Timestamp Special #7: Dimensions in Time

Doctor Who: Dimensions in Time
(2 episodes, 1993)

 

Celebrating thirty years.

Starting off with a little backstory, this was shown as part of the 1993 Children in Need telethon over two nights. Both parts were bracketed by host Noel Edmonds, and the first part involved a short intro sketch with Jon Pertwee in character as the Doctor. Sadly, this was his last on-screen performance before his death.

On to the story…

The Rani is traveling with her companion, previously having captured (busts of) the First and Second Doctors in an attempt to assemble a menagerie of sentient life-forms to control the universe. That’s kind of her thing, really. Her companion checks off a Cyberman and a Time Lord from Gallifrey, noting that they need a human from Earth to complete the collection.

Elsewhere, the Fourth Doctor (in his Eighteenth Season garb) issues a warning to all of his other incarnations. It appears that he’s too late as the Rani takes aim on the TARDIS and knocks the capsule off course. Instead of landing in China, the Seventh Doctor and Ace materialize on the docks at the Cutty Sark Gardens, circa 1973. As Ace calls for help, the Seventh Doctor transforms into the Sixth Doctor, and both of them are instantly transported to (the fictional) Albert Square. The Sixth Doctor remarks that they have “slipped a groove” in time, and somehow he knows who Ace is.

This timey-wimey-wibbly-wobbliness will drive the rest of the adventure.

As Ace spots a clothing stand and a discount on a jacket from Sanjay and Gita (of The EastEnders), the Sixth Doctor discovers that they are now in 1993. The slipped groove has also slipped them two decades into the future. Just as he begins to question things, the slip happens again, leaving behind the Third Doctor and Mel. The Third Doctor believes that someone is rooting through his timeline and extracting previous incarnations and companions. The pair stop and ask two shop owners (Pauline Fowler and Kathy Beale from The EastEnders) what year they are in, and they are shocked to discover that they are in 2013.

The slips come fast and furious now, bouncing between 1973, 1993, and 2013, all in an attempt to separate the Doctor from the TARDIS and seal all of the Doctors together. One slip occurs, revealing the Sixth Doctor and Susan Foreman, the latter of whom is eager to find her grandfather, Ian, and Barbara. Another slip brings Sarah Jane and the Third Doctor back together. The next reunites the Fifth Doctor, Nyssa, and Peri, and this time they’re under attack from the Rani’s menagerie because our heroes (in all their guises) are too close to the truth.

They face off against a host of villains from the last thirty years (including an Argolin, a biomechanoid, a Cyberman, a Mentor, an Ogron, a Sandminer robot, a Sea Devil, a Tetrap, a Time Lord, a Tractator, a Vanir and a Vervoid, and even Fifi), and after they attempt to warn Pat Butcher (The EastEnders) of the danger – a futile effort, it seems – they are trapped by the Rani outside the Queen Victoria (once more, The EastEnders).

The Fifth Doctor psychically summons the Third Doctor in his place, an act that replaces Nyssa and Peri with Liz Shaw. Liz attempts to disarm the Rani, but then flees after Mandy (The EastEnders) distracts the villain. Mike Yates arrives in Bessie and shoots the gun out of the Rani’s hands, offering the Doctor a way out. Together they flee to a helicopter and the Brigadier.

Another slip occurs, exchanging the Third Doctor for the Sixth as they reach safety. As another slip occurs, the Rani and her companion set course for the Greenwich Meridian to find their missing human specimen. In a garage, the second Romana is flushed out of her hiding spot by Phil and Grant Mitchell (you guessed it, The EastEnders), who point her to their doctor, Harold Legg. As she passes the Queen Victoria, the Rani captures her.

