The Mad Woman in the Attic

the mad old woman

PS: in this episode, Rani looks great with red eyes or her natural color…

This might be one of the best episodes of The Sarah Jane Adventures for a very basic reason: the monster of the week isn’t a bad guy.  That might seem simple, but too often the alien visitor is there to cause harm.  It’s so refreshing when the “villain” isn’t a villain at all.

The Mad Woman in the Attic opens strangely in the year 2059.  A kid decides to break into Sarah Janes house during a terrible storm to see if there really is an old mad woman in the attic.  Odd choice, kid: break into the neighbors house at night…  At least the lightning flashes at convenient moments!  It’s revealed that the old woman is Rani.  She tells the kid, Adam, the story of why things went wrong for her.  (It fails to explain why Rani would have inherited Sarah Jane’s house, but hey, let’s ignore that!)  Rani reminisces about meeting Eve, a lovely girl with red skin and long ears that attach to the side of her head.  But this leads to some woolley storytelling.  Rani is the person telling the story but she seems to have a fairly good idea of what was going on in scenes she was not present for.  One can write that off that she was told later, but her future self, the one telling this story, is without friends.  So there’s a lot to be said for remembering who is telling the story.  Still, it gets better in part two.  But first, some observations…

Clyde draws a picture of Sarah Jane, which she initially waves away, embarrassed, but from the point of view of what that means, it is actually beautiful.  This adult has inspired the children to such an extent that Clyde uses his talents to make a picture of her.  Even though he makes some wonderful cracks about her age, they are clearly family, and it’s beautiful.  That theme comes back at the end of the story… but we’ll come to that in a few.  Less beautiful is Rani going to the park, finding an actual alien, and then ignoring Sarah Jane’s and Luke’s attempts to call her.  That made no sense at all, especially considering her reason for running off to begin with.  Eve offers an interesting story about a war between two races (presumably Time Lord and Dalek), so I love that continuity.

By part two, the morality of the story kicks in: family and friends. Eve just wants friends.  She has never had any and doesn’t know how to handle what she does have.  “Sometimes visitors to this world just need a friend!”  I love that idea.  There’s a simple beauty to it.  The entire story hinges around this very gentle idea, but somehow we still have to find out about Rani of 2059.  K-9 helps channel power from the black hole to Eve’s ship (and I am unashamed to say, when K-9 announced his mission was finished and he reappeared in Sarah Jane’s attic, I felt giddy and maybe a little teary-eyed with excitement… it happens.  I’m sensitive, ok!?) Ship, Eve’s mirror-speaking guardian and um… ship…  recharges and she, Eve and the odd match of Sam (a lonely boy who lost his family) and Harry (the caretaker of the park) all leave for new worlds as a new family.  (And maybe a spinoff series, in a parallel universe!) I did wonder how Sarah Jane will explain these two people going missing, but again, best not to ruin the lovely vibe!  But before she leaves, Ship gives Sarah Jane (and the audience) memories of her past including some scenes from Classic Who and a hint of the future where the Doctor comes back.  Then she contradicts that future by making Rani’s earlier wish come true: she wished Sarah Jane and company would leave her alone.   And that’s what happened.  Sarah Jane, Clyde, and Luke vanish and Rani grows old alone.  The end.  Well, no… 

In 2059, we learn that the boy, Adam, is the child of Sam and Eve.  He has come back to make things right.  (Adam and Eve both have red eyes, I’ll throw in… just, you know, to see if you’re paying attention.)  History is made right, Rani gets to live her life and we see future Rani in Sarah Jane’s attic with her children and grandchildren coming to visit.  Man, what a happy episode.  I felt like it was Christmas!  And as the episode ends, the audience has something to look forward to: the Doctor is returning!  What wonders will that bring?   ML

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