THIS STORY TAKES
PLACE BETWEEN THE
HEART" AND "PLAYERS."
PIP BAKER &
TOO CLEVER BY FAR &
ENTER: THE RANI
'THE MARK OF THE RANI'
RELEASED IN SEPTEMBER
DRAWN OFF COURSE EN
route for Kew
Gardens, the TARDIS
materialises in the
mining village of
Killingworth in the
early 19TH century,
and the Doctor and
Peri find themselves
in the midst of a
Why are peaceful men
resorting to mindless
violence, and why is
the Master intent on
Revolution? In order
to safeguard Earth’s
future, the Doctor
must defeat the
combined forces of
two rogue Time Lords
from his own past...
of the Rani
2ND FEBRUARY 1985 - 9TH FEBRUARY 1985
(2 45-MINUTE EPISODES)
When I heard that “The Mark of the Rani” would be September 2006’s DVD release, I was over the moon (especially considering that the other rumoured title for the slot was the dire Peter Davison serial “Frontios”). However, I was surprised at some of the comments posted on the official BBC website. Opinions seemed to range from the appalled - “Nice to see three cuts of prime ham on the cover. Come on, get the proper Dr Who stuff out from better times” – to the ecstatic - “I will be as pleased as a monkey in a banana store.” I had always considered this two-parter to be a good, solid Colin Baker story. Granted, it is nothing all that brilliant, but I certainly did not think it capable of producing such divided opinion.
To be fair, I have always been a fan of Colin Baker’s superb-but-unpopular Doctor, even before his Big Finish renaissance, and the 1985 season has always been a particular favourite of mine. If you can see past the daft outfit, Baker’s Doctor is one of the most entertaining of the lot. I like Peri (well, Nicola Bryant to be more precise...) too, and am also drawn to the slightly more adult feel of the stories from around this time. Sadly, that is what got Doctor Who axed before it came back, horrendously watered-down, eighteen months later.
Above: Some of the special features on offer
“The Mark of the Rani” is fairly typical of the 1985 stories in that it has a great audience-grabbing gimmick (namely three Time Lords), but unusually, the serial boasts an extensive location shoot that really helps give the story an authentic period atmosphere. The DVD’s main special feature, a documentary entitled “Lords and Luddites”, explains how a fortunate John Nathan-Turner managed to wrangle a free film crew for a week and double the serial’s allocated location shoot time! Many of the actors and crew also share their stories about the making of the serial in the documentary, Colin Baker stealing the show in my opinion with his dog-mess anecdote! Kate O’Mara (the Rani), Gary Cady (Luke), as well the still youthful-looking Nicola Bryant also contribute, and the whole thing is linked together by Louise Brady’s narration which made it feel much more like a ‘proper’ television documentary than
a DVD special feature. The standard of the production, as always, is superb; as I have said in other DVD reviews this year, the Restoration Team have got producing these DVD down to an art. The quality only improves with each release.
Aside from “Lords and Luddites,” the extras package is quite comprehensive. I am glad Baker, Bryant and O’Mara were all on board to provide an interesting commentary track; Baker especially offers some wonderful insights into the making of this story, as well as his tenure in general and his love of the new series. As is normally the case, most of the main points raised in the commentary are fully addressed in the main documentary, but even so
its well worth a listen, if only to hear Bryant and O’Mara giggle at the Master’s “phallic” tissue-compression-eliminator! The other special features which I personally appreciated were the Deleted Scenes and the clips from Blue Peter and Saturday Superstore. The
latter are hardly essential viewing, but for completists like myself it is nice to have them, and
I think the Saturday Superstore clip will raise a few cynical smiles amongst fans when a ‘Nicola Bryant’ phones in to speak to Nicola Bryant, followed by an in-character Anthony Ainley! Moreover, these little snippets help us remember that back in the day Doctor Who had just as large a media presence as it does today. I do not need to go on about what how wonderful the Production Subtitles are, as anyone who has ever bought a classic Doctor Who DVD can attest to their worth. The remaining features are not the sort of thing that really appeals to me, for example the return of the “Now and Then” feature is a real filler, and
unless you have a special interest in television soundtracks, the same goes for the “Playing With Time” featurette.