In 1973, the Third Doctor and Victoria Waterfield discuss the nature of the Rani as they return to the TARDIS. Time slips once again, and the Seventh Doctor lands in 1993 and encounters Leela, who has escaped the Rani after being cloned in the form of the second Romana. This is the key that the Doctor needs, since the Rani now has an extra Time Lord brain imprint instead of the human one she needed. The Seventh Doctor, Ace, and K9 rig up a device to overload the time tunnel, capturing the Rani inside while breaking the other Doctors free.

Triumphant, the Seventh Doctor and Ace board the TARDIS for their next adventure, confident in the fact that the Doctor(s) are difficult to get rid of.

 

This was fun but chaotic, and a decent nod to the franchise on its thirtieth anniversary.

 

Rating: 3/5 – “Reverse the polarity of the neutron flow.”

 

UP NEXT – Doctor Who: Death Comes to Time

 

The Timestamps Project is an adventure through the televised universe of Doctor Who, story by story, from the beginning of the franchise. For more reviews like this one, please visit the project’s page at Creative Criticality.

 

Timestamp #148: Time and the Rani

Doctor Who: Time and the Rani
(4 episodes, s24e01-e04, 1987)

 

TARDIS under attack!

In a rare pre-credits sequence, a rather well-done for the era computer-generated TARDIS topples tail over teakettle, leaving the Sixth Doctor and Mel unconscious on the floor of the console room. On Lakertya, the planet below, a native watches the TARDIS hurtle to the ground in a rainbow of energy. Within moments, the doors open from the outside to reveal the Rani and her henchmen. The Rani orders that Mel is left behind as the creatures take a freshly regenerating Seventh Doctor to her laboratory.

Roll credits. Fancy computer generated credits. With a new theme and a winking Doctor.

I’m not adverse to them. I like them better than the dark theme from the Twenty-Third Series, but man, oh man, are they so very ’80s.

In the Rani’s lab, we see Albert Einstein being loaded into a stasis chamber by two Lakertyans. The Rani has kidnapped many genius scientists from Earth history, and now she has the Doctor to play with. The newly regenerated Time Lord snaps awake with a burst of energy and a babble of speech, eventually confronting the Rani. He threatens to smash some equipment with his umbrella, forcing the Rani’s hairy companion to shoot him with a laser web device.

Sylvester McCoy’s energy and acting are refreshing. I found myself grinning during this whole sequence.

One of the Lakertyans, Ikona, enters the TARDIS and retrieves the unconscious Mel. His female counterpart, scared off by the Rani’s anger, is soon killed in explosive fashion, but not before meeting Mel. Ikona warns Mel that if she runs, she will find more of the same explosive traps. He also believes that Mel is allied with the Rani and takes her for ransom. He drags her through the typical Doctor Who quarry, but she ends up rescuing him from a trap and earning her freedom. They continue to run, trying to evade the Tetraps (the Rani’s hairy foot-soldiers).

In the lab, the Rani drugs the Doctor so he won’t remember waking up before, and when he comes around again, she is (poorly) disguised as Mel. The Rani attempts to convince the Doctor to repair some broken equipment in (what she calls) his lab. He exhibits some Sixth Doctor tendencies and an ability to play the spoons, but the tech confounds him. The Rani convinces him to return to the TARDIS for some tools.

Upon returning to the TARDIS, the Doctor decides to change clothes. He tries on a Napoleon outfit, a British guard uniform, an arcane schoolteacher getup, the Fourth Doctor‘s burgundy attire with the wrong scarf, the Third Doctor‘s brown coat and ruffles, the Fifth Doctor‘s ensemble, and the Second Doctor‘s fur coat before settling on his trademark style.

Note: The suspenders should be underneath the sweater.

The Doctor nearly recognizes the Rani under her disguise, but after she slaps him he goes off to find the radiation wave meter.

Elsewhere, Mel runs from the Tetrap but trips one of the exploding bubble traps. The bubble bounces all across the landscape – understandably, Mel is screaming the entire time (and goodness, can she scream) – before safely landing in a lake. Ikona frees her and they continue to run, but they are soon ambushed. As Mel screams, Ikona finds a hidden rifle to defend them. They end up at the Rani’s tower.

