Doctor Who: Time & the Rani

Thursday, 30 September 2010 10:26

This is one of those Doctor Who adventures that never had high regard.  I recall watching at the time it was originally broadcast, and despite my best efforts, and even with me considering Sylvester McCoy not a bad choice as the regenerated seventh Doctor, I couldn’t by any measure consider it a good launch.  I found myself in the situation of making excuses for it rather than actually enjoying it.

With this DVD release of “Time and the Rani”, the full horror of the background to the production means that there are now genuine reasons to give for this “bugger’s muddle”.  It demonstrates that, even at its low points, when context is given to what the team was having to work against, there is enjoyment to be had in revisiting most Doctor Who stories, and that includes this quartet of episodes.

Sylvester's Debut - Doctor Who: Time and the Rani on DVDThe story commences with the evil Time Lord/Lady, the Rani (Kate O’Mara reprieving the part she created in the Colin Baker story “The Mark of the Rani”), causing the TARDIS to crash-land on the planet Lakertya. On the floor of its console room, the Doctor finds himself mortally wounded causing his sixth onscreen regeneration.

In his post-regenerative confusion, the Doctor is separated from feisty Andy Pandy-styled companion Mel (Bonnie Langford), and is tricked into assisting the Rani in her dastardly scheme to construct a giant time manipulator.

Lost on the barren surface of the planet, Mel has to avoid the Rani's traps and her monstrous, bat-like servants, the Tetraps. She joins forces with a rebel faction among the Lakertyans, featuring an excellent performance by Wanda Ventham as Faroon, desperate to end the Rani's control of their planet.

The Doctor must recover his wits in time to avoid becoming a permanent part of the Rani's plan to collect the genius of the greatest scientific minds in the Universe.

As is commonplace with Doctor Who releases, the extras even on their own make buying this DVD worthwhile.  The fact that producer John Nathan Turner never expected to be coming back to the show, getting the job again simply because the Beeb couldn’t get anyone else to take it, says a lot for the poisoned chalice that the series had become.

Here’s the full line-up of special features:

  • Commentary in stereo - with actors Sylvester McCoy, Bonnie Langford, and writers Pip and Jane Baker.
  • “The Last Chance Saloon” – by 1987, senior executives at the BBC were on the point of killing-off Doctor Who in the face of stiff fan opposition. Instead, they decided to give the show one last chance… With actors Sylvester McCoy and Kate O’Mara, producer John Nathan-Turner, director Andrew Morgan, script editor Andrew Cartmel, writers Pip and Jane Baker, BBC Head of Series & Serials Jonathan Powell and graphic designer Oliver Elmes. Written by Nev Fountain and narrated by Richard Heffer.
  • “7D FX” – a look behind-the-scenes at the creation of the story’s impressive visual effects. With visual effects designer Colin Mapson, visual effects assistant Mike Tucker and video effects designer Dave Chapman.
  • “Helter-Skelter”– Graphic designer Oliver Elmes and animator Gareth Edwards talk about how they created the first CGI title sequence in Doctor Who’s history.
  • “Lakertya” – writers Pip and Jane Baker talk about their original vision for the lush forest planet Lakertya and director Andrew Morgan explains why he ended up shooting it in a desolate quarry instead…
  • “Hot Gossip” – Kate O’Mara recalls the fun of working with gossiping friends, with Sylvester McCoy and Andrew Morgan.
  • “On Location”– BBC Breakfast Time’s reporter Guy Michelmore visits the production during location filming for the story’s exterior scenes and talks to John Nathan-Turner, Sylvester McCoy, Bonnie Langford and Kate O’Mara.
  • Blue Peter – Janet Ellis welcomes newly appointed Doctor Who Sylvester McCoy to the Blue Peter studio.
  • Photo Gallery - production, design and publicity photos from the story.
  • A wish-fulfilling Easter Egg (off from “7DFX” in Special Features) where you can watch Colin Baker more authentically regenerate into Sylvester.
  • Another Easter Egg with Kate O'Mara telling us about the perils of being hung upside down (found off from "Blue Peter").
  • Sylvester McCoy Easter Egg where he makes a bid to play James Bond (found off from "PDF Materials").
  • Coming Soon - a trail for the "Revisitations" Box set, which is excellently done.

In summary, here we have a story written with no idea of who would be playing The Doctor, and obviously no direction mapped out for the character. The producer had taken a long break, not expecting to return, and the institutionalised BBC begrudged having to keep Doctor Who in production. Not knowing for sure who the big wigs at the Beeb wanted the series to be aimed at, the choice of ‘pantomime’ as backdrop was not the way to go.

The documentary and featurettes on this DVD do an excellent job of excusing the finished result which, despite all the aggro actually does have quite high production values (and a snazzy new opening title sequence for good measure). Sometimes keeping a show going just for the sake of it, or in this case due to fan pressure, is not necessarily a good thing.

“Time and the Rani” is out now from 2Entertain, spanning four 25 minute approx episodes, has a ‘PG’ certificate and a RRP of £19.99, or get it for less at www.culttvstore.com

Last modified on Thursday, 10 May 2012 16:37

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