‘THE MARK OF THE RANI’
Please feel free to comment on my review.
Lords and Luddites
It’s the Doctor and Peri vs. the Master and the Rani here!
‘The Mark of the Rani’ is the third TV adventure shown in Season 22 of ‘Doctor Who’! It’s a 2 x 45 minute adventure by Pip and Jane Baker, who make their first contribution to the TV series, and it stars Colin Baker as the Sixth Doctor with Nicola Bryant as Peri confronting the Rani and the Master.
By this point in the TV series, audiences were still getting used to a new Doctor in Colin Baker. His first season was already underway and he had already established in becoming a brash, arrogant and unlikeable Doctor. But as Season 22 developed, there were hints of moral attributes in the character.
It’s a shame Colin Baker never got to live his dream in outliving Tom Baker’s seven-year record of a ‘Doctor Who’ era. It would’ve been interesting to see how his Doctor developed from being brash and unlikeable to compassionate and likeable. Thankfully the Big Finish audio stories make up for it.
When commissioned to write a ‘Doctor Who’ story by producer John Nathan-Turner, husband and wife writing duo Pip and Jane Baker were asked to introduce a new Time Lord character into the mix. They eventually created the evil Time Lady scientist, the Rani, played so wonderfully by Kate O’Mara.
Pip and Jane Baker decided to deliver a historical adventure for the Sixth Doctor and Peri to contend with when facing the Rani and the Master in tow. The story’s historical setting is in the Industrial Revolution and takes place in the mining village of Killingworth in the early 19th century. It’s superb!
I do enjoy the historical adventures in ‘Doctor Who’ that mix in science-fiction elements. They add a sense of realism to the piece whilst also adding something unusual and weird. Pip and Jane Baker deliver a compelling pseudo-historical ‘Doctor Who’ adventure. I like how the story progresses throughout.
In the story, the Doctor’s TARDIS gets drawn off course. The Doctor and Peri were meant to be going to Kew Gardens. Instead they end up in early 19th century Killingworth where the Doctor and Peri find themselves in the midst of a Luddite revolution. But there’s more to this rebellion than it seems.
For one thing, the once peaceful men of Killingworth have become hyper-active and overly violent. As the Doctor and Peri discover what’s going on, it’s all the work of the Rani who with the help of the Master causes trouble in the Industrial Revolution. Can the Doctor stop these two rogue Time Lords?
I studied the Industrial Revolution in history lessons at school, so I was familiar with the period whilst watching this adventure. The Luddite Rebellions also did happen when workers smashed machinery in the opposition of progression. Working men feared their jobs were being taken over by machines.
It was enjoyable to see how the Rani makes use and advantage of these historical events with her own scientific experiments by removing the chemical to promote sleep in male human workers. It’s pretty cruel and as it’s unveiled in this tale, this is what makes the Rani’s character tick in being amoral.
This ‘Doctor Who’ TV adventure gave me inspiration in terms of writing my own stories. The concept of removing the chemical in human bodies to promote sleep is what I had utilised to develop my villains, the Dwaxi, in how they behaved in stories such as ‘Doom of the Daleks’ and ‘Dawn of the Dwaxi’.
Kate O’Mara stars as the villainous Rani, making her first appearance in the ‘Doctor Who’ series. The Rani is a character that couldn’t have worked with or without the Master being there. But Kate O’Mara excels in the role, bringing a sense of menace and charm that was easy to enjoy and loathe.
It’s interesting how the Rani works as a villain compared to the Master. For one thing, the Rani isn’t set out to conquer the universe. She simply wants to conduct her scientific experiments and has an amoral view to life. It is something the Doctor despises, despite admiring the scientific skills she has.
Anthony Ainley returns as the villainous Master in this adventure. It was nice to see the Master back and Anthony Ainley is one of my favourite actors to play the character. However I do feel that the Master is somewhat eclipsed, especially when he’s balancing the story’s villainous role with the Rani.