Above: "Guess what I've got on my face?"
The story itself, it seems, is rather a contentious one. I think a lot of this is down to the writers – Pip and Jane Baker – who are not the most popular writing duo amongst Doctor Who fans to say the least. Few will forgive such sins as “Time and the Rani”, but you really do have to judge each case on its merits. The Rani (the Hindi word for ‘Princess’ or ‘Queen’) that they introduce to us in this story is a far more fascinating character than the more archetypal baddie presented in this story's lame sequel. The beauty of her character in this serial is that she just does not give a s***. The Time Lords will not let her do the experiments that she wants to do, so she just says “Cruk ‘em” (as Kate Orman would say) and goes into exile.
She is a scientist; a scientist who has no regard whatsoever for morality. This of course means that when placed into a story with the Master, the pair spark of each other beautifully. The Master – particularly Ainley’s portrayal of the character – is an evil renegade who loves every minute of his dastardly villainy. When he kills, he kills with a smile. Unfortunately for him, it is his overly elaborate schemes that see him on the losing end time after time.
“What is he up to now? Something devious and over complicated!
He’d get dizzy if he tried to walk in a straight line!”
This is good in the sense that the Rani comes across as a real threat. O’Mara convinces completely as the ruthless, dedicated femme fatale who will do whatever it takes to get her own way. Whereas the Master is happy to tie the Doctor up and gloat over him, the Rani would rather just gas him and be rid! The uneasy alliance between the two renegades is an absolute delight to watch; at times I would swear you can see the contempt oozing out of the Rani. Apparently, behind the scenes the man behind the Master was not too happy about his character having to share a storyline with another Gallifreyan baddie. From listening to the commentary and watching the documentary, it seems that Ainley was very unhappy indeed about his ‘relegation.’ If I were him, I would have been more thankful that my character had been brought back from the dead at all… Although I would certainly be envious of the Rani’s amazing TARDIS…
“I’m indestructible. The whole universe knows that.”
Shrunk to microscopic proportions and burned to death in “Planet of Fire” towards the end of the previous season, the Master returns here disguised as a Scarecrow, none-the-worse for wear! In a way, I am glad Eric Saward made the decision not to even bother explaining how the Master survived his immolation on Sarn. He is the Master, is he not? He does not let little things like death and continuity bother him. I am just waiting for the day Russell T Davies and company decide to resurrect him…
So what else is good? Fully remastered, Sarah Hellings’ direction has never looked better. The extensive filming at Blists Hill Open Air Museum in Shropshire really convinces as the northern mining village of Killingworth, and the director’s keen eye combined with some amazing handheld camera work really brings this pseudo-historical adventure to life convincingly. Say what you will about the writers, in this story they get the Doctor and Peri drawn into the thick of things early and give them both lots to do. If I had any complaint about this season it would be that in half the stories the Doctor and Peri seem to be stuck in the TARDIS for twenty-odd minutes! There are also some wonderful scenes between the three Time Lords – one that sticks in my mind sees the Doctor barge into the Master, pick his pockets, and then hold his fist up to the Master’s nose! It is hilarious, especially taking into account the menacing size of Colin Baker!
The bad? Yes, Peri is covered-up almost completely, but despite Nicola Bryant’s rather vocal opinions on the dress, I still think she looks great. And yes, some of the dialogue is awful beyond compare, but again, there are still some immortal lines in there. Other than
that, it is really hard to dislike this story. It is not quite a gem, but with the dressing the Restoration Team have given it, it has got to be worth fifteen quid of anybody’s money. Roll on “The Sontaran Experiment."
Copyright © E.G. Wolverson 2006
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