Time and the Rani

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Time and the Rani

144 Time and the Rani
Doctor Who serial

The Doctor uncovers a plan to kidnap Earth's geniuses
Directed by Andrew Morgan
Written by Pip and Jane Baker
Script editor Andrew Cartmel
Produced by John Nathan-Turner
Incidental music composer Keff McCulloch
Production code 7D
Series Season 24
Length 4 episodes, 25 minutes each
Date started 7 September 1987
Date ended 28 September 1987
← Preceded by Followed by →
The Trial of a Time Lord: The Ultimate Foe Paradise Towers

Time and the Rani is the first serial of the 24th season in the British science fiction television series Doctor Who, which was first broadcast in four weekly parts from 7 September to 28 September 1987. It was the first to feature Sylvester McCoy as the Seventh Doctor, who regenerates from the Sixth Doctor at the start of the story after Colin Baker was dismissed from the role.


Whilst in flight, the TARDIS is attacked by the Rani, an amoral scientist and renegade Time Lord. The TARDIS crash-lands on the planet Lakertya. On the floor of the console room, the Doctor regenerates for the sixth time. In his post-regenerative confusion the Doctor is separated from his young companion Mel Bush and tricked into assisting the Rani in her megalomaniac scheme to construct a giant time manipulator. Lost on the barren surface of the planet, Mel has to avoid the Rani's ingenious traps and her monstrous, bat-like servants, the Tetraps. She joins forces with a rebel faction among the Lakertyans, desperate to end the Rani's control of their planet. The Doctor must recover his wits in time to avoid becoming a permanent part of the Rani's plan to collect the genius of the greatest scientific minds in the universe, of which she has captured many including Einstein, in order that she can create a time manipulator, which would allow the Rani to control time anywhere in the universe, at the expense of all life on Lakertya. The Doctor manages to foil her plan and free the Lakertyans of her evil control. The Rani escapes in her TARDIS, but it has been commandeered by the Tetraps, who take her prisoner. The Doctor takes all the captured geniuses on board his TARDIS so that he can return them home.


Although this was the first story to feature the Seventh Doctor, it was written before McCoy's casting and therefore not directly tailored to his portrayal of the character. As Sixth Doctor actor Colin Baker declined to film a regeneration sequence, Sylvester McCoy instead wore his predecessor's costume and a blond curly wig and filmed the entire sequence himself. A number of spin-off media have provided additional explanation for the Doctor's regeneration including the Virgin New Adventures novels Timewyrm: Revelation, Love and War by Paul Cornell, Head Games by Steve Lyons, all of which speculate that the Seventh Doctor's 'essence' drove the Sixth Doctor to pilot the TARDIS into the Rani's tractor beam to become Time's Champion and prevent himself from becoming the Valeyard, and the Past Doctor Adventures novel Spiral Scratch by Gary Russell, which features the Sixth Doctor sacrificing much of his energy to prevent a pan-dimensional being from destroying creation, leaving him in a weakened physical condition before the Rani's attack. On August 2015, Big Finish Productions released The Sixth Doctor: The Last Adventure, with the final part (The Brink of Death) explaining that the Sixth Doctor dies due to the radiation of the planet Lakertya as part of his sacrifice in order to stop the Valeyard from taking over existence.

The Seventh Doctor tries on several earlier Doctors' costumes: the Second Doctor's fur coat, the Third Doctor's smoking jacket, the Fourth Doctor's coat and scarf, and the Fifth Doctor's cricket outfit, as well as other costumes. He also wears the Sixth Doctor's patchwork coat for much of the first episode, the first example of a Doctor wearing his previous self's clothes for a prolonged period rather than quickly changing after regeneration.

It is never explained how the Rani escaped the predicament in which she had last been seen in The Mark of the Rani (trapped with the Master in her TARDIS and a rapidly growing Tyrannosaurus rex embryo). The novelisations of Time and the Rani and The Ultimate Foe, both by Pip and Jane Baker, both claim that the rapidly growing dinosaur snapped its neck on the ceiling of the Rani's TARDIS and died instantly, while the novel State of Change reveals that the Master escaped the TARDIS by separating the console room from the rest of the ship, forcing the Rani to cannibalise other controls in her TARDIS to pilot it prior to the events of the novel, although the canonicity of this claim is unclear. Big Finish Productions have also presented fandom with an explanation in their audio release The Last Adventure.


This story's working title was Strange Matter. The Loyhargil, lightweight substitute for strange matter, is an anagram of "holy grail". Amongst the famous Humans the Doctor mentions towards the end as he explains to Mel the severity of the Rani's plans are Elvis and Mrs Malaprop (a fictional character). This is a reference to the Seventh Doctor's frequent use of malapropisms throughout this story. Ken Trew created the Seventh Doctor's costume, based on a 1930s golfing design.

The story features a pre-credits sequence where the TARDIS crash-lands on Lakertya. This is only the third time in the series history that there was a pre-credit sequence. Castrovalva (1982) and The Five Doctors (1983) were the first two stories to have a "cold opening". Only one more story of the original series, Remembrance of the Daleks would feature a pre-credits teaser, although this practice became commonplace from "The End of the World" onwards (the 1996 TV movie featured a short sequence incorporated into the title sequence).

The main location used for the planet Lakertya including the exterior of the Rani's laboratory was Cloford Quarry, in Somerset.


This story was the first time the Doctor Who title sequence was computer-generated. Many of the effects, like the bubble Mel is trapped in, were realised in the same manner, mainly using a new version of the Quantel Paintbox computer the DW production team were in possession of since the early '80s (its first use was in the 1980 serial The Leisure Hive).

Keff McCulloch arranged the new opening theme. It was used until the end of the regular run of the series. A new logo for the series was also introduced with this story along with a new opening credits sequence that moved away from the "starfield" motif introduced in 1980. The new theme arrangement marked the first time since the First Doctor's era that the theme's "middle eight" section was regularly heard during the opening credits (the previous two arrangements used the middle eight during the closing credits only). As with the opening sequence from the Sixth Doctor era, the Seventh Doctor's opening does not use a static image of the Doctor, but rather one with limited animation: the image of the Doctor starts as a scowl, then fades to a winks followed by a smile. McCoy wears makeup that gives his face and hair a silver/grey appearance. Episode four mistakenly uses an early version of this sequence, which gives the Doctor's face a shadowy look which producer John Nathan-Turner felt was not prominent enough.

Cast notes

Wanda Ventham and Donald Pickering previously appeared together in The Faceless Ones. Donald Pickering also appeared in The Keys of Marinus. Wanda Ventham also appeared in Image of the Fendahl.

Broadcast and reception

EpisodeTitleRun timeOriginal air dateUK viewers
1"Part One"24:447 September 1987 (1987-09-07)5.1
2"Part Two"24:3614 September 1987 (1987-09-14)4.2
3"Part Three"24:2321 September 1987 (1987-09-21)4.3
4"Part Four"24:3828 September 1987 (1987-09-28)4.9

Reviewing Time and the Rani, Tat Wood criticised the story's dialogue and plot, but praised the direction as "visually impressive". A 2014 poll held by Doctor Who Magazine ranked Time and the Rani as the third worst story in the show's run, behind only "Fear Her" and The Twin Dilemma.

Script editor Andrew Cartmel has said that there were many things he disliked about the script which lacked depth, "This was a story which wasn't about anything—and, frustratingly, it was Sylvester McCoy’s debut."

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