Home : Archive : TSV 51-60 : TSV 56 : Feature

Time and The Rani

The Smell of Tetraps

By Alden Bates

The Bottom Ten No.6
DWM Score: 46.86%
DWM Placing: 154th

Time and the Rani is a chilling tale of what happens when those with power go insane and the dire consequences of interfering with a planet's natural evolution.

Meanwhile, in the real world, Time and the Rani is a somewhat silly story at the start of a somewhat silly season at a rather nasty section of Doctor Who's history. It was badly timed; the show was still recovering from the hiatus, and the Doctor had just been recast. Still, there's no point complaining - what's done is done, and this was done over ten years ago now. All we can do is look back at how this story was a part of the overall legend that is Doctor Who.

The major problem with Time and the Rani is that the special effects are actually pretty good. This is a minus rather than a plus because this story is so obviously trying to be in the “so bad it's good” category. We have ugly monsters which have wings even though there's no way in heck they're going to be able to fly; Star-Trek-style natives with bits stuck on their foreheads; and a raving megalomaniac genius with a lumbering, slobbering, hunchback assistant and a pet brain. Taken apart from the series as a whole, this would be an amusing romp, but instead they had to lumber it with a crap regeneration scene and give it pride of place at the head of the season.

“I've had enough of this drivel.”
- The Rani

As I noted in my article about Mel a couple of issues back, the characterisation is pretty crap. But disregard the rest of his era, and you can see where the Doctor's character came from. While still retaining Baker's irascibility, McCoy's Doctor seems more scattered and unsure of himself, more vulnerable. Considering that he's suffering from just having regenerated, it's hardly surprising he'll take some time to remain upright. Even the Rani's change from an uncaring scientist to a megalomaniac isn't too bizarre if you remember that her entire plan is an experiment to see how history would respond to being changed. She just gets a little overzealous...

Like their other stories, Pip and Jane's plot is solid and conventional. Everything is explained that needs to be to get the story told. OK, they could explain more, like what the heck the Lakertyans live on, and why the Rani kidnapped the Doctor when another Time Lord would have done just as well. (Not to mention that another Time Lord would be less capable of foiling her plans.) But you might as well ask what the inhabitants of Karn lived on in The Brain of Morbius. In the end, it doesn't affect the story. Possibly one of its major flaws is a rather obvious bit of padding where the Doctor steals a piece of the Rani's equipment, and she rather easily gets it back again. The story could have been trimmed down to about three episodes without losing much.

Visually, Time and the Rani is a dream. We get characters with bright yellow and orange outfits (oh yeah, brilliant camouflage that, bright yellow against slate grey), not to mention Mel's pink and white outfit, and the Rani's dark red leather Universal-Domination ensemble. Disappointingly, the Doctor changes out of the sixth Doctor's colourful jacket into something boringly subdued compared to everyone else. Oh well. The two major indoor sets - the Centre of Leisure and the Rani's lab are just as splendid, though who knows why the Rani's lab has a pyramid motif.

Then there's the music, and I must admit that while Keff's soundtrack isn't Emmy Award material, there are some pretty good moments. ‘Future Pleasure’, the piece of background music during the initial visit to the Centre of Leisure, is a unique and quirky piece in the history of Who. I mean, we're talking about a tune laid down completely in the composer's own voice. How can that not be cool?

And the dialogue! Classic Pip and Jane stuff. From the Doctor's mangled quotations (“Absence makes the nose grow longer”) to the Rani's megalomaniac ranting (“I have the loyhargil! Nothing can stop me now!”) and the occasional joke about Mel, not to mention Kate O'Mara's impersonation, it's obvious the authors had a lot of fun writing this story. So we should have fun watching it - it's only fair.

The actors, of course, also had fun. Kate really threw herself into that impression of Bonnie and, face it, she probably enjoyed all the ranting later as well. Sylvester's first time out was enthusiastic, if not on a par with his later work. Bonnie, as usual, was superb. As Pip and Jane pointed out in an interview, all those screams weren't necessarily part of the script.

The secondary cast is often overlooked in reviews of this particular story, merely because the reviewer is busy muttering darkly about the three leads, but the three main Lakertyans all put in decent performances. Mark Greenstreet's rebellious Ikona is believable, and seems to carry a bemused sense of humour while dealing with the Doctor and Mel. Donald Pickering and Wanda Ventham are old friends, so their characters work together especially well and judging from their recent interview in DWM, they were both definitely having fun. Even Richard Gaunt, in the undoubtedly rather stuffy confines of a lot of fur and padding, is reasonably good as a lumbering, slobbering monster who especially likes drooling on Mel. (Would I like to party with this guy!)

And how could I come this far without mentioning the giant throbbing brain? Well, I was saving the best 'til last. Yes, it's bad in concept and execution, but it's what makes me think Time and the Rani is a B-movie in disguise. Heck, when you see that giant pulsating blob, you've just got to laugh, or else you'd cry... But laughter is so much more pleasant and healing than tears.

In the end, the only reason that Time and the Rani is low in the ratings is because it's being rated by the fans, who are considering it against the series as a whole. Show Time and the Rani to a first time viewer and you're likely to get a more favourable response than if you showed them Remembrance of the Daleks or The Five Doctors. It might be bollocks, but only because we're Doctor Who fans.


#5 : Time-Flight

This item appeared in TSV 56 (October 1998).

Index nodes: Time and the Rani