Archive for the Season 24 Category

24.4 – “Dragonfire”

Posted in Classic Who, Season 24 with tags , , , , on October 27, 2014 by Review The Who

CW Series 24 - Dragonfire

STORY
The Doctor teams up with Sabalom Glitz to hunt a dragon’s treasure in the caverns beneath a planet of ice. Mostly remembered for being the one that says hello to Ace and goodbye to Mel, but there’s so much more going on here than that…

REVIEW
You could be forgiven for having given up by now. Even if you’re like me, and don’t think that Season 24 represents the absolute nadir of televised Doctor Who, it’s a pretty defensible claim that the show has, at this stage, not been much cop at all since “The Caves of Androzani”, three and a half years, two Doctors and one embarrassing hiatus ago. Maybe you were giving the show one last chance to redeem itself before you gave up and became a fan of, I don’t know, Star Cops or something instead. As hopefully my earlier reviews will have unequivocally convinced you, the first eight episodes of the season are pretty dire and even “Delta and The Bannermen” is rather slight. So there’s a lot of pressure on the slender shoulders of “Dragonfire”; if it wants to salvage the season, it’s going to have to pull something really very special out of the bag.

The general consensus, I believe, is that it fails and fails pretty hard. However, I would argue that it’s an almost unmitigated success…just not the one we were looking for. Here’s the problem with Season 24; what fans seem to yearn for in an era of Doctor Who is serious drama with lots of serious actors taking dramatic situations very seriously. And with continuity coming out of it’s ears. A “good” season is one that loads itself up with Daleks, Cybermen and Sontarans even though those stories are actually not very good at all (hi Season 12). A “bad” season is one where comedy is the order of the day, even if that season contains possibly the greatest Doctor Who story of all time and then more brilliant ideas in the rest of the scripts than we got in 3 years of Hinchcliffe (looking at you, Season 17). Season 24 does *try* to throw a bone to the continuity junkies. Unfortunately, we already know that JN-T doesn’t remotely understand the concept, from Season 20, when his idea of “every story containing an element from The Doctor’s past” was the Black Guardian x 3, that rubber snake that nobody liked, the Master YET AGAIN, and, okay, fair enough, Omega and all the anniversary stuff in “The Five Doctors”. But Season 24 is even more disastrous: its “kisses to the past” are the Rani from Season 22, and Glitz from Season 23. That is to say, the very recent past. Which most people were trying to forget. And then there’s the comedy question. On one of the extras on the DVD, Ian Briggs opines that “Dragonfire” is, essentially speaking, a comedy. And there’s the rub. After regenerating The Doctor into Sylv “Mr Light Entertainment” McCoy, and facing him off against Richard Briers and Ken Dodd (not to mention Kate O’Mara in pink legwarmers), was it a brilliant idea to commission for the season climax…a light and fluffy romp? Fandom’s answer to this remains unprintable to this day.

Which is all a great shame because “Dragonfire” is excellent. In a season that wasn’t crying out for some extra gravitas it would probably have been recognized for the quality romp that it is. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, 3 25-minute episodes is the perfect length for a Doctor Who story. Beginning, middle, end. And for me, “Dragonfire” (alongside “Delta and The Bannermen”), really ushers in the Cartmel era by containing about twice as much good stuff in 3 episodes as you ever got in a Pertwee 6-parter. Glitz’s quest to win back the Nosferatu. The bizarre origin story of Dorothy, blown over the rainbow to meet her own Wizard of Oz. The tragic tale of Belazs, who grew old having sold her soul when she was too young to know better. A treasure map with Singing Trees, Lakes of Oblivion and Depth of Eternal Darkness marked out. A love story for the frozen ages between the two criminals Kane and Xana (a song of fire and ice, if you will). An ANT-hunt from the playbook of Aliens, a horde of shambling zombies who have forgotten every human emotion save hate and, of course, Kane himself, vying with Gavrok for the title of the season’s most wonderfully villainous villain. It’s a close run thing performance-wise, but Edward Peel gets that much more to work with. The episode is just packed with glorious, heavyweight stuff. Pretty good for a “comedy” if you ask me.

