‘A hologram! As insubstantial as the Rani’s scruples!’ It’s incredibly linear and straightforward. It’s also colourful and engaging. Whether it belonged on BBC1 in prime time on a Monday evening is debateable – Uncle Jack, which starred Fenella Fielding as the very Rani-like Vixen, was a fixture of children’s TV in the early 1990s, and this might have fit quite nicely in a similar slot. Compared to, say, Earthshock, this all looks very insubstantial.
Coming off the back of The Trial of a Time Lord, though, is a different matter. This has kept the kid-friendly sensibilities with a very Troughtonish twist. There are hints of The Krotons, with geniuses being drained of their mental powers inside the villain’s machine, while outside a civilisation sits in thrall (barring one or two youthful rebels). The clowning Doctor even has a genius companion. And it’s largely set in a big quarry with various capture/escape longueurs. Like The Krotons, it’s incredibly generic without being problematic or wrong.
There are some obvious attempts to address some of the perceived issues with the sixth Doctor’s violent tendencies: the seventh Doctor accidentally bashes Beyus over the head and then stops to apologise (his previous version would have made some pithy quip), and he takes his hat off respectfully when a Tetrap gets bubbletrapped (I imagine Old Sixie saying something like, ‘That’s burst his bubble!’). Given their association with the Labour Party it’s odd to hear Pip and Jane judge the indolent Lakertyans in true Thatcherite fashion: ‘They’ve become spoon-fed drones. There’s no need for them to strive. An indulgent system provides all.’ So much for the Welfare State.
Next episode: Time and the Rani – Part Four