Think I Don't Know My Own (Mark of the Rani)

(46 comments)

Let's play "what part of the Doctor's disguise is ill-advised."
It’s February 2nd, 1985. Foreigner is still at number one, as they are on the albums chart as well. After one week, however, Elaine Paige and Barbara Dickson unseat them on the singles chart. Bruce Springsteen, The Art of Noise, and, just out of the top ten, Phil Collins and Bryan Adams also chart. In real news, the first British mobile phone call is made and nine miners are jailed for arson in the miners’ strike.

Let us start with the Rani herself. The name is an odd choice, to say the least. On the one hand, she is clearly situated in the naming conventions that brought us the Doctor and the Master - as opposed to the other style of Time Lord who actually has names. BThis is a meaningful distinction within the series - even among the renegade Time Lords the Doctor, the Master, and the War Chief have had special status distinct from those Time Lords who have retained their names. Those with names are either still on Gallifrey or appear merely to be expats - Time Lords who are on the outs with Gallifrey, but who are still living, if not within its laws, within its worldview. Whether it be that they take relatively menial positions in the grand order of things - i.e. Drax and Azmael - or that they retain outright distance from the world like K’anpo, even the named exiles seem to remain part of Time Lord society.

Then there are the outright renegades - those who have lost their names, and who live fundamentally at odds with the Time Lords. This category, of course, includes the Doctor, and by extension his inversion in the Master. Its precise nature is thus complex and inscrutable. But it’s clear that there is a power to this group - one based on the old logic that the lowest and most debased part of something - that part of Time Lord society that has lost even their names - is inseparable from the highest point of it. (A point reiterated time and time again - when Borusa or Hedin attempt to engage with Rassilon or Omega it kills them. Only the Doctor and the Master can walk out of Rassilon’s tomb alive because, as lowly renegades, they alone are his equals.)

But the Rani makes a strange addition to this group. Described externally, at least, she’s a joke. Where the Doctor and the Master have their deep and hidden reasons for joining the nameless her reasons sound like parodic fanfic - her lab mice mutated, ate the President’s cat, and took a chunk out of him too, leading to her exile. This is not the origin of a legendary character. Even her name is odd. The name means the Queen, but  is, of course, from Indian culture instead of British culture. Diegetically this is more difficult to explain than people give it credit for. We can allow that Time Lord names are translated into British English as a basic conceit of the series, but here we have one whose given name is presented in a different cultural context than all the others.

And, crucially, it’s just her name. It’s not like the Rani is built meaningfully out of Hindu mythology. That would be absolutely fantastic - if Doctor Who actually started doing real and serious engagement with non-Western mythologies - but it’s not going on here. So the overall effect is much like that of the naming of celestial bodies after Greco-Roman mythological figures were all used up finally turning to various other mythologies. As if all of the first pool of honorifics were used up so they had to start drawing from one of the secondary pools.

But if the Rani is conceptually a parody she is, in practice, reasonably compelling. Kate O’Mara may be more than a little mockable, and yes, the Rani is self-evidently designed to be a gay icon, but in building her character the show has returned to what actually worked with Roger Delgado as the Master, hiring a ubiquitous and familiar supporting actor and letting them define the role, as opposed to hiring a reasonably good actor and telling him to just mimic someone else’s performance. As a result she gets proper villainess moments, including the frankly wonderful gunning down of her two henchmen when they become inconvenient.

So the story ends up in the odd position of presenting a character who is far less interesting on paper than the Master and then allowing her to upstage him at every opportunity. Indeed, the Rani doesn’t just get to upstage the Master, she gets to openly mock the conventions of his character and point out that he’s being ridiculous at almost every turn. This is clearly intended to be the central pleasure of this story as well - hence bringing the Master in on a story otherwise designed to introduce a new villain. Ainley is clearly a supporting role here, with the Rani serving as the main villain. He’s there to establish her. It’s a normal enough approach, but it’s somewhat stranger to see it done by just shamelessly undermining the Master.

