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Monday, 24 June 2013

Doctor Who - The Regeneration Boxset: Time and the Rani Review

I don't have any kind of emotional connection to Time and the Rani. With Logopolis or The TV Movie (my two reviews, the former here and the latter coming tomorrow), I have long 'relationships' but I only watched Time and the Rani in full for the first time a few months ago. I'd seen Part One, but the cliffhanger of Mel not quite getting fried in a nicely coloured bubble wasn't enough to draw me back.

So I sat down to watch it with my mum (and we even wrote up our thoughts, which you can find here, and apologies for the self-promotion). Mum loved it. I... struggled with it. I imagine when me and mum sit down to watch The Caves of Androzani, which ironically is the next on our list, she'll prefer Time and the Rani. Because to her – that is Doctor Who. She loves Sylvester McCoy (as I do, he's my favourite Doctor), and I think even Mel wasn't too bad. The fun, quirky, strange, extravagant nature of it is Doctor Who – it's just, for most 'classic' fans – Doctor Who as you've never seen it before. Or ever will again, hopefully.

My favourite thing about the story was probably the model work (which mum laughed at) and the effects (which mum laughed at). For that time, and for that story, they work really well. It is pushing Doctor Who into new boundaries, and although people don't appreciate those boundaries now, or then, the ambitiousness is there. Pip and Jane Baker, in my opinion, are quite good writers. I like Mark of the Rani, and I love Terror of the Vervoids. This is their least successful – but when you've been bogged down with the emotional and political (yawn) drama of The Caves of Androzani, everyone needs to watch a good bit of Pip and Jane.

Best not ask what's going on here...
If we're to overlook the um.. comedic nature of the story, which is what brings it down in the eyes of nearly everyone who's ever seen it, except my mum, then we can look to the story. It's got the emotion of a normal Doctor Who story, the drama, it uses time in a clever way. It really should feel like quite a good Doctor Who episode. It has all the elements there. Maybe Sylvester playing his spoons, maybe the weird aliens, maybe all the odd funny bits, maybe the dressing up hijacks what should be a perfectly good episode.

The 'dressing up' is interesting. There are two instances of it – the first with Sylvester picking his costume, and the second with the Rani's plan... I won't spoil it for you if you haven't seen it. But to quote Tegan in Black Orchid - “you are in for a surprise”.

And a shock. Wow. It's a shock. If you can get past Kate O Mara's accent and look over the comedic elements, once again, then theoretically you should be fine watching the story. It is strange, but then the whole of Time and the Rani is strange. You need to watch it in an open minded way. Even if you've seen it and this is a rewatch, then you need to be open minded. If you're thinking of skipping it so you don't have to rewatch it then I don't blame you, especially when the wonderful TV Movie is up next. But you really should give it another try. Go on.

You know you want to do. No? Ok then. Try it anyway.

The one thing I've missed (apart from the Seventh Doctor mixing his words up, which I'm not even going to go into) is the regeneration itself. If you don't know when it is, and you've never seen it – then you really really are in for a surprise, and I hope you enjoy the shock. Colin Baker gives quite a good performance. Probably....

The mirror conceals a secret hoover - probably.
If you do know what the regeneration is (and I think we can all agree about my above point concerning 'Colin') then you should probably watch that again too. Just to revel in it's... Teletubby-ness. Robert Shearman (who I seem to quote a lot in my reviews, as he'll pop up again in the next one), said that the only thing to ever remind him of Time and the Rani is the Tellytubbys. It's not a bad description actually – from the regeneration to the colour and the vibrancy of the episode (as well as the downright strangeness of it), Time and the Rani is strange. It belongs in a cupboard alongside a sentient hoover, an a purple alien with a handbag.

For some people, Time and the Rani is probably a guilty pleasure. That TV episode you stick on when no one else is in the house, or when you're feeling a bit down. For other people – it's probably torture. But the diversity and strangeness of the episode means that you can make your own mind up about it. I still haven't. I know it has the potential to be wonderful, yet I know it has all the elements it needs to make it rubbish. If I had to rate it, I wouldn't know what to give it. I could give it a 1 or a 2, but some bits are enjoyable, and if you appreciate the fun, it'll be a good episode. I could give it a 9 or a 10, but that's arguably a disgrace to the perfect episode that is Spearhead From Space.

Time and the Rani is something individual that has to be an experience. It's certainly an experience you'll never forget as well...

Because you really are in for a surprise...

The Regeneration Boxset is available to order from the BBC shop now, and is due for release 24th June 2013.

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