This is one I often watch when feeling reflective and tranquil. It's a historical piece, occurring during the early 1800's in the infancy of the Industrial Revolution. The plot is leisurely and straightforward. It has hysterical Luddites and even a Mr. George Stephenson. It also features two renegade Time Lords: The Master and The Rani, who have quite the amusing interplays of dialogue (Kate O'Mara plays the Rani here, right before taking off to America to star on Dynasty.)
The majority of this one is shot on film, bearing more than an uncanny resemblance to many of the Fourth Doctor serials. As well, the soundtrack for Mark of the Rani is mournful and elegiac, which marries up appropriately to the coal smeared faces gracing the screen. Of interest to fans here: this dvd release features an alternative soundtrack for episode one, something I'd not been aware of. Evidently the first composer hired suffered a sudden onset of illness which resulted in his death, forcing the production team to find someone else. So, both scores are available here.
Another tidbit of significance is the location of some of the footage is the Ironbridge Gorge, the site of the world's first all metal bridge. I particularly enjoyed the Rani's TARDIS. There are steps leading down from the door into the control chamber, which is more of a metallic and dark inner sanctum at the heart of the vessel.
Three Time Lords for the price of one
Daniel J. Hamlow | Narita, Japan | 09/09/2002
(4 out of 5 stars)
"England, 1826--the toil and drudgery of the coal miners is emphasized with the opening elegiac music. Jack Ward and his companions go to the bath house to wash, but suddenly, gas seeps through the walls, sending them to unconsciousness. They reemerge alive, but with red circles under their ears, and acting violently. They kick a food stand, knocking down its contents and a young boy.The Doctor and Peri are en route to Kew Gardens, but the TARDIS is pulled of course to 1826. There, they try to find the source of the time disturbance and trace it to the Rani, who like the Master is a renegade Time Lord and an old classmate.This is a semi-historical story, as they meet George Stephenson, the engineer whose Blucher locomotive hauled coal from Killingworth colliery. The Doctor tells Peri: "How would you like to meet a genius?" She says, "I thought I already had."The Rani, who has been taking the brain fluid enabling men to sleep throughout history, treats humans as "walking heaps of chemicals." "There's no place for the soul in her scheme of things." Result: the men become restless and violent. When the Doctor argues that humans haven't done any harm to her, she counters with: "They're carnivores. What harm have the animals in the fields done them, the rabbits they snare?... Do they worry about the lesser species when they sink their teeth into a lamb chop?" Point to the Rani there. She's so callous, the Doctor angrily tells her "They should never have exiled you. They should have locked you in a padded cell!"The Master is also here. Not only has he improved his compressor so that its victim totally vanishes, he wants to use the Rani's skills to continue his feud with the Doctor. The Rani has nothing but contempt for the Master and even mocks the rivalry between them: "It obsesses you to the exclusion of all else.", "You're unbalanced--no wonder why the Doctor always outwits you." She even says of his schemes: "It'd be something devious and overcomplicated. He's be dizzy if he tried to walk in a straight line." Indeed, the Master is a bumbler here compared to the clever and efficient Rani. I wouldn't want to tangle with the Rani.The interior of the Rani's TARDIS alone is worth watching this episode, as is a feature of it revisited at the end of The Two Doctors. Let's see, goofs and other things: The cliffhanger to Part 1 is effective, there's a small added scene when the cliffhanger is repeated in Part 2, which elicits a "Oh, come on!" Peri has a nice apricot dress, but as for that yellow top... urgh! And the Luddite riots ended in 1816, a decade earlier.Kate O'Mara makes the Rani more formidable than the Master and easily carries this story. Other honors go to Gawn Grainger as Stephenson and as Terence Alexander as Lord Ravensworth, head of Killingworth. One of the Sixth Doctor's best stories, with the harsh 1820's replicated remarkably well."
A class act from an under-rated era.
G.Spider | 10/27/2000
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This is an example of semi-historical Dr Who at its best. There is a grown-up and interesting storyline, the appearance of a famous character from human history (in this case George Stephenson), the setting is charming and realistic, and the sets look great. The scenes between the three Time Lords (the Doctor, the Master and the Rani) are well-written, the bickering between them providing touches of amusement, and there is a genuinely gripping cliff-hanger."
