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TIME AND THE RANI


Chase - Posted on 02 August 2009

OMG! I finally made it through TRIAL. I made it to...THIS! DW survived mismanagement, Eric Saward (who left and left without giving permission to use his already written TRIAL ending, making their be something like three or four endings to this TRIAL), the UNFAIR sacking of Colin, a completely or halfwayly awful season, a slow season before that, its stars appearing in unrelated (to DW) stage plays (Not the ULT ADVENTURE but stuff like Peter Pan?), publicity photos of Colin and Nicola dancing, a cancellation (it was cancelled the first time because sets for another show were not built in time--that's the real reason it was cancelled but then as it was, the BBC folks felt not that enthused about the show and can you blame them? The pace of TWO DOCTORS, not to mention part two of both ATTACK OF THE CYBERMEN and TIMELASH were really awful), and unfortunately the death of Robert Holmes.  

We arrived out the other side and we got...THIS! The worst story of DW ever. Maybe my reassessment will prove otherwise but it starts with...have you seen that opening? "Leave the girl, it's the man I want!"

I need a rest first.    

We get the first pre credits sequence in a long time...possibly from Jon Pertwee's first season? Anyway it looks really really silly to see McCoy in Colin's jacket and this regeneration, mercifully cut short and occuring from a knock on the head (oh, it's all explained years later in novels that it was more than that and that the 7th Doctor maneuveured his 6th self into dying prematurely so he could becomes the 7th Doctor and be more sly--get it? also that the Rani's ray caused more to make the Doc regenerate than the knock). The Rani in look---looks more sci fi but is that good?

The theme song is very nice and the opening sequence with the credits looks great and colorful and all that and the end theme is fantastic. It still doesn't compare to the original or the Davison version but it's okay. The theme song is also imbedded somewhat in the incidental music and it sounds GRAND. Really it does. None of the music here is misplaced or wrong. It helps.

Cosmetically nothing here is terrible: the planet looks great, the Lakers...I mean the Lakertians looks well done and are even directed like they are alien birds (witness how they run), and the machinery in the Rani lair looks good. The Tetraps are slowly revealed as in the old days rather than just (well the Vervoids were slowly revealed too but look at what they look like and that's why) showing them in the first five minutes and then building up to nothing.

The bubble traps (poor Sarn, the lady not the planet) are interesting effects although I could do with less Mel screams.

As I wrote, the sets are good and one of the drains that Mel and an alien hide in looks like one of the drainpipes from LAND OF THE GIANTS and that's a good thing--a compliment.

Mel isn't terrible despite what I thought when I first saw this. It could have been having had so many great alien companions from Leela to Romana to Adric to Nyssa (in idea anyway) that to have Earth girls and now to be back to a UK girl again...it was not exactly innovative. But seen today and with my lowest of low expectations of this story being the worst story in my mind for decades, Mel isn't too bad, even in this.

The Rani's impersonation of Mel is still all wrong. Not that she didn't get the mannerisms correct but to see O'Mara dressed like Mel and acting all over the top...is wrong. It's just so wrong for this show and sets it up as a sitcomy show...only an unfunny one. It's not good. At all. In fact, the Rani goes from being a character who is unfeeling in any way to acting like the Master to acting like a ranting maniac it's hard to reconcile this with the MARK OF THE RANI Rani. I'm still not sure about the Rani in this but there's the feeling that she's all wrong. And that stud in her nose...uhm...

The Doc. Sly: I've been very critical of him in this. And only in this. He doesn't really come into his own until PARADISE TOWERS, where he's the most normal person in the story (including Mel who takes a swim in a pool in the middle of an adventure and danger but we shall reevaluate even that). Even there, he's a bit off. He doesn't really find his feet until DELTA and then loses them again in DRAGONFIRE as he searches for a cliff to hang off of for no apparent reason. But here: his regeneration "crisis" isn't a crisis and he doesn't seem to be really effected by it. He tries to act like he is but he doesn't really do a good job here. "..and who are you,"  as he points is very unconvincing. He's acting and knows it and shows it and it doesn't exactly lead to ...I dunno, a very Doctorish performance that we can believe in. At no other time has anyone, even in regen crisis, failed to act like the Doctor in a realistic way...except possibly some moments from Colin but even there, he never made me feel that he's an actor. To think back to Tom Baker and even the wet vet Peter, the Doctor even if mistaken (as the Fifth often was), never seemed...so fake. Sly needed to get his acting up to par and rather than play the Doc like a fool in a bad stage play, play him with charm and dignity. Yeah, maybe it was the regen thing but his waving at a dead skeleton...is seriously not funny. His mixing of his sayings is somewhat funny but not overly so. At the time of first viewing this it wasn't funny at all and totally irritating. He takes two huge pratfalls, one of them BACKWARDS so his comedic prowess is there...physically if not verbally...yet. But even those falls don't seem the fault of the regen.

