Sunday, 22 November 2009

Doctor Who: Time and the Rani

Part One

“Leave the girl. It’s the man I want.”

I think I recall being impressed with the opening scene of last season, with its proto-CGI opening. Well, this season starts with some proto-bad CGI. It’s all very confusing and poorly animated. And the regeneration, inevitably as Colin isn’t there, is embarrassingly awful. But it’s not just the unfortunate necessities forced upon the production team that lead to this story’s jaw-dropping awfulness- Pip n’ Jane’s dialogue is awful from the very first scene, and the whole thing’s obviously pitched at very young kids.

Admittedly the title sequence is great, but as soon as it’s over the nightmare continues. Sylvester McCoy was my Doctor, and it was when I started watching the show again with Remembrance of the Daleks back in 1988 that I stopped being an occasional viewer and started being a fan. So it’s a huge shock to see just how horrifyingly bad McCoy is in his first scene. This is extremely bad television, and I’m extremely glad I wasn’t watching the show at the time, as this episode could have put me off for ever.

The effects are great, though- the pink sky of Lakertya, and especially the bubbles- but when the Rani starts impersonating Mel things take a turn for the even worse.

Part Two

“Memory like a kangaroo…”

I’ll admit that was a great cliffhanger. This is still somewhat despair-inducing, though. Even the characterisation of the new Doctor seems to consist of little more than spoon playing, absent-mindedness and malapropisms. And he’s too easily fooled by the Rani. Still, McCoy’s performance has settled down.

We get our first proper look at the Tetrap costume, and it’s impressive. Mel, of course, proceeds to scream a lot. I still like her, mind. Sadly, though, these scenes feature particularly awful incidental music- Keff McCulloch has arrived.

Interestingly, the Doctor is 953 years old (as is the Rani, apparently) so the Sixth Doctor’s tenure seems to have lasted for a good fifty years or so in spite of how little of it we saw on screen. Not bad, considering both the Second and Fifth Doctors couldn’t possibly have lasted more than a few years. And there’s massive scope for untelevised adventures between this season and the last.

Another thing; we suddenly seem unmistakeably to be in the late ‘80s, what with the theme tune, title sequence, horribly dated incidental music and words like “biodegradable” appearing in the dialogue.

Part Three

“Haven’t I seen you hanging around somewhere?”

Mostly this episode is just captures, escapes, and other such padded dullness with no entertainment value whatsoever. Although it’s cool to see the Tetraps hanging upside down, like bats. But it’s striking how little substance there is to this; I’m finding very little to comment on.

Unfortunately the sight of the big brain is the most groan-inducing moment in the marathon so far…

Part Four

“I have the Loyhargil. Nothing can stop me now!”

More awfulness, with the Doctor’s arsing about in the brain being probably the worst moment, but by now I’m just waiting for the story to finish. This is worse even than Underworld, and that’s the ultimate put down.
And after a break from this sort of thing under Colin Baker, we again finish with a crowded TARDIS…

Well, I hated that. 1/5, rock bottom. With hindsight I know the era’s going to recover, but viewers at the time weren’t to know that. This is the least promising introduction to a season, an era ands a Doctor that we could possibly have imagined. Pip and Jane are the main problem; I’m sure the science is sound, but the whole thing is just pitched wrong. It’s not the fact it’s being pitched at children I object to- it is a children’s programme, after all. But this is a very lazy example of writing for children, with no depth to either the characters or the themes. There’s nothing here but the bare plot and some patronisingly “educational” science stuff, with even the new Doctor having barely any personality at this stage. Fortunately, from the next story onwards we’ll get an actual script editor, and some direction to the stories.


  1. Rumour was that Colin Baker read the scripts for this season and chose to bail out. In hindsight it was a smart move.

  2. Oh, there are some far, far more controversial rumours than that!!! But I think he was quite lucky to avoid this season. Not all the scripts are as bad as this but it's generally not very good. Still, it would have been rather interesting if he'd stayed till the end and been part of the whole Cartmel thing, with a more mysterious and manipulative Doctor.