Let’s talk about the companions. With hindsight we all quite correctly adore Sophie Aldred’s Ace, but at the time she might have grated a little, with her back-of-a-napkin-sounding origin story (seriously, a 1980’s teenager apparently randomly waiting tables on an alien planet?) and all the somewhat cringe worthy exclamations of “Brill!” and “Wicked!” on the one hand and “Bilgebag!” on the other. But then again, the scene in which Kane tries to persuade Ace to see “the twelve galaxies, the diamond sparkle of meteorite showers, the rainbow flashes of an ion storm” by only taking his golden sovereign is immaculately, yearningly acted by Sophie who, let’s not forget, is a talented 25 year old actress cruelly forced to play at being sixt…er, eighteen. Why the production team of the time made some of the choices they did is beyond me, but at least they saw Sophie Aldred’s enormous potential before burying her in horrendously wince-worthy yoofspeak.

And Mel, ah, Mel. I haven’t been kind to Mel in my reviews but the scene in which she leaves is an absolute belter, a glittering jewel of a dialogue about the bittersweetness of being nomads in space and time. Reassuringly Mel departs as she arrives, in a manner that frankly makes no sense (Mel and Glitz? It’s like a chalk and cheese sandwich), but her parting exchange with The Doctor is her best scene, so she’s forgiven at the last. It might be McCoy’s best scene so far too, to be honest. “Days like crazy paving…”

Glitz is basically a companion in this one too, in a sort of proto-Captain-Jack space rogue capacity. I like that he’s not much of a good guy – sold his crew for zombification for 17 crowns apiece! – but he’s basically loveable despite his tendency to be economical with both morals and truth.  His personal agendas add a lot to the cause of getting the plot moving quickly and efficiently, and basically he’s one of the best companions we never had.

So what’s there not to like about “Dragonfire”? Chris Clough’s direction is pretty mediocre. Remove the familiar visuals from your mind and just try to imagine this adventure based on how it reads on paper, what things like The Singing Trees and The Lake of Oblivion would have looked like on an ideal Iceworld, a world where anyone apart from that hardened showbiz trooper Sylvester McCoy can be bothered to pretend that the ground beneath their feet is constantly slippery and treacherous. Imagine that the statue of Xana really is a work of “incandescent artistry” and “unique beauty” instead of a crudely hewn chunk of polystyrene in the approximate shape of a woman. Imagine that, instead of the most baffling cliffhanger of all time, the direction had somehow bothered to convey that the only available route to the treasure was down into a precipitous abyss, instead of The Doctor seemingly whimsically deciding to take time out to hang by his umbrella from the edge of a cliff for fun. A better director could have made material this good into something wonderful. But hey, the material is still strong. Not many of the stories bearing the fateful legend “Director: Chris Clough” fared even this well.

RATING
For another so-called comedy adventure, “Dragonfire” is the most dramatic and compelling script that’s come across for ages, brimful of real villainy, real tragedy, real humanity, real poetry. All this and jokes too. (Never mind the merely average quality of the direction, feel the semiotic thickness of the performed text!) If fans hadn’t been desperately looking for a very different type of story at this particular point in time, I think “Dragonfire” would be a lot better loved, perhaps as much as Ian Briggs’ next attempt at writing for the show. As things stand I’m still convinced that it’s pretty great, and award it a context-free 8/10.

Written and edited by Matthew Marcus

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24.3 – “Delta and The Bannermen”

Posted in Classic Who, Season 24 with tags , , , , on June 25, 2014 by Review The Who

 

CW Series 24 - Delta and The Bannermen

STORY
When The Doctor and Mel become the ten billionth customers at Doddy’s cosmic tollbooth they win a trip to 1959 Disneyland in a space bus filled with shape-changing purple Navarinos and a stowaway Chimeron Queen fleeing with her egg from alien psychopaths, except the bus collides with an AWOL American satellite and gets diverted to a holiday camp in South Wales where rock-n-roll, beekeeping and an interspecies love triangle ensue. Look, have you ever tried to sum up a Cartmel era story in just one sentence? It isn’t easy…

REVIEW
As 1987 hurtled towards its wintry close, it’s a matter of historical record that a lot of Doctor Who fans were Not Happy. After the unimaginable double whammy of an 18 month hiatus followed by the acrimonious sacking of a Doctor, a return to some kind of – any kind of – form was necessary for fandom’s collective dignity to be restored. Instead they’d just been treated to another run of eight largely godawful episodes, featuring the silliest companion ever and a light entertainment Doctor who, while not without a certain winsomeness, was quite blatantly never going to be vying with Jon Pertwee and Tom Baker in the public acceptability stakes.

