‘TIME AND THE RANI’
Please feel free to comment on my review.
The Beginning of the Seventh Doctor
The TARDIS gets hit by rainbow beams in space!
This must be a Colin Baker story! I mean, look! The Sixth Doctor is there in the TARDIS with Mel at the beginning of the story, except he’s lying face down on the floor. The TARDIS meanwhile gets dragged to the planet Lakertya. The doors open, and Kate O’Mara as the Rani enters with a big gun.
“Leave the girl! It’s the man I want!” she says. Once the Rani’s out, a big hairy monster walks in and approaches the Doctor. It’s still Colin Baker on the floor! It’s Colin Baker! It’s Colin Baker! The monster turns him over! It’s Colin…wait hang on! He’s changing, hey? He’s changing! He’s changing…
He’s changed! It’s Sylvester McCoy! This must be a Sylvester McCoy story! Of course it is! It’s ‘Time and the Rani’, the first story of the Seventh Doctor era of ‘Doctor Who’ on TV! Not the greatest beginning to Sylvester McCoy’s era admittedly. The opening scene with the regeneration was weird!
‘Time and the Rani’ was made at a time when ‘Doctor Who’ was in turmoil. It was the first story of Season 24 of the classic series and was shown in 1987. Beforehand, ‘Doctor Who’ went through its own trials when receiving pressure by the BBC bosses and was continuing to do so during this point.
The reason for Colin Baker’s absence during the regeneration between him and Sylvester McCoy was because Colin Baker wanted no part of it. He’d been treated badly by the BBC bosses during the previous season. Thankfully, Colin Baker’s end is made up in ‘The Sixth Doctor: The Last Adventure’.
Here in ‘Time and the Rani’, this is where Sylvester McCoy begins his era as the Seventh Doctor in ‘Doctor Who’. And it’s a pretty rocky start really. Not only did he have to don the blonde curly wig for that regeneration scene, Sylvester needed to work out who his Doctor was and to make his mark.
This four-part story is by Pip and Jane Baker, who had previously contributed to the series in ‘The Mark of the Rani’ and ‘The Trial of a Time Lord’. This story was written in an emergency when producer John Nathan-Turner was forced to stay on and he had no script-editor to help at that time.
It was after ‘Time and the Rani’ was commissioned that new script-editor Andrew Cartmel joined the production of ‘Doctor Who’ in 1987. Andrew Cartmel’s involvement in ‘Time and the Rani’ is limited and it wasn’t the type of story that he wanted to begin his tenure as a script-editor for the TV series.
‘Time and the Rani’ sees the Doctor brought to Lakertya by the Rani to help her in her terrible scientific plans. The Doctor struggles to get a grip on himself, as he tries to find out who he is. With the Rani causing trouble and giving him amnesia, it will take a while before he becomes his new self.
I have to say ‘Time and the Rani’ is my least favourite story out of Season 24 altogether. As much as I admire Pip and Jane Baker’s writing in ‘Doctor Who’, this one didn’t sit well for me. It’s not that it’s uninteresting, but it lacked inspiration and as a new beginning for a new Doctor, it wasn’t as exciting.
In terms of how the Seventh Doctor is developed at the start of his new era, it tended to be dodgy. Sylvester McCoy does the best he can with experimenting with the script he’s been given. His initial interpretation of the Doctor was to be based on Patrick Troughton and with hints of Charlie Chaplin.
This isn’t the manipulative and cunning Seventh Doctor we see at the beginning of his era as he would become later on. The Doctor at this point is more of a clown and very impish, based on Sylvester McCoy’s pastiche in comedy. Some of the comedic elements went a bit too far in this one.
I did enjoy Sylvester’s performance as the Doctor in this story. But some of the initial ideas given to him to play with at this early stage of his era were a little questionable. The mixing-up of words in familiar proverbs by the Doctor were a little dodgy if amusing and I don’t think that really caught on.
