Time And The Rani: Doctor Who: Season 24
Time And The Rani SYNOPSIS:
Attacked by strange rays the Tardis is forced into landing on Lakertya. The crash triggers the Doctors sixth regeneration and the Rani has the unconscious Doctor taken prisoner. Mel is taken from the Tardis by a native lakertyan called Ikona. The confused post regenerative seventh Doctor is easily fooled by the Rani's impersonation of Mel to fix her laboratory equipment under the pretense the Doctor is carrying out a vital experiment.
Mel and Ikona dodge the many traps the Rani has laid on the surface and avoid the Rani's servants the bat like Tetraps and manage to rescue the Doctor and he realizes he has been tricked. He stirs up a rebellion among the indolent and subjugated lakertyans with Ikona's assistance who want to be rid of the Rani but are too afraid to oppose her for fear of reprisal.
The Doctor and Mel uncover the Rani's scheme to create a giant time manipulator out of the planet using the mind power of a dozen of the greatest scientific minds she has already captured throughout time. The Doctor must neutralize the traps already set in place to control the populace and prevent becoming part of the Rani's collection of scientific minds before she manages to complete her experiment and destroy Lakertya.
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Time And The Rani DETAILS:
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Time And The Rani CAST & CREW
Sylvester McCoy (Seventh Doctor & Sixth Doctor)
Bonnie Langford (Melanie Bush)
Kate O'Mara — The Rani
Mark Greenstreet — Ikona
Donald Pickering — Beyus
Wanda Ventham — Faroon
Karen Clegg — Sarn
Richard Gauntlett — Urak
John Segal — Lanisha
Peter Tuddenham, Jacki Webb — Special Voices
Production Staff for Serial 7D:
Writers - Pip & Jane Baker
Director - Andrew Morgan
Script editor - Andrew Cartmel
Producer - John Nathan-Turner
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Time And The Rani REVIEWS
As the Tardis rocks through it's first pre titles sequence since '81 from who-knows-where to Lakertya - all welcome the Bizarro Grob!
Time and the rani...yes, I really couldn't stand Sylvester McCoy when he first started, am more tolerant now but back then I thought he was - and in some ways still is - the worst choice of actor for the lead role of this series. He's my Colin Baker, basically a bad actor and it stands out a mile away as showcased in season 24! He has no presence, he has no discernible character for the Doctor. (although this can in many ways be attributed to the production team) he has no charisma and he does OTT panto acting in EVERYTHING he does, like rolling his "R"'s every chance he gets, plus having a non commanding voice and pronunciation with a heavy Scottish brogue and tries to work in elements from his stage act that no one knows about! Just found him so bloody annoying back when I was 16! He made Mel seem more interesting by comparison!
Now when I first picked up a Dr. Who Mag on a balmy Friday night in the Southland newsagent, must admit I was shocked when I read the news headline "It's goodbye to Colin" after two and a half years Colin Baker has decided not to return to the series" Moreover after reading the blurb he'd been fired! Sounded a bit unfair and controversial, ok was no huge Colin fan, but thought he did an ok job, despite his costume and some semi boring stories and it was a pity he had decided not to return for a regeneration and see his incarnation out! The first actor not to get a leaving story - it seemed pretty controversial at the time but can sort of see his reasons after the debacle of season 23. Would you want to return after essentially being blamed for the whole thing and ending up a scapegoat? Or for Time and The Rani? Well JNT was given the ultimatum "it's either you or Colin" so you can guess who was going to be axed.
Still after recovering from the shock of a doctor being shown the door, and seeing the squirrely 7th doctor in magazines with a weird grin on his face, least his new costume was 100% better than Colin's (well apart from the appalling question mark sweater) and apparently everything had been revamped as it should have been for season 23. Unfortunately it was - all gloss and no substance and if Colin had chosen to come back even for 4 parts of the new series really Time And The Rani would've been rated as the worst ever regeneration story and book ended the 6th Doctor with the worst opening story and worst leaving story. He can be thankful he didn't. JNT has turned down other job offers, got in a new script editor in Andrew Cartmel, cast his third Dr. in a row and has decided to re-vamp the titles, the show's logo and the theme tune for Time And the Rani.
