Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Time and the Rani



So Colin Baker leaves and because there is no 'proper' regeneration this story begins with Sylvester McCoy in a Colin Baker wig. It's not the best omen for what is to come it must be said.

Time and the Rani doesn't have the best reputation as a Doctor Who story, along with pretty much all of Season 24. There are reasons for this. However it isn't all bad and in its own way Time and the Rani is entertaining enough.

My biggest quibble is that this story takes the Rani who had the potential to be quite an interesting foil to the Doctor and turns her in to a Master manque. Complete with fiendishly complicated plan involving scientific goobledigook. Someone also seems to have decided that now Kate O'Mara is in Dynasty the Rani should be all padded shoulders, when she isn't impersonating Mel that is.

I have to admit that I do enjoy Kate O'Mara's Bonnie Langford impression, although it does make you wonder where she manages to get hold of an identical outfit to Mel's (including massive ginger wig) and WHY? Why bother disguising herself at all, except for our amusement. Anyway it is fun in its own bizarre way with O'Mara pitching her voice up - but without quite getting that broken glass edge that Langford has. O'Mara even gets that odd bouncy walk right. But this is not what makes a good Doctor Who story.

The Rani's plan turns out to be creating a 'Time Manipulator' from the collective brain power of a series of geniuses gathered from across the Universe combined with an exploding an asteroid filled with strange matter and blah-di-blad-di-blah. Oh something called Loyhargil comes into play to: as a light-weight alternative to strange matter I think. Anyway it gets the Rani pretty excited even if it is a huge steaming pile of Pip and Jane Baker nonesense. There's huge clunking chunks of exposition that just make me want to bang my head against the desk.

Then there's Keff McCulloch's music. It seems to be one of the perogatives of old age to complain that background music in television is TOO LOUD. Certainly at the time I didn't find Keff's contributions as irritating as I did this time around. They are about as subtle as a brick. On a couple of occassions I found myself wishing it would stop. Or at least feel like it had something to do with what was happening in front of me.

Obviously being a new Doctor we get a new title sequence & a new version of the theme tune. I don't mind this theme tune so much. It's not my favourite version but it is acceptable enough. The title sequence is OK except for the 'wink'. I didn't like this at the time and I think it undermind McCoy from the off. It is a hint at comedy and silliness. (Plus I've found it vaguely disturbing since I heard it described by Tachyon TV - I think - as 'McCoy's sex wink.)

What of McCoy himself? He does alright. He's better at the quieter more thoughtful stuff than he is at the shouty confrontational bits and bobs and I like the fact that you can see his Doctor thinking. Yes, some of the silly falling about in Part One seems designed to play up the comedy and you can see why that might have put people off a bit. However he seems to have enough Doctor-ish qualities to me at this point to pass muster. However it is a toss up between this and the 'Twin Dilemma' for worst introductory story for a new Doctor.

He isn't helped by Bonnie Langford who seems to have gone up a notch in the theatrical stakes. Mel seems to be a character without any bass notes at all. It's like listening to the tish-tish-tish of someone elses headphones when sitting on the train. It's irritating but bizarrely hypnotic.

There's not much else to say really. Wanda Ventham as Faroon and Donald Pickering as Beyus bring a much needed dignity to proceedings. Pickering in particular does a fine job of imbuing Beyus - who is collaborating with the Rani in order to save his rather apathetic people, the Lakertyans - with a realisation of what he's become & gets a fine death to make up for it.

I also like Mark Greenstreet as Ikona, apparently the only Lakertyan with any balls at all. His nicely sarcastic two-hander with Bonnie Langford is amusing and there's a dry line in cynicism throughout. Greenstreet also manages to make running at full pelt whilst dressed as a sort of fish-reptile-human escapee from a rather unsuccessful new romantic band look vaguely credible.

A small round of applause should also go to Richard Gauntlett as Urak, leader of the Tetraps. The Tetraps, who are the Rani's guards, are a kind of three-eyed bat-monkey hybrid. They're quite nicely designed, if a tad obviously special effects driven when close-up. Urak is a cunning little bugger combining creepy brown-nosing, thuggish violence and a nice little plan of his own. It's nice for a minion to get one up on its chief.

So overall 'Time and The Rani' ain't great but it is nowhere near as bad as its reputation suggests, although I might have been tempted to alter that opinion if there had been one more scene of Bonnie Langford screaming. It's entertaining, if light-weight. However it wasn't the best story with which to launch a new Doctor on an unsuspecting world.

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