Or to put it another way, Doctor Who seemed irredeemably fucked and a lot of people were watching through their fingers. With less than half the season to go at this point, could the curiously titled “Delta and The Bannermen” somehow salvage things? And then, within a few minutes of the opening credits, out prances a spangly Ken Dodd and some comedy aliens resembling (in their true form) a cross between the Michelin Man and a purple turd and I’m sure a huge sigh went up across the length and breadth of the United Kingdom; abandon hope, all is lost.

Funnily enough, though, this was the story during which I became a fan. Having preferred the muddier charms of Robin Of Sherwood for the whole of the mid-eighties, I mark “Delta…” as the point from which I would never again voluntarily miss a Doctor Who episode. This is despite my clear memories of school friends pouring scorn on Sylvester McCoy, “Paradise Towers” and Richard Briers at the time. Maybe I just had a thing for an underdog, but surely “Delta…” must have had at least something else going for it? Pleasingly, a rewatch largely vindicates “Delta and The Bannermen”: a lot of things that may have seemed exasperating at the time, when people were desperate for an old-school trad classic to prove that the show they fell in love with wasn’t lost and gone forever, now seem less objectionable in the light of the 2005 show. In particular, the Russell T Davies playbook was chock full of moves straight out of “Delta and The Bannermen”.

To enumerate just a few:

The length. Amazingly, this is the first 3-episode classic series story since “Planet Of Giants” (and it’s well known that story was originally intended as a four parter). Back in 1987 it felt like we were being shortchanged from our rightful length, but in point of fact three 25-minute episodes is the perfect length for a Doctor Who adventure, providing a neat beginning, middle and end.

The ideas. My god, the sheer density of the ideas! Like the RTD era, which would regularly have too much cool stuff to cram into a mere 45 minutes, resulting in the need to jettison unimportant ballast (like an ending that made sense), Malcolm Kohll’s script just keeps on adding in characters and plotlines until saturation point is reached. Does the story really need odd-couple CIA agents Weissmuller and Hawk to function? What about the mysteriously all-knowing beekeeper, Goronwy? Surely 3 episodes could happily have been filled with just Delta versus the Bannermen, without throwing in a whirlwind holiday romance between an alien queen bee and a Welsh mechanic on top of it? If there’s one thing Andrew Cartmel brought to Doctor Who it was the realisation that, sometimes, more is more. This style of everything-including-the-kitchen-sink Doctor Who may not be to everybody’s tastes but it’s very rarely boring.

The Welsh flavour. Post-2005, this doesn’t seem at all unusual, but at the time Wales was a pretty exotic venue for a Doctor Who adventure. One of my very favourite moments in the adventure is Gavrok staring hatefully at a large map of Wales on his ship’s computer screen.

Because that’s what Doctor Who, by some accounts, does best; mixing the alien with the familiar. “Delta and The Bannermen” could have been set on the Chimeron homeworld instead of Barry Island but then it would have been just another “Time and The Rani” – meaningless events occurring on a planet with a silly name that the viewers are unlikely to care about. It is perhaps a little unfortunate that having Gavrok menacing Earthlings by blowing up their camping equipment, or advancing with appropriate military caution on a pair of tethered goats, obscures the fact that of all the space psychopaths ever to have appeared in Doctor Who, he really is one of the nastiest and best. Anyone who thinks of this story as a low-stakes romp has clearly forgotten the Tollkeeper being cold-bloodedly shot in the back, or the shocking casual murder of a bus-load of alien holiday makers.

So, with a truly great villain, a script with more sheer ideas per square inch than anything since “City Of Death” and inventiveness and fun practically coming out of its ears, why is “Delta and The Bannermen” not considered a classic? Well, here’s the problem. A story like this works really well as a retort to “proper” Doctor Who. Your Daleks and Cybermen and quarries and corridors are all well and good, but it’s certainly worth puncturing the bubble of the type of fan who thinks only that qualifies as real Doctor Who, by forcing the dread space pirates to besiege an episode of Hi-De-Hi instead. Try having some fun for a change, Whovians! You might like it!

But Season 24 is pretty much all critique of old-fashioned Doctor Who and no actual old-fashioned Doctor Who to remind us what we’re critiquing. To his credit, Andrew Cartmel would quickly realise this error and bring back The Doctor’s two most time-honoured foes for Season 25, finally placing the McCoy era in the context of the rest of the show. But for the time being, it still felt like the baby was being thrown out with the bathwater. The TARDIS aside, there’s almost nothing to suggest that “Delta and The Bannermen” is the same show as, say, “Genesis Of The Daleks”. Pertwee’s first two seasons might have gotten away with a clean stylistic break, but Season 24 is no Season 7, alas. “Delta…” is so good in so many ways, but it wasn’t the Doctor Who adventure we were looking for in 1987; and for those who remember how disappointed they felt at the time, it may never be forgiven.

