Sarah Jane Adventures: Mona Lisa’s Revenge
(2 episodes, s03e05, 2009)
The art is so lifelike.
The Bannerman Road Gang is enjoying a moment in class while Clyde sketches K9. Mr. Chandra comes in with an important announcement, revealing that Clyde has won a chance to see the Mona Lisa at the National Gallery. Clyde never entered the competition, but Luke did it for him secretly. Clyde doesn’t mind given the occasion.
At the gallery, Lionel Harding and Phyllis Trupp examine the newly arrived painting. Phyllis longs for Harding, but as he ignores her overtures, the panting comes to life.
Luke arrives home to a furious Sarah Jane. She’s upset about the state of his room, and Luke is upset because she expects perfection just like the Bane did.
The next day, the class arrives at the gallery. Per the rules, they turn in their phones before perusing the facility. Luke confides his troubles in his friends and they start the tour. Luke picks up a Chinese mystery box and Clyde chastises him for handling the exhibits. They’re soon introduced to Harding and Trupp. Phyllis finishes preparing the exhibit hall and, upon confessing her feelings to the painting, is attacked by the Mona Lisa.
Clyde finds his own work in the gallery and his classmates celebrate. Harding praises his work, which Clyde later admits to his friends is inspired by their adventures. When the class is taken to see the Mona Lisa, they find Phyllis in the picture instead. After the class is ushered out of the exhibit, the gang sneaks back in to investigate.
Back at Bannerman Road, Mr. Smith checks in with Sarah Jane and her distracted state. She’s feeling depressed because Luke is growing up so quickly and that she’ll be alone again. Mr. Smith notifies her that the Mona Lisa has been stolen, and despite a lack of obvious alien activity, she decides to investigate because the kids are involved and the circumstances are so weird.
On their way to the exhibit, Rani notices that one of the guns is missing from Clyde’s painting. Hardin arrives to retrieve the kids and Mona Lisa emerges from the shadows, armed with a Sontaran blaster. After a brief discussion with her hostages, she declares that she wants to have fun and opens fire, sending the gang running.
They find the police officers and museum staff trapped in the museum’s paintings. Meanwhile, Mona Lisa remembers Harding from his multiple trips to the Louvre and requests his help to free her brother from a painting of her same vintage. It so happens that the painting is in the museum.
The gang spots Sarah Jane’s car in the parking lot. While they look for her, Sarah Jane finds her way to the Mona Lisa exhibit gallery and hides as Harding and Mona Lisa arrive. Sarah Jane is taken hostage by Mona Lisa, who recognizes her from Luke’s discussion with his friends. Mona Lisa nearly shoots Sarah Jane, but stops when she hears a grumbling from her brother.
Mona Lisa puts Sarah Jane in a picture, drawing the gang to the gallery. They demand that Sarah Jane be released, but Mona Lisa refuses. Luke tackles Mona Lisa and the gang runs with Sarah Jane’s painting, so Mona Lisa releases William Bonneville’s Dark Rider from the painting of the same name.
And the chase commences. Mona Lisa and Harding continue their search while the Dark Rider pursues the gang with unlimited ammunition.
During their search, Mona Lisa sees a window and asks to go outside. When she reaches beyond the building, her arm reverts to its painted form. Furious that she’s trapped in the museum, she storms into a unfinished section. Clyde overhears as Mona Lisa details her plan to release her brother and conquer the world, but he is soon captured by the Dark Rider.
Clyde is forced to join the hunt for The Abomination, a painting by Giuseppe di Cattivo crafted from paint derived from sentient rocks that fell to Earth. The same paint was used to craft the Mona Lisa. The painting drove the artist insane and he crafted a puzzle box to make sure no one ever saw the painting again. Luke and Rani find this same information in a book from the gift shop.
The quest takes Mona Lisa and her group to the museum’s vaults. They find the painting, but the case is locked and the puzzle box is missing. In the gallery above, Luke realizes that the puzzle box he examined earlier is the key, but Mona Lisa arrives moments later to retrieve it. Harding tries to stand up against her, but after he smashes the box, Luke saves his life by promising an alternate method of opening the lock.
Everyone is unhappily reunited in the vaults. Luke asks Clyde to draw a new puzzle box so Mona Lisa can manifest it in the physical world. When she tries to, however, she also manifests K9 from Clyde’s sketchbook. When Mona Lisa opens the lock, K9 blasts the Abomination and destroys the alien pigment. This breaks Mona Lisa’s link on the physical, forcing all of her manifestations to revert to their true forms.
The world is saved once again.
The gang reunites with Sarah Jane and Luke makes amends while Sarah Jane praises his ingenuity. Meanwhile, Harding reunites with Trupp, but Trupp wants nothing to do with him after his dalliance with Mona Lisa.
The Mona Lisa is not a stranger to Doctor Who, having appeared before in City of Death alongside a Chinese puzzle box. There’s also another link with faces and time: An artist in City of Death painted Romana’s face as a clock, and one of the paintings in this story’s classroom setting was titled Face of Time.
That classic callback aside, this story was not particularly engaging. The villain had simple motivations, but the acting and thin plot were not compelling. The character moments with Sarah Jane and Luke felt forced for the story and didn’t seem to naturally evolve.
On the plus side, it was good to see Clyde happy about his craft. His joy was palpable, both in seeing his work in an actual museum and in his friend secretly submitting him for consideration.
I also like how he adores K9. I do too.
Rating: 2/5 – “Mm? What’s that, my boy?”
UP NEXT – Doctor Who: The Waters of Mars
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.