The Mark of the Rani

Region 1

Region 2
VHS Video
(Doctor Who Story No. 140, starring Colin Baker)
  • written by Pip and Jane Baker
  • directed by Sarah Hellings
  • produced by John Nathan-Turner
  • music by Jonathan Gibbs
  • 4 episodes @ 25 minutes each, or
    2 episodes @ 45 minutes each
Story: The TARDIS is drawn off-course to the time of the Luddite uprisings against industrialization in England. But the uprisings are being made wildly violent by unnatural means.... The Doctor investigates, and comes face to face with some old enemies and deadly challenges....

DVD Extras include:

  • Audio commentary by actors Colin Baker (The Doctor), Nicola Bryant (Peri), and Kate O'Mara (The Rani).
  • "Lords and Luddites" making-of featurette (43 min.), adding actor Gary Cady (Luke Ward), writers Pip and Jane Baker,
    script editor Eric Saward, and composer Jonathan Gibbs.
  • Now and Then location featurette
  • Sarah Hellings' 1979 Blue Peter featurette on the history of Ironbridge Gorge (11 min.)
  • "Playing with Time" interview of composer Jonathan Gibbs (9 min.)
  • Full Length Isolated Music track by Jonathan Gibbs
  • Alternate Part One audio track with music by John Lewis (45 min.)
  • Deleted and extended scenes
  • Pop-up Production Note Subtitles
  • Photo Gallery
  • 1985 Doctor Who Annual in DVD ROM .pdf form

Buyers' Guide Review

by Martin Izsak

(A more in-depth analysis, containing "SPOILERS" and intended for those who have already seen the program, can be accessed here.)

Refreshingly, this is one of Colin Baker's most pleasant and properly fleshed out Doctor Who stories. In fact, it seems poised to rise to the top rank of the season's stories, and might even be the best of the entire Colin Baker era.

Proper Interaction

"The Mark of the Rani" valiantly tackles both of the major story structure problems of this season, conquering one better than any other story this season, and achieving a bit of a truce with the other. I will continue to automatically refer to the 25-minute international versions of this season's episodes, especially since it really highlights these challenges in the writing.

First of all, it's just great to see the Doctor and Peri get one quick scene in the TARDIS, and then come out to the scene of the main action so fast. It takes a bit more time for them to begin interacting with the guest characters, but they get quite good interaction and lots of it before the first half-hour episode is over. Great stuff. "Attack of the Cybermen" (story no. 138) may have disguised its lack of opening interaction for the Doctor and Peri excellently, but "The Mark of the Rani" has conquered this problem much more directly.

We should also note that the guest cast is full of good, understandable, normal people that the Doctor can get on side with and try to help. This may seem a simple consideration, but it's surprising how often other stories of this era can forget to connect with this important element of the heroic template. Lord Ravensworth leads the charge in this area, being the chief screen presence for intelligent local folk. The more historically famous George Stevenson takes a bit of a back seat, suffering a similar lack of initial close-ups as Mike Yates endured during his first appearance in "Terror of the Autons" (story no. 55).

It's also nice to see so much location film being used all through this story, and to see director Sarah Hellings taking advantage of that method of working to get a lot of really creative and exciting sequences for the adventure. Good stuff.

The Master upstages the Rani quite often in this story. Fans and viewers probably have split opinions on whether or not this should be so. The Master seems pretty well motivated in this one, focusing on the ambitious plan side of things..... But I'll save further discussion for the in-depth analysis version of this review.

As another rogue Timelord, or Timelady, the Rani could easily have all the same typical motivational challenges as the Master, but I think writers Pip and Jane Baker have successfully differentiated her, elevating her scientific curiosity above her ambitions and her morality. Nice twist. She doesn't quite appear to have her lifestyle figured out any better than the Master though.

The Logic of the Escalations

The premise of the story clearly belongs to the Rani, and our second 25-minute episode is well-occupied by her plot investigated, escalating tensions and conflict between all the major characters until a really good, unique cliffhanger is delivered.

Part Three proceeds to develop some good plans for escalating to a new, more ambitious plot. However, the logic of the story is starting to dissipate. At any rate, Part Three still works, maintaining mystery and leaving many important elements of the plot unresolved for the final 25-minutes. Again, the arbitrary cliffhanger itself doesn't grip.

Having read the novel first, I had assumed the cliffhanger would have come at a tense moment a little further into part four. Yes, a better cliffhanger, but that also would have emphasized a huge structural mistake. Keeping spoilers to myself..... Though Part Four contains a number of tense sequences and decent challenges, the logic that leads from one story beat to the next isn't all that well thought out.

Part Four does deliver a lot of unique sequences, nicely using the location filming to excellent effect. Structurally, I think these bits should have come sooner, while setting up some more on-plot story beats to conclude the adventure.

And so, this story ends up finding its way into similar anti-climactic territory as the endings of most of its neighbouring season 22 stories. However, with the Doctor being uncharacteristically violent at the end of just about all other stories this season, beginning with "The Twin Dilemma" (story no. 137), perhaps we should be thankful that he has a final fix here that is both proactive and more in character.

The final portions of "The Mark of the Rani" just don't escalate too well, but it does do much better than most of its surrounding rivals, and of all of season twenty-two's stories, this one has done the best job of keeping the Doctor and Peri involved with a good cast of well-fleshed out characters and providing them interesting challenges all the way through.

Jonathan Gibbs delivers a wonderful score for this adventure, hitting all the important emotional marks tastefully and interestingly. While it is perhaps more polished than any of his previous work on Doctor Who, I rather think that his score for "Vengeance on Varos" (the previous story) remains his most interesting Doctor Who music.

All in all, this story is quite good for showcasing Colin Baker's Doctor, allowing him to tackle a decent adventure and some iconic villains, and do a lot of the normal things we would expect from the character. It could quite possibly be the best of this season, but if any other story is going to challenge it for the position, it will be the next one....

"The Mark of the Rani" has become available on DVD and VHS video.
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DVD NTSC Region 1
for the North American market:
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DVD PAL Region 2
for the U.K.
VHS Video
NTSC A for North America
NTSC B for North America
PAL for the U.K.

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Read the Buyers' Guide Review for the next story: "The Two Doctors"

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