Let us pause here and observe the setting of the story, since it is focused on so intently, the first episode opening with an exceedingly lengthy establishing shot of period Britain. We’re back in British history again, and continuing on the theme of heritage theme park Britain that we’ve been dealing with for the past two histories. Here the story is actually shot in one to boot. But this story, to its credit, resists that. It’s in no way coincidental that we’re having two stories about mining in a row here, and the “machines are coming in and putting all the miners out of work” themes of the industrial revolution echo directly with the “progress” underlying the pit closures. Unfortunately, of course, this story ends up simply endorsing progress and suggesting that the only reason anybody would oppose it is if they’ve been turned into aggressive brutes by the Rani, but, you know, you can’t win them all.

(This may, in fact, be one of the most schizoid stories in the series history when it comes to politics. On the one hand you have a story that revels in introducing a camp gay icon. On the other, it uncritically ends up endorsing neoliberal economic policies. One would almost believe Roy Cohn wrote it.)

Each of our three Time Lords, accordingly, have their own position on this history. The Doctor, frustratingly, ends up being the arch-neoliberal who insists on maintaining the arc of history with no reference to any points other than great man theory. The Master, meanwhile, ends up as the mercurial anarchist who wants to destabilize history’s flow seemingly for the sake of it. And finally we have the Rani, who seems almost completely disinterested in historical processes, caring only for her hazily-defined scientific project and, in passing, maybe in ruling the universe a little bit. (Though even there she mostly rubbishes the Master’s plan, seeming far more interested in killing the Doctor.)

Here we come to the peculiarities of the story’s title. Admittedly Season 22’s titles are not the greatest. Attack of the Cybermen is a strong contender for the blandest title ever, Vengeance on Varos is suspiciously lacking in any vengeance, and it’s not clear what, exactly, is revealed about the Daleks. Here, at least, the Rani does have a literal mark which she leaves upon her victims. But the term is perhaps more interesting in the context from which this post derives its title, especially given the strange nature of names with relation to the three Time Lords of this story. What is interesting about the Rani, if you will, is that she has a mark but no name.

There is a lengthy body of postmodern scholarship that, when exposed to this observation, would promptly begin to dance giddily around. Let’s extract a single line of thought from it, though - one closely related to alchemy. At the heart of alchemy is the idea of the symbol having some measure of power over the object it represents. But there are multiple types of symbols, and one major thread of postmodernism has involved the non-equivalence of different types of symbols and the interesting noise that comes out of this. The most obvious example - and by helpful coincidence the one relevant here - is the difference between speech and writing. A spoken word is fundamentally distinct from a written one - an observation that dates back at least to Plato. A written word is a geometric shape - a physical object (the usual jargon term is “grapheme”)- that we treat as the physical equivalent of a spoken one.

But there is a difference, and in some cases it’s a significant one. Here the Rani has a mark - a grapheme - that is disconnected from a name. She is, in other words, capable of being symbolized in the material realm but is not capable of being spoken of except as an object (“the Rani”) or in reference to her title/role. Thus the loss of name experienced by this particular class of renegade Time Lord is revealed not as a punishment but as a form of power. The Rani is capable of marking history without ever being a definable part of it. History, as we’ve reiterated time and time again, is knowable only through memory and narrative. But the Rani cannot truly be a part of the narrative because there’s no word for her.

And so in effect within this story we have three competing marks. The Rani’s mark is based on science. But here, again, we have to pause and look at the science she engages in - most obviously her tree mines. These are, to say the least... interesting. They are landmines that, when you step on, you become a tree. But it quickly becomes apparent that you do not become an ordinary tree because one of the people to become  a tree proceeds, at one point, to reach a branch around and grab/fondle Peri to save her from danger. So apparently one becomes a tree that still retains some level of humanoid movement and a functional set of desires, emotions, and thought. Biologically, of course, this is not possible - trees have neither muscles nor brains. So the Rani’s treemines must work according to some other principle that extends beyond scientific empiricism.

But Doctor Who has always had some distinction between empiricism and science. Or, perhaps more accurately, science has never been reducible to mere empiricism within Doctor Who. “Scientist” is a social role, and has been since the Hartnell and early Troughton days when “but he’s a scientist” was the standard line trotted out to defend the character of someone. These days, of course, the sort of suspicion of unchecked science that the Rani represents runs rampant in the series, but it’s still worth noting that the scientist is defined here by a quest for knowledge and certainty, not by their epistemology.

