Time And The Rani

Doctor WhoThe TARDIS crash-lands on Lakertya with such force that the Doctor is forced to regenerate. He is promptly removed from the TARDIS by the evil female Time Lord biochemist known as the Rani, who is behind his rough landing. Melanie, also knocked out by the landing, is kidnapped by Ikona, a birdlike Lakertyan whose people are behind forced to cooperate with the Rani’s scheme. In the meantime, the Rani gives the newly-regenerated Doctor a drug-induced bout of amnesia, trying to use him to help her complete her latest experiment – but she doesn’t count on the rebellious nature that the Doctor carries through all of his incarnations.

Order the DVDwritten by Pip Baker & Jane Baker
directed by Andrew Morgan
music by Keff McCulloch

Cast: Sylvester McCoy (The Doctor), Bonnie Langford (Melanie), Kate O’ Mara (The Rani), Mark Greenstreet (Ikona), Donald Pickering (Beyus), Richard Gauntlett (Urak), Wanda Ventham (Faroon), John Segal (Lanisha), Karen Clegg (Sarn), Peter Tuddenham, Jacki Webb (Voices)

Broadcast from September 7 through 28, 1987

LogBook entry & review by Earl Green

Review: The seventh Doctor’s first adventure is easily his weakest, stemming from a muddled script, which itself was a victim of the BBC’s directive to tone down violence in the series. Time And The Rani suffers from a goofy pantomime atmosphere, especially in the first two episodes, and though this improves later once the Rani’s ridiculous charade to jog the Doctor’s memory ends, the second half of the story is muddled by some of the worst pseudo-scientific gibberish in the entire history of Doctor Who. The strange matter plot device is plausible enough, but what exactly the Rani plans to do seems to change from moment to moment. Does she want the Doctor’s knowledge of time? Does she want the Doctor to help her work out technical glitches in her master plan? Does she want the Doctor to join the gestalt of her silly giant brain to work out how to turn a planet into one vast time machine? Or does she just want to kill him? And did she really expect him to fall for her attempt to disguise herself as Mel?

There are actually moments of charm in this show, however. When the Doctor first awakens in his seventh persona, he immediately leaps into action with no mental hindrances whatsoever, and it’s a great preview of how McCoy will play the part for the next three years. To turn around and snatch this promising character away for the next two episodes, however, is a cheat to the audience, though there is a reward in the nice scene when the Doctor and the (real) Melanie finally recognize one another again. The now prerequisite costume-choosing scene was carried out with a minimum of finesse, unnecessarily repeating The Twin Dilemma‘s gag of the Doctor going through some of his previous costumes. Time And The Rani also marks the first musical contributions – in the form of the new theme music arrangement as well as the episode score – from Keff McCulloch. Keff’s later musical scores included a lot of rave dance elements, and this story’s music is the best that he provided for the series – despite the fact that he had very short notice on which to compose and produce it.

All the same, Sylvester McCoy’s Doctor in this season is wonderfully funny and compassionate, with an underlying eruption of righteous indignation awaiting anyone who oppresses others, whether it’s the Rani, Beyus, Gavrok, or Kane. It lays the groundwork for the darker and more dangerous character the Doctor will become later, but much of that is evident in this episode, even if the rest of the plot falls down around him. Perhaps some consideration should’ve been given to a hitherto unthinkable plot twist, such as simply starting the story with the seventh Doctor at full speed, explaining that he’d regenerated already. The Missing Adventures authors would’ve fallen all over themselves for the chance to provide the official explanation for that!