The Serial (1/5)
I personally believe it's easier to write about things you are disappointed with than things that you are pleased with. Doctor Who is my favorite show, probably favorite media, of all time, so I am usually very forgiving in my reviews of the show in any of it's forms. I have seriously loved episodes like Creature from the Pit that have less than stellar reputations, but Time and The Rani I absolutely could not stand.
A few months ago I did a review of the 2 Mara tales DVD's, and one of the things that bothered me was the performance of Janet Fielding as Tegan, most notably in the Snakedance episode. It was, in my opinion, one of the most irritating companion performances in the entire nearly 50 year run of Doctor Who. I must have forgotten about Mel.
My first exposure to Mel was in the Terror of the Vervoids serial of the Trial of a Time Lord, where in the opening sequence she is acting the gung-ho exercise nut, and making Sixth Doctor (Colin Baker) sweat it out on an exercise bike in a scene that is dated in all too horrible way. The serial was probably the least of the Trial... serials, and I never thought about Mel again, when I thought of the Seventh Doctor I automatically connected him to Ace, having only seen a handful of episodes with him, and they all featured her as his companion, so I was quite shocked to see Mel in this serial only to discover she actually traveled with Six and Seven for quite a few serials before being replaced.
Now while it may seem like my entire dislike of Time and the Rani stems from my dislike of Mel, that is simply not true. The whole serial is an epic fail on all accounts, starting from the regeneration sequence from Sixth Doctor to Seventh. Now, I don't hold it against Colin Baker knowing how he was treated by the BBC during his tenure as the 6th Doctor for not wanting to come back for his regeneration scene, but feel like the whole serial would have been better if it had been structured around Baker's Doctor final adventure in the Technicolor dream coat.
The story itself begins with the Rani attacking the TARDIS, and indirectly causing the Doctor to regenerate into his 7th incarnation. The TARDIS makes an emergency crash-landing on the planet Lakertya, and Mel is separated from the Doctor and must traverse the Lakertyan on her own, prior to meeting up with a group of rebels who want nothing more than to get out from under the Rani’s control, and free their planet. Unfortunately, for the Doctor he is suffering from post-regenerative trauma exacerbated by the Rani spiking him with some sort of memory loss drug. She then dresses in a Mel disgusise in order to get the Doctor to assist her with her cunning plan to get all of universe’s greatest geniuses together in order to build her a time manipulator, so that she can control time anywhere in the known universe. So the Doctor has to deal with The Rani, the rebels, his regeneration, trap infested alien landscape, and Mel’s screaming.
Time and the Rani is on par with all other Doctor Who releases, as the restoration from the Doctor Who Restoration Team is impeccable. This looks better than what I imagined this serial would have looked like when it was original broadcast. The flesh tones are accurate, colors are good, and detail is solid. No real instances of damage to the print to complain about. The audio is presented in its original mono track, also solid. No audio defects could be heard, and dialogue, music, and effects are completely audible throughout.
As usual the BBC/2 Entertain have put together a nice slate of extras for this Doctor Who release. It kicks off with a commentary track by Sylvester McCoy, Bonnie Langford, and the writers Pip and Jane Baker. There is also the documentary Last Chance Saloon (title taken from the Gunfighters recently released on DVD), about the condition of Doctor Who in the late 1980’s, and how it was in a steep decline during the Colin Baker/Sylvester McCoy years.
This is followed by a few other short docs including 7D FX which deals with the serials special FX, Helter Skelter which discusses the genesis of the McCoy era title sequence, a 2 minute documentary called Lakertya which deals with the concept behind the planet featured in the episodes, and also Hot Gossip a 2 minute interview with Kate O’Mara and Sylvester McCoy about Time and the Rani.
The disc is rounded out by a 4 minute On Location mini-doc, and a couple archival BBC bits one from BBC Breakfast Time, and the other from classic children’s program Blue Peter. There are also a .PDF Radio Times listing, an 8 minute Picture Gallery, and an Info Text track that plays as a subtitle option.
I love Doctor Who, it is my favorite show in the history of television. I haven’t seen every available episode, but have been working my way through them all, and this has to be the worse I have seen yet. It’s no use complaining now, but Colin Baker should not have been treated the way he was, and this episode while having potential falls short of being anything close to good. Not Recommended, only for Who completest.