Time and the Rani was the first serial of season 24 of Doctor Who. It marked the debut of Sylvester McCoy as the Seventh Doctor. Kate O'Mara made her second and final televised appearance as the Rani (not including the charity special Dimensions in Time).
It was also the series's first exploits with computer-generated imagery, a relatively limited technology at the time. An all-computer animated opening titles sequence was introduced with this story, along with a new arrangement of the theme tune by Keff McCulloch, an appropriately electronic rendition composed entirely on a Prophet 5 Synthesiser. The logo of the series was also changed into a three-dimensionally animated part of the title sequence and became the series logo that would stay in use until the early 1990s.
Following the circumstances of Colin Baker's exit from the role, the Sixth Doctor was made to immediately regenerate into the Seventh Doctor at the start of this story, so while The Ultimate Foe was the last story to feature Colin Baker as the Sixth Doctor, Time and the Rani was the final appearance of the Sixth Doctor properly, though not played by Colin Baker himself. Baker was offered the chance to reprise the role of the Sixth Doctor in a proposed regeneration story, but he declined; he instead asked to be given a full season for his departure, but the denial of this request prompted him to turn down the reprisal. As a result, a pre-credits sequence was added into Time and the Rani featuring the Doctor's regeneration, with McCoy portraying both the Sixth and Seventh Doctors (to hide this, his face remained hidden until the end of the regeneration sequence).
The cause of the Sixth Doctor's regeneration is not explicitly shown on-screen, although he is seen being thrown across the console room as the TARDIS is pulled down during flight by the Rani. Spiral Scratch and The Brink of Death both provide narratives for the Sixth Doctor's regeneration, with both retroactively leading into the events of this serial.
Taking advantage of the post-regenerative trauma the recently regenerated and unstable Doctor is going through, the Rani hopes to achieve control of an approaching asteroid composed entirely of strange matter.
Can the Doctor figure out he is being used for the Rani's evil experiment, and what is behind the door the Rani won't allow the Doctor past?
The Rani and her servant break into the TARDIS, where they find both the Doctor and Mel are unconscious from the forced landing. On the Rani's orders, the beast ignores Mel and turns the face-down Doctor around, revealing that he's covered in a swirling spiral of blurry colours. In the following moment, the features of this Doctor fade along with the light, leaving a freshly regenerated new incarnation in place of the old Doctor.
In the Rani's lab, it is revealed that she has used the Tetraps to force the Lakertyans into helping kidnap an array of genius scientists throughout time, including Albert Einstein, Louis Pasteur, and Hypatia. She now also requires the Doctor. Angered by the incompetence of her workers, the Rani scares away a female Lakertyan.
The Doctor recovers from the crash and seemingly is continuing a conversation his previous incarnation was having with Mel. He then notices that he is no longer in the TARDIS, has just regenerated and recognises the Rani. Angered by her presence, he wonders what kind of monstrous experiment she is up to now. He takes up his umbrella to strike her. The Rani knocks him out with a laser gun and injects him with an amnesia-inducing drug. She disguises herself as Mel. Once the Doctor recovers, she attempts to convince him to repair some broken machinery in "his" lab. Beyond the lab is a closed-off chamber.
Mel has meanwhile been left behind in the TARDIS. She encounters and eventually wins the trust of, the young hot-headed Lakertyan Ikona, who is eager to dispatch the evil Rani and liberate his people.
In the meantime, the Doctor has returned to the TARDIS to change his clothes as he finds the clownish outfit of the Sixth not a fitting match for his new persona. After trying several outfits, the Doctor walks out from behind a clothes rack wearing the Second Doctor's fur coat, but opens it to reveal his new outfit, which the Rani finds befitting of a Time Lord.
As Mel and Ikona flee from a Tetrap, Mel trips one of the Rani's traps. She is encased in a large bubble and thrown over a cliff.
Mel's bubble lands safely in a lake, and Ikona is able to free her. They flee from Urak.
