Wednesday, September 8, 2010

101 Reasons "Time and the Rani" Rocks

Could this be the endearing sixth Time Lord?
This was, indeed, the Doctor.
Regeneration had been triggered by the tumultuous buffeting.


I'm not going to be stupid enough to think that anyone is going to suddenly believe that Time and the Rani is the best story ever. Coz it isn't. But it's certainly better than people think. Seen at the time and seen again, in context in the ABC's "that's the next three years of weekday 6:00 slots sorted then" marathon rescreening of absolutely every episode they could get their hands on, Time and the Rani is a breath of fresh air, full of cool monsters, spooky images, a loveable central character and lots of skeletons. To the kids in my social circle that ever saw the series, Time and the Rani did no wrong than ANY OTHER Doctor Who story. There were no complaints about dialogue disaster or complaints that if Strange Matter is so damn heavy the gravitational pull would knock Lakertya out of orbit and drag the missile to it anyway. There was just "did you see the giant vampire bats bite the screaming girl on the neck? COWABUNGA!"

So, sit back, relax, ideally watch KLF's Doctor'n the Tardis and then straight into this whistle-stop tour of my childhood...

1) This is perhaps the only story bar The Big Bang to be a serious Doctor Who story based on a comedy skit. Specifically The Lenny Henry show, which begins with the TARDIS crash-landing, prompting a completely unexplained regeneration for the Sixth Doctor, and then he and his screaming companion team up with a strange comic relief resistance fighter on a world ruled by monsters in turned ruled by a vicious female villain the Doctor is terrified of and has something of a history with. After numerous chases up and down corridors and the female villain being undermined by her lumbering henchman, the Doctor uses some explosives to save day and heads off into the sunset getting to re-know his companion. Yes. Suddenly EVERYTHING makes sense!

2) There is no arguing with the fact that Time and the Rani is one of the best stories ever in terms of production values and special effects. No wasting your entire budget on a single model shot here - CGI and model shots, animatronic monsters, alien skies... hell, you won't find any Nu Who story doing all this on an alien planet. For once Doctor Who is not working on a shoestring. From a technical point of view, Time and the Rani is the BBC giving everything it's got. And, no, I don't think this was a wise distribution of their efforts, but it still counts.

3) The original idea for the pre-credit sequence was Albert Einstein writing a letter about atomic weapons in his room when he gets kidnapped by a giant vampire bat. But that wasn't enough. So it became King Solomon, in a palace with hundreds of courtiers, doing the whole "cut the baby in half" thing... and THEN getting kidnapped by a giant vampire bat. But even this wasn't enough. So instead we get a lightning storm blast the TARDIS out of the sky, ride a rainbow down into a quarry in front of a startled lizard man, the harpoon-weilding Rani breaks into the console room, give a camp one liner and THEN a giant vampire bat kidnaps the Doctor. Who regenerates. This pre-credit sequence earns the FULL FIST!!!

4) The Matt Smith era is obsessed with fairy tale? THIS is the story where a wicked queen in the land beyond beyond, in a castle filled with evil monkey-ape-bat things, who puts clever people into a trance so she can steal their genius. She then uses drags the hero down a rainbow and bewitches him into think she's his best friend, making him an unwitting slave in a plan that strikes two shooting stars together in a collision that will end the world itself. It's like The Wizard of Oz and The Silver Chair met in a Large Hadron Collider...

5) Now, the regeneration itself probably ISN'T the best example of its type, given it's one actor in a wig rather than two actors and there's no death scene... but it works as a single kinetic tracking shot. And if, like me, you'd never clapped eyes on Colin Baker before, you honestly never twigged it wasn't him. And the liquid quicksilver washing the old Doctor's face away is definitely a much more imaginative idea than the New Series' "flame on" approach.

6) The first scene with the Seventh Doctor is brilliant. It's the equivalent of a CIN sketch or an audition piece. The Doctor's wide-awake, firing on all cylinders, and only takes ten seconds to sort out his regeneration cobwebs. He immediately paints the situation as completely serious - he's scared of just being in the same room as the Rani, and the sight of the asteroid terrifies him even more. It's the first few scenes and suddenly we know that the whole universe is in danger. The Rani idly banters with him, long enough for her to pull out a syringe, and the Doctor totally loses it. And when the Rani idly threatens to kill Sarn, the Doctor is on his feet, dragging attention back onto him as he screams "STAY AWAY OR I'LL SMASH IT! I'LL SMASH IT TO PIECES!" so angrilly that suddenly it's the Rani that's scared. This might also be the first and last time that Sylvester McCoy does anger completely convincingly too. It's also clever that we get to see the "proper" Doctor before three episodes of him stumbling around off his face on amnesia drugs. No "tune in next year to find out what he's like" as with last time.

