I’m less than enthusiastic about the final stretch of this project. I’ve only seen a few McCoy serials but my general recollection is that I wasn’t all that impressed. I rewatched the very last one a couple years ago and it was REALLY not good at all. I kinda think the Dalek one was good, but honestly, I’m just not sure.

I do remember liking this one, probably because of the Rani more than anything else? Let’s find out… maybe my appreciation of them will have changed – it certainly did of the First Doctor.

Episode 1:

We open with the TARDIS under attack. It wheels violently, out of control, through space. Inside, The Doctor and Mel are both lying prone on the floor, unconscious.

On a planet, a green-ish skinned alien, humanoid but with some scales on his cheeks, watches at the TARDIS lands in a rainbow. (Never understood that part.)

In the TARDIS, the Rani enters, carrying a gun. She orders some hairy monster to get “the man” and bring it to her laboratory. The creature grabs The Doctor and rolls him over – his face is shifting, he’s in a regeneration.

(Sadly, Colin Baker, who got fucked over by the BBC, declined doing the regeneration scene, so we have Sylvester McCoy in Six’s clothing, a blonde wig, and a face blurred by special effects.)

His face completes the transformation… and the opening sequence begins.

At the time, this was a REALLY impressive opening sequence. Lots of “high” graphics, computer generated and the like. It’s a bit (lot) corny now, but I remember being rather blown away back in the 80s.

In the Rani’s laboratory, several of the green skinned aliens work. Rani starts barking orders at Sarn, a female who is placing an obvious Earth human (older man, kinda Albert Einstein looking) in a booth. Sarn argues that she doesn’t want to harm him, but the Rani snaps at her, “Seal it and label it.”

The girl seals the booth but waits for the label; the male (older than the girl) with Sarn tells the Rani she hasn’t given the name yet. “Einstein,” is the Rani’s reply.

The Rani warns Beyus (the older male) that “insolence could cost” his people. Sarn argues that he didn’t mean to appear insolent. There’s arguing. Beyus tells her that he knows she hates the Lakertyans (pronounced “Lah-ker-shuns”), but she scoffs, saying she has “no feelings one way or the other.”

We learn as they argue that she’s collecting geniuses for whatever purpose. (Though, honestly, having Einstein there was explanation enough for that, this exposition wasn’t necessary.) Beyus asks if she’s procured the means to repair her laboratory, and she says she has.

She walks into the next room, checking on The Doctor, who is laying on a table, unconscious. The Rani opens a panel/door, but when The Doctor starts murmuring, she closes it and returns to his side, just in time for him to leap up, saying “that was a nice nap” and start rambling about getting to work and temporal flickers in Sector 13 and so on.

He wonders where he is, who he is and who she is, but suddenly recognises her. The Rani threatens him with Mel’s safety. The Doctor goes to her console (I’m guessing it’s her TARDIS?) and starts searching for answers to where they are, what she’s up to.

He finds a video of an asteroid composed of “strange matter” and demands to know what “monstrous experiment are you up to now?” They begin their old debate of science vs ethics. Rani draws a gun, The Doctor backpedals and trips over himself. Sarn and Beyus enter, the young female rushing to The Doctor’s side.

Beyus orders her back and The Rani grabs her, full of wrath (and Kate O’mara is sexy when angry), threatening her. The Doctor recovers and threatens to smash something with his umbrella, but Urak, the Rani’s monster, comes in.

The monster fires a gun that traps The Doctor in some sort of net, stunning him.

One of the Lakertyans enters the TARDIS, picks up Mel, looks around, and leaves.

Sarn escapes the Rani’s mountainside lair. The Rani receives this report from Urak and watches Sarn’s progress on a video.

Mel escapes the Lakertyan carrying her and runs off; she and Sarn almost run into each other, but stop. Sarn runs to the side, tripping a wire that captures her in some force globe that flies off and explodes when it hits the nearby rubble. (Like many old Doctor Who shows, it’s filmed in a quarry.)

The male Lakertyan who was carrying Mel walks over to Sarn’s skeleton, obviously in sorrow. He shrugs off when Mel tries to place a comforting hand on his shoulder.

Back in the lab/TARDIS, the Rani administers a shot to The Doctor to give him amnesia.

