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4.3 - The Lonely Clock

The enemy is revealed and Jago and Litefoot are on a train to nowhere. Can Leela and Ellie save them, in a race against the clock?
Christopher Benjamin (Henry Gordon Jago), Trevor Baxter (Professor Litefoot), Louise Jameson (Leela), Colin Baker (Claudius Dark), Lisa Bowerman (Ellie), Elizabeth Counsell (Abigail Woburn), Alan Cox (Oscar Wilde), Victoria Alcock (Winnie O'Connor), Terry Molloy (Lord Ampthill), Christopher Beeny (Mr Kempston), Mike Grady (Mr Hardwick)
Written By
Directed By
Lisa Bowerman


39 rating(s) submitted

50% (2/4) of raters say this story requires listening to previous stories.

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Rated 8/10 on 6/26/14 5:25 am
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Review By komodo
Rated 9/10 on 4/29/12 10:03 am
0 out of 0 found this review helpful.
A most interesting chase story. The fact its wrapped up to look like a ghost train tale made it more intriguing than it would otherwise have been.

I think it fits where the story is going really well, but it is ultimately about time travel.

Story aside, the characters are as good as ever. You have Jago and Lightfoot in one scene while Leela and Ellie are the ones really doing the investigating.

There are those who are less than fond of this, but I loved it.
Reviewer Says: No previous stories required.
6 Rated 6/10 on 3/25/12 2:44 am
0 out of 0 found this review helpful.
Matthew Sweet is a mighty writer. He weaves dream-like fantasies into compelling, mysterious drama. The thing is, in my view, his magnificence is not suited to Jago and Litefoot. As a Doctor Who story, this would work beautifully - there are some lovely sinister concepts here and some nice characterisations. There is a pleasing weirdness that lends a very real supernatural element to the proceedings. And yet it doesn't quite satisfy and ends up as my least favourite story from this magnificent series.

It ends well though - the curious Kempston and Hardwick continue to intrigue, as does Claudius Dark who at last reveals his true credentials. Will his presence take the shine off our two heroes? That remains to be seen in the series finale.

I would love to hear many more stories from the expansive mind of this writer. His inspirations delight me also and I'm convinced that any other Big Series is where he would truly shine (as he has in the past).
Review By Eiphel
Rated 6/10 on 3/22/12 1:25 am
0 out of 0 found this review helpful.
Whilst this is one of Jago and Litefoot's weaker outings, it's a testament to the range that it's still a solidly enjoyable tale. Matthew Sweet's writing seems to me to be characterised by a focus on mood and feeling foremost, with the mechanics of plot coming second. This is no criticism! The Man at the End of the Garden was my runaway favourite story of series three, and in the Who main range, the Magic Mousetrap is equally compelling. However I think those stories lent themselves more fully to the poetic, atmospheric style of Sweet's writing than does the Lonely Clock. If I were to draw a tortured metaphor, I might suggest that much like a clock, this story felt like it was composed of elaborate mechanical plot elements, like timeloops, non-linear timelines and paradox, and these cogs needed a tighter mechanism driving them. The magical moody style was a little too fuzzy to suit the story being told, to my mind.

That said, the mood and magic still has merits. Spooky underground train journeys, deathly women and mysterious glass clocks serve to trap plenty of ghostly atmosphere in the tale. The train setting being something of a staple, it immediately called to mind Jago and Litefoot's own Necropolis Express, as well as Sapphire and Steel's The Passenger. By supporting a second concurrent tale amid the streets of London, though, the Lonely Clock manages to keep itself distinct - and also gives Leela and Ellie a good chunk of screentime. As the two plotlines tick along, heading towards convergence, everything feels quite gripping. Mysteries and questions abound in both plot threads, and each thread seems to hint at the answers of the other. It's only as the two stories draw together that the pleasing ghostly romp starts to unwind, because it's here that matters hew out of the paranormal and toward science-fiction, and Sweet's narrative voice isn't quite suited to the gear change. The resolution is not by any means nonsensical, but it's a little hard to fully grasp, and some elements feel to be left a little loose. This was no flaw in the Man at the End of the Garden, which maintained such an atmosphere that hard and fast solutions weren't fitting anyway. Here though, the culmination of Clock's workings feel like they belong to a slightly harder sci-fi story than Sweet has been writing. By no means does it kill the tale, but it does feel derailed slightly - not assisted by a lengthy section of the climax falling prey to 'describing the action'.

There were a couple of other slight falters in voice that I pikced up on. Early in the story the same homage to Sherlock Holmes is basically made twice, sticking out awkwardly the second time. I also found Ellie and Winnie to occaisionally get confused when a new scene opened, which I think was partially on the writing, and partially due to the actor's voices. In general I found the dialogue in the three women's section to be a little less polished than that on the train (which was excellent). Of particular note is Litefoot's meeting with Hardwick, which is particularly sparky, even by the already gripping standard set by the two gentlemen at law. They are turning out to be a memorable, archetypal twosome, just like our heroes.

Things having reached their head, and the tone shifted from the fantastic to the sci-fi, pieces are put in place for the final story of the series. I think because of this The Lonely Clock can't be judge entirely in a vacuum as some of that gear shifting is surely due to the handover to the finale. And it's an interesting set up. I have to say though, that I wonder if some of that set up is not delivered in a way which sacrifices in-universe sense for audience reaction. It remains to be seen just where things are going with the conclusion to this series. If it's good, series four could rival series one as my favourite of the bunch, but I am very much holding my breath...

Before that, though, my final assessment of this story is that it's an enjoyable ghost train romp which tangles itself a little in the final act as it tries to switch track from fantasy to sci-fi. 6/10