‘I have the loyhargil, nothing can stop me now!’ Imagine this as Colin Baker’s last episode. Suddenly, the nature of the Rani’s plan is revealed – to transform Lakertya into a time manipulator allowing her to ‘change the order of creation’. A little local difficulty has become a danger to the whole universe. Appalled, the Doctor wires the time brain to explode, while Beyus and Mel evacuate the captive geniuses. As Mel guides them to the TARDIS she looks back at the Rani’s base – no sign of the Doctor, and then a huge explosion. He must have been convinced that it was the only way to be certain of saving everything. Mel is inconsolable, rushing back to the ruins to find the Doctor terribly injured, but ready with a final bon mot before the miracle of the Time Lords works its magic for a seventh time…
But instead, we get a regeneration story disguised as a post-regeneration story, with the Doctor’s heroism not a final act of defiance, but the first of many double bluffs that trick his enemies into overplaying their hands. While Castrovalva kept the fifth Doctor weak and confused until the end, and The Twin Dilemma made the sixth mad and bad, this pretty much gets the balance right. There’s enough “post regeneration trauma” that McCoy can push the boundaries of how far he wants to go with his performance, without denying the audience a chance to get to know the new lead until practically the last scene. By the end, it’s by no means a settled characterisation, but McCoy has planted the idea of a Doctor who jumps from brooding stillness to manic activity in a moment: the second Doctor via the fourth.
I like Time and the Rani well enough, while having a realistic view of its shortfalls (some bad dialogue and a plot that tries to make up for its dullness with silliness). It’s by no means the worst ever Doctor Who story; had it been the sixth Doctor’s swansong it would comfortably sit above at least The Twin Dilemma, Timelash and half of the Trial. Also, it’s not problematic or wrong, unlike Attack of the Cybermen and The Two Doctors. And this is the show’s new low water mark – from now on, it’s on the up. It’s Saturday tea time in 1979 all over again (except Mondays in 1987).
Next episode: Paradise Towers