RATING
“I can’t condone this foolishness, but then love has never been known for its rationality.” Like the rock’n’roll it joyfully channels, this story relies on exuberance rather than logic to win you over. If the idea of a young Welshman in the 50’s falling in love with an egg-laying alien bee woman makes you a bit furious, then you might want to steer well clear. If though you love the fact that Doctor Who is the only show in the universe with the power to go anywhere and do anything and relish the all too rare occasions when it actually does, then you can join me in giving this a rocking 7/10.

Written and edited by Matthew Marcus

 

 

24.2 – “Paradise Towers”

Posted in Classic Who, Season 24 with tags , , , , on March 21, 2014 by Review The Who

CW Series 24 - Paradise Towers

STORY
Fitness fanatic but otherwise paper-thin sketch of a human being Mel fancies a dip in the pool, so a grumbling Doctor has brought her to the luxury spa on the top floor of Paradise Towers. This being Doctor Who, all is not well in paradise; the youth has gone feral, the OAPs want to eat you and the cleaning robots are better at rubbing out people than wallscrawl.  But Mel still finds time in Episode 4 to get into her swimming cossie and do a few lengths. Worst. Companion. Ever.

REVIEW
Should we say that this is where the Cartmel Masterplan begins in earnest? On paper, “Paradise Towers” looks like a bit of a winner. Shorn of the endlessly diminishing returns of mid-1980’s continuity porn, the show can instead give us a witty retelling of JG Ballard’s dystopian sci-fi novel High Rise, a trenchant satire on 80’s Britain. “There is no such thing as society,” Prime Minister Thatcher was telling the nation pretty much contemporaneously to this and Paradise Towers itself is a non-society to warm her shrivelled heart; red and blue factions engaged in interminable point-scoring and playground taunting of each other, the yellows all but spent as a force (a 21st century re-staging would have the Yellow and Blue Kangs in an uneasy coalition, of course); those tasked with protecting society mired in pointless bureaucracy and pettiness; the older generation, fortunate enough to own their own homes and with some money in the bank, at war with the young, fearing and feeding off them in equal measure.  And then we have the soul and raison d’être of the story, Pex – what do you do as a flawed and fallible human being in a society that’s going down the tubes before your eyes, and doesn’t care about you anyway?  Smash stuff up or try to make it better?

Unfortunately this potentially classic story stayed on paper.  Almost nobody involved seems to have been remotely interested in producing the taut, atmospheric drama that “Paradise Towers” might have been and the level of effort and competence on display here is at a near-historic low.  How does it disappoint? Oh, let us count the ways…

As already mentioned, the outline of Stephen Wyatt’s script has oodles of potential, but the script itself is a big damp squib.  The Doctor and Mel meander about Paradise Towers for what feels like hours, encountering the quirky inhabitants of the high-rise, but there seems to be barely anything actually going on until the final episode when the Grand Architect arises for not entirely translucent reasons.  And then is quickly polished off by a character dying in an explosion. We’d grown to expect this kind of thing from Eric Saward, but oh, the Cartmel era, you’re meant to be smarter than this.

Speaking of which, Cartmel may have encouraged a fresh team of writing talent to discard the old foes and formulas and derive wacky and wonderful inspiration from the likes of 2000AD instead; but there’s not much sign of any Masterplans brewing here beyond that.  The Doctor turns up, a few episodes of brightly-coloured silliness and running around ensues, the end. Eight episodes into a fourteen episode season, it’s pretty clear that this type of good-natured romping isn’t everything that Doctor Who is capable of being.

And then there’s the actors.  Aside from McCoy managing to be adequately Doctorish in trying circumstances and a persuasive turn from Clive Merrison as the officious Deputy Chief Caretaker, no one covers themselves with much glory here.  The Kangs are squawking stage school brats to a girl (and what’s with bothering to make Paradise Towers a multicultural society and then only giving lines to the whitest available specimens?) and Tilda and Tabby might have been terrifying but most of the potential for hinting at cannibalistic horror is lost as the two lovable old dears mince around their brightly-lit apartment.  As for the latest instance of stunt-casting, in the form of the much-reviled Richard Briers, I actually think his nightmarishly narrow-minded and rulebound Chief Caretaker is rather good for the first three episodes.  Then he’s called upon to be possessed by Kroagnon and spends an episode imitating a cross between a Monty Python Gumby, a stroke victim, and a zombie. Scary it’s not. Good it’s definitely not.

