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Time and the Rani

Production Code: 7D

First Transmitted

1 - 07/09/1987 19:35

2 - 14/09/1987 19:35

3 - 21/09/1987 19:35

4 - 28/09/1987 19:35

Plot

The Rani has taken control of the planet Lakertya and forced the peaceful Lakertyans to build a rocket silo-cum-laboratory base into a cliff face. She is aided by the Tetraps, a race of bat-like creatures, and plans to fire a rocket loaded with loyhargil, a substance with the same properties as strange matter, at an asteroid completely composed of the latter.

As a preliminary to this she has created a huge artificial brain and kidnapped a number of geniuses - including Pasteur and Einstein from Earth - to imbue it with the ability first to identify and then to calculate the correct way to create loyhargil for her in the laboratory. The newly-regenerated Doctor and Mel manage to stop her and the planet is saved. The Rani is captured by the Tetraps, who decide to take her as a prisoner back to their home world.

Episode Endings

Mel falls into one of the Rani's booby traps and is caught within a spinning globe. She screams as the globe bounces across the surface of Lakertya, every impact threatening to cause it to explode.

The Doctor seeks refuge from the Rani in the Tetraps' eyrie. The waking Tetraps surround him menacingly.

The Rani is triumphant as the huge brain that she has created starts to draw information from the Doctor's mind. The Doctor, forcibly linked to the equipment by way of a helmet-like device, lies helpless as the process continues.

Mel tells the Doctor that he will take a bit of getting used to, but he replies: 'I'll grow on you, Mel. I'll grow on you.' They enter the TARDIS and it dematerialises.

Roots

Time and the Conways.

David Copperfield (Uriah Heep).

The Wizard of Oz.

Coleridge's Kubla Khan (killer insects).

Dialogue Triumphs

The Doctor : "The more I know me, the less I like me."

The Rani : "I've had enough of this drivel."

Double Entendre

The Rani : "Leave the girl, it's the man I want."

"Really, this is not the place for double entendres."

Continuity

The Rani and the Doctor studied together (his special subject was thermodynamics). The Doctor states that this is his seventh incarnation. Mel likes C.P. Snow and has read all of his books.

Loyhargil is a lightweight substitute for strange matter. Chronons are discrete particles of time. Lakertyans are civilized reptilian humanoids. This is the only Doctor Who story to mention Elvis.

QV

An Unearthly Child

The Doctor's Family

The Doctor's Age

Location

Lakertya.

Untelevised

By the next story the Doctor has taken Einstein and the others home.

Trivia

There is a new title sequence and theme music arrangement. An early version of the new opening titles is erroneously featured at the beginning of Part Four, with Sylvester McCoy's face much less distinct than in the final version approved by John Nathan-Turner. (The final version is however substituted on the BBC video release of the story.)

'Loyhargil' is an anagram of 'holy grail'.

Technobabble

The heat radiation from the catalyst was of high frequency.

In the aftermath of the explosion, helium 2 will fuse with the upper zones of the Lakertyan atmosphere to form a shell of chronons... In the same milliseconds as the chronon shell is being formed, the hot house effect of the gamma rays will cause the primate cortex of the brain to go into chain reaction, multiplying until the gap between shell and planet is filled.' And 'solstice' and 'perigee' are muddled up. It's enough to make you long for polarised neutron flows. Still, it does at least mention C.P. Snow, the second law of thermodynamics (see Logopolis) and Princetown research into strange matter.

Goofs

The Rani can check that the Doctor's hearts are beating simply by placing a hand on his chest.

The Doctor is able to check Mel's pulse with his thumbs.

Without appearing to make any adjustments to the TARDIS the Rani is able to patch Urak's vision straight into the TARDIS scanner.

She is able to shoot down the TARDIS as one would any old passing spacecraft.

In order to release the Lakertyans from the Rani's deadly bracelets, the Doctor and Mel use a fibre optic cable to complete an electrical circuit.

Tetraps have eyes in the front, sides and back of their heads. Why, then, do they need to turn their heads when looking for something?

Most glaring of all, why on Earth does the Doctor regenerate? When the TARDIS crash lands Mel is barely stunned, but it's enough to trigger the Doctor's regeneration. It's like something out of Vic Reeves.

Cast & Crew

Cast

The Doctor - Sylvester McCoy

Melanie - Bonnie Langford

Beyus - Donald Pickering

Faroon - Wanda Ventham

Ikona - Mark Greenstreet

Lanisha - John Segal

Sarn - Karen Clegg

Special Voice - Peter Tuddenham

Special Voice - Jacki Webb

The Rani - Kate O'Mara

Urak - Richard Gauntlett

Crew

Director - Andrew Morgan

Assistant Floor Manager - Joanna Newbery

Assistant Floor Manager - Christopher Sandeman

Costumes - Ken Trew

Designer - Geoff Powell

Incidental Music - Keff McCulloch

Make-Up - Lesley Rawstorne

OB Cameraman - Alastair Mitchell

OB Cameraman - John Hawes

Producer - John Nathan-Turner

Production Assistant - Joy Sinclair

Production Associate - Anne Faggetter

Script Editor - Andrew Cartmel

Special Sounds - Dick Mills

Studio Lighting - Henry Barber

Studio Sound - Brian Clark

Title Music - Ron Grainer and the BBC Radiophonic Workshop, arranged by Keff McCulloch

Visual Effects - Colin Mapson

Writer - Pip Baker

Writer - Jane Baker

Bottom Line - from The Discontinuity Guide

'I have the loyhargil! Nothing can stop me now!' If it was truncated into three episodes, and came with a self-lobotomising kit, this might have been a passable adventure romp. But it isn't.

