Which One : Timelord duo – The Master and The Rani, terrorise a 19th century Earth mining village.
Cast : The Doctor : Colin Baker
Peri : Nicola Bryant
The Master : Anthony Ainley
The Rani : Kate O’ Mara
Lord Ravensworth : Terence Alexander
George Stephenson : Gawn Grainger
Jack Ward : Peter Childs
Luke Ward : Gary Cady
Tim Bass : William Ilkley
Edwin Green : Hus Levent
Sam Rudge : Kevin White
Written By : Pip and Jane Baker
Produced By : JNT
First UK Broadcast : 2 – 9 February 1985.
Length : 2 x 45 minute parts.
Plot : The Doctor visits a period 19th century mining town and discovers the inhabitants all have red marks on their necks. They have been taken under the hypnotic control of The Master and The Rani, who are extracting chemicals from their brains and turning them into “Luddite” savages.
Whats good : Good, strong Baker period episode. Strong location work. The Rani. The Rani and The Master’s treacherous dynamic.
Whats bad : The unexplained return of Anthony Ainley’s Master. Silly cliffhangers – the Doctor tied to a cart and pushed down a hill. Some of the “oop North” accents are a tad overdone.
Review With Spoilers : The Sixth Doctor well and truly has his hands full here, with not one but two renegade Timelords, in an interesting period piece – in Mark Of The Rani.
The Rani is more than a cerebal match for The Master and an interesting dynamic is played out on “Team Evil Timelord”, as the two plot, argue and bicker – over should kill the Doctor first.
Anthony Ainley’s Master is brought back, following his previous [final] appearance in Planet Of Fire; in which he was seemingly destroyed. When questioned by the Rani as to being burnt to a cinder he just mumbles something about being “immortal”.
Planet Of Fire was intended to be Ainley’s last appearance, as his contract wasn’t going to be extended. Nevertheless, The Master is back with his female equivilant in tow – The Rani.
And if the writers or producers worried that The Rani character was not strong enough, to carry an episode alone – (hence bringing back the Master). Then its pleasing to see Kate O’ Mara turn in a dastardly and commanding performance, as the First Lady Of Time.
So good in infact, that it leaves very little need for the Master to be in this – at all. The Rani impresses enough by stealing both the show from Ainley – and Baker. No easy feat, when taken alongside both Ainley and Baker’s ability to chew scenery.
“Oh, I know why you’re here. To destroy the Doctor. You’ve never had any other. It obsesses you, to the exclusion of all else! You’re unbalanced. No wonder the Doctor always outwits you….!” Rani [to the Master]
For a Colin Baker episode, there is more good here – than bad. Set in the 19th century mining village of Killingworth and featuring a typical Who nod to real historical characters – inventor George Stephenson (obviously influenced by his adventure with the Doctor) and Lord Ravensworth. Some of the actors make a hilarious job of butchering their North East accents.
Some of the set pieces here are a tad overdone and more Harry Lloyd slapstick than serious Sci-Fi and lack any real peril. The Doctor tied to a mine cart whizzing down a hill and hanging off of a chain over a mine shaft.
Pacing seems to suffer at times too in terms of running time too. Near the end of the first part, the Doctor is hanging from a chain over a mine whilst being beaten by Luddites – a natural cliffhanger. Before actually finishing on a rather innocuous conversation between the Master and Rani – hardly a classic Who cliffhanger.
We also have a full and thoughtful original electronic music score here, instead of the usual brief musical stock flirtations – that pepper an episode of Who.
Memorable scenes include; the dumping of the Tardis down a mineshaft by the Luddites, the dell full of the Rani’s landmines, and the Doctor’s dealing with the Rani and Master problem, by unleashing a T-Rex in the Rani’s Tardis.
It’s one of the better Baker adventures, and everything seems to come together on Mark Of The Rani to make it one of the best episodes of season 22 – aswell.
It speaks volumes for the Sixth Doctor’s arrogance and supreme self belief, that he needed 2 Timelord villains – to square off against, rather than one.
Worth a watch, if only for the Rani’s show stealing performance and some bizarre action set-pieces.