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21 January 2015 @ 08:57 pm
The Randomizer: The Mark of the Rani  
I was expecting to enjoy this more than I did. In my memory it was an averagely competent story in a season which consisted mostly of ambitious failures and Timelash. I came away from this feeling that it was also a failure and not a particularly ambitious one, although it still rises some way above my memory of Timelash

I think part of the reason I rated this fairly highly in memory was because it looks a lot better than many of the surrounding tales. It was filmed at Ironbridge Gorge and is a period piece (and, as I've mentioned before the BBC costume department was often more at home with period pieces). The surrounding stories tend to suffer from a gaudy colour palette and the unfortunate belief that pale pink, orange and yellow go well together (possibly the set designers were taking their lead from the Doctor's coat). Mostly this avoided here - although Peri is in an odd pale pink and yellow confection of a dress which tame layman commented looked more like a costume than actual clothing.

However, it has all the problems that afflict most of Pip and Jane Baker's scripts. Characters speak in odd convoluted ways, assuming a great deal of shared context from the viewer to understand their quips and allusions. There is a particularly odd scene in which Peri lectures the Doctor on the decline of the hedgerow in the 20th century. It is presumably intended to remind us of her credentials as a botanist but you are left wondering exactly why she is telling the Doctor this. The plot is convoluted and rambling with more than its fair share of capture-escape sequences and while things happen in a vaguely logical sequence there isn't much sense of where the story is going.

Peri whines and complains and wants them to go back to the Tardis and leave; when she isn't whining, complaining and asking to go back to the Tardis she's accidentally pushing the Doctor down a hill while tied to a trolley. "This isn't a good story for Peri, is it?" tame layman observed (in between strongly implying that 45 minutes episodes were an unreasonable demand on his attention for this quality of telly). In fact the relationship between the Doctor and Peri is genuinely unpleasant. This isn't two good friends who enjoy verbally sparring with each other, it's more like the tail end of a marriage where neither party has any remaining interest any in giving the benefit of the doubt, so they snap and snipe at each other constantly. While the romances of NuWho have their issues, and the idea that companions can not imagine anywhere they would rather be than travelling with the Doctor creates some problems, they are infinitely preferable to a companion who doesn't seem to want to be there, isn't enjoying herself, is annoyed and irritated by the Doctor and just wants to go home.

The fight scenes look terrible - classic Who was never good at fights but these feel worse than they might be particularly the one where Peri (again) feebly throws coal at the bad guys.

There's the tree prop/costume, which admittedly looks fine until it moves.

The Tree

As I said. It's not Timelash levels of bad. Kate O'Mara is genuinely good as the Rani and acts as a nice foil to the rivalry of the Doctor and the Master. It's a disappointment in the second episode when she dons her 1980s power jacket and joins forces with the Master becoming instantly less refreshing and interesting. In fact, at that point, the relationship between the Rani and the Master begins to mirror that between the Doctor and Peri. The acting from the supporting cast is generally good. Ironbridge Gorge looks great and there are some nice moments of scene setting.

I was disappointed with this. It's not egregiously bad but at the end of the day it does feel like a bit of a waste of 90 minutes of time.

Then I ran the randomiser to get the next story and out popped Time and the Rani. Oh how we laughed!

This entry was originally posted at http://purplecat.dreamwidth.org/138652.html.
philmophlegm: I'vegotasportscarphilmophlegm on January 21st, 2015 11:47 pm (UTC)
Mark is definitely better than Time. Largely I agree with you. Probably didn't need The Master in it.
louisedennis: Doctor Wholouisedennis on January 22nd, 2015 09:37 am (UTC)
Mark is definitely better than Time.

At one level the Master is just some kind of extra random plot element generator and unnecessary. On the other hand, when the Rani is the irritated onlooker to the Doctor and the Master's fight, rather than the sole villain, she is distinctive and interesting - as the only villain of the piece (as in Time and the Rani) she's really just another megalomaniac.
daniel_saunders: Leekleydaniel_saunders on January 22nd, 2015 09:19 pm (UTC)
My theory about a lot of season twenty-two is that the writers structured them as old-style 2x25 minute stories, not 2x45 minutes. So everything is sloooow. I've often wondered how this would work as a single episode modern story.

Agreed about Pip'n'Jane dialogue. That said, at this stage it is mostly the Time Lords talking using obscure words, which does sort of work as a character point. I do like the way the Rani acts gives a critical commentary on the Doctor-Master rivalry, but then, I don't like the Master much.

"This isn't a good story for Peri, is it?" tame layman observed

That would assume there's a good story for Peri. Even in Androzani, she's treated as a victim and sex object.

The eighties seemed to have a real problem with companions who didn't want to be there: Tegan, Turlough and then Peri. I've never been a big fan of Ace, but at least she's enjoying herself.
louisedennis: Doctor Wholouisedennis on January 23rd, 2015 02:15 pm (UTC)
The 80s companions, or at least Tegan and Peri (Turlough, as a deliberate experiment, I have more time for) are very odd. Presumably the production team thought their reactions were realistic but somehow forgot that they need to realistic and enjoyable for the viewer to watch. Tegan is the more successful of the two but that is probably because her brashness allows her to take the initiative from time to time which Peri rarely gets the opportunity for.

I have a suspicion that there are a number of design choices made by NuWho who that are more reactions against perceived problems with 1980s Who than something that has come from someone sitting down and working out from first principles what makes good Doctor Who for the early 21st century.
skordhskordh on January 22nd, 2015 11:42 pm (UTC)
I visited Ironbridge with my parents during the filming of this story and and saw some of it going on (from a distance). Later I got a birthday card from Colin Baker. Not much of a claim to fame, but there you go!
louisedennis: Doctor Wholouisedennis on January 23rd, 2015 02:16 pm (UTC)
Was the receipt of the birthday card related to the visit to Ironbridge or entirely distinct?

Colin Baker has always seemed like a lovely man and his enthusiasm for the show has always appeared entirely genuine and considerably stronger than many other actors who have had the part. It seems a shame he was, in general, very badly served by both scripts and production.
skordhskordh on January 23rd, 2015 10:04 pm (UTC)
It was a very nice gesture from him! The birthday in question was March 1985, so soon after that story was broadcast but presumably some months after it was filmed. I've always assumed my parents spoke to the production team to arrange it when we were in Ironbridge rather than getting in touch separately - but maybe I should ask them!