David Cole | Oak Pk Heights, MN USA | 07/14/2000
(4 out of 5 stars)
"The Rani, an exiled time lord scientist, has quietly been infiltrating humanity over millenia: Trojen wars, Luddite Riots, America's Independence War, et cetera... she becomes involved in the Master's latest attempt to kill the Doctor as the Master is blackmailing her with a vial of fluid she has been collecting.The master is back and is in production-continuity order. (the last 4 years of the show, the Master comes back and nobody wants to explore the idea that the Master could have died at one encounter but thanks to time travel the Doctor can meet him before he dies!)There are some historical dating problems, but history itself is usually falsely written anyway and this is *entertainment* and *science fiction*.The Doctor is arguably at his best here and somehow is a more interesting adversary for the Master than the 5th Doctor.The Rani is cool and calm and pokes great fun at the Doctor/Master rivalry and it's brilliant.Get some wine and sit back, it's not an action piece but does indeed entertain.Oh, and check out the Rani's TARDIS interior. Definitely a highlight given the show's low budget..."
"He'd get dizzy if he tried to walk in a straight line!"
Crazy Fox | Chicago, IL USA | 08/06/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)
"As a story, "Mark of the Rani" is all over the place. Well, in a way. Every bit of the action takes place in or around a single coal mine in Killingworth, England, some time during the early 1800's--the very cusp of the Industrial Revolution. And the plot is fairly straightforward, too: The Rani, a renegade Time Lord scientist, is going about her own business performing unethical medical experiments on Earthlings when along come the Master and the Doctor, the one trying to force her into an alliance, the other trying to stop her after discovering her cruel if clinically efficient work. And yet, given such a unified setting and uncomplicated premise, all the characters involved seem to wander here and there, back and forth, around and around, endlessly criss-crossing the mine's environs--as if the writers would get dizzy if they tried to pen a straight plotline. In this case that's a plus, though, maximizing the incredibly authentic and historically accurate location shots to great advantage. "Doctor Who" has often benefited from BBC expertise in historical dramas, and they've done so here in spades.
Which means of course that this storyline is a pseudo-historical, an unusual genre highly characteristic of this show throughout its long and (now) continuing run--you could almost say unique to it--with a futuristic science fiction premise set in some interesting time in Earth's past (okay, more often than not England's past, but you know what they say, write what you know). "Mark of the Rani" is a prime example in fact, including as it does an actual historical figure as a character (George Stephenson, self-made man and engineer responsible for innovating the public use of steam locomotives on railways) and skillfully incorporating aspects of this time frame into the plot. Also characteristic of the show, this storyline includes the obligatory unconvincing special effect puzzlingly superfluous to the plot but without which the show would lose some of its charm (the tree. You'll know it when you see it).
As for the Doctor, Colin Baker is in top form in this story: wittily sarcastic and yet almost boyishly curious, benignly arrogant and yet profoundly ethical without being a boring prig about it. His rapport with Peri almost seems plausible here too, though Peri is still, well, Peri--annoying and unconvincing. The Rani on the other hand is a great character, a formidable opponent and a believably complex villain--in her own mind and according to her own standards she's doing nothing wrong and feels no more guilt about harming humans in her scientific experiments than we do about mice. Kate O'Mara gives a wonderfully superior performance here and totally brings this interesting character to life. And her Tardis is a masterpiece of design and craftsmanship (more than making up for the tree effects-wise)--funny how it follows the same basic structure as the Doctor's Tardis and yet seems like the Gallifreyan equivalent of the latest model of a Lexus to the Doctor's old beat-up '66 Dodge. Breathtakingly beautiful and yet decorated with disturbingly preserved pickled specimens--the perfect symbol of her personality. As for the Master, though, my, how the mighty have fallen. Anthony Ainley does pretty well here, not hamming it up so much as sometimes, but we've degenerated from Roger Delgado's suavely sinister mastermind and even from Ainley's scheming cackling villain who inevitably reminds me of the overdone bad guys in the early silent films to...comic relief! It's all over for you as an arch-enemy and nemesis when you're mainly there for the laughs. But there he is, the constant butt of the Rani's derisive remarks and sarcastic jokes, and by this point in the show's history the part that really stings is that she's pretty much right. He's a bungler throughout the story, and every time she's about got the Doctor and company up a creek, he screws it up somehow--making it even more comical that he persists in wondering why she doesn't want to be partners in crime!
In short, what we have here is a very Doctor-like Doctor along with his (diminished) arch-nemesis and a new renegade Time Lord (just how many are out there anyway?) in a finely crafted and well-written pseudo-historical sci-fi adventure with lots of wandering around in realistic outdoor locations and highly creative and/or authentic sets, all topped off with one really fake special effect as if to say, hey, nobody's perfect. This without doubt is quintessential "Doctor Who"--watch and enjoy!"
Nothing Like A Good Drama
Crazy Fox | 01/04/2001
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Due to the fact I grew up in Liverpool during the Colin Baker era, He has always been my favourite. No better has his dramitical skills been portrayed than in this exciting adventure. Kate O'Mara is brilliant (Another favourite) and I love the interior of her tardis. The story is well written and a delight to watch. Its just a shame it is not well known. Lets hope its released again soon."