The male Lakertyan thinks Mel is a friend of the Rani’s and yells at her, saying it’s her fault and tells her to run off. Mel argues. He tells her, “If I didn’t need you as a hostage, you’d be dead.” He explains he intends to exchange her for Beyus.

The Doctor wakes on the floor of the lab, to find the Rani dressed as Mel. No, really. She even talks more higher pitched. The Doctor gets up, wobbly, and trips over the device the Rani used to make them land there. He hands it to Mel, and wonders where they are.

In your laboratory,” she replies. “On Lakertya. Doctor, are you sure you’re well?” This is rather silly but amusing.

He insists he’s “fit as a trombone”. She tells him he was in the middle of an experiment, there was an explosion and threw them both down. When she came to, he “looked like this,” and he assumes that was the cause of his regeneration.

She gets him to look at the machine, which needs repair. As they talk, his time at university comes up and this half-triggers a recollection of her (the Rani, that is).

Mel argues with her captor, trying to convince her she’s not a threat. She also tries to find out about The Doctor, but he says she was alone. Distracted, he triggers one of the booby traps, but Mel pulls him to safety before he is sucked in.

He realises that she’s not one of his enemies, and frees her, but says they must hurry before the Tetraps arrive.

The Doctor works on the machine, which sparks and sputters. He yells at “Mel” to mop his brow, which has her seething, but she does it. He picks up some tools, which are spoon-shaped and begins playing the spoons on his leg and “Mel”’s chest. She slaps them away and they argue.

The Seventh Doctor’s biggest gimmick thus far is his malapropisms; we’ve had a bunch so far, but I’m not going to regale you with them unless they’re particularly clever, which I have my doubts. “Mel” keeps correcting him.

The Doctor says he doesn’t think this lab has anything to do with him – he says the mind behind it all operates on too grand a scale.

Mel asks her former captor about getting help, but he says only Beyus could convince his people to help and he’s the hostage he was trying to exchange her for.

They run off, hearing rocks tumble, and head into a tunnel. (The Lakertyan runs funnily, with his arms straight down.)

The Doctor asks “Mel” what’s behind the door she was opening while he was asleep, but she says he wouldn’t let her in there, “the air wasn’t sterile enough for humans”.

He announces he’s doing nothing until his memory returns and sits down. She tries to get him to work, but he says it could be a diabolical scheme.

Beyus opens a grate and goes downstairs, with a big iron stick. Pulling a lever, he sends some goo down a shaft and the Tetraps, whom we don’t see well yet, move in to feed.

Mel” prepares The Doctor a drink, putting some purple fluid in water that turns clear. He refuses the drink and gets all whiny and melodramatic, whining about his new personality, saying he could be whiny and mopey.

He says he needs a radiation wave meter, and “Mel” suggests that there might be one in the TARDIS. The Doctor heads out, but “Mel” stays behind to radio Urak to get Mel out of the TARDIS, but he tells her that she’s not there. She yells at him, but switches back to “Mel” when The Doctor comes back for her.

(The real) Mel leaves the tunnel, despite her companion’s arguing against it, saying she needs to find The Doctor.

The Doctor sees Sarn’s skeleton and examines it, saying he doesn’t recognise it. He identifies it as humanoid with reptilian influence. “Mel” says they’re lazy because of the climate and failed to realise their potential.

Rather harsh judgment, Mel,” he says, shocked.

Not mine,” she replies, “yours.”

This startles him and he says, to himself, “The more I know me, the less I like me.”

They arrive at the TARDIS and enter. The Doctor begins the traditional playing with the costumes that we see after every regeneration. First, he’s Napoleon. Then swapping hats. Then a Tom Baker-esque outfit. Then a Pertwee one. Davison, too. A Troughton coat, but underneath, the new outfit. Which, while not quite as gaudy as Colin Baker’s, is garish nonetheless.

The Doctor suddenly stares at “Mel”, as if about to recognise her, but she slaps him, saying he looked as if he were about to lose control. She gets him back on track looking for the radiation wave meter.

Urak contacts the Rani, saying he’s found Mel. She tells him to focus on her and activates the TARDIS scanner., which is now tuned into Urak’s eyes. Urak says “Yes, Mistress Rani,” and The Doctor, overhearing it, says that’s the name of the evil he sensed.

