DVD REVIEW Doctor Who: Time And The Rani
A unique combination of the utter bobbins
1987 • PG • 97 mins • £19.99 • 13 September 2010
Director: Andrew Morgan
Cast: Sylvester McCoy, Bonnie Langford, Kate O’Mara, Donald Pickering
Colin Baker had a lucky escape. After he’d been sacked, producer John Nathan-Turner hoped he’d return for one last regeneration story, and this would have been it. Which would have meant his era began and ended with the two biggest turkeys in classic Who’s 26-series run. Instead Baker refused to return; maybe it was a fit of (entirely justifiable) pique, but maybe he just saw the script.
The episode was hastily rewritten to introduce Sylvester McCoy, forced to wear a Harpo Marx wig in the opening moments, so he could roll over and regenerate before anyone noticed.
Now, if you cast someone like “children’s entertainer” McCoy there are audience expectations you need to fight against (which he did admirably later in his run). Instead, this story embraces every expectation and amplifies them. Here, McCoy’s Doctor is a pratfalling, spoon-playing, spoonerising buffoon trapped in a DayGlo pantomime of pot-bellied monsters, giant brains, alien gravel pits, hammy acting and Kate O’Mara as The Rani doing a squeaky-voiced impression of Bonnie Langford (no joke). This was everything that anyone who’d ever taken the piss out of Doctor Who needed for ammunition. Except, bizarrely, the effects were pretty good. Did that team not get the memo?
Post-mortems on disasters are always more fun than those on successes, and so it proves here. The excellent Making Of exposes the stresses, strains and arguments that conspired to make this a right Doc’s dinner. There‘s also some revealing footage of actors auditioning for the role of the Doctor, a superb feature on the effects, and some fascinating behind-the-scenes material. While we could have done without writers Pip and Jane Baker trying to justify their dire script on the commentary, there is some fun to be had shouting down their more outrageous claims to competency.