Review [DW]: “The Mark of the Rani”

22×3. The Mark of the Rani
Writers: Pip and Jane Baker
Director: Sarah Hellings
Script Editor: Eric Saward
Producer: John Nathan-Turner

Synopsis: Seeking revenge against the Doctor, the Master hijacks the TARDIS to 19th-century England where the exiled Time Lady known as the Rani has been extracting brain fluid from humans, turning mine workers violent and threatening to inflame an already tense situation against the backdrop of the emerging Industrial Revolution.

Review: The main merits of “The Mark of the Rani” are the portrayals of its Time Lord characters and the historical setting. After the sometimes disturbing violence in the previous two installments, “The Mark of the Rani” finds the Doctor operating with a more familiar moral center, expressing outrage at the behavior of the Master and the Rani and resolving the situation without resorting to physical violence. The Master is sometimes slightly campy, but in a way that’s consistent with his character, while the more practical but equally ruthless Rani gets to poke fun at his Bond-villain-esque tendencies. The concept behind the plot is clever, with the Rani choosing a location and era where the violence exhibited by her victims would draw less suspicion, and the pseudoscience underlying her scheme is portrayed plausibly enough. I’m less comfortable with the sociopolitical implications, however – while the miners only turn violent under the influence of the Rani’s interference, their understandable concern for their jobs never receives a particularly deep examination, and I can’t help but wonder what the British miners who had been involved in the then-recent industrial disputes of the ’70s and ’80s would have thought of this (though the scripts were reportedly commissioned before the pivotal 1984-85 Miners’ Strike). I was also less than impressed with the way the serial ends. The Doctor corrals the Master and the Rani into the Rani’s TARDIS, which he has programmed to take them into exile outside the galaxy, only for them to find themselves menaced by an escaped baby dinosaur (of which the Rani has several in her control room for no reason that’s ever stated) that’s growing rapidly due to some temporal thingamajiggy. Meanwhile, in what’s easily the serial’s lowest moment, three men have run afoul of traps that the Rani placed in the woods and been transformed into trees – yes, trees – and nothing is ever said about trying to restore them to human form or even disarming the rest of the traps.

Rating: **1/2 (out of four)

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