The Doctor continues to work on the Rani’s equipment, but he is obsessed with what lies beyond a sealed door. Prior to this, the Rani had stated that the Lakertyans weren’t an advanced species, so the Doctor is puzzled when the Rani suggests that the Lakertyans can patch a broken mineral plate in the device. She leaves to find the necessary gear, locking the Doctor in the lab.

Mel and Ikona encounter Faroon, another Lakertyan, and they mourn the death of Sarn, the female Lakertyan… Faroon’s daughter. Faroon leaves deliver the bad news to Beyus, Sarn’s father, and Mel and Ikona follow. Ikona distracts the Tetrap guard long enough for Mel to sneak in. Meanwhile, the Tetrap guard mistakenly apprehends the Rani (who is still dressed like Mel).

Mel finds the lab and assaults the Doctor, unaware that the Time Lord has regenerated. After a brief altercation, they verify each other’s identities. Mel knows about regeneration, but she’s still astounded by the change. The pair are rescued from the lab by Faroon and Beyus and taken to the stasis chamber where they discover the sleeping scientists and a chamber set aside for the Doctor.

The Rani is freed and, after berating her minion, heads for her TARDIS. Her time capsule is a small pyramid, and the inside is futuristic and gorgeous. She fixes the mineral plate and returns to her lab, prompting the Doctor to send Mel with Faroon and Beyus. The Doctor uncovers the Rani’s ruse and discovers her plan: She is channeling the scientists’ minds into a single artificial brain in an attempt to harvest strange matter from a nearby asteroid.

Okay, given that only strange matter can affect strange matter, therefore requiring the brain to develop a lightweight substitute with the same qualities, why not just use the substitute for the nefarious scheme? Perhaps a difference in purity or something?

Anyway, the Doctor escapes and finds refuge in the pit where the Rani keeps the Tetraps. She searches the pit and departs, locking the grate behind her and leaving the Doctor surrounded by the beasts. Luckily, Beyus arrives to feed the Tetraps and helps the Doctor escape. Unable to find the Doctor inside the complex, the Rani extends her search outside. She returns as the Doctor sabotages her machinery, and she sounds the alarm as the Doctor escapes the facility. Meanwhile, Mel is captured by the Tetraps and taken to the Rani.

Goodness, can she scream.

The Doctor meets Ikona, and together they trick a Tetrap into one of the explosive traps. Ikona takes the Time Lord to the Center of Leisure where his people are kept happy and indolent despite their servitude. The Doctor doesn’t understand why Beyus told him to visit the center, but he does question the strange sphere in the center of the room. The device’s purpose is made clear as the Rani punishes the Lakertyans by releasing killer insects. As they run, Faroon tells the Doctor that Mel is being held hostage, and the ransom is the missing piece from the machine. The Doctor makes the trade, but the exchanged hostage is a hologram. The real Mel is pressed into service as Beyus’s assistant.

This section of the story was the weakest part and an unnecessary tangent.

The Doctor is captured as he and Ikona try to sneak back into the laboratory. The Doctor is loaded into his stasis chamber and his intelligence is networked into the artificial brain – Mel responds by screaming, because goodness, can she scream – but the Doctor’s inputs are nothing more than bad puns and nonsense. While the Rani sorts out the issues, she dispatches the army of Tetraps to exact “selective retribution” on the dissident Lakertyans. After she disconnects the Doctor, Mel and the Doctor trap her in the stasis chamber. Unfortunately, the Doctor’s intelligence provided the brain with the answer: Loyhargil.

The answer is the Holy Grail? Seriously, anagram it.

