Friday, November 08, 2013

Doctor Who turns 50 part 6: Mark of the Rani

Remember when I said I was worried about the early Doctors? Apparently that was a premonition of reaching Colin Baker's Sixth Doctor. This guy's a total prick. The Doctor might usually be the smartest guy in the room, but he doesn't tend to shout about it. There's also his attitude towards his companion. I thought the Third Doctor was bad with Jo, but the Sixth takes every single opportunity to put Peri down and scream at her for being an idiot.

Having said that, Peri might just be the most annoying companion I've ever seen, and some of the Doctor screaming is vaguely understandable, she's a fairly useless bint. First hint of danger and she wants to be off running. What sort of Doctor's companion is that?  It seemed that half her lines were "Can't we just go back to the TARDIS?" Except it had been dumped down a mine on the Master's orders. Let's ignore people are trying to kill us while we mount that particular rescue mission, because someone like the Master won't take that opportunity to swoop in.

Then there's what she's wearing. She's dressed like some cheap Sleeping Beauty knock off. I guess the intent is to blend in, but no one else is even close to dressed like that so it makes little sense.

Not that the Doctor is much better off. We're fully into the costume period now, the Four's scarf was different, Five's cricket gear was odd, but this is just out and out bizarre. I'd seen pictures of the red and yellow ensemble, but nothing prepares you for seeing it properly. It's horrendous. However, despite his dress sense and his pomposity he does have a few redeeming moments, such as the Missing TARDIS. Peri's flapping about it, yet the Doctor never really reacts. That's because he'd set Stevenson to retrieve it ages ago, it just wasn't important to the grand scheme of things. The Doctor's last line is pretty good too.

So when I have this much to say about the two main stars we're probably not off to a good start. Maybe the villains can save it? I mean one's the Master, and he's yet to let me down.

Always a first time. The Master comes off as not much more than a moustache twirling evil idiot here. His stated goal of taking control of the finest minds of the Industrial Revolution via George Stephenson's upcoming meeting I'm absolutely fine with. Taking control of Britain during such a monumental change to how we live fits his character perfectly. It's how he is around the Doctor that annoys me. He seems to lose all sense and manipulation the character is renowned for and just goes for the throat, which is just wrong. In the Five Doctors this new actor was amazing, so it's not put me off this version. Just made this particular serial a little harder to watch.

On the other hand, the third Timelord of the story, Rani, seems quite interesting, a different take on an evil Timelord than the Master and a perfect new antagonist for the Doctor to deal with. I also like the fact her presence has nothing to do with Stephenson, which the Doctor and the Master are so fixated on. She just wants to use humans as farm animals. It's this lack of conflict with the Master that ends up with them teaming up for both their ends, and it's an arrangement she seems very much in charge of. Which with the Master is quite incredible. I do find it amazing that they haven't brought Rani back in New Who. Despite the "NO MORE TIMELORDS" status, I would like it if they found a way around it for her. Especially since the Master has already been resurrected once in the new series so another time would be going too far.

After all this moaning I have to say that the premise of the serial is pretty good, it just never really gets out of the bounds of it's unlike-able Doctor.

It's not helped by the extras either. Where the hell is it meant to be based too? Half the accents sound Newcastle, the other Yorkshire, and most are done badly.

There's also a really weird plot hole/unresolved plot point. The Rani and The Master plant a mindfield with bio-chemical gases that cause anyone caught in them to turn into trees. Couple of bad guy locals are caught in them, and the Doctor has a near miss. But then they're forgotten. I imagine NewYorkCastleShire is plagued by stories of people disappearing in the Dell, and trees that almost seem to move, for a good few years afterwards. Good Doctor Who short story of a later incarnation turning up, hearing about it and going, “Oops forgot to clear them out last time I was here.”

I've ended every single one of these wanting to watch more of that Doctor, for the first time I really don't. Which is unfortunate...
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