Time and the Rani
Time and the Rani was the first story in season twenty-four of Doctor Who. It marked the debut of Sylvester McCoy as the Seventh Doctor. 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 Synthesizer. Kate O’Mara made her second and final televised appearance (not including the charity special Dimensions in Time).
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, with McCoy playing both incarnations. However, the cause of his 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. PROSE: Spiral Scratch provides a narrative for the Sixth Doctor’s regeneration, retroactively leading into the events of this serial.
While the TARDIS is flying through space, it is assaulted by multiple energy beams from the planet Lakertya, before being captured in a tractor beam. A native watches the TARDIS land near by.
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 colors. 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 recognizes 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 failing with several outfits (including a Napoleon outfit, a British guard outfit, a schoolteacher outfit, a cricket outfit similar to that of the Fifth Doctor, one of the Third Doctor’s outfits, and the Fourth Doctor’s burgundy outfit), the Doctor walks out from behind a clothes rack wearing theSecond 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, realizing that he has been duped. While the Rani leaves, Mel enters the lab and the Doctor mistakes her for the Rani. Mel, not recognizing 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.
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, paralyzing 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 Center of Leisure and explains that his people have become indolent. The Rani, angry at Beyus’ lack of cooperation, turns on the globe in the Center 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 home world.
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.”