Episode Reviewed: The Mystery of the Clock Tower I & II (667-668)
Writer: Paul McCusker

Director: Paul McCusker
Sound Designer: Jonathan Crowe
Music: John Campbell
Theme: Be sure your sin will find you out
Original Airdate: 10/02/10, 10/09/10

Review Written by: Ben Warren, Staff Writer

Rating (out of 5):


Episode Summary

When the town clock begins resetting itself to 11:45, Eugene and Matthew try to solve the problem technologically while Whit and Connie research a possible unrequited love story connection.


The Review
The Mystery of the Clock Tower kicks off the season with a bang, or, perhaps, a gentle Tick-Tock? However one interprets it, I thought today's show was no doubt one of the best episodes of this upcoming season. How much of a compliment is this? You'll find out in the weeks ahead.

Matthew Parker, Adventures in Odyssey's newest Dylan Taylor, tags along the adults throughout this mystery. I once remember it was Whit's policy, and even the writer's policy, to not look down on kids.  "Today is Saturday, you should go play like a normal child would", Eugene says in today's show, sighing.  But here, for once, I shared Eugene's sentiments. Although I don't have a problem with Matthew, I find his presence and his one-liners a little tiresome. Don't get me wrong; I don't mind a child tagging along with the adults to solve a mystery. After all, Lucy did that a number of times. However, Matthew noticeably lacks the importance Lucy had when she trailed adults. Lucy was less of some "extra-voice" but rather an "extra-brain"; she was either directly involved in the storyline or mystery, or finding clues for herself. Matthew was far less useful, here. His abnormal expertise in gadgets and technology went unneeded in this episode; he dumbly asks "Have you thought about turning the knob on the back of the clock?" Lucy, on the other hand, came into the mystery episodes and had purpose being there.

Was I the only one who sensed recurring Peter Pan motif throughout today's show? Wendy, a name popularized by J.M Barrie; Michael, the child who helped to inspire the character of Peter Pan and a character in the books themselves; the ticking of clocks as something scary/that characters must fight against; a tale of about a girl's youth and the longing to reenter the world she once was in...Actually, never mind. It's all rubbish. I basically just heard Wendy and thought of Peter Pan.


The music in today's show was either hit or miss, really; it seemed awfully dated as soon as I heard it. Some of the electronic drum beats and percussions could have sounded more contemporary; they sometimes sounded like they were mixed using a toddler's keyboard-beat-mixer program (I made that up, but hopefully you get what I mean). Yes, sometimes the music was well done, especially when the ticking of the tower's clock transitioned into the music's beat in part one--one of the neatest and most original things I've heard from John Campbell in a while. Sometimes the music added to the show, especially, for instance, when Alicia discovers the card and flowers, but other times, it seemed like everyone, at any moment, was going to start rapping "Communicate!" That's how cheesy it sometimes sounded. To be fair, however, I definitely think the benefits of today's music outweighed anything negative I've mentioned. So, thumbs up to Campbell.

Many are calling the fact that Andrew turned out to be the "villain" as an obvious and predictable twist. I think this is ridiculous. Saying that this was predictable is like saying the crime was obviously committed by "Professor Plum", but not knowing where it happened and with what he was murdered with. I doubt many knew why everything was happening until much later. The show's true "surprise" was that the mystery surrounding the clock tower was only a distraction for a bank robbery. It would have appeared far more preposterous if the audience had no idea Andrew was "bad". Therefore, Andrew was less part of the episode's conclusion than he was simply a clue. No doubt McCusker wanted us to see him as number one suspect--even Matthew points out to him as being the villain, echoing the minds of the children everywhere.

I've always enjoyed these story lines about "I committed-a-crime-and-20-years-have-past-and-now-i'm-feeling-guilty", but this one lacked the emotional resonance of classics such as The Painting and
Buried Sin. Yes, I would have enjoyed if the stakes had been higher here; if the villains a were a little more dangerous and a little less smug. As Andrew says, "This is the perfect crime, everyone is at city hall watching that clock, and drooling over Alicia's unrequited love story [...] we'll be long gone with all the money [...] the program is impenetrable [...] we'll walk right into that vault". Please. If I were serious on making "the town distracted" would I really have depended on a secret of a little girl not delivering a letter? Probably not. Would a ticking time bomb attached to the city's clock tower have been enough to keep the town's attention? Probably. Because, after all, the rest of the town didn't know about Alicia's secret--only Connie, Eugene, Matthew and Whit did. Even the journalist says, "there is a rumor that the clock is engaged in a countdown to 11:45 again, but no one knows why". So what was the point of concocting such an elaborate mystery if the entire town was only crowded around the clock because it was going backwards and there was a timer attached to it? It seems to me that the town's attention would be drawn to the tower regardless of whether Alicia's past was involved or not. Right?

The rest of the performances were, all things considered, sub-par; Connie was a little over-the-top at times, which seems to be happening more and more as Katie Leigh gets older; Alicia, too, was unremarkable; and Whit seemed like he might "hoot" or be interrupted by Winnie the Pooh and Piglet at any moment.  On the other hand, newcomer Spencer Hicks is a welcomed addition to the show and has a nice "presidential" sounding voice, while Eugene perhaps had the best performance, carrying the show by imploring audiences to believe the severity of the situation; while Connie and Matthew were too happy-go-lucky--too thrilled to be part of a mystery than genuinely concerned with the mystery itself: "Matthew, tell Eugene Connie is on the Case!"

Although I have written far more complaints than compliments so far, don't be fooled; I'm very glad that this episode is part of the Odyssey series. It is an engaging and well plotted show, with an ending most listeners, including myself, did not see coming until mere moments before it was announced. A somewhat convoluted story with dialogue that could have been trimmed here and there, music-related issues, as well as over-the-top performances, all prevent this episode from being considered as brilliant as A Perfect Witness 1-2-3 was. However,
The Mystery of the Clock Tower  is still far superior than more recent mystery-like episodes such as The Other Side of the Glass or the dreadful Game for a Mystery.

I miss hearing mysteries that can scare my socks off; The Mysterious Stranger and The Case of the Secret Room did that, and made me cower underneath my bed sheets as a result. Adventures in Odyssey probably doesn't make episodes quite that intense anymore. But those older shows were certainly made with Hitchcock's stamp of approval, driven strictly by an unnerving mood and powerful performances.
The Mystery of the Clock Tower, on the other hand, keeps things purposefully light and is ultimately saved by its original and delightfully complex story.






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