pendant in the water and goes home. Later, he visits Sarah Jane and apologizes for showing his father around her attic. She understands, and he confides how much she and their family means to him.

After he leaves, Sarah Jane pulls a photo of her long-deceased parents out of a drawer and gazes upon them, deep in thought.

 

What we find here is a clever allegory about addiction and the nature of family. The addiction aspect is obvious, from the allure of material objects to the desire for companionship, love, and power. The pendant was all about using addiction to enable the holder to overpower a target’s will. In the wrong hands – such as Paul Langer, who is selfish and obviously has no problem ignoring consent –  it becomes a dangerous vector for world domination. In the right hands – such as Clyde Langer, who used it to help keep his mother safe from the dangers in his life – it becomes a borderline dangerous but useful tool.

Paul Langer is a bad person, and Clyde Langer is a better man than I am for forgiving his father for the abuses he perpetrated in this story. And this exploration of Clyde’s character is what makes this tale a good one.

I was also impressed with how the kids were able to do the heavy lifting instead of relying on Sarah Jane to push the plot along. She popped in at the climax to nudge the kids toward the resolution, but the Bannerman Road Gang did this pretty much on their own.

It’s not the first time that Clyde has been forced to forget his friends. I’m okay with that repetition since it’s been a while since we walked that particular path. The big strike against this one is how it is the fourth story in a row to use mind control as the plot. That repetition is getting old.

 

 

Rating: 4/5 – “Would you care for a jelly baby?”

 

 

UP NEXT – Sarah Jane Adventures: The Temptation of Sarah Jane Smith

 

The Timestamps Project is an adventure through the televised universe of Doctor Who, story by story, from the beginning of the franchise. For more reviews like this one, please visit the project’s page at Creative Criticality.

 

 

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