I like Sylvester McCoy as an actor. To me he brings a nice charm to the roles he plays and I recall that at the time of his casting of the Doctor I thought that this was a good, if not obvious choice. Imagine the disappointment I experienced when I saw Time and the Rani. It was a mess of ideas with poor direction and even worse acting. I feared that season 24 would be the last.
After being attacked by the Rani, the TARDIS crash-lands on the planet Lakertya. On the floor of the console room, the Doctor begins his sixth regeneration. In his post-regenerative confusion the Doctor is separated from his young companion Mel and tricked into assisting the Rani in her megalomaniac scheme to construct a giant time manipulator. Lost on the barren surface of the planet, Mel has to avoid the Raniâ€™s ingenious traps and her monstrous, bat-like servants, the Tetraps. She joins forces with a rebel faction among the Lakertyans, desperate to end the Raniâ€™s control of their planet. The Doctor must recover his wits in time to avoid becoming permanent part of the Raniâ€™s plan to collect the genius of the greatest scientific minds of the Universe.
From the moment you see Sylvester in a bad Harpo Marx wig, disguised as Doctor 6 and regenerating you know things are looking bad. Then in steps Kate Oâ€™Mara dressed in her best pantomime boots, brandishing a large weapon spouting â€œLeave the girl, itâ€™s the man I want!â€ and bang weâ€™re into the credit sequence which, to give it some credit, did look good back then.
Thatâ€™s really all you need to know as the story is just Doctor Who by numbers with Sylvester desperately trying to make his Doctor funny and warm and instead just clumsy and daft. Not his fault as the director should have reigned his performance in and the script just lacks any sort of urgency and focus. Pip and Jane Baker have done their best as this was written with Colin Baker in mind and changes made were very last minute.
Bonnie Langford tries to hold it all together as Mel which may come as shock to some but her character is the only one thatâ€™s fully realised and she does a sterling job. The supporting cast of Donald Pickering and Wanda Ventham look lost and a bit befuddled as to why they are there. The evil Tetraps are poor, I remember being disappointed back then and time has not been kind to them. The other effects, some computer generated hold up better but this is just another Doctor Who story set on a planet that looks like a quarry.
Commentary â€“ Sylvester McCoy and Bonnie Langford are joined by writers Pip and Jane Baker on a gag track that is more fun than the story itself. Well worth listening too as all seem keen to contribute at the same time and the facts concerning the shoot etc come thick and fast.
The Last Chance Saloon â€“ Richard Heffner narrates this superb documentary from Nev Fountain recalling the time when the show was on the brink of being cancelled. Itâ€™s a sad but educational reflection of how the BBC looked down upon the series. Balanced as it has opinions from both sides of the Doctor Who allegiance, Jonathan Powell who was Head of BBC Serials 1984-87 and archive footage from John Nathan-Turner. 30 minutes is far too short but it is perfectly formed and the first extra to go to.
7D FX â€“ The effects team behind the story get a chance to chat about their involvement. This was Mike Tuckerâ€™s first full Doctor Who project where he was involved with from start to finish and the affection he still has for the story shines through.
Helter-Skelter â€“ Season 24 contained the first CGI title sequence and graphic designer Oliver Elmes and animator Gareth Edwards chat about how they created this often discussed sequence. Interesting to hear about the history of computer animated title sequences this and like many extras at the moment, could have easily been longer.
Lakertya â€“ The idea originally for the planet of Lakertya was it to be a lush forest but here Pip and Jane Baker and director Andrew Morgan explain why they filmed the story in a quarry instead.
Hot Gossip â€“ Kate Oâ€™Mara, the Rani herself, chats about working on the story. This mainly consists of the tale of Donald Pickering and Wanda Ventham and the chattering theyâ€™d do during production. Affectionate – yes, luvie – absolutely!
On Location â€“ The BBCâ€™s Breakfast Time reporter Guy Michelmore (yes, the legendary Cliff Michelmoreâ€™s son) talks on location to Sylvester, Bonnie, Kate and John Nathan-Turner. A great extra where Sylvester and Bonnie are allowed to be themselves rather than just talking heads and its predictably light in content.
Blue Peter â€“ Janet Ellis chats to Sylvester about his appointment as the Doctor. Fans of 1980s kids TV might recall McCoy appeared with Janet in the classic series Jigsaw and this piece was recorded before rehearsals for his tenure began so not very in depth but funny as Sylvester is as hyper as ever.
Photo Gallery â€“ A compendium of shots taken from the production of the story coupled with music from the soundtrack.
Info Text â€“ My favourite extra continues to amuse, educate and entertain with another TARDIS load of facts and figures that will inform even the hardcore fans out there.
PDF Materials â€“ Pop this into your PC and you can read the Radio Times listings from when this story was originally shown.
Coming Soon â€“ Another DVD another trailer, this one is very impressive and is for the anticipated release known as The Revisitation Box. Looks pretty cool.
Easter Egg â€“ Not telling!
In the end Time and the Rani is a light effort that launched the tenure of one of my favourite Doctors. As we all know it did get better but I fear this release will be for collectors only.
Time and the Rani is out now on DVD with an RRP of Â£19.99 – however you can purchase from Amazon for just Â£12.93!