Mel” asks if that’s her on the screen, and for some reasons he says it is. He tells her that the Rani “is completely evil”, but when “Mel” argues for her destruction, he says “Let’s not be hasty.”

Mel sees Urak and runs, tripping a trap. She’s encased in the force bubble, which takes off and bounces off the quarry, but doesn’t explode. Mel spins and screams and… the credits roll.

That’s actually a really good cliffhanger. So far, this serial isn’t horrible, but I’m not having a blast, either.

spoiler warning

Episode 2:

The force globe lands in water, still spinning, heading towards rocks. The Lakertyan runs down the slope, finding Mel trapped on the shore. He tells her to stop squawking while he tries to disarm the explosive.

The Doctor’s attempts to fix the machine again result in smoke and sparks. He walks away, coughing, telling “Mel” he can’t “help but feel sorry for the Rani, Mel, getting caught in her own devious trap.”

Mel” says it was her own fault. He wonders why the Rani was there, and “Mel” says it must be for the same reason he’s there. Again, he wails about not knowing what’s going on. He goes on about the locked door and his memory.

Mel” says not to worry about the Rani, but he says not to underestimate her, “she’s a brilliant but sterile mind. There’s not one spark of decency in her.” She gets a little irritated and forgets to keep her voice high-pitched, but he doesn’t notice.

Mel is freed from the trap, but Urak seems to be on their trail.

The Doctor finally wonders why “the Rani” was dressed like her. “Mel” doesn’t have an answer, but gets him thinking about other things.

Again, we see Beyus feed the Tetraps.

Mel and We-don’t-know-his-name-yet move through the rubble, trying to keep an eye out for any Tetraps. She asks an awful lot of questions, both to his and my irritation.

Ikona (oh we finally learn his name) leaves Mel behind to fetch some weapons in a hiding spot in the rocks. While he’s gone, Urak )(I’m guessing it’s him, he’s the only one that seems to be not locked in the feeding chamber in the Rani’s lair) attacks – we finally see a Tetrap – a bipedal bat-creature with multiple eyes.

Mel screams (yeah, she’s one of those companions) and Ikona fires one of the guns that neutralised The Doctor.

The Doctor wonders how he could have made such a fundamental mistake – using the wrong heat conducting material. She asks if they can use a different material, and this leads to a conversation that results in “Mel” saying she forgot – now, the one thing we’ve learned about Mel in the previous serials is that she has an impressive ability to recall anything. She tries to pass it off as the machine affecting her memory as well.

The Doctor pokes about the locked door while the Rani is distracted by the readings.

Mel and Ikona are outside the Rani’s lair; Mel is sure that The Doctor is there. He tells her that building the lair cost the lives of many of his people.

With zero evidence to support this leap of logic, Mel tells him that something must have gone wrong and they needed The Doctor’s help. She says nobody would kidnap him if they didn’t need his help. The hole in this logic is so big you could drive Gallifrey through it.

He’s not exactly predictable,” she says.

Mel” drags The Doctor away from the door (he seems to think there’s something caged within) and makes arrangements to get some plastic from the Lakertyans to use for the machine. She locks him in, but he’s more distracted by her earlier saying they weren’t an advanced people. So, things are continuing to click in his post-regenerative/amnesia-induced mind.

Mel and Ikona spot Faroon, another Lakertyan. Ikona tells Mel to wait and goes to speak to her. They debate as they’re on opposing sides, Faroon supporting their people not trying to challenge their overlords. Mel interjects herself, talking about Beyus not being able to save “her” (Sarn).

Faroon asks if Ikona saw what transpired, but he is reluctant to answer. He admits it was Sarn, and sad music plays as Faroon walks over to regard the skeleton. Ikona tells Mel that Sarn was the daughter of Faroon and Beyus.

Faroon says she must go to Beyus. Mel follows her, saying she must find The Doctor.

Mel” leaves her lair.

The Doctor tries to open the doors, to no avail. He picks up the spoons and plays them again. In a comical (…) moment, he hits himself on the back of the head with them.