The Doctor and the Rani return to the lab, where the Doctor finds the problem and instructs "Mel" to return to the TARDIS and retrieve a tool. While doing so, the Rani orders her minion to kill Mel. Once the Rani returns and gives the Doctor the device he needs, he sees one of the mineral plates inside the device is broken. The Rani tells the Doctor that she can get a replacement from the locals, contradicting her earlier statement that they were not advanced enough for the Doctor's technological knowledge. The Doctor catches this as she leaves, realising that he has been duped. While the Rani leaves, Mel enters the lab and the Doctor mistakes her for the Rani. Mel, not recognising the Doctor due to his new face and clothes, wonders what he has done with the Doctor. After Mel mentions carrot juice and the Doctor responds with his great hatred of the beverage, they soften towards each other. He finds that she doesn't have a double pulse as a Time Lord would, and they accept that they are who they say they are. Mel says she knows about regeneration but is still surprised to find his appearance and height completely different. The Doctor apologises, fearing that being easily duped does not bode well for his new incarnation.
They decide to find out what the Rani has been planning. In an inner chamber, Beyus and Faroon show them an enormous brain that channels the kidnapped scientists' mental ability into a single gestalt mind. An asteroid composed entirely of strange matter, a very rare and super heavy material is passing nearby. The Rani has constructed a fixed-trajectory rocket to collide with it at the approaching solstice. The only known substance that can destroy strange matter is strange matter itself, so she is using the brain to discover a lightweight substitute.
They return to the laboratory, and Faroon takes Mel to safety. The Rani returns, ready to take the Doctor to the brain, but he escapes into the Tetrap pit. She can't find him, but he is surrounded by Tetraps.
The Doctor is able to escape from the Tetraps when Beyus feeds them. In the laboratory, the Doctor removes a part from the Rani's machine, then leaves, right before the Rani returns. She sounds an alarm.
Meanwhile, Urak captures Mel, paralysing her with his venom. The Doctor meets Ikona and narrowly escapes from one of the Rani's traps. A Tetrap is caught in it instead.
Ikona shows the Doctor the Centre of Leisure and explains that his people have become indolent. The Rani, angry at Beyus' lack of cooperation, turns on the globe in the Centre of Leisure, releasing killer insects. Faroon tells the Doctor that the Rani has Mel. The Rani offers a trade — the part he stole for Mel. However, when he makes the trade, Mel is revealed to be a hologram.
The Doctor needs to get back to the laboratory to stop the Rani. He and Ikona try to bluff their way, but the Doctor is surrounded by Tetraps.
The Rani feeds the Doctor's intellect into the brain, and it starts working, as the Doctor's brain suggests a new approach to the problem.
To the Rani's annoyance, the brain starts spouting bad puns and nonsense. However, once disconnected, the Doctor inadvertently provides the brain with the means to determine the needed substance: Loyhargil.
Upon impact, the strange matter would form a shell of chronons around Lakertya, causing the brain to expand to fill the entire surface of the planet, converting it into a Time Manipulator. With this, the Rani can change the course of history and control the randomness of evolution throughout the universe. The Rani also casually mentions that she intends to leave the Doctor, Mel, the Lakertyans and the Tetraps to die on the planet during this process, but Urak overhears this, alarming him.
The Lakertyan leader Beyus sacrifices his life to destroy the brain and delay the launch long enough for the rocket to miss the asteroid. The Rani escapes in her TARDIS but finds it overrun with Tetraps who "invite" the Rani to accompany them to her homeworld.
On Lakertya, the Doctor and Mel make their goodbyes with the people they had befriended and helped liberate from the Rani. The Doctor gives Ikona the antidote to the Rani's killer insects, but Ikona pours this away on the ground — explaining that his people must solve their own problems from now on if they are to survive. Before going into the TARDIS, Mel tells the Doctor that his new self is going to take some getting used to, to which he replies, "I'll grow on you, Mel, I'll grow on you."