His looking for the right clothes was irritating and almost induced me to turn off the tv set and stop the video tape...and not be a fan anylonger. But the really awful moment that that almost happened would be in ep2. Today, the clothing thing is a short scene and kind of a nice nod ot other Doctors.

Perhaps if the actress played the Mel thing downplayed rather than over the top and perhaps if McCoy wasn't so...vague in what he was doing. He seems to come out of his nuttiness too fast from second to second and the Rani's giving him a loss of memory confounds the matter even more...so it's acceptable...just. I found him highly annoying in first seeing this. Today, it's just amazing to watch...and not always in a good way. I wonder about his decision to play the Doctor LIKE THAT from min to min. Same with the Rani as Mel. I'm like WHAT?

In some ways I'm reminded of Catherine Tate playing Donna as she's imbibed with the Doctor's essence...it's all wrong. And Tate is so SO RIGHT in every story but that one...she's too over the top, too "I"m having fun with this role" in a  kid's show. Tennant, too, in that, is very over the top and silly.

The cliffhanger is okay despite the incessant screaming...

Most ep1s are pretty good. This one is better than I expected and there's a feeling, right now anyway, that this might just be better than most of the TRIAL episodes but only just. McCoy did not impress back then and today, knowing the full history of this Doctor and later Doctors it's not as daunting...I mean honestly did anyone think after seeing this that there ever would be an 8th Doctor, let alone a 9th, 10th, and 11th?  I fully expected the series to be cancelled after these performances...but at least here, there's a somewhat coherent plot...and it's the Master's...or the Monk's...                   

I didn't notice that before but the Doc winked at me! What the hell?

All kidding aside, this episode wasn't as bad I thought it would be. Mind you in 1987 it was awful. Seeing the Doc twirl Mel around on his shoulders, seeing Mel flip the Doctor, hearing all the Doc's inane twisting of comments and sayings and metaphors, the Rani in that costume (was that ever really the style?), see the Tetraps out of the dark, and the silly scheme of the Rani's...and the dialog...

But that was then, this is now. Now...it's not so bad. Really. I mean if you can deal with Mel's screaming ("if you don't stop squwaking" Ikona tells her she's going to die). Ikona reminds me of  a  tech store, the name not the reptile thing, but frankly to me they look more like birds (see JURASSIC PARK for why this is prophetic on my part). If you can deal with that stuff, McCoy gets slightly better here, the scene in the Tetrap lair is well made and well done---they are scary in the dark...

The skulking around in the Rani's lab is okay and even the Mel meets the new Doctor scene has some merit and as they begin to realize they are who the other says they are...it's kind of nice. So two uneven but not as bad as all that episodes so far...impressive what 20 years or more can do...plus with the foresight that the show will continue out of this mess into novels, audios, and other  Doctors and even a new TV show and a TV Movie...helps. Back then, in 1987 this was befuddling and scary that our show could get like this but on the horizon is REMEMBRANCE OF THE DALEKS, SURVIVAL, THE TV MOVIE, ROSE, DALEK, THE EMPTY CHILD, THE DOCTOR DANCES, DOOMSDAY, and so many more better stories as well as comics and novels and fan fic...but back then, this story and these first two ep in particular almost made me stop being a fan at all...almost turned off the set from DW forever      

 

   

 

3

Okay not bad but a runaround and tha'ts a good runaround, too bad that Ikona's brother Lanisha gets stung to death but ...what was the whole point of going to the Leisure Dome...to show how the Lakertians are punished by the Rani? The Rani at this point is sort of menacing and threatening from afar. She literally has Mel in her grip but doesn't kill her and frankly at this point, Mel's screaming would make me want to kill her. Mel's now officially over the top and her  screaming and ranting and method of delivery (Bonnie's) is annoying and campy ("I won't let you do this!!!!!!!AHHHHHHHEWWLLLLLLL!" It's enough. The Rani has others who could help her with the equipment but maybe she needs Mel's computer skills. The brain is interesting but it's very pulp sci fi as in THE BRAIN FROM THE PLANET AROUS from the 50s and BRAIN EATERS and all that.

And then there's the music. This is not a criticism just an observation because I mostly like the music: it's ratted off to us in bursts and douses sometimes as in: RATT TAT TAT, pause, DUM DUM DUMB DUMB pause DAAA DAAAA DAAA....BA BEAM BA BEAM DUAAAA...like that! That can be catchy and mind consuming but after awhile it does get on one's nerves too...DDAAAA DAAA DAAA RATTTT RAAA RAAA RAAAA! ANd then at times it tries to get all TWILIGHT ZONEy and gives us long WHORRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRREEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEsssss in between trying to do the theme song amid the incidental music...

