I want to like the Colin Baker era, but it’s just hasn’t happened for me so far.
The Twin Dilemma was awful and both Attack of the Cybermen and Vengeance on Varos were not without their own problems.
So what is it? The Writing? The Acting? The Characterisation? The new 45 minute format?
Well it’s been a mixture of all four so far.
I wonder how the next story – The Mark of the Rani – will fair?
Doctor Who – The Mark of the Rani Review: What’s This One About?
There’s a new evil Time Lord for the Doctor to face, or should that be a Time Lady, since it’s a woman.
And guess what? The Master is back too, despite him being killed off fairly definitively in his last appearance.
The setting? Northern England in the 19th Century.
The point? Who knows.
Thoughts – Nothing Really Happens
I found myself quite enjoying the first episode of Mark of the Rani.
Despite the fact that The Master was brought in without even trying to explain how he survived being burnt alive at the end of Planet of Fire (and I believe the explanation was left out because Eric Saward wanted to make the point that he
shouldn’t have been brought back so quick) and despite the other issues with it that I’ll get to later, it seemed to be set up quite well.
The Rani is an interesting character, well performed by Kate O’Mara, and her reason for being there worked.
The problem was that as things developed, the setting really didn’t matter at all and as a character she offered little threat.
Sure, she was extracting the fluid from people’s brains that prevented them from sleeping, and thus made them more aggressive, but what did that actually matter? How was her plan going to influence anything?
It wasn’t, and it didn’t.
And The Master being there just made for some extra villainy for the sake of it.
As Episode 2 developed, it became clear that nothing was going to happen, there was no threat beyond a dog being killed and the Doctor rolling down a hill on a gurney and the conclusion was just a case of “All’s well that ends well so let’s just go home”.
Therefore, the story went from being quite promising to a damp squib.
Is it a problem with the format? Probably. This is a story is so slow it’s almost going backwards, and without the ‘Rush to the Finish’ every 22 minutes, it lacked any urgency.
The Worst Regional Accents In Television History
Something about the Mark of the Rani that I found particularly annoying was the use of “Northern Accents” from actors who clearly didn’t speak like that normally.
One or two of the actors either did a good job or were from the area, but mostly it was embarrassing.
Watch the scene were the three badly acting “aggressive” blokes confront the Master. One of them, the one on the end, put on such a bad impression that you could barely understand what he was saying. He was that bad.
In the main it was actors struggling with a Northern Accent over their already put on BBC English way of speaking. It’s the language equivalent of Julian Glover wearing a Scarlioni mask over the Scaroth mask over his own face. Awkward and uncomfortable.
The Colin Baker Cliffhanger Close-Up Count
While there isn’t a close-up of Colin Baker or Nicola Bryant, this gets a bonus point for having a dramatic close-up of a mine shaft.
- What’s the point of having the Master dress up as a scarecrow in the background of one scene? I mean really? Why bother? It’s pathetic.
- Furthermore, having the Rani in costume for a couple of scenes is also devoid of any dramatic license.
- The incidental music in Mark of the Rani sounds like the sort of thing you’d get in an early 1990s Sega Megadrive game. It lacks any oomph and is therefore perfect for a story with such little urgency.
- You’ll notice that Peri’s dress sense has only gotten worse. The costume department are seriously bad at this point in the show’s history. And don’t blame the fashion at the time either, because surely it wasn’t that bad?
- The scene where Colin Baker wears a different coat, even though it was a mucky brown jacket, instantly made him seem like a character to take more seriously.
- The cliffhanger to Episode One has one of the ultimate “Cheat” resolutions. In Episode One George Stephenson isn’t anywhere to be seen and yet in the reprise he pulls a level to redirect the gurney long before the Doctor would reach the
mine shaft. Boo!
- This story is also well-known for Pip & Jane Baker’s ridiculous use of language. Nobody, not even the Master would say “Fortuitous would be a more apposite epithet!” Now I like to think I’m a decent writer, but my style is to use language that people actually use and understand. Writing dialogue with words like that adds nothing.
- One aspect of the story I like is the relationship between the Rani, the Doctor and the Master. Her opinion that the two of them are as bad and childish as each other is fairly amusing.
- Beyond the Master and the Rani, the only member of the guest cast worth his salt is Terrance Alexander, and would you believe it, that’s because he was the only other person not speaking in a fake Northern Accent.
- The amount of times the Master says – dramatically – “The Mark….of the Rani” is about as subtle as a sledgehammer to the face.
- The stuff with the dinosaurs was pointless.
- To give the show some credit, I learnt what a Luddite was. It’s an insult I like to throw around to this day.
- DWM Mighty 200 Ranking: #148
Doctor Who – The Mark of the Rani Review: Final Thoughts
This is certainly one of my shortest reviews, coming in at just over 1,000 words, but that’s because there’s so little to say about it.
The Mark of the Rani is a story that starts brightly but ultimately goes nowhere. There’s no point, no drama, no reason to care. It’s dull, and that’s backed up by the Incidental Music and dreary location.
With a ranking of #148 I just can’t find myself caring enough about it to disagree.
And so once again, I’m waiting to find a Sixth Doctor TV story that I enjoy.