- The Doctor - Sylvester McCoy
- Mel Bush - Bonnie Langford
- The Rani - Kate O'Mara
- Ikona - Mark Greenstreet
- Faroon - Wanda Ventham
- Beyus - Donald Pickering
- Sarn - Karen Clegg
- Urak - Richard Gauntlett
- Lanisha - John Segal
- Special Voices - Peter Tuddenham, Jacki Webb
- Assistant Floor Managers - Joanna Newbery, Christopher Sandeman
- Computer Animation - CAL Video
- Costumes - Ken Trew
- Designer - Geoff Powell
- Graphic Designer - Oliver Elmes
- Incidental Music - Keff McCulloch
- Make-Up - Lesley Rawstorne
- OB Cameraman - Alastair Mitchell, John Hawes
- O.B. Lighting - Ian Dow
- OB Sound - Doug Whittaker
- Producer - John Nathan-Turner
- Production Assistant - Joy Sinclair
- Production Associate - Anne Faggetter
- Production Manager - Tony Redston
- Script Editor - Andrew Cartmel
- Special Sounds - Dick Mills
- Studio Camera Supervisor - Alec Wheal
- Studio Lighting - Henry Barber
- Studio Sound - Brian Clark
- Technical Co-Ordinator - Richard Wilson
- Theme Arrangement - Keff McCulloch
- Title Music - Ron Grainer
- Video Effects - Dave Chapman
- Videotape Editor - Hugh Parson
- Vision Mixer - Sue Thorne
- Visual Effects Designer - Colin Mapson
Cultural references from real world
- The Rani has abducted Hypatia, Louis Pasteur, and Albert Einstein.
- The Doctor names Shakespeare, Michelangelo, Louis Pasteur, Elvis and Mrs. Malaprop among the Earthling personalities who would not be born if the Rani's plot would be achieved.
- Mel is an admirer of the work of the scientist C. P. Snow, who dealt with thermodynamics.
- The Rani intends to go back to the Cretaceous era and save dinosaurs from extinction.
- On Earth, strange matter was discovered by a Princeton physicist in 1984.
- Computers are the speciality of Mel.
- The Sixth Doctor regenerates into the Seventh Doctor.
- The Doctor's speciality on Gallifrey was thermodynamics, according to a disguised Rani.
- The Rani injects the Doctor with a drug causing amnesia.
- Ikona throws away the antidote for the killer insect poison.
Particles and substances
- PHB and PES (polyethersulfone, a petroleum-based plastic) are proposed as suitable materials for the machinery of the Rani.
- The recombination of an electron and a positron in photons is mentioned by the Time Brain.
- Gamma rays and helium 2 are expected during the explosion of both a supernova and strange matter.
- Loyhargil is a lightweight substitute for strange matter.
- Chronons are discrete particles of time.
- In the confusion after the regeneration, the Doctor mentions the temporal flicker in Sector Thirteen, a bicentennial refit of the TARDIS to book in, and Centauri VII.
- Tetrapyriarbus is the homeworld of the Tetraps.
- The Doctor's special subject at university was thermodynamics.
- The code to open the door is 953, which is his and the Rani's age.
- The Doctor confirms that he is in his seventh persona.
- A radiation wave meter is in the tool room of the Doctor's TARDIS.
- The Doctor steals a microthermistor from the Rani's laboratory.
- The Rani employs a hologram of Mel to deceive the Doctor during a hostage exchange.
- A navigational guidance system distorter was employed by the Rani to attract the Doctor's TARDIS on Lakertya. It would have worked on any passing spaceship.
- The Lakertyans are blackmailed with the menace of killer insects.
- The concept of creating a weapon by collecting the minds of all the great thinkers, including the Doctor's, was also used in the then unfinished and unbroadcast story Shada. Both stories involve the Doctor using his stolen consciousness to counteract the weapon.
- Loyhargil is an anagram of "holy grail".
- The working title for this story was Strange Matter.
- This is the first story to feature computer generated images (CGI) for the titles and many of the effects (including the TARDIS's flight through space in the pre-title sequence).
- The Radio Times programme listing for part one was accompanied by a black and white photograph of the Doctor on the surface of Lakertya, with a head-and-shoulders inset of the Rani, with the accompanying caption "The TARDIS materialises with a new Doctor at the helm! Sylvester McCoy is the seventh in line of intrepid Time Lords, who tonight comes face to face with the Rani (Kate O'Mara) / BBC1, 7.35 p.m. Doctor Who".
- One reason for the story's problems was that Pip and Jane Baker had no idea who would be playing the new Doctor or how he would be characterised — and, at least when they started work on the project, the series had no script editor for them to discuss things with.
