Reviewed By: Mercury
Review Date: 12/18/18 2:18 pm
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This is widely criticised and is often put forward as a leading contender to be rated as the worst story in Doctor Who history. I am sadly in agreement that it is pretty close to the bottom of the pile although, for me, there are a few stories worse than this. There are a couple of positives so this is not as abysmal as some of the rubbish you get on TV but for this show it is very poor.
The previous two seasons with Colin Baker as the 6th Doctor had been the two lowest quality seasons by far up to this point in many people's opinion (mine included). A number of changes were made for this new season to try to improve things but what actually resulted was a season that I think is clearly even worse. Thankfully the following season would be a big improvement and the one after that was really brilliant but season 24 for me stands as the lowest point of all.
One of the changes made was to replace Colin Baker against his will and bring in Sylvester McCoy as the 7th Doctor. Well in reality Baker's characterisation was a big issue in his era but that was largely down to the writing and instructions he was given. His often pompous, bad tempered, rude and conceited Doctor either needed a character overhaul or a replacement and it makes sense they replaced him but it lead to him refusing to film a regeneration scene. Therefore we get a weird and unsatisfying scenario where the episode begins with the TARDIS under attack and the Doctor lying on the floor before regenerating in a disappointing way whilst unconscious and being taken prisoner by renegade Timelord/Time Lady the Rani.
After his capture the Doctor awakes and for his first episode McCoy is pretty embarrassing. There are bad pratfalls, clowning about and unconvincing delivery of lame dialogue, malapropisms and jokes. A lot of people comment on him playing the spoons but I have no issue with that any more than I have an issue with the 2nd Doctor playing the recorder (badly). At least he is very good at playing the spoons haha! What is a problem is the writing and, initially McCoy's acting. Thankfully this turns out to be perhaps partly just nerves as he does improve over parts 2 to 4 of the story. Sadly the characterisation has gone from unpleasant and annoying with Baker to overly silly with McCoy proving it is the writing and showrunner John Nathan-Turner which are to blame for this nadir. Andrew Cartmel had come in as script editor and seemingly brought about improvements in seasons 25 and 26 by which time McCoy had become very good but in this story and whole of season 24 things are in bad shape. I will say though McCoy after his initial bad acting becomes quickly far more likeable and engaging than Baker was so it turns out to be one positive change.
The plot is nonsensical - The Rani has great minds such as Einstein and Pasteur as well as the Doctor and intends amalgamating their minds into a giant brain and get them to formulate a way to create a powerful substance and fire a rocket of that substance into an asteroid composed of strange matter. It is as illogical, confused and silly as it sounds. The Rani is exploiting a race called the Lakertyans with the help of another race the Tetraps. The Tetraps are not a bad monster in design, their heads and tongues are reasonably good but when allied to a pantomime costume type body and very human sounding voices delivering cliche baddie dialogue it makes them poor. The Lakertyans look rubbish and are boring but Donald Pickering and Wanda Ventham are fine actors and imbue their meagre roles with as much gravitas as possible.
Kate O'Mara as the Rani is camp and pantomime in many ways as a character but is genuinely good and enjoyable in the role. Her impersonation of Bonnie Langford when in disguise as Mel is amazingly accurate too. Langford herself is given little to do other than scream hysterically or chip in simpering inanities so is an irritating presence.
This does not all look cheap, there are some good effects like the spinning, exploding sphere traps and efforts have been made with sets but they sadly just look garish and do not improve on the overall lack of quality in writing and very poor action scenes of people awkwardly falling over and clowning about. There is a little bit of mindless fun in the middle but it becomes boring by the end.
Very disappointing. 4/10