The explosion of the strange matter will create a shell of chronons (discrete particles of time?) around the planet, causing the brain to expand, fill the sphere, and become a Time Manipulator. Using that, the Rani can travel through time and alter history, adding order to the entropy of evolution throughout the universe. She also mentions that she alone will survive the supernova, a fact that upsets her Tetrap assistant. The Rani synthesizes her grail and heads for her TARDIS.

The Doctor and Mel escape the lab one more time to reunite with Ikona and help him spur the Lakertyans into full rebellion. The travelers then return to the lab and free the scientists, prompting Beyus to sacrifice his life to destroy the brain and delay the launch just long enough to miss the asteroid and foil the Rani’s plans. The Rani retreats to her TARDIS, but her escape is shortlived as the Tetraps, collectively stowed away in the time capsule, “invite” her to join them on their homeworld.

The Doctor and Mel return to their TARDIS, saying their farewells to the liberated Lakertyans and escorting the scientists aboard for their return home. The Lakertyans have learned that they must solve their own problems if they are to survive.

 

Starting with the story, it was average at best. Regeneration stories are often rough since they involve new actors (and sometimes new production teams), but this one seemed even more troubled than most. It wasn’t bad, but it just wasn’t good either. Continuity-wise, I really wish that the BBC could have made amends with Colin Baker, but I understand his reasoning for not returning. It’s obviously Sylvester McCoy with a dodgy wig behind the regeneration effect. That doesn’t bother me as much as the Rani’s random mole. I don’t recall seeing it in her previous appearance, and it was only visible for a short time here.

What buoyed this up for me was Sylvester McCoy’s energy and acting, which were refreshing. Because of that, I have high hopes for what’s to come.

 

Rating: 3/5 – “Reverse the polarity of the neutron flow.”

 

UP NEXT – Doctor Who: Paradise Towers

 

 

The Timestamps Project is an adventure through the televised universe of Doctor Who, story by story, from the beginning of the franchise. For more reviews like this one, please visit the project’s page at Creative Criticality.

Timestamp #140: The Mark of the Rani

Doctor Who: The Mark of the Rani
(2 episodes, s22e05-e06, 1985)

 

A peaceful, hard-working existence at a mining village meets a trio of Time Lords.

This story has a fast launch out of the gate. A group of miners head for the relaxation of the local bathhouse, but they are gassed out by an unknown force. On the TARDIS, the Doctor is frustrated as the TARDIS is pulled off course by a mysterious time distortion. Peri, in an odd costume, is displeased at the rural setting.

The gassed miners have an odd mark on their necks, and the chemicals have transformed them into vandals more intent on fighting than working. In fact, they act more like Luddites than anything else, destroying machinery and attacking those who use it. The Doctor and Peri disrupt one of these attacks and find a red mark on one of the vandals, but the attacker runs off.

As the Doctor and Peri make their way into town – intent on meeting George Stephenson, an architect of the Industrial Revolution – the Doctor’s time distortion tracker keys in on the bathhouse. They also fail to notice the shadowy figure skulking in their wake. We soon discover that dark figure is none other than the Master and that the woman who runs the bathhouse is in on the scheme in some way. The Master commands the vandals – who don’t bat an eye at the Master’s advanced technology – to attack the Doctor. Our heroic Time Lord nearly falls into the open mineshaft before being saved by Lord Ravensworth, the landowner. They discuss the mystery of the mining village.

The Master, using a device that works on wood (unlike the typical sonic screwdriver), forces his way into the bathhouse and uncovers the identity of the old woman: She is the Rani, an exiled Time Lord, and a chemist who is distilling sleep-inducing neurochemicals from the miners. The distillation process causes the red marks, and the sleep-inducing chemicals are needed for Miasimia Gora, a planet that the Rani rules. The two Time Lords work together despite their deep distrust of one another and repeated attempts to sabotage one another in their quest to kill the Doctor.