- Colin Baker declined to return to his role for the regeneration sequence at the beginning of the story. As a result, Sylvester McCoy donned a wig and the Sixth Doctor's costume and briefly appeared (as a body double, with face hidden) as the Sixth Doctor, making him the first actor to play (technically) two different incarnations of the Doctor. McCoy also spends much of the early part of the story clad in the Sixth Doctor's outfit.
- io9.com ranked the Sixth Doctor's death as the second weakest death in science fiction history.
- Sylvester McCoy protested about wearing the question mark jumper. It wasn't until his reprisal of the Seventh Doctor in the 1996 Doctor Who movie that his campaigning to discard the pullover was generously granted. He instead wore a red waistcoat. (And was ironically "killed" before he could get any significant screen time wearing the waistcoat)
- In this story, the Seventh Doctor wears braces on the outside of the pullover, with it tucked in. Sylvester McCoy admitted it was a regrettable choice. He said it did injustice to the appearance of his tummy, giving him a "beer gut" look. For future stories, the actor instead kept to wearing his braces over his shirt, and had the pullover over that, as is more traditional.
- During the regeneration, the exercise bike the Sixth Doctor rides in Terror of the Vervoids is visible in the TARDIS control room. In DWM 409, in an article on regeneration, the writer suggests that the Sixth Doctor's "mortal" injury may have been caused by him falling off the bike.
- Later stories would offer various conflicting accounts of how the Sixth Doctor came to regenerate, among them the 2005 Past Doctor Adventures novel Spiral Scratch and the 2015 Big Finish audio story The Brink of Death. The Complete History of the Doctor, published in Doctor Who The Official Annual 2017, lent credence to the earlier claim about the bike.
- This is the first time the Doctor is seen regenerating at the beginning of a serial, as opposed to its end. (barring recap footage)
- This would be the last time a TARDIS other than the Doctor's was shown on-screen until the charity special Dimensions in Time. In televised Doctor Who terms, another TARDIS would not appear until the "Junk TARDIS" in TV: The Doctor's Wife.
- In a behind-the-scenes interview featuring Sylvester McCoy, he jabbed at having to wear Colin Baker's oversized wardrobe before switching into his Doctor's new clothes. Aside from donning the loud colours of his predecessor, the costume was tailored to Baker's height, 6ft (183cm), which loosely fit his smaller height of 5ft 6in (168cm). He humorously protested about "getting lost for three days" inside the floppy fabrics.
- This is the third TV story to use a pre-credits sequence, and the first to not use any archive footage for it.
- This is the only Seventh Doctor story whose writers also wrote for a previous Doctor.
- In the Rani's final scene, the script had originally called for Kate O'Mara to be hung upside-down like the bat-like tetraps. During filming, O'Mara, who was on antibiotics at the time, was hung in this position for longer than needed and, after O'Mara complained of a horrible pain behind her eyes, was hastily let down when it was discovered she had popped a blood vessel in her eye. As a result, the scene in the final product had O'Mara hanging from her arms instead.
- Donald Pickering makes his third and last appearance in the series. This is the only time where he is not a villain and that his character dies.
- Part one - 5.1 million viewers
- Part two - 4.2 million viewers
- Part three - 4.3 million viewers
- Part four - 4.9 million viewers
- Colin Baker refused to film a regeneration sequence. Partially true. In an extra found on The Trial of a Time Lord DVD box set, Colin Baker said that when he was asked to film a regeneration sequence, he agreed as long as he was allowed to do a full third season playing the Doctor, at the end of which he would then regenerate. The production office never contacted him again.
- Several myths exist surrounding how the Doctor regenerates. One is that he falls off his exercise bike, while another has it that the Rani's TARDIS collided with his. The exercise bike is still standing during the attack and falls facing away from the Doctor, and the Rani's TARDIS remains on the planet throughout the serial.
- Cloford Quarry, Cloford, Frome, Somerset (Exterior of Rani's base)
- Westdown Quarry, Chantry, Frome, Somerset (Location where the TARDIS lands)
- Whatley Quarry, Whatley, Frome, Somerset
- BBC Television Centre (TC1 & TC8), Shepherd's Bush, London
- The overhead microphone is visible in part one after the disguised Rani introduces herself as Mel. The boom operator seems to be having trouble following the Doctor's erratic movements.
