Review [DW]: “Time and the Rani”

24×1. Time and the Rani
Writers: Pip and Jane Baker
Script Editor: Andrew Cartmel
Director: Andrew Morgan
Producer: John Nathan-Turner

Synopsis: The Rani diverts the TARDIS to Lakertya, where she has kidnapped prominent scientists to force them to collaborate in creating a time manipulator that would give her universal power. The Doctor, who has regenerated during the attack on the TARDIS, and Mel collaborate with members of the local population to end her control over the planet.

Review: The Sylvester McCoy era gets off to a disappointingly mediocre start with “Time and the Rani.” This isn’t as bad as, say, “Timelash,” nor is it as frustrating as “The Ultimate Foe” or “The Two Doctors,” and the return of the Rani as an enemy who can hold her own with the Doctor intellectually is a plus, but otherwise it just seems to be going through the motions. There’s some mild interest in the character of Beyus, a prominent Lakertyan who seems to have concluded that collaborating with the Rani is the best option for his people, but it’s undercut by the fact that we never learn how the Rani arrived on Lakertya or gained the upper hand over its native population in the first place. I also have to take issue with the scene at the end when, after the Doctor has devised an antidote to the venom of some killer insects that have plagued the Lakertyans, another Lakertyan named Ikona promptly pours it on the ground in the name of self-reliance – the implied message here seems bizarrely short-sighted and at odds with almost every other serial in which the Doctor somehow aids a beleaguered population. As for the new Doctor, we see some typical post-regenerative confusion for the first couple of episodes, and McCoy’s performance is competent enough, but his habit of misquoting famous aphorisms quickly grows tiresome, and I certainly hope that we’ll see less of it in the coming serials.

Rating: ** (out of four)

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