Time and the RaniBookmark and Share

Saturday, 4 September 2004 - Reviewed by Joe Ford

Time and the Rani is utter crap, I would never deny that. The script is ludicrous, full of scientific mumbo-jumbo that would have Eienstein (who makes a brief appearance) baffled. It is poorly structured and has some seriously poor cliffhangers and the 'wow' moments are kept to an absolute minimum. The acting is as far from Oscar worthy as you could possibly get and the lines some of these well known actors are force fed make you want to die of embarrassment.

And yet...

I find this story immensely pleasurable from the word go. Every time I re-watch I find myself enjoying its barmy atmosphere. Its almost as if everybody knew they were onto a stinker so decided to make it as bad as possible in every way. On these terms the story is a forgotten classic, a comedy that rivals anything from the Williams era for laughs (and is even better than The Chase for post pub watching!!!).

Funny? Oh yes it is! Scarily enough the Rani's Bonnie impressions are actually very good (and wet your pants hysterical!)...her little asides ("Pretentious is the word") never fail to get me going. Kate O'Mara gives a performance so camp that it knocks Benik, the Security Chief and Lady Adastra out of the pool! Its a daft script so it deserves a daft performance and O'Mara's treatment of the character doesn't diminish my love the character one jot. Just watch her delayed reactions as the Doctor ties her up at the end of episode ("Arraaagh!") or her grandiose villany dialogue ("I have the Loyhargil! Nothing can stop me now!"). Get stuffed Zaroff..the Rani is now the best OTT baddie!

D'you what the funniest thing about this story is that Pip'n'Jane (bless them) actually thought this effort was a serious and dramatic way to start the season. Its more like The Nutty Professor on speed with a dose of LSD for good measure! 

Poor Bonnie, all she wants are good scripts so she can show the world what she's made of and she's made to trip over, fall unconscious, scream, get tongued by a Tetrap, scream, get suspended upside down, scream, put in a bubble and bounced around a quarry and of course...scream. The reprise to episode two is brilliantly funny where Mel is supposed to scream for like three minutes without stopping and you can hear that poor Bonnie's voice is going and yet she struggles on gamely. I love Bonnie to pieces and she proved her self admirably in Trial of a Time Lord and the Big Finish plays so im now convinced it was a case of wrong time/wrong place plus crapper than crap scripts. The scenes where Mel is underwitten (such as her desperate pleas to Ikona and her reaction to Faroon's reaction to Sarn's death) are genuinely well acted and poignant.

Lets face it...McCoy is awful in this but he plays the part so loosely (and with such comedy) its impossible not to enjoy. In many ways its good that Colin escaped this story as I cannot imagine how he would have fared here. With no real character to discern here McCoy just plays himself on overdrive and its quite infectious in places...I love the first scene between Mel and the Doctor ("Theory exchanges no mockery!")...full of energy and quite sweet when they realise who they are. Unfortunately he plays up the awful proverbs (although the recent Bang-Bang-a-Boom takes the piss out of that so I guess it was worth it) and the more cringe worthy aspects of the character. Alas who could ever forget "A hologram! As substantial as the Rani's scruples!"...shiver. 

And lets not forget that this story has a fully competent production. Andrew Morgan is the only person who is determined to inject some talent into this story and his direction is excellent in places. He might be lumbered with another quarry but he tries to make things interesting by shooting at high angles and setting the camera's between the rocks for some inventive shots. The special FX for the story are as good as the show ever got and the bubble traps Mel has a habit of falling into look superb. The asteriod, rocket lift off and bulging brain look good too. It really is a case of dire script/excellent production. And lets not forget Keff McCulloch who I feel gives his best music in this story, its a really freaky techno-inspired score sometimes totally at odds with the action but always very memorable. Love the piece where Ikona looks for the glitter weapon and the theme where the Tetraps jump down from the ceiling and emerge...very cool. 

So there we have it, its hearts in the right place but its brain has been stuck on heroine too long, a story that looks fab but you cannot take seriously. At the time it was the worst thing that could have happened. Now, many years on it is a guilty indulgence and hugely enjoyable at that.

Ladies and Gentlemen I give you Doctor Who...the only show in existence that is brilliant when it sucks.

FILTER: - Television - Series 24 - Seventh Doctor