7) The Rani claims "I've no feelings one way or the other", when it's clear she's not HALF as detached as she claimed. Apart from her superiority complex, she gets annoyed very quickly, has a sense of humor no one understands (she finds the idea of "procuring" the Doctor hilarious), and is bouncy-happy-puppy when loyhargil is invented. It makes me wonder what happened in her childhood to make her so standoffish. Did she get dumped by Braxiatel or something? The Doctor and the Master to this day try to get in her pants every chance they get... But proof the Rani is not the emotional island she claims: "If the fool didn't accept her as Mel, then she'd gone to a lot of trouble for nothing! It gave her no pleasure to wear this ridiculous wig and cute clothes!"

8) The farcical elements of the first episode are quite clever. The Doctor drunkenly scoops up an object and tells the audience that it'd be very handy to drag any passing spaceship down to Lakertya, completely unaware it's been used on him. He also turns aside a spiked drink, again not suspecting a thing. He even struggles to come up with an explanation how he could regenerate in circumstances that didn't so much as scratch his companion!

9) Mel: The Doctor wouldn't've left me!
Ikona: [to himself] If he had any sense he would.
Mel: It's not even up for discussion!
Ikona: Good, I shall enjoy the silence!
Mel: Were you born a pessimist, or is it self-induced?

10) So the unseen monsters are shaggy, brown-furred humanoids carrying weapons that fire cobwebs against their victims. Was I the only one that thought, "Hang on a second... the Rani has Yeti working for her?" OK, I was wrong, but it's still cool.

11) The novelization gives an explanation for whatever the hell it is Mel is wearing: "'Just as well I'm wearing sneakers,' she muttered to herself. She preferred the more fashionable high-heeled boots she had worn with her previous pants suit. As it happened, she had been exercising when the disaster overcame the TARDIS, and so she was appropriately dressed for this inhospitable planet beneath its cerise sky." Yet, oddly enough, Peri never had that excuse when she was wandering around in a bright pink leotard...

12) Speaking of Peri, this is the first alien planet since Frontios where the natives haven't uncontrollably lusted after the companion and tried to mate with her. Ikona says that he considers the Tetraps better-looking than humans. Compare to The Twin Dilemma where a giant slug wants to rape Peri because he reminds her of his own mother. This is also the first story sans Eric Saward, oddly enough. You think there might be a connection?

13) The Doctor nudges the fourth wall by wondering why the hell he ever chose Mel as a companion - something that wouldn't even be vaguely explained for over a decade and even THEN in a book the author later dubbed non-canonical. He then decides that "Mel" is only useful for one thing: playing the spoons on her tits. If the Sixth Doctor had done that instead of strangling her, Peri might have been a lot better disposed towards him.

14) "'Do I detect a hint of displeasure, Mel? This egalitarian spirit doesn't strike a note of harmony. Or could it be you think yourself superior to me?'
The Rani's tapered fingers caressed a vial bearing the legend CYANIDE... 'How could I possibly assume that, Doctor?'

15) Think about the Rani's headquarters for a minute. Just think about it. A secure base with en suite cave for giant bats and inbuilt brain-sucking mechanics wired up to a giant purple brain with convenient rocket launcher and alchemy factory. Not likely to be a Lakertyan warehouse the Rani's just taken over, is it? The whole thing has been built "at the cost of many lives". By whom? Well, if you look closely you'll notice the butresses have Tetrap shaped gargoyles built into them, and none of the building is the style of Lakertyan building we see later on. Clearly it's a Tetrap design. The idea of a Tetrap architect is so amazing it merits its own Monty Python sketch: "I normally design abbatoirs, you see..."

16) "The more I know me, the less I like me," the Seventh Doctor says. And it's true that almost all his actions come from a desire to be better than his last self (though it's based entirely on the Rani's claims of what his old self was like). If Sixie has set up sticks on Lakertya, Seven wants to travel the stars. If Sixie's built a laboratory to create goo, Seven wants it all abandoned. If Sixie thought the Lakertyans were lazy sods who deserve everything they get, Seven is going to save every last one of them he can! He even promises not to be "sulky and bad-tempered" if that was what he used to be like... it's quite moving when you think about it, especially now we know Sixie is DEAD and it's a new man sauntering off.

17) It's some florid prose that does sort of kill off Spiral Scratch's claims to show the definitive Sixth Doctor finale by not having Mel know the Doctor is dying or what planet she's on. Oh, and she's also in character. Yes, Russell, I went there...
"Alone, Mel paused. The steep incline she was climbing rose to a serrated ridge. The elements had eroded the granite into untidy obelisks which the imagination could transform into misbegotten effigies. Ruefully, Mel cast three of them as the witches in Macbeth. A wistful smile relieved her gloomy speculation: if the Doctor were here, he'd quote Shakespeare's gory tragedy, that's for sure! She could herself. During schooldays in Pease Cottage, Sussex, England, she'd hammed her way through the role of the Third Witch. Loneliness crowded in. Evocation of her lush and verdant birthplace brought home her predicament. She didn't even know where in the infinite universe she was stranded. Pluck, not self-pity, was Mel's style. She resumed the arduous climb."