- When Mel saves Ikona from the second bubble trap, Sarn's (who had been killed earlier by the same trap) scream can be heard very briefly.
- Mel slides from hills and sits in a cave-like pipe, yet the seat of her white trousers remains very clean.
- In part three, when the Rani searches for the Doctor outside of the building, she wears red trousers instead of the white ones from earlier.
- During the first shot of Mel imprisoned in the Tetrap lair in part 3, the part of the lair visible behind her moves slightly to the right and then descends a few inches, revealing that it is just a backdrop.
- Sylvester McCoy's face is briefly visible as he's rolled over just before the regeneration begins.
- The Sixth Doctor's final words before his regeneration were "Our future is in safe hands." (AUDIO: The Brink of Death) In another account, his final words were "Local...tractor beam..." (PROSE: Spiral Scratch)
- The Sixth Doctor had also encountered the Rani. (TV: The Mark of the Rani)
- Mel thinks the only reason someone would kidnap the Doctor would be if they needed his help. The Renegade Daleks also kidnapped the Sixth Doctor, needing his help against Davros. (AUDIO: The Juggernauts)
- The final portion of AUDIO: The Brink of Death leads into this story, as does that of PROSE: Spiral Scratch and Craig Hinton's fan novel, Time's Champion.
- The Sixth Doctor had tried to avoid going to the Lakertyan System because there was dangerous radiation in its vicinity. Due to his future self manipulating him to go there anyway to stop an even greater threat set in motion by the Valeyard that would come about in the near future, both he and Mel came under attack by the Rani, whose laser fire was brimming with this deadly radiation. Though humans like Mel could not be harmed by it and all it did was make her lose consciousness, it was fatal to Time Lords. This triggered the Doctor's regeneration into his seventh incarnation as seen at the start of this story. (AUDIO: The Brink of Death)
- Albert Einstein would also encounter the Eleventh Doctor. (TV: Death is the Only Answer)
- Mel says carrot juice is a favourite beverage of the Doctor's and he contradicts her. (TV: Terror of the Vervoids)
- During the regeneration, the exercise bike the Sixth Doctor rode is visible in the TARDIS control room. (TV: Terror of the Vervoids)
- While trying on clothes, the Seventh Doctor briefly wears the outfits of several of his previous incarnations:
- His fourth incarnation's hat and scarf
- His third incarnation's frilled shirt and smoking jacket.
- His fifth incarnation's preferred outfit. (TV: Castrovalva et al.)
- The fur coat of his second incarnation. (TV: The Abominable Snowmen, The Ice Warriors, The Five Doctors, The Name of the Doctor, AUDIO: Beyond the Ultimate Adventure, and COMIC: A Cold Day in Hell!)
- The Doctor refers to regeneration as a lottery. The Tenth and Twelfth Doctors would describe it as such. (TV: The Day of the Doctor, Deep Breath)
Home video and audio releases
- This story was first released on DVD in Region 2 on 13 September 2010. Region 4 release came out 4 November 2010 and Region 1 on 14 June 2011. The one disc set includes a restored version of the story, as well as the following special features:
- Commentary by Sylvester McCoy (the Doctor), Bonnie Langford (Mel), and Pip & Jane Baker (Writers).
- Production Subtitles
- Photo Gallery
- Easter Egg: CGI Regeneration sequence, with Colin Baker's face digitally added in place of McCoy's to make it authentic. To access this hidden feature, press left at 7D FX on the Special Features menu.
- Easter Egg: Eye-Sore. To access this hidden feature, press right at Blue Peter on the Special Features menu.
- Easter Egg: The Name'sh McCoy, Shylveshter McCoy. To access this hidden feature, press left at PDF Materials on the Special Features menu.
- A computer animation at the very beginning to explain how the Rani made the TARDIS crash-land.
- Editing for the DVD release was completed by the Doctor Who Restoration Team.
This story was released on VHS as follows:
- Region 2: July 1995
- Region 1: September 1995
- Region 4: October 1995
- The story is available for streaming in the US through Hulu Plus or Amazon Instant Video in the UK.
- Time and the Rani at the BBC's official site
- Time and the Rani at RadioTimes
- A Brief History of Time (Travel): Time and the Rani
- The Locations Guide to Doctor Who - Time and the Rani