Time and the RaniBookmark and Share

Tuesday, 14 December 2004 - Reviewed by Steve Oliver

It’s difficult to find anything good to say about this season twenty four opener, but here goes. The Rani’s bubble traps look quite good, and… err… You see, ‘Time and the Rani’ is perhaps the worst Doctor Who story the McCoy era produced and probably the worst ever. I say probably only because I’ve yet to see other clangers such as ‘Timelash’ or ‘The Twin Dilemma’. In my growing Doctor Who video and DVD collection it is perhaps equal only to ‘The Chase’ in its extreme crappiness. Perhaps the worst thing that could be said about ‘Time and the Rani’ is that there is very little to say about it.

The plot, concerning the Rani gathering together the greatest minds in the universe (for a purpose so tedious I won’t even begin to explain), is un-involving, one-dimensional and just plain rubbish. The performances, particularly by the lead actors, are either completely over the top or wooden, the Tetrap monsters are about as scary as a pet hamster, the dialogue is ridiculous… I could go on. To be fair to the writers, Pip and Jane Baker, apparently they wrote this serial without knowing who would be playing the Doctor, so had to be as generic in his characterisation as possible. Less forgivable is the completely over blown dialogue they write. Why they feel the need to do this is unclear. Perhaps they are trying to cover up deficiencies in the plot.

Sylvester McCoy gets off to a bad start as the Doctor. His performance throughout this serial has a certain pantomime quality to it, complete with spoon playing and over the top physical movements, and you never get the sense that he (or any of the other performers for that matter) really believe in any of it. Probably due to the poor script. The Doctor McCoy plays in this adventure is completely different to the mysterious and dark traveller we get in later McCoy stories such as ‘Ghost Light’, with his performances improving greatly from him playing the role much straighter. It goes without saying that Bonnie Langford as Mel is awful, and in my opinion the reason many fans have a big problem with season twenty-four is because of this one character. Thankfully this would be her last season with the show. The Rani is played by Kate O’Mara, and although she appears to be having a great deal of fun, she comes across as not especially villainous. This is the only Rani adventure I have seen – I’m still yet to see ‘The Mark of the Rani’ – and, assuming this is the same Rani we get in her debut adventure, it is difficult to see how this character could ever earn a second outing. The idea of a female Master is a nice one, but Pip and Jane Baker have written this character like a pantomime villain.

‘Time and the Rani’ was the first Doctor Who adventure I watched as a small boy of four years old. Unbelievably, it was also the story that got me hooked on Doctor Who and as a result good film and TV science fiction in general. Looking back on it now, however, it is perhaps fortunate I was so young when I first saw it, for I fear that if I was only three or four years older ‘Time and the Rani’ would have turned me off Doctor Who for life.

In summary, whereas I can usually find things to enjoy even in bad McCoy adventures, such as ‘Silver Nemesis’, which is so bad its good, ‘Time and the Rani’ is so bad its bad. Doctor Who had reached its lowest point, and after this awful McCoy debut adventure, things could only get better.