18) A lovely cut as Mel notes that "One thing about the Doctor, you can't miss him in that outfit!" to the Doctor's coat getting thrown into a chest as the new Doctor changes his clothes and thus any hope that Mel can easily sort out this mess. As the book notes grimly, "The trimmings of the sixth Doctor were being discarded."

19) One reviewer complained that it was ridiculous and embarassing that the Doctor would spend ages dressing up as Napoleon following his regeneration. Um. Well. Yeah. It's also utterly ridiculous the idea that the Doctor can change his face. And his height. And weight. Yet the fact the Doctor is concussed and pumped full of drugs, a fact which explain his behavior, gets completely ignored. For Christ sake it's less than three minutes of screentime. When it happens in Robot, The Twin Dilemma and The Christmas Invasion, no one complained then...

20) The major point of this entire sequence is, of course, to compare and contrast. The Sixth Doctor also went into the wardrobe, chose a ridiculous outfit, and had a psychotic attack. But here the Doctor is ASKING his companion for HER opinion. He's dressing up in stupid costumes to get a smile out of her. Each time the Rani rolls her eyes and the Doctor gets upset. And when "Mel" says that she likes the question mark look, he's instantly pleased and declares he has regained his fashion sense.

21) Doctor: [on his outfit] A little portentous perhaps, Mel?
[long pause]
Rani: Pretentious is the word.

22) Stepping aside for a moment, it's worth mentioning that while these episodes were on, Doctor Who Magazine had kicked off its first ever Seventh Doctor comic strip, A Cold Day In Hell. Amazingly enough for a last-minute storyline, it echoed the as-yet-unseen Season 24 in so many ways - a frozen alien planet, monsters that need cold that die when sun-filters are dropped, a strangely unconvincing departure for a regular companion and their replacement neatly filling the gap in the TARDIS... remind anyone of Dragonfire? How about the Doctor and companion going to a holiday camp which is overrun by alien soldiers lead by a certifiable psychotic who has heard of the Doctor... bit like Delta and the Bannermen really, isn't it? The Doctor and companion watching holiday images on the TARDIS screen, arriving in a hellhole that seems to be deserted, encountering a ragged female rebel who becomes an ally, civilians wielding homemade explosives to deal with unstoppable killing machines, a coward sacrificing himself for the greater good... Paradise Towers? Time and the Rani offers villains with distinctive POVs stalking the landscape, the companion being forced to lead the resistance, the Doctor seemingly dead at the end of an episode, and this...
No one knew the Seventh Doctor would wear that fur coat. But he does. In both his comic and TV debuts. This is a freaking amazing coincidence. Charles Fort would dub this the work of the Cosmic Trickster...

23) This scene with the Seventh Doctor in a motar board inspired Paul Cornell to write Human Nature. Which in turn was made a TV story and one of the most popular stories of the RTD era. A story everyone at the time thought would feature the Rani, disguised as Joan Redfern. All that. All from here.

24) If you watch the wardrobe scene carefully, you'll see the Doctor doesn't actually change his outfit. He changes his hat, then his jacket, but he's always wearing the same trousers and shoes. So he'd already settled on the check pants and spats and was looking for other things that would go with them...

25) In a moment I literally cannot believe people don't remember let alone big up, the new Doctor is checking his reflection when he sees the Rani reflected in the mirror... then Mel... then the Rani again. The Rani responds to this dawning comprehension by punching the Doctor across the room. This dialogue free sequence is amazingly spooky, perhaps added by the freaky Rani-Mel hybrid that looks a bit like those websites that show you "the baby" of two photographs you upload. Or maybe just Lucy Griffiths in a wig.

26) Urak clearly has some kind of cyber implant in his brain, since the Rani can program the TARDIS to tune into Urak-vision. Speaking of the TetrapCam, it's awesome, with four different images colliding and then resolving into one bloodshot view of the world that can then zoom in on the target...

27) When the Rani suggests the "completely evil" Rani (actually Mel) should be destroyed, the Doctor looks at her expressionlessly and whispers, "Destroyed? Don't let's be hasty." Now, it's clearly MEANT to be the Doctor rejecting such senseless violence and rehabilitating his foes. But Sylvester McCoy plays it completely differently. As a kid I was absolutely convinced he was actually saying "she has to suffer first!" Hey, Kerr Avon was one of my childhood heroes who lustifully rasped "I NEED to KILL HER... my SELF!!" We're not saying Servalan's nicer than the Rani, are we? Are we...?

