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The Tetrap Urak Serial 7D:
Time And The Rani

Working Title: Strange Matter.

Starring: Sylvester McCoy (The Seventh Doctor), Bonnie Langford (Mel Bush).

Plot
The Rani lures the TARDIS to Lakertya, where she requires the Doctor's aid to complete a device which will draw on the intelligence of history's greatest geniuses to help her reshape the universe to her own design. To this end, she drugs the newly-regenerated Doctor and masquerades as Mel to gain his trust. The real Mel, however, allies herself with the native Lakertyans, who have been suffering under the rule of the Rani and her bat-like Tetraps. It is up to Mel to rouse the Lakertyans to rebellion, and free the Doctor from the Rani's clutches.

Production
As of October 29th, 1986, John Nathan-Turner believed his role as producer of Doctor Who was essentially at an end. This was the date on which he informed Colin Baker that his contract as the series' star would not be renewed for Season Twenty-Four; in return for this mission, he believed that he would be assigned to a new programme and Doctor Who would have a change of producer for the first time in seven years. After returning from his winter vacation, however, Nathan-Turner was informed that this agreement had been rescinded -- he would indeed remain on Doctor Who for another year. With just a few months to go before the start of production on the show's twenty-fourth season, this left Nathan-Turner little time to find a new star, a new script editor, and a full slate of stories.

Baker had been offered the chance to appear in the first four-part serial of the new season in order to facilitate a regeneration scene. Baker turned down the opportunity, but Nathan-Turner privately hoped that he might change his mind. On December 22nd, he commissioned Pip and Jane Baker -- husband-and-wife writers who had demonstrated the previous year that they could deliver scripts quickly, based on their short-notice writing of episodes nine through twelve and fourteen of The Trial Of A Time Lord -- to pen Strange Matter, inspired by an earlier unused storyline. The Bakers were asked to write their scripts for the Sixth Doctor and include a climactic regeneration sequence. Also appearing in the new adventure was the Rani, whom the Bakers had created for Season Twenty-Two's The Mark Of The Rani. Actress Kate O'Mara had recently returned to England after spending a year in Hollywood appearing on the prime time soap opera Dynasty, and had affirmed her interest in reprising her Doctor Who role.

Any hope of Colin Baker appearing in Strange Matter was lost on January 6th, 1987, when the first installment of an interview with the actor appeared in The Sun. In it, Baker expressed regret at his dismissal from Doctor Who, and spoke scathingly of BBC1 Controller Michael Grade, accusing him of cowardice in his dealings. The new Doctor would now have to be introduced from the very beginning of episode one. Originally, Pip and Jane Baker had the Doctor staying behind at the Rani's headquarters to ensure nothing went wrong with the missile strike; the ensuing explosion causes him to regenerate. In place of this, Nathan-Turner and the Bakers decided to include a pre-titles sequence to unveil the new Doctor. Originally, Nathan-Turner preferred not to include the regeneration itself; Urak would turn over the unconscious Doctor to reveal his new face. He would later change his mind, however: the new actor would now begin the scene wearing a wig like Colin Baker's, and visual effects would take over from there. (This replaced an earlier pre-titles scene, which would have seen King Solomon -- later Albert Einstein -- kidnapped by the Rani.)

With Colin Baker now emphatically out of the picture, Nathan-Turner's search for a Seventh Doctor took on a new earnestness. He was aided in this regard by Andrew Morgan, who had already been hired as the director of Serial 7D. Morgan had earlier turned down the chance to helm Time-Flight during Season Nineteen. He had also directed episodes of Softly, Softly: Task Force, Blake's 7 and The Knights Of God, amongst other assignments. The name of actor Sylvester McCoy had come to Nathan-Turner's attention twice in the same day in December, when it was suggested to him by both BBC producer Clive Doig and literary agent Brian Wheeler. McCoy himself had telephoned the Doctor Who production office about a week earlier to indicate his interest in the part, and this made the producer wary of a set-up. Despite his misgivings, however, Nathan-Turner agreed to go and watch McCoy perform in a theatrical production of The Pied Piper on January 6th. This led to an interview a few days later, after which Nathan-Turner believed his search was over.

Head of Drama Jonathan Powell was more reticent, however, and asked Nathan-Turner to consider other possibilities as well. By now, the producer had decided he wanted an actor reminiscent of the Second Doctor, Patrick Troughton, and this helped to pare down the list of hundreds of candidates to just five names: McCoy, veteran comedian Ken Campbell, Dermot Crowley, David Fielder, and Hugh Futcher (who had played Hickman in The Sea Devils). Futcher soon accepted other work which took him out of the running, and February 18th, the remaining actors auditioned alongside actress Janet Fielding, who had played companion Tegan Jovanka (current companion Bonnie Langford being occupied with her theatrical work at the time). After viewing a recording of these sessions, Powell and Michael Grade both agreed that McCoy was the most suitable actor for the role. On February 23rd, McCoy signed a three-year contract to play the Doctor. His casting was announced on the 27th, with a photocall to follow on March 2nd.

McCoy's real name was Percy James Patrick Kent-Smith -- his stage name (originally Sylveste McCoy) had, ironically, been derived from the title of a Ken Campbell stage show in which he appeared. McCoy's early years had seen him take on a number of different jobs, from novitiate to insurance salesman to bodyguard for the Rolling Stones. It was while working in a box office that he was discovered by Campbell, and this led to a lengthy career in theatrical comedy and television, the latter including such programmes as Tiswas and Jigsaw.

