Doctor Who #643: The Mark of the Rani Part 2

"What precisely do you do in there?" "Argue, mainly."
TECHNICAL SPECS: First aired Feb.9 1985.

IN THIS ONE... People get turned into trees and the Rani's TARDIS falls prey to her T Rex collection.

REVIEW: And it had started out so well... It's rather unfortunate, but there are way too many elements that don't pay off in Part 2. We finally meet George Stephenson, but it's not really a celebrity historical when there's so little interaction between the celeb and the Doctor. He helps get the TARDIS out of a mineshaft and that's about as useful as he gets to the plot. Peri's treated the same way, finally allowed to show off her botany skills and using herbalism to help calm down the berzerker Luddites, but the Doctor makes her entire expedition moot by stealing back the chemicals drained by the Rani (it seems like you couldn't just drink that down to fix everything though). And then there's the Master's plan to kidnap twenty Industrial Revolution "geniuses", which never gets off the ground. Part of the problem is that the Rani decides to join the Master in this silly enterprise, which weakens her character considerably. Is this how Time Lords date? When the Doctor thinks he might seduce (my word, not his) the Rani, it starts to feel like primary school sexual politics, with the girl chastely "dating" (bossing around) the school bully. The story of how she was exiled from Gallifrey for turning mice into monsters that ate the Lord President's cat is the kind of prank that would fit this comparison. But after the well-deserved contempt she showed for him in Part 1, it's sad to see her follow his lead.

Otherwise, all things Rani are still cool. We see her TARDIS and instead of a simple paint job on the Doctor's (like the Master's), it's an entirely different place. The Doctor WISHES his TARDIS was this cool. The central console has spinning circles and track balls, the collection that surrounds it includes T Rex embryos she plans to grow to maturity, and the exterior is a nice-looking wardrobe with flashing columns of light. She's got a remote control on it, and hides it behind a screen that shows her planet and an animated volcano that spews toxic fumes if you tamper with it. Her landmines that turn people into trees (explosively!) is gonzo science to be sure, but still very well realized. It's too bad they followed that up with a rubber tree suit for Luke, as the animated tree is risible and complete nonsense, but the set piece with the Doctor having to escape two sylvan Luddites is good. The first thing she did when she took over part of Killingworth's citizenry was to make Josh into a sexy sleeveless boy toy. One can only imagine the Rani having to deal with the dinosaurs running amok on her ship in between appearances. I like to imagine the Master getting gobbled up in the process.

VERSIONS: Target published a novelization, of course, though I'm unaware of any important changes made to the story.

REWATCHABILITY: Medium - The Rani is still cool, but I wish Ainley hadn't made that deal with JNT to be in every season.

STORY REWATCHABILITY: Medium-High - After Part 1, I was ready to say The Mark of the Rani dethroned Varos as the DVD I would most give to friends to check out the 6th Doctor era. After Part 2 fails to make the best of all the elements introduced in the story, I'm not so sure. Plus, Varos is still more "representative" due to its violence.


Unknown said...

The Rani turning people to trees, reminded me of Poison Ivy from Batman.

Siskoid said...

It's certainly more "super-powery" than most effects.

John Nor said...

"Otherwise, all things Rani are still cool."

What a TARDIS!


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