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Time and the Rani

Reviewed by Nigel Windsor

The redesigned titles and rearranged theme tune complement each other superbly; for once they bring an air of quality and professionalism to the series. The theme music is a vast improvement on Season 23. The story has an impressive beginning, then develops into a jolly Pip and Jane / JNT production; the dynamic duo supply the two-dimensional characters, and JNT buys in 'has-beens' and 'never-quite-made-it' stars. The story is a typical Doctor Who run-around, with the Doctor kidnapped by the Rani and Mel teamed up with a Lakertyan called Ikona, and run around an old quarry evading Tetraps and tripwires. Needless to say, Mel gets her hoof caught up in a trap, end this makes for one of the best special effects I have ever witnessed in any BBC production. In complete contrast to the well-directed OB scenes set to effective music, the in-studio Rani HQ and Tetrap Lair have some of the most childish, embarrassing scenes I have ever witnessed: Kate O'Mara, fresh out of Dynasty complete with shoulder pads and lurex. Then, courtesy of Pip and Jane, we have lines uttered by Sylvester like "absence makes the nose grow longer," and he performs pratfalls all over the set over non-existent objects. Miss Langford comes out with "Before your regeneration, you were keen on cats, and you know what curiosity did to them." If this is humour, then forget it. All that's missing is a dubbed soundtrack of hissing and booing to complete this pantomime theatre hiding under the banner of Doctor Who. However, the story is a great improvement on Pip and Jane's last effort. It is well paced, interesting, and for all its faults, a good piece of television. Andrew Morgan (director) makes an impressive debut into the world of Doctor Who; acting, special affects, design, sets and model shots are all well above average, as is McCoy's interpretation of the Seventh Doctor. Here we are presented with an excellent actor who goes about his job with great gusto and enthusiasm. Sylvester should turn out to be an excellent find - he can play the spoons pretty well, too.

Reviewed by Murray Jackson

Time and the Rani rates on a par with The Twin Dilemma as the worst first story for a Doctor ever. Pip and Jane Baker cemented their titles as king and queen of crud (they were responsible for some terrible scripts for AIP pictures in the late 60s and early 70s). Luckily, they had an argument over the title of this story with JNT, and left. Unfortunately the damage was done. The Rani had never been an overly interesting character and Kate O'Mara was inexcusably laughable in places, impersonating Mel - why anyone would wish to impersonate Mel is beyond me. The story was so confused and scientifically impossible that I will not insult anyone's intelligence with an explanation; suffice to say that it belonged in a show like Galloping Galaxies. The acting was at the standard of a local rep group, mainly due to an all-time low performance by Bonnie Langford who must surely line up as lead candidate for the Matthew Waterhouse Award for outstanding inanity in an acting performance. Doctor Who has truly mutated from a kidult show to a kids show - sad but true!

Reviewed by Michael Mayo

Going by what other people have said and written, I thought I was in for yet another terrible ninety minutes. Surprisingly I was wrong. Pip and Jane Baker have redeemed their earlier efforts. I'm not implying that it's a classic or anything, but when compared to Paradise Towers or Delta and the Bannermen, it comes off best. The story is basic run-of-the-mill stuff with the Rani out to rule the galaxy (of course!) and a seconds-to-go-till-disaster ending, not to mention the pitiful, Vervoid rivalling Tetraps. Although it certainly sounds stupid, the plot was constructed in a 'traditional' sort of way, the other stories of Season 24 being too pantomime-ish and non-Who. There were a few interesting innovations, such as the flying ball trap, but that was totally irrelevant - why not just have anyone who trips the wire vaporised? But that, of course, would mean that the excellent Part One cliffhanger would have to be scrapped. Other positive aspects were the sets and acting. I might even be tempted to say the script, but then I remember the clichéd Part Three cliffhanger with the Doctor having his mind wiped, so I won't. Kate O'Mara was as brilliant as ever, but the Lakertyans seemed more than a little stale. And as for the new Doctor, Sylvester McCoy seemed best in this story, also in Dragonfire. He had some good scenes in the first and second episodes, in particular when he tries to pull out Mel's hair. Now if only we could get rid of JNT... Finally, a point about Urak the Tetrap - how did he and his mates get into the Rani's TARDIS at the end of the story? Suggestions, please...

Reviewed by Paul Scoones

In another issue of TSV, I wrote a review after viewing the first episode of this story. It was not an optimistic view, and the viewing of the subsequent three parts have sadly proved my initial reactions correct. The main fault lies with the plot - once a Gerry Anderson writer, always a Gerry Anderson writer is the lesson to be learnt here, I think, and Pip and Jane Baker certainly don't make any effort to prove me wrong. This script is far worse than their previous efforts. The dialogue is written for wooden puppets on strings, and Andrew Morgan and JNT obliged by assembling a cast for this particular story whom actually appear to impersonate Anderson puppets! Even at four parts the story was over-length, and had only enough plot to fill two-three parts. Morgan must have had to struggle to pad out the thin plot with numerous extraneous quarry scenes. The final revelation, when it came, was so ridiculous and contrived it made Marvel's comic strip stories in DWM look good Contrary to my opinion of the Rani in Part One, Kate O'Mara lost any menace over the course of the story, and rapidly became boring and comical. Poor Sylvester struggled with the pathetic lines, and made the best of a good part badly written. He is quite a charming Doctor - the only saving grace here. Pity that he has suffered in the same way Colin Baker did by being introduced in an incredibly cruddy serial. I had hopes for Mel, believing she would settle down into a likeable companion; instead she has got worse, much worse. Her absolutely obnoxious screaming from start to finish spoiled the very best scene of the story - where she flies around in that bubble and crashes into the lake. Considering what she was going through, she really should have passed out. The Tetraps, like the Vervoids, were initially promising, but again, poorly used. I liked the idea of the four eyes, but they were the clichéd primitive intelligence monsters we see so much of, and give the show its bad reputation. I was hoping to be impressed by this story, but instead I was bitterly disappointed. I can only hope that this is not an indication of things to come.

This item appeared in TSV 6 (April 1988).

Index nodes: Time and the Rani
Reprinted in: Special Reprint Edition