28) Wow, a cliffhanger that DOES NOT feature a close up of Colin Baker's face! Seriously though, episode one ends amazingly. Mel's on her own. She's being hunted by monsters we can't see. She has no idea what's going on. The Doctor seems to have penned her into his 500 Year Diary as public enemy number one. And then she steps into a fucking bubble trap, 100% guaranteed death trap. No one is around to help her. And even the Doctor wants her dead, it seems. She's utterly doomed and no one's going to stop the Rani's plan. It took me TWELVE YEARS to see how she got out of that fix. As impossible situations go it's slightly ahead of Remembrance of the Daleks part one. And it took me SEVEN YEARS to see how the Doctor got away from being locked in the basement with a Dalek...

29) The novelization cranks up the tension: "In a whoosh of dust and shale, a huge, opaque bubble with a bulging metal detonator encapsulated the screaming girl. Steam spurted from its underside. Mel frantically tore at the plastic. To no avail. The bubble began to spin. Faster and faster. Towards the edge of a cliff. Mel kicked. She yelled. Tried to pierce the bubble with her fingernails. Attempted, by running counter-clockwise, to force it away from the precipice. All in vain. The bubble rolled inexorably on, until, abandoning terra firma, it shot over the edge of the cliff..."

30) Ikona's life sucks. "The Rani's domination of Lakertya had been achieved with humiliating ease. His acquiescent countrymen, spoonfed by an indulgent regime, offered little opposition, preferring to believe the intrusion would be small-scale and transient. A monumental mistake.
Anticipating this, Ikona tried to rally Beyus; the peace-loving intellectual rebuffed him, preaching non-aggression. An innate dissident, Ikona then endeavoured to organise resistance groups. His efforts were fruitless.
Already nursing a burgeoning sense of disillusionment, he divorced himself from Lakertyan society and dwelt alone: an iconoclast living a hermit's existence.

31) Doctor: And another thing: why was the Rani dressed like you?
Rani: Perhaps she's fashion-conscious.

32) "Those who deduced the Rani was devoid of feeling were wrong. Passing the cabinets, she experienced an intoxicating glow of satisfaction: Charles Darwin, Louis Pasteur, Albert Einstein, the creme de la creme! Adrenalin pumped through the Time Lady's veins and she saw, with unflawed clarity, the inspired beauty of the new dawn her scheme would usher in. Not only for this insignificant cosmic fragment called Lakertya, but for the whole of creation. She halted by the vacant cabinet. A small smile embellished her lips. Soon the final piece of the mosaic would be in place. She slid the card into the empty slot and read again the name she had inscribed: THE DOCTOR."

33) It's a cunning move. Rather than save the appearance of the monster for the cliffhanger, the Tetraps unveil themselves halfway through the second episode, jumping out of nowhere to land, hissing in front of Mel. Total amazement city.

34) After one lengthy and hyperbolic speech from the Doctor about how utterly fucking badass the Rani is, the disguised Rani turns to camera and deadpans "I'm overwhelmed." Does this hilarious moment get the praise The Caves of Androzani does when Morgus does the same thing over and over again? No! Double bloody standards, every time!

35) Amazingly enough, this story has a love interest for Mel (Ikona, joining such ranks as Edwardes and Glitz - Pip and Jane clearly think Mel is enough to drive any man wild). It's the usual pattern - boy meets girl, kidnaps her and ties her up while she's unconscious, she saves his life, he saves her life, next thing you know they're actually going on about how they wish Ikona was aboard the TARDIS. However, any subtlety goes down the toilet window in episode two as Ikona has to try and remove a long cylindrical object from a narrow hole that makes Mel scream, leading to this exchange which shocked the audience more than Erato or anything Captain Jack ever did...
Mel: Have you done this before?
Ikona: It's the first time! And, Mel, if you don't stop squawking it'll undoubtedly be the last!

36) The novelization deals with this scene in a very mature manner. Ikona is "saturated, hissing with tension" as he "eases" a "tumor-shaped bolt" and "steeling himself" incase it should "blow". Mel is "squirming" with "the dexterity of an eel" as "Ikona's hand trembled... Delicately... gradually... A jerk! With mercurial speed, the explosion sent a spectacular spout of steaming water spurting upwards into the air." It's turned into Scary Movie, really, hasn't it?

37) Mel: Are we just running scared? Or are we heading somewhere in particular?
Ikona: The answer to both questions is 'yes'.

38) The novelization has a cool sequence where Urak, having "Mel's scarf" as a trophy, tries to catch Mel and Ikona, who escape up some vines on a cliff-face and thus avoid the Tetrap's 360 vision by going above his head. Cool.

39) The Doctor and the Rani reveal that you can ferment an environmentally-friendly, biodegradable plastic called polyhydroxybutyrat (PHB) with ordinary sugar and starch at home! In your FACE, Blue Peter!

40) Lakertyans greet each other with high-fives. Seriously. They do.