The Doctor follows the clues to the bathhouse, going undercover as a miner to investigate. He succumbs to the gas, but upon awakening, he challenges the Rani’s ethics. She’s been coming to Earth for the neurochemicals for centuries, and their discussion reveals the presence of the Master to the Doctor. The Rani leaves to find the Master, leaving an opening for Peri to sneak in. Unfortunately, her attempt to save the Doctor is interrupted by the other two Time Lords. After some rhetorical back, forth, and trickery, the Master is given leave to deal with the Doctor. He has the Luddites drop the TARDIS down the mining shaft, and after a twist of fate, they find the Doctor and send him in after it.

Luckily, the Doctor is saved just in time by George Stephenson. The inventor spirits the Doctor and Peri to Lord Ravensworth’s home and sends Luke to find the lord with a message. Unfortunately, he is intercepted and enthralled by the Master, forced to kill anyone who might disrupt the upcoming meeting of inventors at Lord Ravensworth’s manor. The Master wants to use the meeting to accelerate the Earth’s technological development so he can harness that power for his own evil means, and he strikes a deal with the Rani so that she can return to Earth at any time if she helps his plans move forward.

The Doctor and Peri return to the bathhouse and investigate the Rani’s TARDIS. After dodging booby traps, they enter the console room, but the Doctor kicks Peri out as the TARDIS dematerializes remotely and moves to the mines where the Rani and the Master are scheming. The pair enter, retrieve some tools and leave, which frees the Doctor to sabotage the control column.

I do like elements of the Rani’s TARDIS console room, but it needs a bit more color and depth. It’s certainly better than redressing the Doctor’s console room once again. The renovated roundels are a nice touch.

The Doctor meets up with Peri at the mine shaft where she takes him back to Lord Ravensworth’s manor. Stephenson is gearing up to rescue one of the incoming inventors, but the Doctor realizes that the message was carried by Luke and that the assistant is acting funny. The Doctor goes in his stead to Redfern Dell, where the Rani and the Master have set landmines (those tools they retrieved earlier) to ambush Stephenson.

As the Doctor ventures out, Peri uses her botanical knowledge to develop a sleeping-draught for the affected miners. Her quest takes her to Redfern Dell with Luke to find the herbs. As everyone converges, the Doctor ambushes the other two Time Lords and holds them at bay with the Master’s Tissue Compression Eliminator. He watches as Luke inadvertently steps on a landmine and is transformed into a tree – a development that comes out of nowhere – then angrily marches his hostages through the dell. The Luke-tree saves Peri from sharing his fate, alerting the Doctor to his companion’s danger. He forces the Rani to save her but leaves Peri to take them to the mines as he tries to save the Luddite horde from the landmines. His captors don’t listen and succumb to their new fates.

The Rani and the Master escape due to the former’s trickery, but their triumph is short-lived as they board the Rani’s TARDIS. The Doctor’s sabotage causes the time capsule to tumble out of control, and the time spillage reaches a jar holding a Tyrannosaurus Rex embryo. The dinosaur begins to grow…

The Doctor and Peri return to Lord Ravensworth, exchanging the vial of neurochemicals (which they pickpocketed from the Master) for the TARDIS (which Ravensworth retrieved from the mines). The travelers board the TARDIS and dematerialize, shocking the inventor and his financier.

 

Really all I can say is that this was an average story. It was good to see another Time Lord in a large role, nice to see the Master again, and fun to touch on history once again with the first historical figure directly on screen since The Gunfighters. The Rani seems like she could be a good lead-in to the concept of Missy, which debuts nearly thirty years after this point.

It’s especially fun to see the mystery and menace of the Master. We’ve never needed to know how he survives each time, it’s just enough to know that he does and seems unstoppable.

 

Rating: 3/5 – “Reverse the polarity of the neutron flow.”

 

UP NEXT – Doctor Who: The Two Doctors

 

 

The Timestamps Project is an adventure through the televised universe of Doctor Who, story by story, from the beginning of the franchise. For more reviews like this one, please visit the project’s page at Creative Criticality.