I was one of those nerds who loved school. Okay, it wasn't always perfect, and it didn't always work the way it was supposed to, but the very idea of an environment built purposefully for the expansion of one’s knowledge is always a plus in my books. As a relatively academic person, school just went along smoothly for me. And I've met a lot of people through this experience of the schooling system, some of whom I hope to treasure for the rest of my life.
So when our Lord and Mistress Zoe Lance came to me with the idea of a mid-series story involving the gang really learning more about the Silence, my mind immediately turned to a school setting. Where better for a story that focuses primarily on the theme of learning?
The learning comes in a few forms. Firstly, there's the Silence. By this point, the religious order (first seen in Series 6 of Doctor Who) are getting tired of not having Melody Pond, so have decided to confront Sarah Jane head-on and take her back. Throughout the story, the gang of Sarah Jane and the kids, who had previously been a bit in the dark as to the motives of the Silence, gain an insight into their plan. They learn more and more about what they want, and how Melody ties into their plan. More than ever in this episode, Melody is a pivotal character - the story is, in essence, all about her. A lot of stuff is set up here, ready for the big series finale (which is shaping up to be a good’un). Furthermore, there's a lot to be said about the juxtaposition of a building made for teaching, filled with creatures that make you forget. In essence, it's a perfect place to fight back against the deadly weapon the Silence possess. I tried to utilise this idea by having the things they learn at school become useful in stopping the Silence. So often these days, lessons are met with “but when will we need to use this in the real world?” Here, I wanted to show that anything can be useful some day. I also wanted to ensure that both the arts and the academic subjects get equal attention, because with the government’s dwindling focus on the arts, it's important that we remember why creative subjects like music, art, and performing arts are so vital to creating well-rounded people.
Secondly, there's a more personal learning: Madame Kovarian has been a character shrouded in mystery since her first fleeting appearance in Day of the Moon in the main show - here we learn more about her. Her motives, her reasoning, her personality, are all explained to some degree in this episode. Credit has to go to my wonderful friend Sam for coming up with the idea for Kovarian’s backstory - it's chilling and melancholic - and for trusting me enough to not cock up his idea; hopefully I didn't, but I'll let you be the judge of that. Cheers, Sam. Some of my favourite scenes from the story are the ones involving the quiet and tense conversation between Kovarian and Sarah Jane in her attic. I enjoyed using Kovarian’s backstory and what we already know of her to draw some interesting parallels between the two women. They do very similar things, except one does it for good, the other for evil. But is it really evil? Kovarian genuinely believes she's doing the right thing, and there is an argument to be made that she is. Why do we call her evil? It's been really interesting to talk about the distinction between good and evil, and where the two women lie on that spectrum.
Thirdly, the main characters learn more about each other, and themselves. You may recall that last week’s episode was all about journeys, and this continues that journey, with the gang learning more and more about each other. Last week Zoe got a lot of focus, and the week before it was Beth; in The Sound of Silence, it's Dan’s turn to talk about himself. Dan is a very complex character - whereas you can see that Zoe and Beth are hiding their problems from the world behind their coping mechanisms, the problem with Dan is that he never shows anything. He is arguably the most closed out of the three: Zoe shouts, and Beth cries, but Dan is constantly smiling. It's nice to let that facade drop, and really get into the real Dan, behind the humour and the sass. And he has hinted in previous episodes that he has secrets…
So, there we are. The holy trinity of learning, as it were. Now the only thing that's left is to give you a few teasers…
So there we have it. Another week, another story. This is my final offering in SJA Series 6, but don’t start celebrating yet. I may or may not be back for Series 7. Who knows? (I do). But before then, you’ve got a whole host of stories to read. Up next is The Horde of Darkness by Ryder Smith, which is fantastic. As they say in the song that inspired the title of my story, hello Darkness, my old friend…
Writer of The Sound of Silence