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DVD Review

DVD cover

Doctor Who
Time and the Rani


Starring: Sylvester McCoy
RRP: £19.99
Certificate: PG
Available 13 September 2010

When the TARDIS is knocked out of its flight path, the Doctor and his companion, Mel crash land on the planet Lakertya. The two are quickly separated, with the Doctor helping the evil Rani, a female Time Lord and a renegade. Mel, alone on the planet’s surface, has to survive the Rani’s traps as well as the bat-like creatures, the Tetraps. She joins a rebel faction and with their help attempts to stop a confused, post regeneration, Doctor from helping the Rani create a time manipulator...

Time and the Rani was the first story in season twenty-four. The show starred the new seventh Doctor Sylvester McCoy and his companion Mel. The four-part story, written by Pip and Jane Baker and directed by Andrew Morgan, was originally transmitted between 7 and 28 September 1987.

Ah, where to begin? I’ll say first of all that I never was a fan of Pip and Jane Baker's work on the show, this could be excused for this story as they had no idea who they would be writing for. When Colin Baker refused to return, a regeneration scene was shot which wasn’t totally satisfying but the best, I guess, they could do in the circumstances. The same can be said about the beginning of the story where there is never a satisfying explanation as to why the regeneration was triggered. Unfortunately the show was rushed into production and it shows.

This was not an auspicious start to the seventh Doctor's tenure, but par for the course for the Bakers, who wrote a story almost devoid of excitement or tension. The sight of Kate O'Mara (the Rani) dressed as Mel, plus squeaky voice, is so absurd that most will find themselves cringing through her impersonation of Mel. That’s not to say that Kate O’Mara put in a bad performance, in fact if you don’t look at the screen and just listen to the audio O’Mara does a pretty good impersonation of Bonnie Langford.

Sylvester McCoy, as the Doctor, does what he can with a script not written for him, but this is not the darkly enigmatic character that he would grow into. Here the Doctor is more clown than Time Lord, he even gets to play the spoons.

There are some nice touches to the show, the sequence with the Doctor trying to find a new outfit has him trying on some of his predecessors clothes. If the script was poor the same cannot be said for the cast who, given the difficult circumstances, put in good performances. Production values were high, but this just led to the feeling of the show looking great, but containing a lack of interest.

Some things did benefit from the new season, the special effects improved and a lot of the CGI work still stands up, as do some of the models. A new Doctor begat a new and improved title sequence, an improvement over Colin Baker's intro and, although it’s a mater of taste, the title music was an improvement as well.

The show is presented in its original 4:3 aspect ratio, with a mono track. Given its age the picture is clear and sharp.

The disc does come with extras, including a full length commentary by Sylvester McCoy, Bonnie Langford and Pip and Jane Baker. The documentaries kick off with The Last Chance Saloon (29 min, 40 sec) which looks at the BBC’s attempt to kill off the show, giving it only one more chance to prove it could still be a success and we all know how that ended. It looks behind the process of casting McCoy and even contains his audition, as well as his competitors for the role, watching them back to back Sylvester really shines out.

7D FX (11 min, 33 sec) looks at the creation of the show's special effects with contributions from Colin Mapson (visual effects designer) Mike Tucker (visual effects assistant) and Dave Chapman (visual effects designer). Helter - Skelter (9 min, 15 sec) has a look at the creation of the new title sequence and Lakertya (2 min, 05 sec) wherein Pip and Jane Baker discuss their original vision for the show - it was supposed to be set on a lush jungle planet instead of a quarry in Kent - apparently the choice was not theirs, but they seem okay with the result.

Hot Gossip (2 min, 29 sec) has Kate O’Mara and Sylvester McCoy recounting their memories of making the show, On Location (4 min, 07 sec) has some behind the scenes shots, but the piece sounds like it was originally part of some news program. The disc wraps up with the usual photo gallery, PDF, production subs and a Blue Peter segment (1 min, 23 sec) with Janet Ellis introducing Sylvester as the new Doctor. Coming Soon appears to be a collection of previously released stories, not sure why, maybe they’re going to start a budget range.

In the end the story's failings cannot be rescued by its high production costs, even taking into account the problems which beset the show this still stands as a particularly weak script.


Charles Packer

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