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Published on September 15th, 2010 | by James Whittington

Time and the Rani DVD

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 Rani’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 Rani’s control of their planet. The Doctor must recover his wits in time to avoid becoming permanent part of the Rani’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 O’Mara dressed in her best pantomime boots, brandishing a large weapon spouting “Leave the girl, it’s the man I want!” and bang we’re into the credit sequence which, to give it some credit, did look good back then.

That’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 that’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.

Extras

Commentary – 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.

Doctor Who - Time and the RaniThe Last Chance Saloon – Richard Heffner narrates this superb documentary from Nev Fountain recalling the time when the show was on the brink of being cancelled. It’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 – The effects team behind the story get a chance to chat about their involvement. This was Mike Tucker’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 – 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 – 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 – Kate O’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 they’d do during production. Affectionate – yes, luvie – absolutely!

On Location – The BBC’s Breakfast Time reporter Guy Michelmore (yes, the legendary Cliff Michelmore’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 – 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 – A compendium of shots taken from the production of the story coupled with music from the soundtrack.

Info Text – 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 – Pop this into your PC and you can read the Radio Times listings from when this story was originally shown.

Coming Soon – 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 – 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 £19.99 – however you can purchase from Amazon for just £12.93!

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About the Author

James has been a Doctor Who fan for as long as he can recall. A child of the 70s and 80s, he weathered all the storms and controversies the show encountered, though he didn’t buy the “Doctor In Distress” single.




9 Responses to Time and the Rani DVD

  1. 23skidoo says:

    Everytime I hear someone harp about how disappointing “Rose” or “The Christmas Invasion” was (interestingly I don’t hear many complaints about Eleventh Hour), I like to remind them about how bad it could be. With Colin Baker’s disastrous debut story Twin Dilemma, and McCoy’s not-much-better Time and the Rani, both their eras got off on really shaky footing, and I’m sure TATR shares at least some of the overall blame for Doctor Who getting canned in 1987. But, some 23 years later, TATR is an undeniable part of DW history and worth seeing for that reason alone. That said, I think I’m going to wait until I reach the “there’s nothing left worth getting” mode, it shows up on a discount rack, or it’s compiled into a full-season box set (with only 4 stories for each McCoy season, they could put out a value pack at some point).

  2. 23skidoo says:

    Obvious typo in my reply – I did of course mean “canned in 1989.” Put those phasers away! ;)

  3. Jez Noir says:

    Am I the only nutter who thinks Sylvester’s opening credit sequence is the coolest the series has ever had (bar the logo, of course)?


  4. @Jez Noir – you might be. Having said that, it does have something going for it, which is more than can be said for the logo (and the wink…)

    @23skidoo – I will also probably be leaving TATR until the shelf is almost full, unless someone buys me it as a present. I’ve long contested it to be the worse Doctor Who story ever. Others may disagree, point to The Time Monster, Twin Dilemma or something from the 1960s like Space Museum, but at least they had concepts that didn’t involve STEALING BRAINS. Or playing the spoons/pratfalls.

    I rest my case

  5. castellanspandrell says:

    Compared to the old time tunnel title sequence, the McCoy one, for all the money lavished on it, doesn’t stand up.

    There’s a watershed Who moment in part 2 (I think) of TATR: the Dr makes a comment, and the Rani in her Mel disguise, almost to camera, mutters ‘Cretin.’ For me, this represents a new low in Who – an enemy dismissing the Dr so easily and nastily, but in a way that the viewer finds it hard to disagree with.

    Yes, other notable foes have thought of him as an idiot before, but they’re usually more eloquent in their dismissal of our hero, e.g. Scarlioni’s ‘My dear, no one could be as stupid as he seems!’ and the Dr usually just pretends to be stupid to deceive them while really being several flights of stairs ahead.

    Here, however, he really is a complete doughball, and it was hard to disagree with the Rani’s assessment when viewing it in 1987, and feeling that the character had become a jaded joke, lacking the gravitas of a Pertwee or T Baker, and that the series was consequently doomed.

  6. castellanspandrell says:

    Not sure I expressed what I meant very clearly there; I meant that it was as though the viewer was invited to agree with the Rani when she called him a ‘cretin’ – almost like she was the person whose side were supposed to take.

  7. Byron says:

    Oof! What a disaster! It is frankly amazing that DW survived two more years after this horrific story (and entire horrible 24th season). At the time I was desperately trying to like it, hoping that the show could hang on and remain on-the-air but, looking at it after-the-fact, it’s obvious just how low Who had sunk and I can’t blame the ‘evil’ BBC powers-that-be for arguing that it should go. JNT had done a great service in pulling Who back from the campy excesses of Graham Williams and yet by the time of TATR it was just as OTT and shoddy, or worse, than season 17. At least they came to their senses for McCoys final season. If season 24 had been the final word on classic Who then that would have been very sad indeed. The only way I would ever own this is if it were being given away and even then it would only be for the extras and commentary.

  8. Byron says:

    As far as the title sequence; it just followed JNT’s pattern of trying ‘modernise’ the titles and music which, from this vantage point, just dated it and made it
    identifiably ‘eighties’ in a way that the Tom Baker titles are not specifically ‘seventies’. The power of the ‘tunnel’ graphic is obvious in that it was chosen to form the basis of the current title sequences.

  9. Rick714 says:

    The last four years of the show, ever since they came back from the hiatus, let’s face it, was the bottom of the barrel. I don’t blame Colin or Syl as they were doing their best and had everything against them. Aside from Colins’ Trial part two: “Mind-warp” and Syl’s “Remembrance of the Daleks” and maybe “survival”, it was all utter, utter crap. Even Syl’s last season, for the most part, was looking up but even then, garbled pieces of nonsense like “Ghost-light” looked good but even the cast and crew didn’t understand it! The Beeb had no respect for it and JNT was not cut out to be a producer, or choose any of the fashions for ANY of his Doctors.

    Or the openings for the show, either, although Syl’s opening was ok, but too long and that logo was the absolute worst. But maybe it was all for the best that the show died when it did as it rested long enough for us to get the superior product we have now.

    Oh, and TATR was much worse than Twin dilemma. That’s just how bad it was…..

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