But let's have a look, why Sylvester? He gets better later on but lacks presence and from what I can see is a fourth rate actor to Grob's scale of Colin being a third rate actor. He doesn't seem to have any TV experience. Look at David Dixon, he's the guy who played Ford Prefect in Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. This guy is short, unassuming and dark BUT has charisma, a weirdness to match Tom Baker and in every way knows how to act alien, and has tons of TV acting under his belt. Think I woulda gone him rather than unknown McCoy if you want to save the show from eventual cancellation.
Now I remember being excited to get the first look at Time And the Rani but let's first look at the title sequence - ok computer graphics, nice one but it looks like the opening to a really cheap corporate video on OH&S or something! It's 1980's hyper colours photographed large and now the Dr. is campily winking at the audience. The new logo doesn't look spooky but looks like it's advertising a new ice cream franchise. AND THE MUSIC?? We go from the ineffectual to the downright ridiculous! Where did he find Keff McCulloch??? He is without a doubt the most shit-house incidental music man ever, if you want to remove atmosphere from every single story - hire this guy!!! Bad 80's keyboard choral sounds and claps don't make a story they date it…badly. But then to let him loose on the title music??? It's like handing a child molester the keys to a kindergarten…ok maybe it's not that bad but still he takes one of the most memorable theme tunes ever created and basically wipes his arse with it…and shows it to everyone and JN-T reckons it's the best rendition ever??? He should have been shot after this season!!
Then ok what didn't work in season 23? The last episode! So let's get back those writer's, the only ones from the previous 6 years of 80's Who and get them to write the first in a brand new style but make them write a story that evokes the worst in the old style. So Time And The Rani features running around quarries for 3 episodes, cliched character's with no depth and a sudden burst of techno babble and reveal of a plot in the last episode, no proper build up, no decent narrative structure - nothing! In fairness to Cartmel he obviously hadn't been hired when JNT's favourite writer's were brought back to give us a script that resembles Phllip Martin's last effort and chuck in an old villain.
But there's a twist, let's bring back the Rani but suck away any quirks and turn her into a totally unbelievable camp character and give her Ainley's book on "how to do panto lite acting" plus give her a bouffant and a false beauty spot with glitter on it and make her outfit totally ridiculous!! Let's give her some unconvincing bat like monsters that look like ape suits with bad bat's heads on them. Ok maybe the Tetraps aren't that bad but their mouths don't move in time to their speech. Ok after what is actually a good special effects way of getting around a regeneration without having the other actor on set we're onto the first scenes with Sylvester waking up and pretending he's still the sixth Doctor. These are some of the worst acted scenes ever by a lead actor in this series…they make Colin's first scenes look almost Shakesperian! Then let's have him wander round in his predecessor's costume for a whole episode…ok he does start to try acting in some parts of part 1 but it's ruined he goes into OTT mode. Every now and then when in his own duds he tries but then does something really annoying that makes you think why did they hire this guy?
Having Mel there doesn't help as she's too one dimensional in character to carry her new leading man and too sugary coated and nice to be taken seriously! The rest of the guest cast don't come off well. Most of the cast resemble blocks of wood it feels like watching a documentary on a timber yard or a forest!! The lakertian girl is the absolute pits, the only actor trying is the one playing the young lakertian guy who tries to help the Dr. and Mel by running back and forth through a quarry between the Rani's headquarters and the Lakertain leisure centre. This must've been the worst realised alien culture ever, they sit around all day doing what? Waiting for evil panto timelord's to take them over? How does there economy work when surrounded by rock and silt? The direction for Time and the rani is at least fast paced and glossy but so is Luna Park and I don’t frequent that much either - thanks Andrew Morgan! The only saving grace of Time and the rani is that it ends. A BIG FAT 0/10 from me.
Yeah Time and The Rani did have some bits that I now don't mind, Sylvester is good at playing the spoons…but my nostalgic anger at seeing this overrides any 0.25 or .05 or even heaven help me a 1, I would give to the tiny, tiny benefits…hmmm you're right Grob it feels good to give a zero been waiting over 20 years to get that off my chest!