But the worst offence is the casting of walking charisma vacuum Howard Cooke as Pex. The character is the story, or as close as we’re going to get out of this particular script. But we get someone who doesn’t manage to be impressive or weedy, funny or tragic, mysterious or heroic. He wanders around Paradise Towers just kind of existing. Does anyone really care about his (possibly accidental) self-sacrifice at the end of the story? I sometimes wonder if the “Pex Lives” graffito that is this story’s closing shot is just because no one could actually tell the difference between him being alive or not.

If the actors are bad, the monsters are worse.  Kroagnon, before Richard Briers takes the laws of acting into his own hands, is a pair of glowing coat hangers vaguely suggestive of eyes and as for the cleaning robots… it’s hard to be impressed by killers whose modus operandi is to trundle very, very slowly in your direction, flailing their appendages wetly, and requiring you to carefully manoeuvre your neck into their flaccid pincer before any damage whatsoever seems liable to be inflicted.

There are some good jokes in here.  I’m very fond of Pex’s dramatic entrance. “Are these old ladies annoying you? No? Are you annoying these old ladies?” The Chief Caretaker very dramatically and menacingly turning the light of a small anglepoise lamp onto The Doctor in the interrogation scene is rather lovely.  But mostly we get endless repetition of the “Caretaker number three four five stroke twelve subsection three” gag in place of wit.  Quite funny the first time round, a bit less so the thirtieth.

RATING
“It displays exactly what everyone says is your usual failure as an architect. Not making allowances for people.” Ballard’s high rise story worked by showing that people, in confined situations, turn selfish and animalistic, jostling for the status of the higher floors.  “Paradise Towers” has no such depth to its message.  Quirky characters are quirky, then come together in a spirit of decency and mutual respect at the first sign of a real crisis to blow up tyranny with one convenient stick of dynamite. It doesn’t mean anywhere near as much as it needs to and pretty much everyone, from the director, to the writers, the actors and the designers, deserves a portion of the blame.  At this point we’re finally starting to emerge from the dreadfulness of the Saward era but, sadly, we’re still only halfway out of the dark.  A halfway-there 5/10.

Written and edited by Matthew Marcus

24.1 – “Time and The Rani”

Posted in Classic Who, Season 24 with tags , , , on January 22, 2014 by Review The Who

CW Series 24 - Time and The Rani

STORY
The Doctor forgets to fasten his seatbelt during some turbulence, bangs his head on the TARDIS console and is instantly regenerated.  In what must surely be a hallucination, he finds himself beset on all sides by The Rani in pink legwarmers and a ginger wig, po-faced hair metal lizardfolk, four-eyed bat minions, Albert Einstein and a giant pulsating red brain.  It’s not an hallucination…

REVIEW
Given how handily our hero eludes the clutches of everything from black holes to the Pandorica on a regular basis, it’s amazing how difficult it is for The Doctor to escape from received wisdom.  Oh God, not “Time and The Rani”, almost anything but “Time and The Rani”.  Definitely one of the five worst stories ever.  The worst story from the worst season ever.  The story that, even if it didn’t nail shut Classic Who’s coffin right there and then, surely had the general public changing the channel in droves, depriving the show of any chance it might have had of making a comeback. There’s no smoke without fire, obviously, and it would take an even bigger contrarian than me to argue that “Time and The Rani” is anything even approaching good.  But I genuinely don’t think its terrible reputation is fully deserved.  Rather, it has the misfortune of existing at the eye of a perfect storm of reasons why people might want to hate it.

Let’s start with the fact that many fans are understandably sore about the show’s ill-treatment (and ultimate cancellation) at the hands of Messrs Grade and Powell.  If you resent the fact that poor Colin Baker was given an impossible remit to salvage the ratings, and then acrimoniously sacked for his “failure”, then the opening scenes of “Time and The Rani”, with Sylvester McCoy having to shoot the most miserable, perfunctory regeneration sequence ever in a curly fright wig, are going to fill you with fury.  A couple of minutes in and already boiling over with rage, no fan is primed to give this story the benefit of the doubt.

