Wednesday, October 04, 2006

My Review of Doctor Who's: "The Mark Of The Rani"

Written by Pip And Jane Baker
Directed by Sarah Hellings

The Rani (re The Master): “What’s he up now? It’d be something devious and over complicated. He’d get dizzy if he tried to walk in a straight line.”

What’s better than having two quarrelling Time Lords in a serial? Simple answer would be three. After you’ve got to have the Sixth Doctor interact with The Master and that other devious Time Lord – The Rani. Well it does make for a lot of fun, right?

The Doctor and Peri wind up in Killingworth when the TARDIS is deliberately sent off course. The thing about this is that they’re in the 19th Century and also caught up in the events of the Luddite riots. Angry villagers do not love the idea of machinery replacing and dedicate their time to sabotaging any attempts of development.

However these villagers are behaving more erratically than usual and when they start venting their rage out on geniuses such as George Stevenson, there’s something more sinister afoot. The Doctor is determined to get to the bottom but Peri would prefer to get the hell out of there.

If I’m being honest, the Luddite rebellion aspect of this serial is pretty boring, mainly due to some shameless overacting on the part of the disgruntled workers. Even in their rage, I’d imagine that we’re supposed to feel some sympathy for them but for the most part, I find them a bit of a hindrance to the story. It also doesn’t help that The Master is able to use to attack The Doctor at various different times during the story.

At least the cause behind their rage is a lot more interesting. Not only do they hate development but everytime they head to a certain bath house, they end up leaving with a red mark on their neck as well as the inability to sleep. As plot twists go, there’s a satisfying element to it.

The Rani is the culprit the sleep deprivation and as guest villains go, the woman is borderline perfect. In all fairness besides The Doctor and The Master, there aren’t that many Time Lords that are actually that interesting. Okay so we did have that meddling Monk and there was Romana but overall we’ve been lacking on that score.

Kate O’Mara is an excellent piece of casting as she manages to make The Rani both ruthless and logical in her madcap schemes. The fact that she also avoids doing the femme fatale act also gives her an added bonus. The Rani is an exiled Time Lord who’s been coming back and forth to earth to use human as guinea pigs for experiments.

What’s even more interesting is that when she is reprimanded for her actions, she doesn’t waste a minute to point out how humans are equally as callous to the lesser species themselves. I have to admit that while her actions are seriously wrong, it hard to counter that argument.

The best part of the serial however is seeing The Rani and The Master working together to take down The Doctor. The Master is still seething over the actions of “Planet Of Fire” and while The Rani is only too aware of their ongoing feud, she is literally forced into helping The Master with his vengeance plan.

It can easily be argued that this serial didn’t need The Master in it but after a few watches, I’m actually glad that he is there. I don’t doubt this serial still would’ve been good without him, but Anthony Ainley does pull in a good performance alongside Colin Baker and Kate O’Mara as all three Time Lords sparkle.

One of the things that makes me love The Rani is her assessment of both The Doctor and The Master. As enemies go, the two of them have ‘can’t live with or without’ type of rapport and The Rani is only too quick to point it out. After all it was The Master who contrived this little meeting. Both The Doctor and The Rani clearly have better things to be getting on with than pandering to The Master’s whims.

However with angry villagers about, The Master manages to persuade The Rani into harnessing the intellect of the geniuses that are arriving to Killingworth for a meeting to their own advantage. Using the hapless Luke as well manages to ensure that the meeting isn’t cancelled but he becomes surplus to requirements when The Rani’s booby traps turn him into a tree.

The final 15 minutes of the serial focuses a lot less on the meeting (which makes sense given that George Stevenson is the only genius we meet) and more on The Doctor and Peri stopping The Master and The Rani. It’s interesting that The Doctor’s compassion for humans can be used against him too but it was blatantly obvious that Peri wouldn’t be clever enough to stop the two villainous Time Lords from escaping.

The final few scenes are rather amusing though. On one hand you’ve got The Master and The Rani in the latter’s TARDIS experiencing a bumpy thanks to a certain someone’s interference but at the same time you’ve got that hilarious final line where The Doctor admits to Lord Ravensworth that he and Peri mainly argue.

Now the dynamic between The Doctor and Peri isn’t one of my favourites and here’s it a bit hit and miss. There are times when he overreacts to some of the questions or comments that Peri often comes out with but there are at two moments in the serial where it’s clear that he does care for her. It would’ve been nice if the show had found a happy medium with this team up.

Also in “The Mark Of The Rani”

Originally this serial was supposed to be called “Enter The Rani” or “Too Clever By Far”. I think the latter title would’ve been a good choice.

Peri: “Well I only asked a simple question.”
The Doctor: “Indeed and it was the wrong question.”

Both The Master and The Rani wore disguises here. The Master was a scarecrow and The Rani an old woman in the bath house.

The Rani (to The Master): “You and The Doctor are a well matched pair of pests. You bring nothing but trouble. Now I need a new assistant.”

The Rani: “Do you trust anyone?”
The Master: “Yes, myself.”

Instead of something skin tight for a change, Peri wore a dress that practically looked like it came out of a Disney movie.

The Doctor: “Well you had me fooled if it’s any consolation.”
The Rani: “It’s not.”

The Rani: “No, don’t kill him, kill this one. Touché Doctor.”
The Doctor: “Don’t hurry back.”

This might sound disloyal but not only does The Rani seem more intellectual than The Doctor but she’s got a better looking TARDIS to boot.

The Rani: “The Time Lords will never permit it.”
The Master: “Who is going to alert them?”
The Rani: “Indeed.”

The Doctor (to himself): “The Rani is a genius. Shame I can’t stand her. Wonder if I was nice she’d let me – no, no.”

Among ruling a planet, one of The Rani’s experiments ate the Lord President Of Gallifrey’s cat. Those T-Rex embryos looks incredibly fake however.

The Rani: “I don’t make mistakes.”
The Master: “If that were true, you’d still be on Gallifrey.”

The Master (re The Doctor): “I’d feel happier if I could see him.”
The Rani: “A sentiment he’d reciprocate.”

The DVD released in 2006 has a great commentary with Colin Baker, Nicola Bryant and Kate O’Mara as well as other neat extras.

Lord Ravensworth: “I will venture one question, Doctor. What exactly do you do in there?”
The Doctor: “Argue mainly.”

This is the only serial written by a husband and wife duo as far as I can tell.

“The Mark Of The Rani” is surprisingly a lot better than it’s given credit for. The three Time Lords are excellent, Peri is mostly helpful rather than helpless and although the riots drag, everything else is reasonably satisfying.

Rating: 7 out of 10.

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