Mark Of The Rani: Doctor Who: Season 22
Mark Of The Rani SYNOPSIS:
It's the beginning of the industrial revolution ans someone is interfering with the Luddite population, draining the sleeping chemical from their minds leaving the victims violent and uncontrollable, on the verge of revolution. The Doctor and Peri land here in 18th century Northern England, he is looking forward to meeting George Stephenson, inventor of the steam engine but the Luddite riots are now spiraling out of control.
Having escaped death on Sarn, the Master has followed the Doctor for final revenge and is looking to advance Earth science two hundred years early so the Doctors favourite planet will destroy itself. Both Time Lords have not reckoned on fellow Time Lady the Rani being there. An adversary of both she is the one conducting experiments stealing chemicals from human brains for her own needs.
The Master blackmails the Rani into helping him destroy the Doctor, she only wants to continue her amoral experiments despite the detriment to the Luddites. The Doctor and Peri with the help of Luke Ward strive to protect Stephenson and other visiting genius' so they course of the Industrial Revolution will not be diverted and the Doctor has to find a means to quell the destructive Luddites before the Master uses them.
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Mark Of The Rani DETAILS:
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Mark Of The Rani CAST & CREW
Colin Baker (Sixth Doctor)
Nicola Bryant (Peri Brown)
Anthony Ainley — The Master
Kate O'Mara — The Rani
Terence Alexander — Lord Ravensworth
Gawn Grainger — George Stephenson
Peter Childs — Jack Ward
Gary Cady — Luke Ward
William Ilkley — Tim Bass
Hus Levent — Edwin Green
Kevin White — Sam Rudge
Martyn Whitby — Drayman
Sarah James, Cordelia Ditton — Women
Richard Steele — Guard
Production Staff for Serial 6X:
Writers - Pip & Jane Baker
Director - Sarah Hellings
Script editor - Eric Saward
Producer John Nathan-Turner
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Mark Of The Rani REVIEWS
From the stuffy Punishment dome of Varos to the sweeping slag heaps of 17th century Northern England for...the Mark Of The Rani!
The first tale of the Rani really had something going for it, a lot of potential. But somehow Mark Of The Rani loses it's way and just sort of…fizzes out. It needed an extra something and that does not mean the Master! He was the last thing this story needed. Why resurrect him? Mark Of The Rani is the story where I really thought he was just a pain in the arse, he didn't need to be there, his fate in Planet Of Fire was a fitting exit after the 6 stories he chalked up and the explanation he uses when appearing in this is "that I'm indestructible" is how he escaped being roasted alive in front of our eyes is the best the the script editor can deliver - then he needs to be shot! If anything give the Rani a nasty male companion, maybe an ordinary Gallifreyan or something as her assistant. But JN-T obviously thought old enemies put bums on seats, let's drag in Anthony Ainley and give him a new contract for 3 years.
In Mark Of The Rani he even disguises himself as a scarecrow and hangs around, waiting for the Doctor & Peri to show up! How did he know they were going to be there or had he been hanging around there for about 10 or 100 years? At least the writers should have put in that he has a homing beacon on board the Doctor's TARDIS!! He's my main bone of contention and the fact he was just added on to do the bad guy stuff, has no real motivation for being there (except for trying to stop the industrial revolution -crap!!) and really acts as never before like a panto, moustache twirling villain who even totally shits the Rani by his mere presence and forcing her to do stuff cause hes got her phial of sleeping potion is a bad come down for the Doctor's arch nemesis. Think the Rani was justified kneeing the Master in the balls at the end of the story. The Rani is actually a really good concept, not an evil Time Lord per se but just an amoral scientist who goes about her experiments without giving a toss to the results on others. Plus she even seems cleverer than the Doctor.
The Mark Of The Rani moves along with a bit of mystery as to what she's up to but once that's established that she's stealing the chemical in the human brain that promotes sleep to more easily control the population of the planet she rules. What is this? Like Azmael there suddenly seems to be a growing majority of Time Lords becoming rulers of other planets! And who are her population that they can't sleep? Not explained enough. Then the rest of the story sort of meanders early in part 3 of the Aussie version to the conclusion through a number of 'revenge' set pieces with the Master blackmailing the Rani into helping him off the Doctor & Peri. The plastic tree transformations were embarrassing and the one that possessed Luke turns into has the ability to move his arms still even though they've been turned into branches? Why not squeeze him into the Tardis as another new companion? The Doctor, Peri & tree man!
