Published: Tracy #31 (May 3 1980) – #41 (July 12 1980)
Reprints: None known
Special thanks to “Phoenix” for help with some episodes
Karen Chandler’s father has been jailed for buying stolen goods and attempted murder of an accomplice, the lorry driver, who is now in a coma. The only real evidence against him was the police finding him standing over the driver with an iron bar in his hand. Since then, Dad’s partners in a restaurant, Sam and Nadine Lee, have been turning Karen into a drudge at the restaurant. They lumber her with so much work she doesn’t even get proper sleep. In addition to the drudgery, there is also bullying at school where the girls constantly tease Karen over her father’s imprisonment. It is no wonder that Karen’s schoolwork is suffering as well.
Karen’s fortunes change on the day the biology teacher sends her class out to collect specimens for a list of plants. Karen unwittingly trespasses into the Energy Research Unit when she fails to see a “Keep Out” sign. There is an explosion at the laboratory, which has Karen’s head spinning. But she doesn’t realise how much the accident has affected her until that evening when Mrs Lee orders her to bring up a heavy sack of potatoes from the cellar. When Karen wishes she didn’t have to lug that heavy sack up the stairs, the sack suddenly moves all the way up there all by itself! Karen realises the accident at the laboratory has somehow given her telekinesis, the power to move objects by thought.
All of a sudden, life has gotten a whole lot easier. It has to be kept secret though, because Karen does not want those slave-driving Lees to exploit her power if they find out about it. Instead, Karen uses her telekinesis for the purpose of secret survival, revenge, and help.
It all begins later that evening, when Mr Lee orders Karen to clean up the restaurant. He is astonished to find the restaurant looks like it has been cleaned up with super-speed or something (with Karen’s telekinesis of course). This enables Karen to get a proper night’s sleep for a change. From then on, the telekinesis helps Karen to get her work done in record time, much to the bafflement of the Lees. For example, when Karen wants to go to the circus, the Lees give her permission and even pay for her ticket – but on condition she gets all her work done first. Of course they deliberately lay even more work her to stop her going, but Karen gets it all done with her telekinesis. So the Lees have to let her go to the circus.
On another occasion Mr Lees lumbers Karen with the job of stripping off the wallpaper for redecorating – and late at night when Karen needs to be in bed – to save him the expense of having the decorator do it. He doesn’t care about Karen staying up half the night doing it, but of course her telekinesis spares her that. Next day, the decorator collapses because he has been working too hard, so Karen does the job for him telekinetically as he needs the money to take his sick wife on holiday. Mr Lee can’t understand why Karen receives a postcard from the decorator expressing gratitude for her help and saying his wife is getting better.
Naturally, Karen starts using her power to secretly strike back at the girls who have been bullying her about her father’s imprisonment. School bully Lydia Welch eggs them on to start baiting Karen, at which she uses her power to turn the window cleaner’s bucket toppling over them and giving them a soaking. Later Karen rescues a younger pupil from Lydia. After a few days, a teacher tells Karen that her schoolwork has improved tremendously. On a school outing to an open zoo, Lydia keeps making snide remarks about Karen’s father. Karen snaps and tips a drink in Lydia’s lap telekinetically.
Karen starts practising in the woods to test the strength of her power. After a week her power gets strong enough to tear trees down. Unfortunately the tree lands on top of Lydia, so Karen has to go get help for her. Yes, Karen definitely has to be careful how she uses that power as it can backfire!
When Lydia comes out of hospital, she is not grateful for the rescue, and continues to plague Karen. When the Welches invite Karen over for tea in order to say thank you, Lydia does not want them to do so again. So she plants her new watch in Karen’s bag to frame her for stealing. Luckily, Karen finds the watch and uses her telekinesis to send the watch back to Lydia’s room upstairs. It’s a challenge as this is the first time Karen has to move something to a destination that is totally out of her sight and without being able to direct it visually, because she can’t move from her seat. Fortunately it pays off, and Lydia is very surprised to find the watch back in her jewellery box!
Karen’s power scores over Lydia again when a temporary pupil, Mandy Clark, makes a friend for Karen against all the bullying. When Lydia tries to put Mandy out of a talent contest, it’s Karen’s power to the rescue. Karen also confronts Lydia with the evidence she carelessly dropped, and Lydia goes off looking very sour-faced.
Karen’s telekinesis enables her to get secret revenge on other people. For example, she strikes back at two rude customers by removing the meat from their plates, and their argument over it nearly comes to blows.
The power also helps Karen on occasions when she gets into real danger. One night, thieves break in to rob the restaurant, and they tie Karen up when she tries to give the alarm. Karen calls 999 telekinetically, and then hits one thief with sauce and the other with flour, which starts a fight between them. As planned, this delays the thieves long enough for the police to arrive. On the aforementioned visit to the zoo, Karen nearly becomes lunch for an escaped lioness and uses her power to stop the lioness mid-air when she tries to pounce.
Of course circumstances arise for Karen to use her power to secretly help other people, such as the exhausted decorator. And at the aforementioned visit to the circus, naughty boys set fire to the Big Top, and it’s a real blaze. Karen uses her power to help a boy who got trapped in the fire. Unfortunately the child sees Karen’s telekinesis and nearly gives her secret away when the circus folk come to reward her. Fortunately they put it down to the boy’s imagination. Karen gets some reward money and her picture in the paper. The Lees ham it up to the reporter about how they treat Karen like their very own daughter (ha, ha!) as they are capitalising on the publicity this will bring for their restaurant.