Mel and Ikona argue about her going in, and the Lakertyan exasperatedly agrees to draw off the Tetrap guard. The guard pursues, but sees “Mel” and shoots her, thinking it is the real Mel.

Mel enters the lab. The Doctor is busy working on the machine and doesn’t notice her. The Doctor thinks she’s the Rani, and Mel doesn’t know who he is, so they end up wrestling. Mel gets the best of him, demanding to know where The Doctor is.

He’s here,” The Doctor says, his arm in a chicken wing lock from Mel.

Where? Under the carpet,” she demands to know.

It’s me, you washerwoman, me,” he says, a reference to the first appearance of the Rani in MARK OF THE RANI.

The Doctor gets Mel in an airplane spin and then sets her down. He tries to remove her wig, only to find it’s real.

Urak apologises to his mistress, but she storms off.

The Doctor and Mel argue. He demands to check her pulse, saying that will prove who she is. He mentions carrot juice, and that he hated it, which makes Mel think that he might be The Doctor. She asks why he looks like that and what’s wrong with him.

He explains that he regenerated, adding, “I’m suffering from post-regenerative amnesia… as far as I can remember.” I like that line.

He offers her his wrist, so she can check his pulse. She checks, and seeing he has a double-pulse, believes him. He checks hers, and is astonished to learn she is Mel.

Mel is amazed – apparently she knew of regeneration, but not the drastic changes it entails.

He gets forlorn, moping about being taken in by the Rani, falling for her trick.

Urak follows the Rani to her TARDIS, which appears as a pinkish-purple mostly glass pyramid. (Why would she have it so far away from her lab? Makes no sense.) Urak seems intent on following her in, but she reminds him he’s not allowed.

The Doctor shows Mel the asteroid of strange matter, saying it is an incredible dense form of matter. The asteroid would weigh more than the planet Earth. (We also learn that computers are Mel’s specialty, not physics.)

He tells her if the asteroid were detonated, it would be equal to a supernova.

When the Rani dabbles, she dabbles on a grand scale,” The Doctor says. Excellent line.

He instructs Mel to listen at the locked door. She says it’s like a giant heartbeat.

The Doctor tries to open another door, but Mel pulls a Peri, saying they should get away and leave Lakertya. He argues, saying he can’t leave the Lakertyans to the (nonexistent) mercy of the Rani.

On the other side of the door, Beyus and Faroon are listening. He calls out the combination, “Nine five three.” The Doctor and Mel hear it and he says that is his age, “…and the Rani’s.”

In her TARDIS, the Rani collects the plastic she needs and cuts a board out of it.

Leaving, she tells Urak to find the girl “before she finds The Doctor”.

The Doctor and Mel see a bunch of geniuses, including Einstein. The Doctor says she’s collected the greatest minds and most powerful matter in the universe.

The Doctor, again, seems impressed by her plans, but he assures them it’s fascination and regret. He wishes she’d use her talents for good, not evil.

Mel shows him a booth reserved for him.

The Rani returns.

The Doctor wonders what he can contribute that the others can’t. I bet I know!!! Mel answers that he’s a Time Lord and he says it’s his knowledge of time – yep, I was right.

They go back into the lab and The Doctor asks Beyus what’s behind the locked door (with the heartbeat.) Beyus says he’s never been allowed to see.

Mel and the Lakertyans leave when they realise “Mel” is almost returned. The Doctor pretends to be hard at work, but she sees that the monitor was on (the one viewing the asteroid.) He claims he was trying to jog his memory when she asks about it.

They slide the new board in, working together.

Beyus helps Faroon and Mel slip out.

The Rani activates the machine, though The Doctor was trying to learn more details. She realises he’s onto her and sheds her disguise. He runs off and she chases, and follows him into the Tetrap lair. She pokes around as he hides, and then leaves, securing the grate.

Suddenly, the Tetraps wake and surround him… and the credits roll.

A decent enough cliffhanger that one… again, this serial (and many from now on, I fear – I hope I’m wrong. I know this story wasn’t originally written for Sylvester McCoy’s Doctor, so that might explain the clumsiness of it all…) isn’t the best in the world.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s no THE MIND ROBBER or THE WEB PLANET or some of the god-awful ones from early on.

See you Friday?