41) A particularly brutal moment: Mel tries to break Faroon's snooty attitude by pointing out Sarn's skeleton. She then finds out that the skeleton was Faroon's daughter and is left uncharacteristically speechless. "I had to be told," says Faroon gently as she weeps over her child's remains. Yeah, Season 24 is so childish.

42) Mel: Where's the Doctor, you brute?
Doctor: Here!
Mel: Where? Under the carpet?
Doctor: There isn't any carp- [blinks] Me, you stupid woman! Me!

43) In The Twin Dilemma, the Doctor assumes his companion is an alien spy and tries to kill here. Here, this madness is not only part of the plot, but instead of simply getting choked to death like Peri, Mel beats the crap out of the Doctor. He then grabs her, throws her over his shoulders and spins her around. There is not a child alive that would rather watch a courtroom scene with a new pun ending in "yard" than this.

44) The novelization meanwhile, turns the fight scene into something that Rik Mayall and Adrian Edmonsen would marvel at... "Mel ducked beneath his outstretched arms, snatched up the acetylene torch and flourished it menacingly. A threat made comical by its weak flame. Sneering, he advanced. Hastily she increased the gas flow, forcing him into an undignified withdrawal from the spurting tongue of flame. He grabbed a stool to fend her off. But the seat cover caught fire! He dropped the blistering stool and retreated in disarray. A stab with the acetylene torch was brought to an abrupt halt! The rubber tubing was fully extended! With a Kung Fu yell, the Doctor sprang onto the bench and stamped on the acetylene torch's tubing. The flame drooped to a puny flicker. Spluttered. Then died. He leapt to the floor. The spritely Mel evaded him, putting the bench between them." When the Rani returns she finds the scorched chair - "Turned pyro-maniac, too, have you?" "Pyro - er - yes. Soldering what-d'you-call-it slipped..."

45) Many people assume that the Rani gets the best line of the story. This is a total falsehood. It is Mel who gets that line, in response to the Doctor mocking her with Tom Baker episode titles ("Try looking in the mirror, the face of evil!") What is the best line of the story?
Mel: I've had enough of this drivel.

46) Realizing at last who they are, the Seventh Doctor and Mel do a headbut of love. The fans rejoiced when the Eleventh Doctor and Amy do something similar, the hypocrites, but not here...
"COME ALONG, BUSH!", it's just not the same...

47) The Doctor tells us all this adventure doesn't bode well for his new persona. It's better than Robot or The Twin Dilemma though, and look how THOSE Doctors turn out!

48) Urak accidentally zaps the Rani, mistaking her for Mel. When he tries to raise the (reasonable) question of why she's dressed up as an escaped prisoner all the Tetraps are hunting and never warned any of them she's doing this, she quickly changes the subject with "Inquests bore me." Next time I get asked why I'm doing a totally stupid and pointless thing, that's going to be MY witty answer.

49) The Doctor informs us that Strange Matter was discovered by "a Princetown physicist discovered it in the Earth year 1984." Topical and educational! When was the last time NuWho managed that? Tooth and Claw about haemophilia!

50) There's a balated attempt to give the Sixth Doctor a longer life - he's aparently fifty-two years older when he dies than when he was in Trial of a Time Lord. Big Finish have leapt onto it with all their might, and in Orbis it's revealed the Eighth Doctor lost complete count of how old he was and just calls himself 900 in time for the new series. So. Yeah.

51) Compare and contrast the Doctor trying to bluff the Rani with how he deals with Fenric or Light. There's a real vibe he becomes such an arch manipulator and chessmaker as a reaction to being pissed around with so much in this story. Just think, the Seventh Doctor would be a completely different person if the Rani hadn't fooled him and made him knuckle down and fight back...

52) The first two episodes do admittedly stray vaguely into pantomime territory with the Doctor continually almost-but-not-quite spotting the Rani's mistakes. Then, when the Doctor DOES find out, the mood changes. And so does the lighting as the Rani presses a button that makes everything dark and sinister and cheerfully takes off her wig. A simple way of saying "the kid gloves are off now".

53) A truly brilliant cliffhanger to part two. We've seen ominous looks at that trapdoor for the last two episodes. We know whatever is down there likes buckets of blood poured down their trough. And ergo it's a very bad idea for the Doctor to ignore warnings and run inside. The Rani follows, but isn't brave enough to enter. She peers through, then closes the door and LOCKS it. The Doctor's trapped in the dark... and then he's attacked on all sides by very hungry giant vampire bats. McCoy had a thing about being trapped in underground lairs for cliffhangers, didn't he? It happens again in Paradise Towers, Dragonfire, Remembrance of the Daleks, The Happiness Patrol, The Greatest Show in the Galaxy, Battlefield... even Ace does it in Ghost Light...

54) After the entire Tetrap swarm allows the Doctor to escape because of their uncontrollable plasma binge, Urak self-consciously clears his throat and turns to Beyus hautily: "The Mistress has profound insight but I think she is mistaken to rely on any of your worthless race!" Beyus just stares at him. Urak awkwardly shuffles off. It's like a scene from The Office produced on LSD and napalm.