Next up, the unpopular companion.  Regular readers will know that there are persons involved with this site who have a violent, borderline irrational hate-on for Adric.  But Mel – aka Bonnie Langford, and never before or since has a companion been such a flimsy excuse for some stunt-casting – is surely a harder pill to swallow than even the yellow-pyjamaed one.  Introduced as “a companion from The Doctor’s future”, Mel conveniently never had to be given a proper backstory or personality.  This script tries dejectedly at points to persuade us that she’s a computer expert and well-acquainted with the Laws of Thermodynamics from having read the complete works of CP Snow, but no one looks like they believe a word of it, least of all the blank and uncomprehending Bonnie.  Mostly she spends her time emitting high-pitched shrieks.  A lot.  Fair play for trying to sell us the visceral horror of the Tetraps, but when even the local aliens are urging her to “Stop squawking!” you know something’s gone terribly wrong.  Plus here she’s kitted out with a costume that’s so eye-wateringly pink and 1980’s that it would be an affront if there was only one of it.  But more about that plot point shortly.

On scriptwriting duties, Pip & Jane Baker.  It’s almost impossible to imagine the chain of events that must have occurred to have resulted, by 1987, in the Baker husband-and-wife team being the most trusted and experienced writers available for the important task of ushering in the Seventh Doctor.  The sad passing of Robert Holmes was clearly a lot to do with it and, while Holmes may have been a bit off his game since “The Caves Of Androzani”, it’s still tempting to imagine an alternate universe where he was around to write the first story of Season 24.  Pip & Jane could clearly get scripts in on time and to spec, in trying and chaotic times.  Unfortunately their dialogue is invariably overwrought – SO MANY ADJECTIVES! – and their plotting seems to be a matter of throwing ever wackier ideas into the mix until the contractual 90 minutes has been achieved.  The B-plot of this adventure, wherein the native Lakertyans get blown up or stung to death by cruel traps until they realise that collaborating with their oppressors for the sake of the peace is bad and wrong, is hackneyed and dull.  It’s no stupider than another race of blond alien dumbbells coming to realise that pacifism can never work in a different story circa 1963…but that still doesn’t justify these proceedings.

But enough negatives.  This is a really well-directed story with some remarkable special effects and production values.  It may be set in a quarry but it’s a great looking quarry; that entrance to the Rani’s base is really something.  The Tetraps are an excellently creepy monster design, compared to, say, the Androzani Magma Beast, that work splendidly while shot half-glimpsed and in the shadows, and only fall apart due to the strange decision to make their leader so talkatively servile (“Your powers are truly wondrous, Mistress”).  The Lakertyans may be generic but they’re all played by good actors who are giving it 100% – including Benedict Cumberbatch’s mum!  And of course Kate O’Mara is superb as fabulous TLILF, The Rani.  Yes, the script lets her down by having her make idiotic choices at every turn (“Leave the girl, it’s the man I want,”) and calling her off on endless errands to allow characters to reunite and steal stuff from her lab in her absence.  But she’s incredibly watchable, actually totally hilarious in the abjectly ridiculous impersonating-Mel plotline, and a joy to behold sparring with Sylvester McCoy.

And so we come to the crux of why “Time and The Rani” isn’t a complete waste of…time and The Rani.  If you unilaterally despise McCoy and his era then I can’t persuade you and, again, received wisdom is that he may not have fully perfected his portrayal at this stage. But for me he brings a spectacularly doleful charm to the role from the moment the Seventh Doctor regains consciousness.  This Doctor is a genius, but he’s instantly compassionate with it and, just as importantly, he’s funny.  He cracks jokes and commits egregious acts of wordplay – the mangled proverbs he continually spouts in this script are generally written off as an erratic post-regenerative behaviour, but when he lists the Earthlings who will tragically never be born if The Rani gets free rein with her Time Manipulator, Mrs Malaprop tops the list!  And it’s even plot relevant; his mind sabotages the other geniuses by being too lateral, too puntastic, for the Big Red Brain(TM) to deal with.  A hero after my own crossword-puzzling heart, then, and one of my top three Doctors of all time.  He will only get better from here, but that doesn’t mean he didn’t start off great.

RATING
You may well find this story terrifyingly camp.  You may not like the loquacious pot-bellied aliens from a planet with a silly long name.  You may think the storyline involving a faaaaaabulous villain impersonating The Doctor’s companion is ridiculous, or that a companion stunt-cast from the world of light entertainment instead of serious acting is a bad idea.  But all of these elements that were supposedly killing the credibility of Doctor Who in 1987 are the very same things that were brought back for the really rather successful 21st century show.  If it wasn’t for a third episode that is a pointless time-wasting runaround, I’d have gone so far as to say there is more good and fun stuff in “Time and The Rani” than there is bad.  A controversial-for-some 5/10.

Written and edited by Matthew Marcus