Doctor Who: The Mark of the Rani

"Hoist up your skirts, Peri, off we go!"

I'm going to be honest and say that I have never understood the appeal of the Rani.

I get that the character is very popular with a lot of fans and there is a strong desire for her to return, I just don't understand why. There's just nothing about the character, nor Kate O'Mara's performance in the role, that really stands out and makes me think, "Wow, this is an amazing character, I hope we see more of her". As female Doctor Who villains go, I wouldn't even rank her in the top five.

Her debut story, the first from dreaded duo of Pip and Jane Baker, is a dull, plodding affair that looks nice thanks to some excellent location filming at the Blists Hill Victorian Town and the Coalport China Museum, but there's barely any plot and the attempts to make the villagers sound authentic are just painful to hear. It is bad enough that the whole thing is littered with atrocious Geordie accents, but the writers decide to take things one agonising step further by attempting to recreate 19th century Geordie vernacular. Still, as bad as they are, at least they aren't as bad as the one in Castle.

Amongst its many other faults, 'The Mark of the Rani' suffers from a serious case of one Time Lord too many. There is no real need for the Master to be here. Apparently he has his own plot, some nonsense about using the brightest minds of the industrial revolution to help him (you've guess it) take over the world, but it is paper thin and never goes anywhere. You get the sense the PTB weren't too confident that the Rani could carry this story on her own so they shoved in the Master for good measure.

On the plus side, the Sixth Doctor feels a lot more Doctorish in this story than he has so far. Except, that is, when he's with Peri (who is becoming less a character and more a walking collection of companion cliches, all of them bad). Whenever she's around he continues to be the same overbearing arse who is constantly snapping at her for not being as clever as he obviously is. You really have to wonder why she puts up with him? I mean, their relationship is so abusive you could make an episode of Law & Order: Special Victims Unit out of it.


Notes and Quotes

--The Master cements his place as the most vile of the Doctor's enemies by killing a dog in this story. Even Davros wasn't a puppy killer.

--The Luddite movement took place between 1811 to 1816, four years before this story, and was against textile machinery, not coal mines.

--The Rani mocks the Master for his needlessly complicated schemes, but hers is no better. If she needed this chemical so badly why not just abduct a few humans and breed them like cattle? Save all this sneaking back and forth to Earth.

--As a fellow Time Lord, the Master should know that the TARDIS is indestructible and chucking it down a mine shaft isn't going to do anything to damage it.

--Rani is a Hindi word that means means "Queen" or "Mistress".

--This is one of the few classic Doctor Who stories to have a female director, and the last until Hettie MacDonald directed 'Blink' in 2007.

--First story since 'The Gunfighters' to include actual historical figures (Lord Ravensworth and George Stephenson).

--Stephenson's guest list included the likes of Thomas Telford, Michael Faraday, Humphry Davy and Marc Brunel.

The Master: "He wears yellow trousers and a vulgarly coloured coat, but tread carefully — he's treacherous."

The Rani: [about the Master] "What's he up to now? Be something devious and over-complicated. He'd get dizzy if he tried to walk in a straight line!"

The Doctor: "You always did lack style."
The Master: "Style is hardly the prime characteristic of your new regeneration."
The Rani: "Oooh, do stop squabbling and get on with it."

One out of four atrocious Geordie accents.
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Mark Greig is a dedicated follow of fashion. More Mark Greig

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