Firstly its written by Jip and Pain Baker who, since Mark of the Rani, have just been getting worse and worse as writers. Sure they were hired cos they write quickly, but we need something more than that. Say, for instance, a plot. And something that can be followed coherently. And some interesting dialogue. And some believable characters. And perhaps something that wouldn't alienate new viewers tuning in to see the new Doctor (like a story set on an alien planet where Mel is the only human being present). Once again, its alien characters, alien planets, alien situations and nothing for the viewer to identify with. If perhaps they had a morality tale or an allegory to something Earth based Time And The Rani could have worked. They didn't and it doesn't.
The entire plot - such as it is - of Time and the Rani can be done in one twenty five minute episode. However, since it is padded out to FOUR 25 MINUTE EPISODES then its clear to see that this isn't going to be winning the Pulitzer Prize anytime soon. In addition to this, this script was written with Colin Baker in mind just in case at the last minute he did stay. And by Allah it shows cos Time and the Rani is just cringe-worthingly bad.
By this stage of Who history, viewers are so damn used to a new actor taking over the prized title role that its lost most of its magic and no one really gives a Jill Watson about it. Hence only 5.3 million tuning in to see Sylvester McCoy doing prat falls and the Rani dressed as Mel and a giant brain. It seemed like only six short years ago that Tom went flying off the radio telescope and since then Peter cracked the shits about the lack of decent scripts and everyone worked out that Colin was a crap actor after all.
The new theme tune composed by Keff McMuffin on a plastic comb and piece of paper sounds like utter shite. There is no mystery, no atmosphere and no reason for the viewer to be hooked in. Peter Howell based his revamped tune on the Ron Grainger one, Dominic Glynn based his on Peter Howell, and now McMuffin based his on Glynn's. So the original Who score is so unidentifiable and lacking in any respect that it just shows how much JNT will change anything to keep the viewers anyway possible. Changing theme tunes, opening titles (which also look crap) and the logo (even worse) does not a decent opening make. So you gotta back it up with something else. The script doesn't exist so its up to the acting talent.
6000 applicants for the role of the Doctor and who do we get? Sylvester MCoy. Never heard of him? Nope neither had I. But he has stuffed ferrets down his trousers and hammered a six inch nail up his nose so he's undoubtedly got the credentials to play the role. On the other hand, since his background is so varied maybe he has got it in him..... He is undoubtedly got that X Factor in him that Colin Baker seriously hasn't. Whereas Colin was basically a one-note performer spending the entire time shouting and being sarcastic and bitchy and cruel, its refreshing to see someone with a bit of a lighter touch.
Also, Sylvester does an awful amount of "business" in his scenes so anything such as running down a corridor he makes a bit more interesting to watch. The other unique thing about Sylvester is his body language never quite matches up with what he is saying, and the way he says things isn't quite the same way other people do. Although he doesn't do it in Time And The Rani (or this season come to that) Sylvester does manage to balance the madness with some very dark and brooding stuff. He does have a tendency to shout a lot which isn't very convincing. Certainly his costume is a VAST improvement on Colin's but it still sadly has that designed feel to it. And those question marks just have to go!
Mel is still as bright and bubbly as ever and I'd still give her one over a nicely placed boulder somewhere in that quarry. Meanwhile, Kate O'Mara has slipped down the pack a fair way since we last saw her. I pity any actress having to impersonate Bonnie Langford and I admire any actress who can go through with it and then not phone up Equity and demand triple payment! Actually that whole plot scenario about the Rani impersonating Mel and then the Doctor tying her up with his own scarf and scooby-doo-ing it outta the laboratory is just plain shite and embarrassing to watch. Warning; don't have friends over when Time and the rani is on and claiming to be a Doctor Who fan. You don't hear the end of it.
So there you go. Another new Doctor and a new direction. Pity Time and the Rani is just so......................well, bad. One out of ten.
And I have to admit, when I read about Time And The Rani in the Sunday TV Guide (for once it wasn't the Green Guide), it made me want to tune in again. After all, Dr Who was going to be on during the Afternoon Show somewhere between You Can't do that on television, Metal Mickey, Your Mother wouldn't like it and the brilliant Degrasso… so I'd be watching anyway… who wouldn't with that line up! I think Dr Who coming back to our screens was also coupled with "Doctorin the Tardis" topping the charts - as any good Doctor Who fan would, I of course had bought the single, and that alone had sparked a little bit of nostalgic interest… come on, the home made Dalek in the video clip alone was enough to inspire!
