Unearthly Times

The Sarah Jane Adventures

The Mad Woman in the Attic


N.B. there might (or might not) be spoilers in this article!

Those who’ve come to The Mad Woman in the Attic looking for a huge overarching feminist re-reading of the whole of The Sarah Jane Adventures‘ oeuvre might feel they’ve been misled by its Sandra Gilbert & Susan Gubar referencing title. Unsurprisingly, the story turns out neither to be Jane Eyre nor a feminist literary history, which is not to say that The Mad Woman in the Attic does not try to pack a lot into its 50 or so minutes.

“You wanted to meet the mad old woman of Bannerman Road. Well, come closer then. Take a look.”

Old Rani, The Mad Woman in the Attic, Part One

Old Rani is clearly no mad Bertha (although had I the time, there might be something worth writing about why the decision to make Rani the one whiling away her dotage in Sarah Jane’s attic is an intriguing one, given she, similar to Jane Eyre‘s Bertha Mason, could also be considered a product of British colonialism — but I digress!). While the framing device of her describing how she came to be the eponymous attic dweller is not original, it remains an effective one, even if you guess well before the end that it’s a false future she’s living in.

On top of that, there’s an old friend Rani’s been blabbing to who we’ve seen neither hide nor hair of previously, a friendly/not-so-friendly alien, similarly, an is-he-good/is-he-bad Scooby Doo caretaker of a disused fairground (who falls into Clyde’s verbal trap with ridiculous ease), the return of K-9, Mr Smith’s being put-out by said return and a “real” ending for Rani that also crams a lot of detail in. Elsewhere, running around with yer mate’s Mum is every bit as odd as Clyde and Sarah Jane make it out to be here!

So, like the weighty Gilbert & Gubar tome whose name it checks, The Mad Woman in the Attic is perhaps a bit over-ambitious and muddled at times. It perhaps doesn’t always hang together quite as well as it should — but you shouldn’t condemn it for ambition and, on the plus side, The Mad Woman in the Attic does gives Rani a chance to take centre stage. Judging by that coda, she was going to end up in Sarah Jane’s attic no matter what!