55) The Doctor escapes the Rani by hiding in the cabinet she was going to throw him in when she caught him anyway. Now THAT is clever.

56) "The Tetraps are nobody's pets!" warns Beyus. Pip and Jane got the name as an anagram of "Star Pets". Hey, Robert Holmes got Drashig from "dish rag"...

57) I like the Sixth Doctor, but let's be honest, if he'd accidentally knocked over someone blocking his escape and trying to help his enemies, he WOULDN'T immediately rush to his assistance. In fact, he'd more likely make sure the sod was unconscious with a good punch

58) Faroon being so protective of Mel is some subtle transference there, what with her daughter just dying.

59) Ikona: You must be the Doctor! I've met your companion, Mel.
Doctor: Well, don't hold that against me.

60) The stunned Doctor takes off his hat in respect as a Tetrap gets nuked. The Sixth Doctor would have given a witty one-liner ("I'm forever blowing bubbles"?) and then we'd cut to a bloody trial room for a five minute argument about whether this violence is necessary. None of that here. This is a good thing.

61) Lakertya gets more of a culture than Thoros Beta from simply seeing the tradition of people kissing their hands and touching a stone before entering a city. And the Doctor does it as well, just to be polite!

62) The disco music in the Centre of Liesure is actually Keff McCulloch remixing his own singing. That's incredibly foresighted for 1987. It's called Future Pleasure for crying out loud... and is so similar to the theme to Rugrats methinks something sinister and suspicious took place.

63) There's surprising depth to the scene where the Rani releases the bugs. The Rani's furious that the natives are turning against her, Urak is spitting blood that one of his bruthas got killed and Beyus is almost tearful at the carnivals and fireworks they used to have on Lakertya. Nice little details that show a world more than a woman in shoulder pads shouting at a drag queen and a giant bat...

64) A nice detail that people often overlook: why in the name of God's arse do the Lakertyans hang out under the disco ball of death? Well, only Beyus and his missus actually KNOW there are killer insects in there. And once the trap is opened, the only reason the Lakertyans hang around there is because the Tetraps forced them inside at gunpoint. All makes sense.

65) There really is something sad and pitiful as Ikona tries to high-five with his dead brother, but can't because, you know, the dude is dead.

66) It's a damning sight when the Doctor risks the entire fate of the universe to save his companion's life... and he doesn't get her back. It's all for nothing. Topped by Urak laughing at our hero: "So stupid! You are not a worthy opponent for the Rani!" RTD pulls this stunt regularly in his season finales, but done here first! And, eschewing wangst, the Doctor bounces back from the defeat again!

67) The Rani clearly gets a kick of of humiliating people - she notes that Mel is an expert on computers even as she gives her grunt work that anyone could do. She also chooses the woman that unintentionally got Sarn killed to have to work with her father. Sadistic bitch, you gotta love her!

68) No sooner do the Doctor and Ikona note the "run around distracting Tetraps" shtick is getting predictable than it turns out it's all a trap by Urak. Cunning bat-faced bastard!

69) You have got to admire the "stiff" acting McCoy and Langford do when they're paralyzed by Tetrap bites. Seriously, that cannot be easy, to the point you wonder if they're REALLY good wax dummies or something. But no, it was all them. Wooden acting isn't a complaint, it's a freaking skill!

70) Urak is a collossal pervert, getting obscene thrills from pawing and groping young girls. The book notes Urak constantly drooling and licking Mel's ear "with the tenderness of an obscene lover". Hell, Mel gets more fondled and more arse shots in this story than Peri ever did. Not sure if this counts as a good thing or not...

71) Yet another cool death scene, with ankle-bracelets that turn you into skeletons. Skeletons are cool. And Urak laughing as everyone screams. Awesome.

The Doctor: Really, this is not the place for double entendres!

The Doctor: A fool and his formula are soon parted.

74) Albert Einstein: Outrgaeous polemics! God does not play with dice!
Niels Bohr: Don't tell God what to do!
The Doctor: Gentlemen, such hostility! Remember, [sings] blessed are the piemakers for they shall make light pastry...

The Doctor: You wouldn't say that if you met my uncle.

The Doctor: Ah well, every dogma has its day.

The Doctor: Or a No. 3 bus.

The Doctor: Does that mean the faster a fat man runs the fatter he will get?

79) There are people in this world that thought that Einstein was played by Patrick Troughton. Now, in fairness, Troughton was always saying he'd love to be an uncredited extra in Doctor Who. Einstein would be the perfect role, so this theory was vaguely reasonable except a) the guy looks nothing like Troughton b) Troughton had been dead for nearly a year when the story came out. The irony is Einstein's voice is supplied in the brain scenes by Peter Tuddenham. So this DWM readers got the right initials if nothing else...