The Tardis team are still bickering too and more than in Vengeance On Varos. At least Peri's performance is top notch but the Doctor still seems to have vestiges of being a prick about him. Funny thing was they get along in the location bits and only seem to bicker in the studio parts of Mark Of The Rani. If only the Doctor had chucked aside his Jacket for the whole show and gone around dressed in his miner's coat to blend in more it would've been a nice touch. You'll like this Grob, apparently a dog had shat on the pile of BBC dirt to be used as makeup without the props man knowing. This was then handed to Colin who unknowingly rubbed it onto his face.
Apart from the plastic tree, the production values are high, the normal BBC competence in getting a realistic 17th feel with costumes and makeup and the location filming in a 17th mining village all help the production. The performances are all ok from the supporting cast, including Lord Ravensworth and the others, although apart from Luke and George Stevenson none really get involved in proceedings for you to care about them. Kate O'Mara chews up the scenery giving a believable and charismatic performance as the Rani and you'd probably do her as she's in pretty good shape for a 46 year old! Pity the whole story is uneven and that the final "confrontation" in the mine is just a damp squib…the directing is inventive, pity we couldn't see what Sarah Hellings could really do. Give Mark Of The Rani about a 5.7/10 (if you Grob adjust it 7.3)
Jip and Pain Baker are two writers who made a name for themselves writing Space 1999 and various soaps and a couple of very bad films. They also (in the future of this series) write another couple of very bad episodes of Doctor Who. However, in their debut Who story we see all their tricks of their trade; overly complicated scenes full of scientific jargon that go nowhere, plots that make no sense, story lines that don't hold up and - always, ALWAYS - something to do with brains. Brains in jars, giant brains, extracting brains, the Bakers have a brain fetish which starts here in Mark Of The Rani.
But if you don't own a brain then thats okay. Cos the Master is back - fucking great. Firstly, didn't he DIE in Planet of Fire? Didn't we see him barbecued to death? Didn't he twist and scream in agony that reminded us of ourselves whenever we saw him inflicted on our TV screens? And here he is again, this time dressed as a scarecrow. For no reason. And he has a plan that involves.....obviously something convoluted and idiotic. And involving the Doctor. And - wait for it - taking over the world. Leaving aside that one dimensional and worthless character we now come to the Sixth Doctor who is also one dimensional and worthless. Moving on again we come to..........
..........THE RANI. Now HERE is something worthy of some attention in the otherwise dreadful season 22. Now, the Rani actually has a plan and unlike the Master its actually had some thought put into it although it does involve brains. But the REAL reason I like the Rani is she is an absolute MILF!!! Okay, I do have a bit of a MILF fetish going on, but she does have a slender neck you could suck on all day, a pair of very tight leather pants and a freakin' great pair of bazoombas. At this point I can already see Moderator Tim shaking his head and saying "Oh dear!" but this IS the Colin Baker era so when something good comes along one had better savour it. As a character she is more than a match for the Doctor in a way that the Master never is, has been, or will be. She trades all manner of barbs with him and even puts the impotent Black Penguin in his place.
In addition to this, she has a really kick-arse Tardis that looks so cool, subtle and much better than someone else's Tardis interior that its a pity that the Doctor (or the production team come to that) didn't pinch it and use it for the remainder of the series. Clearly her desktop theme is working cos it really does suit her character.
Take a look kids.... this is the Rani and that is probably her Tardis behind her. But check the neck, leather pants and bazoobie-zoobies.
If Mark Of The Rani featured just the Doctor and the Rani it would have been good. The Master is just - as always - superfluous and one does wonder that in all the galaxies in all the universes and all the timezones throughout history on all the planets in all the solar systems..... somehow three Time Lords ended up on the same planet in the same time period in the same location FOR THREE SEPERATE REASONS!!!! WHAT ARE THE BLOODY ODDS OF THAT???? Its like the time at our holiday place we had in Bairnsdale; there were 100 acres of open land to choose from yet somehow my father accidentally hammers a pole for the bird feeder right through the one point on the entire property where the gas line criss-crossed with the water pipe. As with three Time Lords, that takes fucking effort!
In summing up, sure its a plot that makes virtually no sense, and it does have the Master in it, and Colin Baker really hasn't got a handle on whatever he thinks he's doing, but it does have one redeeming feature; and that's the Rani. And I reckon if they whacked her in a pair of black thigh high boots I'd probably rate this season 22 story a bloody great 500/10.
But I can't.
So its an 8/10
Although, Mark Of The Rani isn't that bad, and could be a hell of a lot better if one thing was removed.
