Friday, 30 October 2015

205 - Planet Of The Rani

One of the many things I love about Doctor Who is how seemingly small throwaway lines of dialogue can fire the imagination – a mention of The Terrible Zodin here, a reference to Planet 14 there, a mention of a previous battle against Fenric and the biggest of all The Time War, mentions of The Gates of Elysium, The Nightmare Child and The Could Have Been King and his Army of Meanwhiles, all create immediate pictures in the mind, and sometimes they are better there, can they ever live up to the imagination?
When I was thirteen Colin Baker was the Doctor – I loved Colin as the Doctor and to this day he remains in my top tier – along with McCoy, Tennant and Capaldi – anyway in his first season there were a few of these moments that alluded to unseen adventures, but one has always stuck with me, in Mark of the Rani it is alluded that she was the ruler of a planet called Miasimia Goria. Isn’t that a wonderfully lyrical name for a planet, just run it over in your mind and say it to yourself… Miasimia Goria – what does it make you think of? An alien paradise akin to Fern Gully? a techno world with no illness? a pseudo Middle Earth? Names can be deceptive as I found out when listening to Planet of the Rani – because in this months main range release we finally visit this most poetic sounding Planet.
If you remember The Rani Elite you will recall that the late great Kate O’Mara had been regenerated and was now being played with arrogant aloofness by Siobhan Redmond – you may also recall that at the end of that story The Doctor has The Rani sent to Prison. This is the story of what happened next.
Now travelling with Mrs Constance Clarke, the Wren he met in last month’s Criss Cross – the Doctor has been rather neglecting his emails and has been asked to visit the Teccaurora Penitentiary to attend The Rani’s parole hearing. Old Sixie is the most moral of all the Doctor’s incarnations and believes that even The Rani has some good in her, so decides to attend the parole hearing. However he and Mrs Clarke get involved in a diabolical jailbreak attempt by The Rani that she has been planning for a very very long time, nearly 100 years in fact.
After the breakneck speed of episode one, things really slow down on Miasimia Goria. It is nothing like the verdant paradise I pictured, it’s a sad wasted little world with a sad oppressed populace. It was probably once a lovely world but it really is a reflection, a broken mirror held up to The Rani’s questionable morala – she sees everyone and everything as fodder for her experiments, and what she has done to the Miasmians and Gorians is heartbreaking. Remember the experiments she was carrying out in Mark of the Rani? She has had one success on Miasimia Goria. Think about that one success out of a whole population, and that success, Raj Kahnu, has assumed the place of new leader since The Rani’s enforced exile.
It’s a story of two halves (or one quarter and three quarters), with the first episode on the Teccaurora Penitentiary being of a completely different tone and pace to the following three on Miasimia Goria. Frustratingly as well, The Doctor does not spend a lot of his time paired with Mrs Clarke, he spends it with Pseudo companion Pazmi (Olivia Poulet), The Rani’s would be assassin, while Mrs Clarke is paired with The Rani. I love Constance Clarke, a real classic companion played to perfection by Miranda Raison and an exceptional foil to Old Sixie, you can tell that he respects her and values her in the same way as he did with Evelyn Smythe. Also Siobhan Redmond is a colder more reserved Rani than Kate O’Mara’s high camp version, and as such comes across as a far more dangerous adversary. Themes of redemption, compassion and regret run deep through the story – but I get the feeling that it is perhaps an episode too long, or maybe the balance is slightly wrong, maybe half on the jailbreak and half on Miasimia Goria would have been better.
So I have finally been to the Planet I first heard of 30 years ago, and like all the best surprises it wasn’t at all what I was expecting. Sad and grey rather than joyful and verdant as the name suggests – tinged with regret.
Overall, a sad little story of a Planet ruined for arrogance 7/10.