The Rani, then, is a force seeking to fix and transmute the material nature of things (she dismisses moral concerns over her transformation of people into trees by suggesting that all organic material is essentially interchangeable) with no regard whatsoever for its narrative. Indeed, this is reflected in her basic concept - her narrative is absurd, but her material potency is considerable. Indeed, it’s implied that the Rani has been invisibly sewing chaos throughout human history - that the social upheaval of the American revolution and the Middle Ages were secretly her doing. For all that she’s a ludicrous character she’s positioned as someone who has, without our knowing it, genuinely altered the material history of our world.

What, then, is the mark of the Master and of the Doctor? The Master is, in many ways, the inverse of the Rani here. He is materially impotent - a laughably ineffective villain - but symbolically powerful. He seeks to alter history with no concern for certainty - indeed, his schemes seem to have no endpoint beyond the desire for continual upheaval and transformation. This does not mean he lacks a mark, but it does mean that his mark exists within the mythology of the series. It’s certainly the case that the Master has tangibly altered the overall structure of Doctor Who. But this alteration comes at the price of him being wholly unable to impact things. He cannot possibly affect the world. Where the Rani’s lack of name makes her unspeakable (consider how the idea that River might turn out to be the Rani was, in effect, a joke) the Master’s lack of name makes him uneraseable.

But when faced with these two polar opposites in villains there becomes little room left for the Doctor. It’s not just that he’s stuck basically endorsing neoliberal economics. It’s that faced with the Master and the Rani his position becomes, in effect, referee. He becomes the character trying to maintain stability and order. He no longer has a mark, save perhaps the series itself. By becoming a force of stasis - one who exists here to keep things as they are - he stops having a mark of his own and instead becomes something that is written upon. For all that Colin Baker defines the part with bluster and bombast he is, in a sense, more ineffectual here than his predecessor ever was, simply because there’s no effect to be had. In facing these two mirrors of himself he stands revealed as the hollowed shell we feared.

Comments

Tom 4 years, 10 months ago

Your comment that the Rani was 'self-evidently designed to be a gay icon' is rather insulting. What aspects of her character make her designed as a gay icon?

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Anton B 4 years, 10 months ago

Excellent. A return to alchemical principles. I was rather expecting you though to elaborate on the Doctor's antagonists' relationship to the 'abdicated ruler of the Land of Fiction' role you ascribed to him way back in your 'Mind Robber' essay. I've a feeling the whole 'nameless renegade' status fits into that in some way. Also extradiagetically if the Master is a pantomime villian isn't the Rani cast from the same dramaturgical mold? A touch of The White Queen from Narnia and a bit of the Red Queen from Alice with a soupcon of the Wicked Witch of the West from Oz? It would make some sense of the living trees and her almost folk tale origin story involving cats and mice and naughtiness. Camp doesn't begin to cover it.

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Alex Wilcock 4 years, 10 months ago

I wish you were right about Time Lord names versus titles, so I’ll try to squint a bit and pretend that it’s true (ignoring, say, “The Castellan,” or “Morbius,” or how The End of Time’s “The Narrator” in the Radio Times instantly make me think, ‘Well, that’s a Time Lord’). One thing about the Rani being a Queen, though, is that while Pip and Jane are desperate in their heavy-handed way to make a point about disliking science for its own sake, they and everyone else seem to have forgotten that the Rani, unlike the Master, manages to run her own world, and that’s why she’s here, shopping for resources to let her manage it more effectively (I suppose she’d be less interesting were she titled ‘The Bureaucrat’). As to other political points, the writers’ self-proclaimed socialism, as you suggest, isn’t completely coherent.

I did love your “Here the Rani has a mark - a grapheme - that is disconnected from a name”, though. It immediately made me associate her with another camp ’80s icon of self-proclaimed royalty and famously disconnected grapheme; for me, Jonathan Gibbs’ music is one of the best things about this story, but imagine it with a score by Prince! “What, then, is the mark of the Master and of the Doctor?” is a great question, at least, too.

I’m always caught by wondering what could have saved this story, if anything. The plot itself is a dismal mess, particularly in Part Two, by which time everyone knows exactly who the Rani is and what she’s up to, so all that’s left is to fill time with threatening maggots, trees, trolleys, bathhouses and, er, paintings, as if Pip and Jane were competing to see who could prepare the most preternaturally pedestrian preposterous peril before the ‘climax’ of ‘I’ve twiddled some knobs so they, um, drive away, and, er… Look! Dinosaurs!’

