The debut story of Sylvester McCoy’s Doctor is… not great. While thankfully it’s no Twin Dilemma, it’s a bit of a mess with characters running around seemingly just to eat some screen time up. Still, I don’t hate it, in fact the next two stories are so bad that this and the fourth and final Season 24 story “Dragonfire” look like good in comparison! (though trust me, this isn’t actually good…) Let’s take a look then, at Time and the Rani.
The Rani has returned after her last encounter with the Doctor, with yet another malicious scientific scheme.
Taking advantage of the post-regenerative trauma the recently regenerated and unstable Doctor is going through, the Rani hopes to achieve control of an approaching asteroid composed entirely of strange matter.
Can the Doctor figure out he is being used for the Rani’s evil experiment, and what is behind the door the Rani won’t allow the Doctor past?
*spoilers appear from here on out!*
Cast of Characters:
The Rani disguises herself and Mel, and realises what a horrible fate that is…
The Doctor (Sylvester McCoy) – The Doctor has regenerated, but before he can even get a grasp on who his new self is he’s being manipulated by The Rani… or is that Mel?
Mel (Bonnie Langford) – Mel wakes in the TARDIS alone, unaware her friend has completely changed his appearance, or even where in the universe she is… still, it’s not long before she’s nearly killed, so… some things never change at least!
The Rani (Kate O’Mara) – The Rani has a plan, a plan that needs a kind of super intelligence the likes of which the universe has never seen… Time to start brain hunting!
Ikona (Mark Greenstreet) – Ikona is the only of his species that has rebelled against The Rani’s control, believing she must be overcome, no matter the potential cost…
Beyus (Donald Pickering) – Beyus is the leader of the Lakertyan people and therefore is serving under The Rani directly, making sure his people survive no matter the cost.
Urak (Richard Guantlett) – Urak is a Tetrap, a species of bat-like creatures who serve the Rani and take great pleasure in seeing the Lakertyan people suffer.
Sylvester McCoy gets to prat about a bit for the duration, and while I wouldn’t want a pure juvenile comedic Doctor all the time, some of his terrible puns and getting old sayings confused bits did make me smirk.
I like the idea of The Rani taking advantage of the now firmly established idea of a post-regeneration crisis, and the sight of usually cold and calculating Rani having to dress up and act like Mel leads to some good comedy (though how she got such accurate data on her I have no idea…)
Yes, please cover her mouth to stop her screaming! Thank you.
First thing first, the story! It’s just so haphazardly put together! At the start The Rani wants The Doctor to fix her machine, then she’s creating a giant brain and wants The Doctor to contribute to it along with Earth’s elite minds (from the recent past, which is odd when you’re talking about geniuses from all over the universe and from any time period, you’d think there would be others to select…), then she’s doing it because of a large asteroid of “strange matter” that she needs the super brain to calculate how to send it into a sun and capture the energy, all the while the Lakertyan people are your regular innocent species being controlled by the evil Tetraps, then they’re a lazy species who are too reliant on their “pleasure dome” and if they step out of line they get attacked by killed insects in a disco ball… It feels like several ideas that just got threw together.
The costume on Urak and the Tetraps aren’t actually that bad, in a cheesy 80s TV way, but the idea of using computer effects in 1987 was WAY too ambitious. The opening scene of the TARDIS being attacked in the vortex is pretty awful, and the weird effect of one of The Rani’s traps being people being caught in the red orb and then being spun around and exploded is not only weird as hell, but once again looks pretty bad…
Mel is at her helpless, squealing worst here (well, maybe Paradise Towers is worse… in every category imaginable) the scene where she gets caught in one of the crap-looking spinning red orbs of death it’s ear-grating and goes on for ages…
Now Beyus may be a bit of a knob for somehow not believing The Rani won’t wipe out his species when she’s finished, but I still shake my head thinking about Ikona’s last scene, where The Doctor gives him the antidote to stop his people being killed by the killer insects, and he breaks the vile on the floor, declaring that they have to fight for themselves from now on… Erm, yeah, great and everything, but I’m pretty sure you should’ve taken the antidote and then declared that from then on your people will look after themselves, not risked many of your people’s lives by trying to get rid of the nest without the means to protect yourself! Idiot.
The Rani is a fun, if straight-forwardly cheesy, villain.
The audio story “The Brink of Death” leads directly into this, which should be obvious given it’s the Sixth Doctor’s regeneration story, but given its retroactive nature I thought it was worth mentioning again!
The Rani is making her second appearance here, after appearing in the Sixth Doctor TV story “The Mark of the Rani”.
The idea of collecting geniuses in order to create a perfect intelligence was sort-of the plot to Fourth Doctor half-finished (and later completed via animation) TV story “Shada”. The ending, of The Doctor connecting to the intelligence and influencing it negatively from within, is the same at least.
Time and the Rani is a bit of a mess. It’s plot is weak and all over the place, and some of the one off characters and Mel are hard to take. McCoy’s confused and “silly” Doctor is oddly fun, in this story anyway (no so much the next two) and there are some fun scenes, but overall… if it weren’t for the significance of the Seventh Doctor’s debut, I’d recommend anyone to skip it. Now it’s only for the diehards wanting to watch all of the series… In terms of this marathon, it’s at least no Twin Dilemma, I can confirm that much! That means it does one better…