We're back to the main theme of season 22 - include something that is superfluous thus over complicating the plot. While The Master was the original "baddie" written for this one, it's The Rani's story that drives the plot, and it's The Master that really lets this down.
For starters, why on earth is he… well… on earth? And dressed as a scarecrow? The onscreen notes don't even know why he was dressed as a scarecrow! And why aren't we told how he escaped the fire on Sarn? Apparently the novel tells us that the fires helped restore him - which certainly isn't what we saw on screen, and is probably why Saward didn't want it in the final script. And OK, his plan really is to just kill the Doctor (again), but his further plan doesn't make sense… He wants the meeting of the inventors to go ahead so that industrial revolution speeds up and Earth advances quickly so he can take it over and rule the universe… and the Rani can visit and take sleepy brain fluid from as many earthlings as she likes… right… sounds like a good plan, except for part 3 - "take over earth"… now, you've never been successful on that, and now with Earth getting smarter quicker, all of a sudden you'll be able to take it over easier… he is quite good at looking at people's necks and saying "Mark of the Rani" though.
On the other hand, the Rani storyline is great! The reason she was exiled from Gallifrey is a bit pissy (her monster rats attacked Rassilon's pet cat?) - but the rest of her story all makes perfect sense. Apparently originally JNT suggested that the Master have an assistant much like the Doctor (who wouldn't want to travel the universe with an evil tyrant?) - and then the idea grew into another renegade/exiled Time Lord… and then grew into even having her own name in the title. Visiting earth to take out the sleepy brain fluid during periods of time when there's huge violence is a great idea - and one where she can get by undetected by the Time Lords quite easily. Her chemical tricks are quite cool too - way better than the Master's old hypnotising rope.
So they knew that her story was the driving force behind this one - so why not just write out the Master completely? Or if he was contracted to appear, maybe she could have conjured something up towards the end of Mark Of The Rani to bring him into it (rebuilding him from Sarn somehow - maybe she could have kept him in a jar in her TARDIS?) to battle the Doctor in the finale? That would have made the ending a lot better - unfortunately the ending we got was muddled and pretty shit… and that was basically because we were trying to accommodate way too much. Take out The Master's bizarre plan (why did they decide it was a good idea to turn Stephenson into a tree again? Wasn't his genius going to help the Master take over the world?) and we might have got a nice showdown between the Doctor and The Rani, while Peri, who all of a sudden is a botanist (?) could work away in the background with a cure. (apparently the cure does work - my parents use valerian to cure jetlag!)
Production wise the look and feel of Mark Of The Rani is fantastic. Obviously the BBC are at their best with period costume dramas - and having an extra week of location shooting really helps to make a very watchable story. However, it would have been nice if someone had told Sarah Hellings (who is she??) that when the Master fires his TCE, it turns the victim into a little doll… apparently she didn't know that, and just had the victims disappearing. Surely a Producer, Script editor… even Anthony Ainley should have been able to tell her! In fact, why wasn't it in the script? I don't hate Pip and Jane's scripts as much as a lot of people do (with one exception) - but it would have been nice to have the Doctor and Peri maybe find a dog doll after he blasted it? Pretty careless… you'd wonder why she's directing a Dr Who story if she doesn't know some of the basics.
On the plus side though, the Mark Of The Rani music is excellent - especially the intro. It takes a while, but it gives you a great feel for the time and the "shithouseness" of the conditions for the miners… and the Rani's TARDIS is great too. Not convinced about the use of the dinosaurs - makes sense that she might be experimenting with them, but it feels a bit tacked on at the end there… which is a result of having too much to wind up thanks to the irrelevant Master plot… so that's not the Director's fault.
Performances are all fine. I know Ainley's Master is hammier than a ham sandwich on ham - but hey, we all know what we're getting with the Master now… and The Rani has some pretty nice digs at him along the way. Kate O'Mara's Rani is fantastic - and you can see why they wanted to get her back. She a lot more no nonsense than The Master - she has a lot more focus and appears a much more real threat… until she meets up with him! Baker and Bryant are both fine here too - they're constantly bickering of course and there's still the blustery boisterousness (pretty sure that's not a word), but you can see how they're trying to do it in a "he's a loveable fool" way… I still reckon they're trying to make him just like a white Bill Cosby! All the other guest cast work well - nobody stands out as being bad.
So how do you score Mark Of The Rani? Half the premise is great - and the new baddie is very solid… it's just ruined by the Master and some bad script editing (or lack of editing)… definitely a wasted opportunity… I'd like to give Mark Of The Rani a pass for the good ideas and nice realisation, but the ending is a let down…