There are moments when Sylvester gets to play his spoons during ‘Time and the Rani’. Whilst I like Sylvester’s spoon-playing at times in the TV series, I don’t think his spoon-playing suits well with his first story, especially when he gets to playing the spoons on Kate O’Mara’s front for no good reason.
Sylvester McCoy wears Colin Baker’s outfit for most of ‘Part One’ of the story. I’m pleased he eventually got out of that costume and eventually wore white jacket and panama hat outfit he’s well-known for wearing. The white jacket suits him, even if that question-mark pullover’s dodgy. 😀
Bonnie Langford stars as Mel, the Doctor’s companion in this story. I wish I could say Mel is great in this ‘Doctor Who’ story, although she gets on my nerves when she screams a lot during the TV series. This happens in this tale when she steps into a bubble-ball trap and has a Tetrap jump at her.
I did like it when Mel meets the Seventh Doctor for the first time and questions who he says he is. It’s a lovely moment when Mel gradually realises and comes to accept that Sylvester McCoy is the Doctor. It was funny when they were fighting each other at the beginning and Mel’s very acrobatic.
Kate O’Mara returns as the villainous Rani in her second appearance in ‘Doctor Who’. I enjoyed Kate’s performance as the Rani in this story. She’s clearly different to the Master, since she’s very ruthless and Kate enjoys playing her just as much as Pip and Jane Baker enjoy writing their creation.
However the downside with the Rani in this is that for some strange reason, after managing to give the Doctor amnesia, she dresses up as Mel. Why?! I mean, it’s a weak interpretation of Mel anyway. She doesn’t look like her, despite wearing a wig; raising her voice and walking like Bonnie Langford.
The story’s guest cast are as follows. There’s Mark Greenstreet as Ikona; Donald Pickering (who was in ‘The Keys of Marinus’ and ‘The Faceless Ones’) as Beyus; Wanda Ventham (who was in ‘The Faceless Ones’ and ‘Image of the Fendahl’) as Faroon; Karen Clegg as Sarn and Richard Gauntlett as Urak the Tetrap who worships the Rani.
‘Time and the Rani’ also introduces the new title sequence by Oliver Elmes and the new title music by Keff McCulloch. I wasn’t keen on the new title sequence and music at first, but it grew on me. There are some new computer-generated effects introduced for this ‘Doctor Who’ story especially.
This story and the whole of Season 24 has been criticised heavily for its comedic content. I agree with this, since ‘Doctor Who’ needs to have that balance of comedy and drama in them. It’s such a shame, as some of the stories of Season 24 are interesting in concepts and this story is no exception.
The DVD special features are as follows. There’s the making-of documentary ‘The Last Chance Saloon’ and documentaries including ‘7D FX’; ‘Helter-Skelter’; ‘Lakertya’ and ‘Hot Gossip’. There’s an ‘On Location’ news report with interviews with Sylvester McCoy, Bonnie Langford and Kate O’Mara.
There’s a ‘Blue Peter’ item; a photo gallery of the story; a commentary with Sylvester McCoy, Bonnie Langford and writers Pip and Jane Baker; an info-text commentary option to enjoy and a ‘Radio Times Listings’ PDF of the story.
There’s also a ‘coming soon’ trailer for the ‘Revisitations’ DVD box set. It contains ‘The Talons of Weng-Chaing’ with Tom Baker and Louise Jameson, ‘The Caves of Androzani’ with Peter Davison and Nicola Bryant and ‘The TV Movie’ with Paul McGann and Daphne Ashbrook. There are also three Easter eggs to look out for on this DVD disc.
‘Time and the Rani’ is one of those weird ‘Doctor Who’ stories that I wouldn’t be in a hurry to watch over and over again. It’s a rocky start for Sylvester McCoy’s Doctor and introduces him as being more foolish and a clown compared to later on. But I enjoyed ‘Time and the Rani’ in a slightly surreal way.
‘Time and the Rani’ rating – 5/10
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