But in some ways the worst thing about it is also the best, and to take it out would make The Mark of the Rani utterly unwatchable. As you say, the Rani “is far less interesting on paper than the Master” yet gets to “upstage him at every opportunity” by “shamelessly undermining the Master”, which in many ways is a terrible idea. And this story’s a tipping point – the Master was pretty poor in a couple of Davisons, but Ainley suddenly gave a cracking performance in Planet of Fire, so he could have been on his way back up. But, no, here’s where the series’ lead villain is cast down into The Curse of Fatal Death cackling camp version that everyone laughs at, like The King’s Demons turned up to 11, with both his role and his performance shockingly bad. But if the Rani didn’t get to mock him, she’d be dull as ditchwater; you have to keep her bitchy put-downs, even if something’s gone a bit wrong when you need to invent another Time Lord to act as the voice of the viewer. What’s even stranger is that one of the things the Master is mocked for is essentially for being the only character here who keeps speaking in the sort of vocal gymnastics that Pip and Jane themselves become known for. “It’ll be something devious and overcomplicated – he’d get dizzy if he tried to walk in a straight line…” comes across as much the Rani leaning out of the screen to critique her writers as her co-star.

As to what’s revealed about the Daleks… Well, I always thought the title chimed rather well with the religious feel to the story, but if you want an actual revelation, in plot terms it’s that the Daleks are split, and in visual terms doesn’t the glass Dalek fit the bill…?

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Alex Wilcock 4 years, 10 months ago

Of course, the story was originally titled Enter the Rani, which would not only have spoilt your intriguing line of argument but would have been as big a single entendre as, say, having the man with the series’ most startlingly visible packet transform into a tree the leafy branches at the top of which must have been his arms, the roots his legs, and with a thick ‘branch’ half-way up that seems drawn to Peri. But no-one would put that on screen.

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Anton B 4 years, 10 months ago

OH YES THEY WOOD! see what you've done now? Pantomime is a wierd trope that does keep appearing in Doctor Who. From the panto horse monsters to the camp villians, the double entendres and bitchy one-liners and the way marriage is often the exit strategy for characters. I wonder if that genre's roots in Commedia del'arte is a worthwile path to explore. I often consider the Doctor to be a version of the 'Dottore' character.

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PMcD 4 years, 10 months ago

I thought the revelation in Revelation was that Daleks had abandoned absolute racial purity and were turning people into themselves...

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Exploding Eye 4 years, 10 months ago

I think you'd have to deliberately want to take offence not be able to see a pattern in the kinds of female character who become camp icons. She's another Servalan.

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Exploding Eye 4 years, 10 months ago

Pip, Jane and Colin. Too many Bakers spoil the bread?

Incidentally, I think turning into a tree but still retaining some form of sentience is one of the darkest fates for any character in Doctor Who. It's a bit of a joke in execution, but if you take the idea seriously, it's really grim.

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Dr. Happypants 4 years, 10 months ago

Have you never met a drag queen, Tom?

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Picklepuss 4 years, 10 months ago

"What, then, is the mark of the Master and of the Doctor?"

I'd say the Doctor's is a question mark, and judging from his clothes and accessories during the JNT era he's very fond of it. ;-)

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Philip Sandifer 4 years, 10 months ago

I've tragically read Warmonger more recently than I've watched Brain of Morbius, but I never really thought that the idea that Morbius considered himself the rightful President of Gallifrey was a stretch in Warmonger. He seems to me to fall into the category of exiles, not renegades.

The Castellan, on the other hand, is preceded by two Castellans with names, establishing it as a position where one retains a name. For us not to be told the name of the third Castellan is not, I think, particularly worthy of note.

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jane 4 years, 10 months ago

I thought the Doctor was Pierrot.

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jane 4 years, 10 months ago

Her mark is a blatant smear of makeup.

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jane 4 years, 10 months ago

I liked the return of the alchemical, too, because camp can't cover it.

The bit about trees is fascinating. Mythologically, the tree symbolizes connection, an axis mundi reaching from the Now up to the heavens and into the Underworld. To make this sort of transformation is the work of an alchemist. Within the trees of the Rani we get a bawdy joke juxtaposed with a kind of nobility: saving Peri.