80) Just as the Doctor and Mel kidnap the Rani, she's trying to get something out of her bracelet. The full scene would have her get out an ampoule which then gets dropped to the floor in the struggle, and then stepped on by a Tetrap rushing to the rescue, which is then engulfed in a flesh-eating fungus before it can savee the Rani. 'She meant that for us!' exclaims Mel. 'Yes, well, let's postpone the post-mortem,' the Doctor says glumly.

81) "Grandly, Urak distributed silver bangles among the troop. 'Naf tuo! uoY era erawa fo eht stnuah eseht elbacipsed snaytrekaL tneuqerf...' (By simply reversing the Tetrapyriarban language, this would read: 'Fan out! You are aware of the haunts these despicable Lakertyans frequent...')
Braying the equivalent of Tetrapian tally-hos, the winged bipeds rombed cumbersomely into the hunt."

82) Hell, some more coolness from the book and continuing the downright flirting between the two enemies:
'If only you didn't choose to waste your talents on superficial exploits, you could be quite brilliant, Doctor.'
'I'd never be as scientifically brilliant as you, Rani.'
'Flattery? Too obvious a ploy.'
'Not flattery. I deliberately said scientific brilliance. When it comes to the less attractive aspects of your nature, you're congenitally unbalanced.'
'You could have it wrong. What you call balance could be chaos.'
'Well, that's the way of the world and nothing can change it.'
'Nothing can change it? I think I can negate that fallacy.'

83) People always winge that the Rani wanting to conquer the universe is a degradation of her original character. Except the Doctor is the one boggling at her apparent change in aspirations, and the revelation is that she's been planning this since day bleeding one:
"'I've underestimated you. I thought science had blinded you. But it's power.'
'Wrong again.'
'They should never have banished you from Gallifrey. They should have locked you in a padded cell!'
'If the Time Lords hadn't refused to intervene in the pedestrian evolution of other species, a Time Manipulator wouldn't be necessary!'
'This - this monstrosity will give you the ability to change the order of Creation!'
'Creation's chaotic. I'll introduce order. An order based on logic not the capricious whims of chance."

84) Those scenes with Urak lumbering through the darkened laboratory are creepy. This is all.

85) For the first time it's the Doctor who does all the pop culture references rather than his companion, a trend that will culminate with the RTD years. Fair's fair, it's much more credible the Doctor would gasp "Shakespeare, Louis Pasteur, Michelangelo, Elvis... Even Mrs Malaprop will never have existed!" than Mel would...

86) The Rani's entire scheme only stands the slightest chance of working because the Doctor absent-mindedly corrects a mistake the giant brain makes. Still, if YOU were standing next to a brain composed of the greatest geniuses in the universes and YOU were in a position to show you were smarter, wouldn't YOU?

87) A moment worthy of the Tenth Doctor and his water pistol. With nothing but righteous fury, the Seventh Doctor scares the shit out of a giant blood-sucking gun-weilding bat. Using only an umbrella that said bat KNOWS isn't a weapon. Who needs any of this "look me up" nonsense?

88) "'Faroon,' intervened Mel ardently, 'you've got two choices. Sit tight and wait for the Rani to load that Loyhargil into the rocket and blow up the asteroid. Or try to stop her. Believe me, reducing every Lakertyan to dust is an unimportant side-effect in her book!'
'A precise precis of what I've just said,' agreed the Doctor.

89) The Doctor relies entirely on Mel's know-how to disarm the deadly anklets. OK, the authors seem to think that any "computer expert" can rewire alien bombs, but it's no more ridiculous than the sort of wierd trivia that other time travellers can pick up - see Charley Pollard's amazing ability to rewire the Philadelphia Experiment even though she doesn't know what half the mechanics are called...

90) Urak's betrayal of the Rani is rather novel. He overhears her evil plans, yet she doesn't stupidly say something like "The Tetraps have outlived their usefulness!" It's only later when she tells Urak to stay behind to guard the place till the last moment (which Beyus ends up doing anyway), not realizing he knows its a suicide mission, that snaps him out of it. The realization that his mistress GENUINELY doesn't care whether he lives or dies, after all his good-natured ribs at her being sentimental, shocks him. A character arc for a giant bat. I love Doctor Who.

91) "'Hey, come on! This isn't a conducted tour!' yelled Mel. 'Don't just stand there gawping, Ikona. We've got to get all of these characters to the TARDIS!'
'You'll deafen them before we get there if you don't stop that squawking!'

92) "The approaching zero did not rufflle Beyus's calm. He had jammed the umbrella through the interior locking mechanism. This meant neither the Rani nor her loathsome acolyte, Urak, could get in... equally it meant he was trapped inside..." All together now. Awwwwww. Poor umbrella.