It was nice to see how the Master and the Rani interact with each other here. The Master claims to be an admirer, but the Rani is rather dismissive of his megalomaniac plans to conquer the universe. In fact, the two mirror the Sixth Doctor and Peri’s relationship throughout this when watching them.
Speaking of which, Colin Baker is great as the Doctor in this adventure. There are times when the Sixth Doctor can be arrogant and brash to Peri early on in the story. But there are times when he can come across as being very compassionate and caring, especially when working out what is going on.
The Doctor does stand out too well in his technicolour costume that doesn’t blend well with his 19th century surroundings. It was funny when the Doctor disguised himself with dirt to be one of the workers. I liked that moment when he took against a moral stance against the Rani and the Master.
Nicola Bryant stars as Peri in this adventure. I like Peri in ‘Doctor Who’, although I’m not a fan of that brightly coloured costume she wears in the story. It feels less of the 19th century period and I know Nicola isn’t a fan of that costume either. I liked how Peri interacts with the Doctor in this adventure.
At this point in their relationship, the two tend to squabble with each other in the TARDIS and sometimes the Doctor gets on Peri’s nerves when he ventures off into dangerous territory. But she clearly cares for the Doctor and the two do have a strange banter between them that’s affectionate.
‘The Mark of the Rani’ was directed by Sarah Hellings who makes her first and only contribution to the series. I like the period piece direction Sarah Helling undertakes with this story, especially with the usage of the Blists Hill Victorian Town and the Coalport China Museum as filming locations here.
The opening scene of the male workers at the mines of Killingworth was beautifully directed for audiences to see. Even Jonathan Gibbs’ incidental music helped to create the effect of beauty and melancholy in that opening scene. The incidental music for this story is one of the most memorable.
I like the set design for the Rani’s TARDIS interior in this story. It looks more impressive than the Doctor’s TARDIS interior in the series as much as I like it. Why couldn’t the Doctor have a TARDIS interior like the Rani’s in the classic series? The new series interiors of the Doctor’s TARDIS make up!
The story’s guest cast also includes Terence Alexander as Lord Ravensworth. I’ve seen Terence Alexander before as he played the first Malcolm in the BBC sitcom series, ‘Terry and June’. There’s also Gawn Grainger as George Stephenson. Both Ravensworth and Stephenson are historical figures.
There’s Peter Childs as Jack Ward and Gary Cady as his son, Luke Ward. Jack Ward is one of the Rani’s victims who has his chemical of sleep removed, making him go hyper-active and violent. Luke Ward suffers under the Master’s influence for a time and he very soon ends up as a sad-looking tree.
The other inhabitants of Killingsworth include William Ilkley as Tim Bass; Hus Levent as Edwin Green; Kevin White as Sam Rudge; Martyn Whitby as Drayman; Sarah James and Cordelia Ditton as two women and Richard Steele as a Guard. Some of these become the victims of the Rani’s experiments.
The DVD special features are as follows. There’s the making-of documentary, ‘Lords and Luddites’, with cast and crew interviews; the ‘Now and Then’ featurette looking into the locations of ‘The Mark of the Rani’; deleted scenes and a ‘Playing with Time’ interview with the composer Jonathan Gibbs.
There’s an information text commentary option to enjoy; a ‘Radio Times Listings’ PDF of the story; a ‘1985 Dr. Who Annual’ PDF and a ‘Saturday Superstore’ item. There’s also a photo gallery of the story and a ‘Blue Peter’ item. There’s an Easter Egg to look out for on the DVD via the main menu.
There are some audio options including a commentary with Colin Baker, Nicola Bryant and Kate O’Mara. There’s also an isolated music score option by composer Jonathan Gibbs and an alternative soundtrack for ‘Part One’ with original music composed by John Lewis who sadly died in production.
‘The Mark of the Rani’ is a well-directed, well-written piece for ‘Doctor Who’. I enjoyed the historical period setting for this story with the Industrial Revolution and really enjoyed Colin Baker’s Doctor alongside Nicola Bryant’s Peri, Kate O’Mara’s Rani and Anthony Ainley’s Master. Good work all around!
‘The Mark of the Rani’ rating – 8/10
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