I love that the Rani's chemistry is focused on extracting an essence from the human brain -- that which promotes sleep, the elixir of dreams. In a way, she's just as ironic as the Master, for the heart of alchemy is the soul, whereas the Rani sees only a walking chemical factory.

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Jesse 4 years, 10 months ago

Good lord, Phil, you've actually made me interested in seeing this story.

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Matt Sharp 4 years, 10 months ago

The trickster role is Pulcinella. I can't quite see the Doctor as Mister Punch.

To be honest, I can't really see any of the traditional parts as the Doctor, although I can see all of them as the Doctor...

Does that make sense?

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Adam Riggio 4 years, 10 months ago

Tracing the exorcism of season 22 is fascinating. Each of Phil's three reviews of its stories so far have focussed on a different aspect of corruption that has infested the show, but it all seems to centre on one key idea. The Doctor is a force of liberation, but his own show has come to constrain him. The liberator is no longer free, and so can no longer be a liberator.

Attack of the Cybermen reveals the normalizing force of the Whoniverse that seeks to constrain and limit Doctor Who as a sci-fi canon. Doctor Who works when it builds new worlds and narratives with every story. It's a creative exploration of problems, and how to transform those constraining situations into freer arrangements. Treating the Doctor and the TARDIS as just one element in an internally consistent Whoniverse robs him of his power to liberate. Phil's entries on The Three Doctors and The Deadly Assassin showed how the Doctor was a liberating force in his breaking of laws: becoming an exception to a deterministic order destroys the entire order itself. The Whoniverse is an unbreakable law, and the insane failure of Attack of the Cybermen is the show understanding that it cannot survive with an unbreakable law.

Vengeance on Varos goes full meta, showing the moral failings that come to the Doctor when the show implicates him inextricably in a violent narrative. Just as the story illustrates, we can never escape violence, no matter how much we may profess to hate it, as long as we keep loving to watch it. The Doctor may plead for there to be another way, but the violence of the situations into which he's thrust constrain him from finding it.

Now Mark of the Rani deals with the problem of constraining what the Doctor can do from a character perspective. The conflict at the heart of the story's structure is between the Rani and the Master: an unspeakable force of transformation vs an uneraseable prophet of entropy. The Rani's transformations aren't all that good for people because she only cares about maintaining her idiosyncratic experiments; she has no kindness. But she still transforms worlds. Normally, the Doctor would oppose the Master's plan for a ridiculous conquering of the universe that would amount to universal destruction. Here, that's the Rani's role.

That's why the Doctor ends up supporting a neoliberal status quo: The Rani has usurped the Doctor's role as an agent of creative change. So all the Doctor does is observe, report, and put the world back on the path it was on before the intervention. In the Deadly Assassin entry, Phil described Terrance Dicks' vision of the Time Lords as technocrats who keep the universe running to an already-determined set of rules. The Rani has made the Doctor just another Time Lord.

Is that what the exorcism amounts to? A season where all the de-powering tendencies of the Saward era come to their most extreme vision? Where from all aspects of his character, his narrative, and his show, the Doctor's freedom is destroyed?

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Alan 4 years, 10 months ago

This was actually the first episode when I really saw Master/Doctor slash. The Master is plainly stalking the Doctor -- he must have gotten to that field at least half an hour in advance just so he could disguise himself as a scarecrow for the sole purpose of spying on the Doctor for the three minutes it took them to walk down that road. He can easily kill the Doctor but refuses to do so, opting instead to kill his romantic rival, the TARDIS, by throwing it down a hole. Then, he helps the Doctor escape by being so monumentally stupid as to fall for the "I don't believe what you're showing me on TV, you'd better take me outside and let me see it in person" trick. Honestly, if Six had tried to, he probably could have saved everyone a lot of trouble and just seduced the Master into betraying the Rani. (Kinda makes me wish I wrote slashfic -- there's an idea there.)


And, crucially, it’s just her name. It’s not like the Rani is built meaningfully out of Hindu mythology. That would be absolutely fantastic - if Doctor Who actually started doing real and serious engagement with non-Western mythologies - but it’s not going on here.