93) It's a scene that sums up the Seventh Doctor SO well. He cunningly wires all the bracelets to the brain, and then tricks the Rani into setting them off - destroying the brain and wrecking her plan. Fiendish! Except it also kills Beyus and undoes the sabotage to the missile. He's good at theory but rubbish at practical, ol' Seven.

94) So, a man puts aside all his principles for the common good, works demeaning labor, is forced to hear second hand that his daughter has been murdered in cold blood and then brutally and unnecessarily sacrifices himself by standing in the middle of a bomb. Crying. And people say this is a kid's story?!

95) If the missile misses the asteroid and hurtles off into space... what happens to it? What happens when it inevitably hits something? Sequel fodder alert!

96) Not only do the Tetraps have the amazing ability to grow a rock roof in a TARDIS control room, they also hang the Rani the right way up. This is clearly a vicious insult in the upside down Tetraptariyarban culture - even MEL got hung up the same way as the bat people did.

97) Given a tankard of anti-deadly-killer-insect-potion that would innoculate him against the things that killed his brother, Ikona throws it on the ground. Thus ensuring the Lakertyans don't immediately go back to their funky disco ways. At the very least ensuring they'll have to build a completely NEW disco to hang out at, anyway. And since none of the lizard people object, they either agree with him or are such no-fist losers they can't be bothered to oppose him. So either Ikona leads them to greatness or becomes a vicious dictator over a bunch of people who probably deserve it. Cause if they DO resist, that's just what Ikona wants. My head hurts.

98) There are twelve geniuses, so that means there are a minimum of twelve TARDIS trips to get them back. This gives us the possibility of twelve stories featuring the Seventh Doctor, Mel and Einstein. Matt Smith, for one, would punch the air at the sheer awesomeness on offer here.

99) Prior to the New Series, Time and the Rani was only story you could reenact with specific Doctor Who action figures (you'd need a few GI Joes to do Remembrance of the Daleks, not to mention the wrong sort of Davros). But with a TARDIS playset, the Seventh Doctor, two Mels and four Tetraps, suddenly the story could be remade in your bedroom. Bugger it, throw a green K9 in as well, he's cooler than Ikona any day...

100) This story gets its own sequel in The Rani Reaps The Whirlwind. That may not sound impressive, but only if you haven't heard it. Imagine a remake of Time and the Rani by the man who wrote the Torchwood episode about the sex gas monster that killed by orgasms. So there's gore, violence, tentacle rape, all done in Pip and Jane's inimitable style, with lines like "Sorry to grab you unceremoniously Sam but your foot nearly tripped that wire!" and "Talk of Tetraps has renewed my energy and I’m ready to go on!" competing with "Oooh, he's trying to protect your precious hymen, Lucy! Got to lose your virginity sometime!". Words simply fail me.

101) In The Twin Dilemma, the story ends with the new Doctor telling you that if you don't like him, well you can just fuck off. This story ends with the Doctor promising that, even if you're a bit uncertain about him after all this, he'd "grow on you".



Matthew Blanchette said...

Why is it still so reviled, though? :-S

Youth of Australia said...

Well, some of it clearly outside factors.

1) Colin Baker was sacked. The pro-Colins would no doubt hate ANY Seventh Doctor debut on principal. They were right to complain at the apparent corrupt shambles Doctor Who had become - though we now know JNT was literally the only thing holding the show together at this point.

2) The Gunfighters effect. If enough people say it's crap and the ratings were low, this becomes an accepted fact. This effect is still around today - The Satan Pit for example, suffered it!

3) Doctor Who was on the knife edge of cancellation. People wanted dark, gritty, hardcore, undiluted brilliance that would impress normal folk. TATR isn't that, if we're honest.

So, people hate it for what it's not, rather than loving it for what it is.

The rebutals are
1) if Colin Baker had stayed on, Time and the Rani would have been his last story and, virtually identical to the finished product (it would be he, not Beyus, who gets nuked at the very end).

2) This is bullshit, as any sane person who has seen The Gunfighters will tell you.

3) Australian kids loved it, and we're a bigger part of the fanbase than you'd think. Without US, there would be no The Five Doctors. Or Tegan Jovanka. No doubt some people would think this a bad thing, but...

Matthew Blanchette said...

I think you might enjoy this video: ;-)

Youth of Australia said...

Ah yes. Seen that. The effects aren't much improved. The Doctor's choice of cravat is wrong. Only the Cloister Bell is an improvement, but the sudden silence of the original had its own merits. The actually regeneration looks ugly in this way.

Youth of Australia said...


is much better.

Matthew Blanchette said...

The light flash on the Doctor's face doesn't start up soon enough; you can clearly see McCoy's face underneath.

Also, cutting to the Rani disrupts, as you put it, the "kinetic energy of the tracking shot", which is why I thought you'd prefer the one I'd linked to.

Also, I know the Colin Baker face is a bit naff, but I'm sure the person couldn't really do much better... :-/