Meanwhile, Nathan-Turner's search for a new script editor to replace Eric Saward, who had quit midway through the previous year, had also borne fruit. Andrew Cartmel was working for a computer company when his agent, Richard Wakely, recommended him to Nathan-Turner. Liking what he saw of Cartmel's writing, the producer hired him to complete the necessary work on Season Twenty-Four -- Strange Matter and the subsequent serial, Paradise Towers, having already been commissioned.

With all the elements for the new year finally in place, the Bakers set about putting the finishing touches on their scripts, using McCoy's audition tape as a basis from which to write for the new Doctor. The Doctor's dialogue was further massaged by Nathan-Turner and Cartmel, who had come up with the idea of the Doctor's misquoted proverbs as a way of distancing the character from Colin Baker's version, who was prone to verbose pronouncements (although this trait would vanish by the end of the year). Similar thinking went into the Seventh Doctor's costume design. It was generally agreed by now that the Sixth Doctor's bad-taste outfit had been a miscalculation, and something much more subdued was sought for McCoy's incarnation. Nathan-Turner, Morgan and costume designer Ken Trew, in consultation with McCoy, opted for a costume which would appear to be normal at a distance and unusual only on closer inspection. The straw hat was inspired by the outfit McCoy had worn to his initial meeting with Nathan-Turner. The only element disliked by the actor was the question-mark pullover, included at Nathan-Turner's insistence. McCoy decided to remain silent on the issue, however, hoping that in time, he would be allowed to vary his wardrobe as he saw fit.

Production on Strange Matter began on April 4th, with the start of location work. The Bakers had originally envisioned Lakertya as a world of forests, but it was feared that this would look too obviously like rural England, and so it was decided the planet would look like a barren, rocky wasteland instead. Three quarries near Frome in Somerset were chosen as sites for recording. During a party on the evening of the 6th, halfway through the shoot, McCoy entertained the cast and crew with his spoon playing. Nathan-Turner was so impressed by this that he asked Cartmel to include in the scenes to be recorded in studio. Work there was divided into a two-day block beginning on Monday, April 20th, and a three-day session from Sunday, May 3rd. It was around this time that the serial's title was changed to Time And The Rani.

Nathan-Turner had contemplated changing the title sequence the previous year, but the limitations of his budget had prevented him from doing so. With the change of lead actor, Season Twenty-Four would require a new sequence anyhow, so Nathan-Turner approached Oliver Elmes of the BBC's graphics department about devising an entirely new logo and sequence. With the assistance of CAL Video, Elmes devised his new sequence -- Doctor Who's first since Season Eighteen -- entirely on computer. As with his new logo, Elmes drew inspiration from comic books in devising his animation. Nathan-Turner was generally happy with the new sequence, his only concern being that the Doctor's face -- which forms out of the stars and nebulae -- was too indistinct. With little money left, Elmes opted to simply superimpose a more detailed image on top of the extant footage. The original version, however, was accidentally used for part four. The new design also meant a slight modification in the way each installment began: although the story name and author credit still formed part of the title sequence, the episode number would now appear during the opening scene.

Alongside the new title sequence, Nathan-Turner also wanted a new arrangement of Ron Grainer's theme music (partly because the new sequence was considerably longer than the previous version, and partly because Dominic Glynn's Season Twenty-Three arrangement had not been particularly well-received). This was carried out by Keff McCulloch, who was also asked to provide the incidental music for Time And The Rani at short notice. Meanwhile, Time And The Rani would prove to be the final Doctor Who story written by Pip and Jane Baker. They continue to write for a variety of media, including contributions to the series Watt On Earth. Jane Baker passed away on September 8th, 2014.

The BBC once again decided to shift Doctor Who out of its Saturday teatime slot for Season Twenty-Four and back to weekdays as had been the case throughout the early Eighties. Unlike that period, however, the programme would be broadcast just once a week (specifically, on Mondays) and at a much later time, infamously putting it up against ITV's soap opera powerhouse Coronation Street. On September 7th, episode one of Time And The Rani was broadcast, and Doctor Who's twenty-fourth season had begun.

Details
Original Transmission Details
Episode Date Time Duration Viewers Audience App.
1 7th September 1987 7.35pm 24'44" 5.1m (71st) 58%
2 14th September 1987 7.34pm 24'36" 4.2m (85th) 63%
3 21st September 1987 7.36pm 24'23" 4.3m (81st) 57%
4 28th September 1987 7.36pm 24'38" 4.9m (86th) 59%

Principal Crew
Producer John Nathan-Turner
Script Editor Andrew Cartmel
Writers Pip Baker
Jane Baker
Director Andrew Morgan
Designer Geoff Powell
Costume Ken Trew
Incidental Music Keff McCulloch

Principal Guest Cast: Richard Gauntlett (Urak), Mark Greenstreet (Ikona), Kate O'Mara (The Rani), Donald Pickering (Beyus), Wanda Ventham (Faroon).

Novelisation: Time And The Rani by Pip and Jane Baker (book 128), December 1987; photomontage cover; rerelease cover by Alister Pearson (1991).

Video Release: Time And The Rani, episodic format, July 1995; PAL (BBC Video cat.# 5617) and NTSC (Warners cat.# E1301) formats available; cover by Colin Howard.

Rankings: 149th (50.26%, Doctor Who Dynamic Rankings website, 22nd June 1999); 154th (46.86%, DWM 1997 Annual Survey).

Sources


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