Can you imagine the subtlety and sensitivity that JNT, Pip and Jane would have brought to an evil Time Lord villainess expressly based on Hindu mythology and culture? We'd probably have gotten Kate O'Mara in brownface!

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jane 4 years, 10 months ago

More properly, we'd get her in blueface.

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Janjy Giggins 4 years, 10 months ago

Years ago on Outpost Gallifrey there was a fan art competition which asked you to reimagine a story if it had taken place in a different era of the show. I painted a cover for 'Doctor Who and the Luddites', featuring Hartnell, the Monk and a Rani played by Jean Marsh in full Indian queen regalia. It was in black and white, so I managed to avoid the whole brownface question...

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Anton B 4 years, 10 months ago

In a way it does. The Doctor and the Master are both able to slip into roles at will. Think of Tennant's easy adoption (twice) of a schoolteacher's job or The Master (possibly more bizarrely) becoming a vicar and Prime Minister. These renegade Time Lords at least seem to be aware of their fictional nature and can adopt roles within the story just as the Commedia archetypes can stand in for any character within their own reality and simultaneously be aware and make the audience aware of their status as somehow 'beyond' the narrative. A bit like the Marx Brothers are always the same archetypes whatever 'jobs' they are shown having. Davison was certainly Peirrot, Tom Baker could have been Pulcinella I just liked the linguistic neatness as identifying the Doctor as Dottore.

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Alan 4 years, 10 months ago

For all that Colin Baker defines the part with bluster and bombast he is, in a sense, more ineffectual here than his predecessor ever was, simply because there’s no effect to be had.

I'm not sure I buy this interpretation. One does not have to be a neoliberal to think that short circuiting the Industrial Revolution would be a Bad Thing. The Doctor is a force for the status quo in that he does not want history to be changed for the worse. The Master has an absurd idea about using George Stevenson and his mastery of steam technology to enslave first the human race and then the universe. The Rani initially doesn't care so long as she gets her magic brain juice, but to her discredit, she is eventually persuaded to go along with the Master's lunacy. Also, I did not take the episode to mean that the Rani caused all the violent upheavels in human history, merely that she sought them out so that her experiments would not attract the undue attention one would expect from an upswing in mindless violence.

I will say that I do admire this story for showing that Six, for all his faults, is generally competent. He anticipates the trap the Master and the Rani have laid for him, turns the tables on them and captures them, and even predicts correctly that the Master will try to hypnotise Peri. Certainly, the scene where he threatens the two of them with the tissue compression eliminator unless the Rani rescues Peri isn't one I could see Davison's Doctor taking his place.

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Aaron 4 years, 10 months ago

And the book of the war treats Morbius as one of the four renegades from the newest generation of the Great Houses: a generation spanning quite a long time, and involving The Imperator Presidency (Morbius), The War King (The Master), Grandfather Paradox, and one other that for some reason is absent from the Book (I wonder which renegade that could be?).

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WGPJosh 4 years, 10 months ago

If renegade Time Lords are stripped of their names and identities whilst those who stay on Gallifrey, or ar at least "ex-pats" keep them, what about Romana? Where does she fit into this alchemical terminology? I'd feel hard-pressed to call her a Gallifreyan loyalist and no, here I'm not counting Big Finish.

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Philip Sandifer 4 years, 10 months ago

Well, the Time Lords certainly seem to think she's theirs long after she defects to E-Space. But she may well disagree. I think it really comes down to what she was/is (she is, after all, by far the easiest Time Lord to bring back in the new series) doing in E-Space. In which case, it's telling that BBV did a pair of audio adventures featuring a licensed K-9 and his unnamed "Mistress" played by Lalla Ward.

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WGPJosh 4 years, 10 months ago

I like that answer! I was hoping you'd mention BBV.

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timelord7202 4 years, 10 months ago

*Let's play "what part of the Doctor's disguise is ill-advised."*

LOL!

Good point on the Rani's name as well... now I also want to go back and look at your entry for "Kinda" (and "Snakedance"...)

Not sure on how the Rani is a gay icon, though... turning a person into a tree (hard wood?) doesn't seem much of an allegory or allusion, but a fun pun nonetheless...

And Kate O'Mara is indeed wonderful, with plenty of wonderful villainous moments... that and her antiseptic and amoral nature and being so different despite being a villain trope... maybe that's why I adore her as a character...

