Thursday 13 September 2012

660 Time and the Rani Part One

EPISODE: Time and the Rani Part One
TRANSMITTED: Monday 07 September 1987
WRITER: Pip & Jane Baker
DIRECTOR: Andrew Morgan
SCRIPT EDITOR: Andrew Cartmel
PRODUCER: John Nathan-Turner
RATINGS: 5.1 million viewers
FORMAT: DVD: Doctor Who - Time and the Rani

The Tardis is shot down in mid flight and crash lands on the planet Lakertya. As the Rani and her Tetrap servant enter the ship, the Doctor regenerates. Taking him back to her base, where she is involved in a scheme to kidnap geniuses, she convinces the Doctor that she is Mel. The real Mel is taken from the Tardis by Lakertian rebel Ikona but escapes. She is recaptured when she accidentally causes the death of Sarn, a Lakertian slave of the Rani who has escaped, in a Tetrap bubble trap. Mel then saves Ikona's life from being caught in another bubble trap but as the Rani watches on from within the Doctor's Tardis Mel is caught in one herself.

They're quite proud of their bubble trap effect thing aren't they? 3 uses in one episode. And admittedly it is the best thing here because the rest is complete disaster. The Tardis is SHOT DOWN IN FLIGHT? What? The Rani & Tetrap just walk inside? How did they get in? The Tardis doors have been repeatedly shown to be only openable from the inside unless you have a key. What's worse is the Doctor later fumbles for a key to open the doors WHEN NOBODY LOCKED THEM. Mel's outfit is awful, just dreadfully nasty and what's worse both she and the Rani get to wear it. I'll accept that the Doctor is suffering post regenerative trauma, and yes we do see him given something to obscure his memory, but surely even he would have been convinced by the Rani's disguise?.

I actually feel quite sorry for the returning Kate O'Mara here. She's looks like she's aged considerable since her last appearance 2 1/2 years previously. In her Rani costume she gets away with it but the Mel disguise does her no favours whatsoever.

When we left producer John Nathan-Turner he had no script editor, no scripts and no leading man. The script problem sorted itself out first: As the story goes JNT got into a lift at Television Centre one day with Pip & Jane Baker and asked them if they fancied writing a story for the new season. They said yes. John Nathan Turner new that Kate O'Mara, tired of working in America on Dynasty, wanted to return to the UK for work and was amenable to reprising the Rani, introduced in a previous story by the Bakers. Job done.

A number of screen tests were held for a new Doctor, several of which can be found on The Time and the Rani DVD. Amongst those seen were Ken Campbell, known for his theatre work, Dermot Crowley who was General Madine in Return of the Jedi and Chris Jury who'd just been in the first series of Lovejoy. For more on actors that might have played the Doctor see The BBC's Changing Face of Doctor Who (Thank you Helen for supplying that!.

The man that was eventually cast as Doctor Who was Sylvester McCoy, to which most people said "Who?" But I remembered him from earlier appearances on Jigsaw, as one of the O-Men, and Eureka, both produced by former Doctor Who vision mixer Clive Doig. His Jigsaw appearances later caused much arguments at University when we tried to remember who the other O-Man was! Our logic broke down when we assumed that McCoy, a 5ft 6, was the smaller of the two O-Men. He wasn't: the other O-Man was the 3ft 11 David Rappaport. Also in Jigsaw was Horns of the Nimon's Janet Ellis while Eureka featured Tomb of the Cybermen & Claws of Axos Bernard Holley and Attack of the Cybermen's Sarah Greene. McCoy was born Percy James Patrick Kent-Smith in Dunoon, Scotland on 20 August 1943. After training for the priesthood he took up acting becoming a member of Ken Campbell's Roadshow where he acquired his stage name from a stuntman character he played. This then led to his television work with Doig and then to Doctor Who....

And with a new Doctor we get a new title sequence which you can see here on YouTube. There's many familiar elements in it with an explosion, a sense of travelling in space, the Tardis and the Doctor's face which winks at us (Colin Baker's smiled). But the new Logo.... oh dear. I like the typeface that WHO is in, big solid letters, but the American university logo style Doctor looked awful then and looks even worse now. If someone can do me a complete Logo in the WHO Typeface I'd appreciate it. The new sequence was entirely computer animated by graphics designer Oliver Elmes and to go with it Keff McCulloch composed a new version of the theme tune which for the first time incorporates the middle eight in the opening sequence. It's much better to my ear than the Dominic Glynn Trial of a Timelord version but I much prefer either the earlier 80s sequence by Peter Howell or better yet the version of Delia Derbyshire's arrangement used for most of Tom Baker's run as the Doctor.

Sylvester McCoy suffers similarly to Colin Baker in his first episode and story: The Doctor's not himself following the regeneration so he's acting somewhat out of character. But it's the new Doctor people have tuned into see here. A bemused performance, in someone else's costume really wasn't what people were looking for and nearly a million viewers, a sixth of the show's audience, didn't bother coming back the next week. Of course it doesn't help being broadcast against once of the most popular show in the land: Monday night's at 7:35 placed it directly opposite Coronation Street with the opposition given a 5 minute head start. You'd almost think the BBC didn't want Doctor Who to succeed.......

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