Analysis - from Doctor Who, the Television Companion

Time and the Rani opens (like the fifth Doctor's debut story, Castrovalva) with a pre-titles sequence leading up to the Doctor's regeneration. This unfortunately gets the Sylvester McCoy era off to a rather bad start as the viewer is given no indication whatsoever of the reason for the regeneration or the circumstances leading up to it. Even allowing for the difficulties created by Colin Baker's unwillingness to return for a regeneration story, surely the writers and/or production team could have come up with something better than this?

Still, it could have been worse, as Nigel Griffiths pointed out in Muck and Devastation Issue Three, dated December 1987: 'The regeneration [effect] was weak but we must be thankful that there was one included, as simply having the new Doctor lying on the floor of the console room would have been very unsatisfying.'

The new opening titles designed by Oliver Elmes and realised by Gareth Edwards of CAL Video are quite spectacular, and certainly an improvement on the previous ones for which Sid Sutton was responsible, although still not in the same league as the pioneering work of Bernard Lodge. The new theme arrangement by Keff McCulloch is not too bad, either, although perhaps not as good as the Dominic Glynn one, and similarly not a patch on the original.

As for the story proper, this turns out to be a case of: nice production, shame about the scripts. Writers Pip and Jane Baker did admittedly have a problem in that they had no idea who would be playing the new Doctor or how he would be characterised - and, at least when they started work on the project, the series had no script editor for them to discuss things with, either - but this can be no excuse for the fact that they came up with a story that is totally uninvolving. Time and the Rani takes place on an alien planet with alien characters in an alien situation, and the viewer really has no one to identify with and nothing to relate to.

A story of this kind can sometimes be made to work if there is some other dimension to it - if it has an underlying moral message, for example, or if it serves as an allegory of a situation closer to home - or even if the characters are sufficiently three-dimensional and their circumstances sufficiently interesting. Here, however, the Bakers present a one-level plot with one-dimensional characters and, despite the suggestion of a wider universal significance to the Rani's plan, the viewer is tempted to ask 'So what?'

All the least successful aspects of the writers' work on the sixth Doctor's era sadly resurface in this story, writ large. The idea of a group of 'great men' being gathered together for a meeting was just about plausible in season twenty-two's The Mark of the Rani, but here it is taken to ludicrous extremes with the notion of the Rani rounding up a gaggle of geniuses - including a number from Earth, naturally enough - and putting them to work on her pet project.

Then there is the dreadful dialogue that the Bakers seem to delight in concocting for their characters. Perhaps the most notable example here is the Rani's explanation of what she is trying to achieve: 'In the aftermath of the explosion, helium-2 will fuse with the upper zones of the Lakertyan atmosphere to form a shell of chronons... In the same millisecond as the chronon shell is being formed, the hot-house effect of the gamma rays will cause the primate cortex of the brain to go into chain reaction, multiplying until the gap between shell and planet is filled'. Hmm...

Production-wise, though, this story does have a good deal going for it. Andrew Morgan's direction is competent and stylish, the OB location work is excellent and even the Tetraps are quite well realised - although, considering that they are supposed to have 360 degree vision, it is amazing how often people seem to be able to get past them or sneak up on them without being seen. Perhaps best of all are the visual effects, which must be considered some of the best ever presented in the series up to this point. The Rani's bubble traps are spectacularly good, and there is also some superb modelwork in evidence.

Another highlight is Kate O'Mara's performance as the Rani which, although undeniably camp and over the top, perfectly suits the mood of the piece and is never less than entertaining. She almost steals the show, in fact, and her impersonation of Bonnie Langford in the amusing sequence where the Rani fools the disorientated and drugged Doctor into believing that she is Mel is wickedly perceptive. Few other actresses could cope so well with appalling lines like: 'I have the loyhargil - nothing can stop me now!'

Then there is the new Doctor himself. Paul Dumont, writing in DWB No. 48, dated October 1987, had mixed feelings: 'On the basis of his first few episodes, Sylvester McCoy is a far more interesting Doctor to watch than the previous two. He has a presence that Davison rarely had. Unfortunately he has inherited from Colin Baker a clowning, over the top pantomime aspect - dancing round the Rani's control panel with Mel, running away Scooby Doo-like from the Rani - and I was saddened to see him shove a Tetrap into a trap; I thought that the brutality had gone out with Colin Baker.'

Griffiths, on the other hand, was wholly enthusiastic: 'Sylvester [McCoy] can be summed up best with one word - magic. From his early fumblings with the spoons through to his "I'll grow on you" to Mel at the end, he proved that he was an inspired choice. I loved the way [Colin Baker's] costume hung on him throughout the first episode... I've always found it strange that after, in a sense, dying, the newly regenerated Doctor always thinks first of changing his clothes - surely that wouldn't cross his mind straight away? With this one it didn't, and wasn't it a refreshing change!'

When the new Doctor's costume is eventually revealed it is, thankfully, a vast improvement on those worn by Peter Davison and Colin Baker. The only thing that really lets it down is the question-mark pattern on the pullover which - even more so than the question-marks on the shirt collars of the other eighties Doctors - is far too arch and self-aware.

Time and the Rani sees Doctor Who in a state of transition; although it introduces the seventh Doctor, it still has a great deal in common with the stories of the sixth Doctor's era. It would not be until new script editor Andrew Cartmel really started to make his mark that the Sylvester McCoy stories would begin to acquire a distinctive quality of their own.

< Trial of a Time Lord: 13-14Seventh DoctorParadise Towers >

This episode guide is made up of the text of The Discontinuity Guide by Paul Cornell, Martin Day and Keith Topping, and Doctor Who: The Television Companion by David J. Howe and Stephen James Walker.

The Discontinuity Guide © Paul Cornell, Martin Day and Keith Topping 1995.
Doctor Who: The Television Companion © David J Howe and Stephen James Walker 1998, 2003.



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