Great discussion of the "story endorses progress" paragraph as well...

Nice nod to Roy Cohn as well...

I would say that the "Revelation" of the Daleks is Davros now using and converting humanoids to their form (and setting up the basis for "Remembrance"...)

And "the mark of" the Rani does end up, as you said, being a literal mark on the people she alters. A more grand version of the phrase would be an attempt of her to do something big with history, as she's cajoled into doing thanks to the Master, but it all fails, so there is no mark in the end... though your paragraph about "grapheme" made for some good reading as well...

The tree mines are the biggest blunder the story offers. It's more sci-fantasy and it's not a bad concept... oh, until one moves and saves Peri... ugh...

Oh, "The Mark of the Rani" is one of my favorite Doc6 stories, but loved your analysis to be sure!)

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timelord7202 4 years, 10 months ago

Fantasy or not, that's true - stuck as a tree incapable of moving would be a tad horrific...

P&J, regardless of plot quibbles, clearly know how to do Doc6's character right. Ditto for "Vervoids" as the Doctor does display some decent doses of compassion... Doc6 is much varied in persona, but when his good side comes through it steals the show. And Colin Baker does deliver it with aplomb...

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Henry R. Kujawa 4 years, 10 months ago

Your last paragraph describes almost exactly what I do like about Colin's Doctor. It's too bad his stories weren't more like the tone of the first half of "ATTACK" or most of "RANI" (more light-hearted, less homicidal). But what "RANI" really needs is a plot. Honestly, between this, Part 14 of the "TRIAL", "TIME AND THE RANI", and of course "CAPTAIN NEMO AND THE UNDERWATER CITY", Pip & Jane seem good at dialogue and terrible on plot & structure. The one they they batted one out of the ballpark was when they blatently ripped off Alistair Maclean's "GOLDEN RENDEZVOUS" (then kept trying to convince everyone they were ripping off Agatha Christie instead, probably so no one would notice how really blatent it was).

By the way, I thought you could really see how much The Master hated Peri in this one, because, while not that bright, she was bull-headed enough so that he was unable to hypnotize her. So he just wanted her dead!!


Janjy Giggins:
"I painted a cover for 'Doctor Who and the Luddites', featuring Hartnell, the Monk and a Rani played by Jean Marsh in full Indian queen regalia."

Too bad they didn't cast Caroline Munro. I never thought Kate O'Mara was that much of a looker, and Munro is part-Indian.

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BerserkRL 4 years, 10 months ago

the Rani, who seems almost completely disinterested in historical processes

[pedantry]I think you mean "uninterested." She's not disinterested at all.[/pedantry]

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BerserkRL 4 years, 10 months ago

it’s not clear what, exactly, is revealed about the Daleks

I assumed it was just a Bible joke. Genesis is the first book of the Bible, Revelation is the last book.

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BerserkRL 4 years, 10 months ago

she dismisses moral concerns over her transformation of people into trees by suggesting that all organic material is essentially interchangeable)

This was Sade's defense of homicide, which was in turn derived from Hume's defense of suicide. SImilar ideas were abroad in ancient India (judging from references in the Nikaya-sutras).

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BerserkRL 4 years, 10 months ago

Think of Tennant's easy adoption (twice) of a schoolteacher's job

Three times if you count the Catherine Tate sketch.

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Alan 4 years, 10 months ago

--blinks repeatedly --

I realize now that you meant the Marquis De Sade, but for a full five seconds, I stared at your post in wonder as I tried to remember when Sade, the British smooth jazz band responsible for "Smooth Operator" and "The Sweetest Taboo," came out in defense of homicide! On one of their later albums perhaps?

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gregmcduck 4 years, 10 months ago

My Doctor-Who n00bism has come through, as I thought Planet of Fire would be the Master's last appearance till the TV movie and was pretty happy about that. Why is he even in this? He doesn't have anything to do with anything, and just seems to be stealing time from the character who I'm pretty sure was designed to REPLACE him.

That said, I didn't so much like the Rani as I liked the theory of the Rani, someone who isn't out to cause chaos like the Master but wreck other people's shit for the sake of the civilization she already controls, and her plan isn't really about destroying the industrial revolution, that's just where she happened to land. The amoral scientist who keeps dinosaur fetuses in jars could have been a fun idea if they ditched the Master and tightened things up.