Here the Doc willfully kills the Tetrap and in the past this bothered me a great deal...he just pushes the attacking thing over the tripwire and it goes into one of the Rani's traps and dies as its bubble hits the mountains. Wasn't Mel (and us?) lucky that her bubble bounced off the mountain and hit the lake where Ikona could deactivate it and toss the mechanism into the lake where it exploded. Weren't we? Wasn't she? Anyway again, this planet as in most DW is only seen one small area at a time...we never really get to see a full planet and the differences it might impose as in KEYS OF MARINUS so since that. Imagine an alien landing in Japan or China or Canada or the US or Mexico or the middle of the sea or the Artic or Antartica or Hawaii and you get the idea....and at different seasons...but no, we get a giant quarry.  A nice looking well dressed up quarry with a nice building (the Leisure Hive) and a nice base...but a quarry and each planet seems to have one government mostly unless there is a war going on and then we get two governments, one bad and one good or both the same.

Anyway the Rani's plans seems fairly insane at this point, involving: Tetraps, the Lakers, Strange Matter, a giant brain that telepathically (?) talks, Mel, the Doctor, insects, bubble traps, guns, Einstien, other geniuses from history (Only Earth history?), the Solstice, and...thermodynamics, time and what else? The kitchen sink?

McCoy is better with each passing episode. I love how he tips his hat or takes it off when someone dies or something...and even his mixed up proverbs don't annoy as they once did. The Tetraps don't look so good in the light but never mind, they're menacing enough.

In all, a so so ep with the plot kind of going out the window to just be "she's evil and doing evil things to us all with the help of Baylus and his wife, sometimes and the batmen all the time and she needs the Doc and a big giant brain hooked up and Strange Matter". It's not really gripping stuff but not the worst we can find.

Gosh, now what can I call the worst DW episode ever? TRIAL? ARC? LAST OF THE? JOURNEY'S END? PLANET OF THE DEAD? NEXT DOC? Well, I still have PARADISE TOWERS and DRAGONFIRE to go.

I wonder if in 20 years time, I'll find LAST OF THE TIME BORES and PLANET OF THE DREAD or any of the other time waster crapola better, the way I found this and SOME of the TRIAL better? No? I don't know. NEver say never or never say no, mister Bond. WHat am I talking about? I think these poor DW episodes are getting to me. Someone hand me a PYRAMIDS OF MARS disk?! Or ANY Tomorrow People. oh no, not ACHILLES' HEEL!

  

                 

WTF? The Doct'r's not winking at me but his face hardly appears in the mass of credits and solar disturbances...oh no, he's been turned into a ghostly silver being by the Rani for the credits! OMG!

Anyway this ep shows this story is not the worst DW ever...but then...what is? Maybe it is, I dunno.

Mel's role is greatly reduced here and she does help disarm the bangles (not the band, the bomb things on the Lakers). The Tetraps seem to turn against the Rani and it's surprising that they are already hiding out in her Tardis. Did the Doctor know that already? It seemed like he did. The nonsense he speaks in the brain causes it to...act silly. I mean what was the Rani expecting? She calls for the Doctor, brings him and Mel here, and puts her enemy's brain in the brain...what did she think he'd do?

It's implied that the Doc's OVERUSE of mixing up his proverbs is not accidental but part of his regen hysteria but it's highly annoying by now and fills up pages and pages of notes and to be honest, it they hadn't overdone it, it would be a bit charming but now it's just annoying to the max.

Even though this is one big climax...it still feels a little rushed and a bit...anti climatic. We have more running around and the Lakertians come to terms with doing things by themselves (at the end, they destroy the formula to neutralize the insects---isn't that a bit rash. Can't they start doing things themselves after the insectts are neutralized or killed outright? I mean after all tomorrow's another day! GONE WITH THE WIND).

Anyway...as usual there's a sacrifice by the traitor who now sticks up for his people and the Doctor and he dies...and there's a blast and the Doc has sabotaged the missile (but he crosses his arms and his fingers behind his back). It's all very routine again but not awful. I guess. I mean if I'm fair, it's not the story I'd pick out to watch and this is probably the last time I watch it ever but...

who knows?

Oh AND I almost forgot: in one of the other eps: possibly 2 or 3, the Doctor is gesticulating wildly with his arms and hands in front of Bayus and in front of his face...as if the actors didn't know the camera was on and in the background. What was he/they doing? Watch for it. It's pretty strange looking.

Well a rough start for McCoy but by ep4 he actually (in this viewing if not the first viewing) grow on me. Like...well, like....okay next...      

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