The Mark Of The Rani
Working Titles: Too Clever By Far, Enter The Rani.
Starring: Colin Baker (The Sixth Doctor), Nicola Bryant (Peri Brown).
The TARDIS is drawn to Earth during the Luddite Uprisings. There, the Master is trying once again to alter the planet's history while an evil Time Lady called the Rani is also present, extracting chemicals from the brains of local workers for her own use. As a result of the Rani's experiments, rioting amongst the workers is intensifying, and it rests with the Doctor and Peri to stop the uneasy partnership between the two villains and restore Earth's history to its proper course.
The Master was dead, to begin with; there is no doubt whatever about that. Anthony Ainley's contract had expired with his appearance in Season Twenty-One's Planet Of Fire, and it was initially believed that no renewal would be sought. This was a position particularly favoured by script editor Eric Saward, who was not a fan of the character. However, as planning for Doctor Who's twenty-second season got underway, producer John Nathan-Turner experienced a change of heart, allegedly because of the Master's continued popularity amongst fans. Ainley was therefore signed to a new contract (believed to be for three years) which would commit him to one serial a season.
To write the Master story for Season Twenty-Two, then, Nathan-Turner approached Pip and Jane Baker, with whom he was collaborating on an unrelated project. The Bakers were a veteran writing team who had worked together on books, word games, low-budget movies and television episodes (including Z Cars, Space: 1999 and an unmade script for Blake's 7) since the late Fifties. The Bakers were not keen on traditional science-fiction, and so it was agreed that their storyline would feature a historical setting. The final component was an evil female Time Lord character -- christened "the Rani" by the Bakers after a Hindu word for "queen" -- whom Nathan-Turner hoped might become a new recurring enemy for the Doctor.
The Bakers devised a storyline titled Too Clever By Far, which was retitled Enter The Rani around the time the scripts were commissioned on November 7th, 1983. The serial later underwent a final name change to The Mark Of The Rani. The Bakers had misunderstood the circumstances of the Master's last appearance, believing that he had been abandoned on Sarn in his diminutive state, when in fact that planet's numismaton flames had restored his height but apparently burned him to death. Saward therefore excised the relevant dialogue, but -- perhaps because of his apathy towards the character's resurrection -- neglected to substitute an explanation for the Master's survival in its place. Further rewrites were necessary when Nathan-Turner decided to take advantage of a logistical error by the BBC, enabling him to trade one of The Mark Of The Rani's two studio blocks for extra location time.
The director assigned to Serial 6X was Sarah Hellings, who had contacted Nathan-Turner in late 1983 requesting the chance to direct a historical story. The Mark Of The Rani would be her only Doctor Who assignment. The main location chosen by Hellings was the Ironbridge Gorge Open Air Museum at Blist's Hill, near Telford in Shropshire. Although the site was generally ideal for the adventure, some key elements of the Bakers' storyline -- including overhead coal tracks and a switching station on the rails -- were not available, necessitating further amendments to the scripts. Meanwhile, Nathan-Turner cast actress Kate O'Mara to play the pivotal role of the Rani. O'Mara had gained renown with appearances in series such as The Avengers and Triangle, and had acted alongside Colin Baker in The Brothers.
Location work began on October 22nd, 1984, at locations in and around Ironbridge Gorge. For a time, Nicola Bryant was forced to wear a neck brace between shoots after awakening one morning with sharp pains in her neck. Heavy rain was a constant threat, becoming predominant toward the end of the two scheduled weeks. Despite having one day held in reserve as a contingency, the inclement weather prevented Hellings from completing all the necessary shots. Some material would have to be rewritten for the studio, but other scenes could not be accomplished indoors. As a result, Nathan-Turner gained permission to draw on emergency BBC funds for a one-day remount. This took place on November 8th although, because the extra money would not permit the cast and crew to travel back to Blist's Hill, a new location in the Queen Elizabeth Country Park, West London, had to be found.
The lone three-day studio session began on Sunday, November 18th. Because of the extra material carried over from the location shoot, the schedule was very tight, and a half-hour overrun on the final day proved necessary. Because of this lack of time, the first TARDIS scene had to be discarded when a boom mike shadow was noted to be visible onscreen. This consisted of Peri emerging into the console room wearing her period costume, only to be mocked by the Doctor. With recording complete, O'Mara indicated that she was amenable to the possibility of making further appearances as the Rani.
Unusually, the original commission for The Mark Of The Rani's incidental music went outside the BBC Radiophonic Workshop, to John Lewis. Unfortunately, Lewis fell ill from AIDS-related complications and died in February 1985. Although he had composed thirty-two minutes of music, for which his family was compensated, Lewis' work was not used and Radiophonic Workshop employee Jonathan Gibbs put together a new score in its place. Although the fourth story filmed for Season Twenty-Two, The Mark Of The Rani was screened third, flipflopping with The Two Doctors.