Often hailed as one of the worst series of Classic Doctor Who, Season 24, released in 1987, is the latest set of episodes released as part of Doctor Who: The Collection. As such, I’ll be going through the four episodes that comprise this most controversial of seasons (for the first time!), and reviewing them here. Are they as bad as people say? I can’t wait to find out!
The page will be updated as I review each story, so do check back!
I’ll also be listening to and reviewing the Big Finish audio dramas that take place during this season, though they’ll be on separate pages.
1. “Time and the Rani” by Pip and Jane Baker
The TARDIS is attacked by forces unknown and sent plummeting to the planet Lakertya below! The culprit soon reveals herself: the Rani (Kate O’Mara), back to wreak havoc on the Doctor’s life! But this isn’t the Doctor she was expecting… Her attack on the TARDIS has caused him to regenerate into a brand-new body (Sylvester McCoy): a turn of events that just might ensure her dastardly plan goes off without a hitch. But, little does she know, the Doctor’s companion, Mel (Bonnie Langford), is on her case…
Before I go any further with the review, I’d like to say this… I loved this story. Seriously, I did. I know this is often ranked as one of the worst Doctor Who stories ever, but, from start to finish, I thought Time and the Rani was fantastic. Sure, it’s nothing especially profound in terms of plot or characterisation, and there are a couple (well, maybe more than a couple) of over-the-top moments, but I had so much fun while watching this that I really can’t say anything bad about it. Therefore, if you’ve coming into this thinking it’ll be a savage takedown of this story, think again! Now: onwards with the review!
Right from the off, Sylvester McCoy is a warm and compelling Doctor: full of so much energy and enthusiasm that you can’t help but smile from the get-go. Certainly, the characterisation is a little off in the first episode, with Pip and Jane Baker clearly still writing for the more bombastic Colin Baker, but McCoy handles it well even if, as the story goes on, he settles into the role a little better. By the end of the story, he still doesn’t quite have a handle on the more explosive aspects of the Doctor’s personality, but it’s undeniable that he’s completely captured the charm and wit of the character, with his winning final line being an example of this.
Bonnie Langford gets a bit more of a mixed bag in this one, spending much of her time running around a quarry screaming at monsters. Despite this, Mel is written as wonderfully forthright and spunky throughout, which is particularly evident both in her interactions with Ikona, and in her confrontation with the Rani in the latter half of the story. A highlight of the story is her reunion with the Doctor; McCoy and Langford’s experience in physical theatre shines through in their brilliantly OTT, pantomime-esque initial encounter, before they tone it down a little for the remarkably touching moment where the two finally become reacquainted after being separated for so long. Right from the off, the two make a lovely pairing that, while not perhaps as fondly remembered as other Doctor/Companion duos, is definitely very effective.
Despite the success of McCoy and Langford, however, the standout star of Time and the Rani has got to be the Rani herself: Kate O’Mara. From start to finish, she’s a delight as the sinister scientist, perfectly bringing to life her amorality, irritability and insanity. While the scenes where she dresses up as and impersonates Mel might be a little overblown, it’s undeniable that O’Mara has done some serious thought about how best to impersonate the character, adopting extraordinarily similar vocal and physical mannerisms to Langford herself.
Tetraps (four POV direction)
Production-wise, Time and the Rani is an incredibly rich story. From the opening CGI shot of the TARDIS being shot down to the absolutely incredible bubble trap effects (both stunning for the late 1980s), there has clearly been no expense spared on this story. The sets look great too, perhaps a little brightly-lit, but well-designed, particularly the brain room and the Tetrap lair. There’s even a pink filter applied to the sky to really hammer home that this is an alien planet! Fantastic stuff.
Overall, Time and the Rani is absolutely not the best Doctor Who story in the world, but it’s also definitely not the worst. If you go into it expecting something high-brow and polished, you’ll certainly be disappointed. But if you’re looking for some good old fun, with a couple of touching moments, some great production values and a healthy dose of hamming it up, you’ll definitely find lots to enjoy here. Highly recommended.