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BerserkRL 4 years, 10 months ago

LOL! Well, maybe that's what the sweetest taboo was.

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ferret 4 years, 10 months ago

Agreed, my recent re-watching of the story left me frustrated - it seems we're going to explore this new character the Rani, but then the Master turns up and completely de-rails her: she never gets a chance to shine on her own terms. It feels like this would have been a completely different story without the Master.

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Anton B 4 years, 10 months ago

Now that was post-modern metatextuality gone mad. You're right. Also Troughton's many hats and Pertwee's Scientific Advisor, not to mention Matt Smith's call centre and dept. store temping. You can't say Time Lords are work shy. Have I missed any?

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Anton B 4 years, 10 months ago

I'm eagerly awaiting Exodus of the Daleks, Prophets of the Daleks and Psalms of the Daleks.

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Matt Sharp 4 years, 10 months ago

I remember reading a DWM interview with Pip & Jane where they said that JNT had given them a shopping list of things to include, and one of them was the Master. However, they didn't want to include him, which is why they don't bother to give any explanation about how he escaped from his predicament at the end of 'Planet of Fire'. Or give him anything very much to do. Or any character whatsoever.

I find it very odd that they seem to have written something without actually knowing what they're writing, either, just having a vague idea of what Doctor Who is. I assume this is the reason that this is the first time that the Doctor meets an actual genuine historical character since Doc Holliday waved him off in 1966...

It sort of works. Then again, they had a go at writing an Adventure Gamebook without bothering to find out what an Adventure Gamebook actually is, so there you go.

Dabbling in forces you don't understand is alchemy, I suppose, but on this occasion it's pretty much just made a mess.

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elvwood 4 years, 10 months ago

I've often felt that Pip & Jane write the sixth Doctor well - his dialogue here is great. It's just unfortunate when you get the Master and the Rani using much the same vocabulary. Still, I have a liking for this story, I consider Terror of the Vervoids the best Trial section, and I hardly blame them for the awfulness of The Ultimate Foe given the conditions they were working under. As you say, Sixie is a more complex personality in their stories.

And thanks to those who have given me the possibility of a redemptive reading of the tree mines, which isn't something I thought possible!

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elvwood 4 years, 10 months ago

And don't forget Job of the Daleks...

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Matthew Blanchette 4 years, 10 months ago

So, what does that make Remembrance? The Koran? :-P

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Anton B 4 years, 10 months ago

Hilarious. Who were these jokers? Where did JNT find them? I mean really, what was he thinking? I'd describe it more as Alchaos i.e. attempted alchemy but without rules. Now look what you've done, cursed Sixth Doctor era, you've made me make up a word!

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Stephen 4 years, 10 months ago

"This may, in fact, be one of the most schizoid stories in the series history when it comes to politics. On the one hand you have a story that revels in introducing a camp gay icon. On the other, it uncritically ends up endorsing neoliberal economic policies."

I don't see what's schizoid about that. Gay rights issues are not remotely connected to economic policy. Given that support for neoliberal economics is ubiquitous amongst the political classes (in the UK, it's a position held by Labour, the Lib Dems, and the Tories. In the US it's a position held by both the Republicans and the Democrats), there's no tension whatsoever between these two political positions.

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Tom 4 years, 10 months ago

I take the idea that a female villain who is plainly sociopathic, scientific and the Master's better is designed to be a gay icon incredibly reductionist simply because Kate O'Mara had been cast. Bear in mind, Dynasty hadn't started yet, and Triangle isn't that notable beyond it having Kate O'Mara in it, there's nothing of her reputation as an actress that would inherently suggest she was a camp icon. She may have become one, retrospectively, but at the time she would not have been designed as one. Visual identifiers such as flamboyant make-up, large shoulders or her mark being a make up smear, are symptoms of the age she appears in, not the culture she was 'designed to be a part of.'

I think Sandifer's comments regarding Pertwee's flamboyance and Turlough being a 'cowardly' gay man, speaks more about his American cultural upbringing than about a shonky British TV show from thirty years ago.

So, again, I ask Sandifer: what aspects of her character make her designed as a gay icon?

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