So with the bloke who ruined it for me in 1985 gone, the old theme tune stuck in my head, and four years of no Who (I think we got seasons 24 and 25 back to back from memory?) I was ready to go.
And I wasn't disappointed!
Well, the Police box was back, and the Doctor wasn't being a prick, so it was a good start!
Sure, the new look and sound of the credits certainly seemed like the show had gone a bit "kiddish" - but I guess it all began as a kid's show, so there's no problem there really… although the theme song is a shadow of it's former self… actually, I remember that James Valentine often played Doctorin the Tardis before or after an episode, so that kind of made up for it.
Watching Time And The Rani again last night (I don't think I'd seen it in any of the re-runs) it certainly isn't as good as I remembered - but the story and tension is still not bad… hey, it's miles ahead of the rest of the season. Although I guess you can forgive Cartmel for this as he was thrown into the job and only had the Time and The Rani script in the can and no leading actor… and had little if any time to build a season… and he didn't know that much about the show to start with! He did though bring in a kind of comic book feel to the show - which I guess was what inspired the new opening graphics… I quite like them! It was something different, and it certainly gave the show a different direction… with a rocky start!
Time and the Rani was the one script they had - and in terms of concept, I think it's a stronger script than the Mark of the Rani… in terms of the dialogue though, it isn't strong at all. I guess you have to expect that in a Pip and Jane Baker script - but there was something I'd totally forgotten about… what the hell was with the non-stop mixed metaphors? The first couple were OK, but man, they got annoying very quickly… thank Christ Cartmel made sure that they didn't get into any more scripts.
Creating a "super brain" made up of the greatest brains of all time is a cool concept I reckon… and it's a nice little plot to include the Doctor as one of those great brains - just to remind us all that the Doctor is brilliant! I guess where they got themselves into trouble was in the "well what do we do with super brain" subplot… the idea of turning the planet into a time manipulator is fine - but the rubbish in between with the asteroid and the rocket is your typical Pip and Jane "we're in trouble, and we don't know how to get out of it, so let's invent some new stuff and hope we'll find a way out" And maybe they could have gotten away with it… but when couldn't think of any good names, and decided to just call the thing that hinges the whole of Time and the Rani together "strange matter"… ouch… that was bad!
It's a pity cos there's some good stuff going on with the Lakertian and the big hairy bear things… and the premise of kidnapping the Doctor and tricking him into thinking the Rani is Mel and they've been working on this stuff for ages is really good. Time and The rani is one of the more engaging first story premises and it involves the Doctor in his first story plot from the get go which is something a bit different. I particularly like the bit where the Doctor is so upset that he was rude to (who he thought was) Mel… it's a nice big headline to say "Hey, I'm not a shit head any more!". Time And the Rani all slows down a bit in part 3, and then starts to get confusing thanks to the script, but there's still a bit of tension at the end when the Doctor goes and gives away the answer, but then is able to bring everything down against the odds.
I think I've waffled on way to long here - so I'll sum Time and The Rani all up by saying all the performances are fine. The Rani is just as convincing in her second outing (although this was the first outing for me), and the Lakertian (like their Argolis look alkies) are all played well… especially the bloke who's working for the Rani to save his race… and the bloke who tips out the antidote at the end… even if the reason for the antidote was pretty convoluted and non memorable. Mel is less annoying… but that could be cos it sounds like she's got a bit of laryngitis! And the big one of course is McCoy. Annoying metaphors aside, I think he makes a solid debut. He's likeable, his costume is easier on the eye and he has nice "competent yet still stumbles into things" feel to him. Basically he seems safer than his predecessor… as for the spoons, well, it's good he didn't stick with that in every episode!
Production wise, I don't think Time and the rani is as bad as some previous directorial debuts. The sets are all strong (I even like the brain!) and the pace (well in 3 parts) excellent… and yes, I think it's helped by the maligned incidental music… I think that gives Time and the Rani a comic book feel too (but maybe it's a bit "kiddy" too).
Time And The Rani is a story that probably doesn't deserve much more than 5… but given it set me on the path to enjoying Who again, I'll give it a bonus point!