Sunday, 6 September 2015

Story 139 - Mark of the Rani

In which the TARDIS is on its way to Kew Gardens in the early part of the 19th Century when it gets drawn off course. The Doctor suspects the presence of another time vessel. He and Peri find they are in the North East of England, near the village of Killingworth. They witness an attack on a cart carrying machinery. The assailants are accused of being Luddites, but one of them is captured and found to have a mysterious red mark on his neck. The man is Jack Ward, one of Lord Ravensworth's most trusted employees. He was fine until a few hours ago, before he visited the local bath house...
The Doctor has a detector device which indicates that the bath house is the source of whatever has drawn them off course. He learns that Ravensworth is planning a meeting of many great scientists and engineers. George Stephenson is already here, working on a prototype locomotive. The Doctor decides to investigate the bath house, disguised as a worker. He is gassed and wakes to find himself in a hidden chamber containing high tech equipment. The old woman who runs the baths is really the disguised Rani - another rogue Time Lord and contemporary of the Doctor's at the Academy on Gallifrey.

The Rani now rules the planet of Miasimia Goria. Her experiments to make the population work harder have led to chaos, as she removed their need for sleep. She has started to visit Earth to siphon off brain chemicals from humans to alleviate the problems back on Goria. This leaves the red mark on the neck, and leads its victims to act aggressively. There is a third Time Lord in the neighbourhood, as the Master appears in the village. He is seeking to destroy the Doctor, but is also interested in the Rani's experiments. He steals her supply of the brain fluid in order to force her to co-operate with him. Having learned of Ravensworth's meeting, he has also devised a plan to derail the Industrial Revolution and alter Earth's history. The Master has the Rani's victims seize the TARDIS and throw it down a mine shaft. The Doctor is sent hurtling through the village on a trolley to suffer the same fate, but is saved by the intervention of George Stephenson. Peri is sent into the woods to find plants which can provide a cure for the afflicted workers. She is accompanied by Jack Ward's son Luke - unaware that he has fallen under the hypnotic control of the Master.

The Rani has planted mines in the woods. Rather than explode, they transform their victims into trees. Luke meets this fate, and even though he has been transformed he is still able to save Peri. The Doctor goes to the bath house, narrowly avoiding a gas booby trap left by the Rani. He breaks into her TARDIS - looking like a wooden cabinet - and is looking around when the Master and the Rani enter. He hides whilst the Rani moves her ship to the mine workings. The Master intends to plant a bomb that will destroy Ravensworth's offices. The Doctor sabotages the Rani's TARDIS then confronts the Master. The evil Time Lord fires his Tissue Compression Eliminator, destroying a pit prop. The mine starts to collapse. The Doctor diverts the bomb away from the mines, whilst the Rani and the Master attempt to flee in her ship. The Doctor's sabotage causes the ship to hurtle away from Earth and forward in time. An embryo Tyrannosaurus Rex in the control room begins to grow...

This two part adventure was written by Pip and Jane Baker, and was broadcast between the 2nd and 9th of February, 1985.
Pip and Jane were veteran script writers, and producer John Nathan-Turner was very happy with their work. They delivered scripts on time, and were always on hand during filming to make amendments. This proved to be a boon as some of the filming was badly affected by bad weather. The amount of location filming is noticeable. This was because an OB unit had been left with no work to do following an admin mistake, and this was offered to other producers to bid for it. JNT won. Unfortunately, a spell of heavy rain meant that the filming in the woods near the Blist's Hill Open Air Museum (the location for Killingworth) had to be written off, and a number of scenes remounted in another forest closer to London.
The Bakers claimed they got the idea for the Rani and her scheme from a scientist who they met at a party. (Pip's brother is a scientist, as he loves to tell us on the DVD commentaries of their stories). This person pointed out that humans are simply bags of chemicals.
Despite having been apparently killed off for good in his last outing, it was decided to bring the Master back for this story. This is seen as a mistake. His plan to derail the Industrial Revolution is, yet again, relatively small-scale villainy, and he just isn't needed in the plot. His presence somewhat undermines the threat from the Rani - who really should have been given a clear field as principle villain.
She's played by the late Kate O'Mara. She was originally slated to play Petra Williams in Inferno, but took a job with Hammer instead. She has played the villain in The Brothers and Triangle, and then went on to play Joan Collins' sister in US soap-drama Dysentery. Sorry, Dynasty. Nope, right the first time.

The other major guest artist is Terence Alexander - playing Lord Ravensworth. A veteran TV and film actor, he was best known for a regular stint on Jersey-set police series Bergerac. Luke Ward is Gary Cady, who came fresh from a similar role in Brass - an Edwardian era "There's trouble 't mill" comedy series. One of his co-stars will crop up in the next story. Stephenson is Gawn Grainger. He had written a biography of Sir Laurence Olivier - which gave JNT an idea...
Episode endings are:
  1. The Doctor is strapped to a trolley, which runs downhill through the village towards an open mine-shaft...
  2. Lord Ravensworth asks the Doctor what he and Peri do in the TARDIS. "Argue, mostly..." comes the response. Ravensworth and Stephenson then watch as the ship dematerialises...

Overall, very good looking, with a lovely score. As mentioned above, the Master's presence is entirely superfluous. Oddly paced - all of the incident is confined to the second half. Let's not even mention the plastic tree...
Things you might like to know:
  • So, JNT finds out that Gawn Grainger knows Sir Larry - and asks him to check if the Lord might be willing to appear in Doctor Who. Word comes back that he might be - so long as it is for one day only and on film. Trouble is there is only one small part left in the remainder of the series that fits the bill - the mutant in Revelation of the Daleks. Sir Larry declines. 
  • Colin Baker dislocated a finger when it became trapped in the hanging chains during the scene when the "Luddites" try to kill him.
  • The dating for this story is actually hard to work out, as a number of real scientists and engineers are said to have been invited to the big meeting. Whatever date you go for, the age of the Luddites was actually well past.
  • One of Colin's favourite anecdotes is that the guard dog had relieved itself in the box of Fullers Earth that he then used to dirty up his face,
  • Another mishap occurred when a member of the public watching the filming got pushed into the Severn by one of the donkeys.
  • The music was originally to have been composed by a freelance composer named John Lewis. He completed the score for part one, but then fell ill. (He died shortly afterwards). Jonathon Gibbs was called in to score the story with very little time, as it was brought forward in transmission order (having been made after The Two Doctors).
  • There are a few anachronisms on view, as Blist's Hill Open Air Museum is set up to recreate a later Victorian period.
  • The main large bath house set is reused from the series Tenko (where it was the convent used as the female POW camp). The exterior was actually a pig sty. 
  • This is the last story to be directed by a woman (Sarah Hellings) until 2006's Blink.

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