Sometimes the Lees’ cruelty just explodes in their faces, and Karen does not even need her power for that. On such an occasion, Mr Lee is trying to impress Alex Egan from The Daily Globe, as a mention in Alex’s “Good Restaurant” column will mean more business (and more work for put-upon Karen). Unfortunately for him, he assumes Alex Egan is a man and therefore focuses all attention on the male diner that night. Moreover, the chef and Mrs Lee are laid up with flu, so service slows right down with only Karen in charge and Mr Lee clearly not bothering to get extra help. But it turns out Alex Egan is a woman. She tells them she did not enjoy her meal due to the slow service, though she understands the pressure the waitress was under. So she will not be mentioning them in her column!
Matters come to a head when the police arrive and say the Lees are to accompany them to the police station; the lorry driver has come out of his coma and provided them with vital information. Mr Lee tries a desperate getaway by taking Karen hostage and holding a knife to her throat. Karen uses her power to slam the car door on his arm so he drops the knife, and then she knocks him out with a heavy box. He is arrested.
Karen is suddenly overcome with dizziness and put to bed. The doctor says she is suffering from exhaustion. When she recovers, she finds her father has returned. It turns out Mr Lee committed the crimes Dad was convicted of. An argument erupted between Mr Lee and the lorry driver who had been supplying him with the stolen goods, which resulted in Mr Lee hitting him with the iron bar. Dad came along at the wrong moment and made the cardinal error of picking up the iron bar. This led the police and then the jury to assume he had committed the assault. However, the lorry driver has come out his coma and told the police the truth.
Karen tries to display her telekinetic power in front of her father, but finds she no longer has it. The power has vanished as suddenly and mysteriously as it came. But then, Karen has her father back and is free of the Lees, so she does not need it anymore.
Here we have a protagonist who has not one but three fronts against her at once. The first is the Cinderella theme, where Karen is made the drudge in the restaurant under the Lees who lumber her with all the work and don’t care about her wellbeing at all. They make the excuse of food and board to not pay Karen a penny, and we get plenty of evidence that they are mean, money-grasping sods before the reveal comes at the end that they are criminals as well, and are responsible for Dad’s wrongful conviction. So Karen has been slaving for the very people who caused all her troubles in the first place. Talk about adding insult to injury!
The second is the unjust conviction theme, where the father is wrongly convicted. This has led to her slaving under the Lees, and Karen has to bear the stigma of a jailbird father as well. She cannot believe her father is guilty, which is the only thing she has to help her bear the stigma. Unlike other stories about wrongly accused fathers, clearing him is not the main thrust of the story, although of course it is the only way to resolve it in the final episode.
The third is the bullying theme, where Karen is the target of bullying and ostracism at school because of her father’s disgrace. She has a particularly spiteful enemy in Lydia Welch, who has no redeeming characteristics whatsoever. Throughout the story, Lydia picks on Karen and just loves to rub it in about her unfortunate father.
So it is only fair that Karen is given a particularly powerful weapon to deal with all three fronts. It’s a nice change for a Cinderella character to be given a secret power to help her cope with all the drudgery and misery instead of the more usual talent that she is determined to keep up amid all the abuse against her. Moreover, it is a power that makes life a whole lot easier for Karen. It helps her to get her monstrous workloads done in record time and enable her to get some space for treats, relaxation, and relief. It also helps her to strike back at the bullies at school and other unsavoury types she encounters, and even secretly help other people.
The means by which Karen gets the power in the first place is a bit unbelievable, as is her losing the power with no explanation whatsoever. It just seems to disappear at the most convenient moment – when it is no longer needed. The origin of the power could have been thought out better so it would be more credible to readers. For example, could some third party have given her the power, such as a stranded alien? Or could they have had Karen hit by, say, a bolt of electricity during the laboratory accident?
The power itself is one we all love – the power of telekinesis. We would all love to have telekinesis. It’s the perfect power for the situations Karen faces, including tackling heavy workloads, and does not get her into too many scrapes when things backfire a bit. It is understandable that Karen wants to keep her power a secret because she is afraid of the Lees exploiting it. She is not Carrie, who uses her power openly to strike back at all the abusers when they push her too far. Karen does use her power to strike back, but unlike Carrie she has to do it discreetly. It is also fortunate for Karen that the Lees never seemed to grow suspicious of how she seemed to get her work done so miraculously and keep a discreet eye on her while she worked.
The way in which the father is cleared comes a bit quick in the last episode, but it does not come across as contrived. The setup for the father’s vindication (the unconscious lorry driver recovering and making a statement) had been there from the beginning. It was just waiting for the go-ahead to be developed in the final episode. Until then, there is no pursuing the avenue of clearing him. Karen does no investigating into that line (too much on her plate as it is, even with the power) and there are no clues to make her or the readers suspect the Lees. It is pretty odd that the Lees did not try to kill the lorry driver in hospital; their attack on Karen at the end suggests they could be capable of it. Perhaps they feared it would arouse suspicion?