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Tony Grist

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Time And The Rani [Jul. 11th, 2012|11:46 am]
Tony Grist
In for a penny...

I thought I'd take a look at McCoy's first outing in the role, mainly to see if it's as ghastly as legend suggests. Well,  it depends what you're expecting. Serious SF it ain't. The newly regenerated Doctor is having trouble with his memory, Kate O'Mara has invented a giant brain and wants trhe Doctor to work on it. To fool him into helping her she puts on a ginger wig and pretends to be Bonnie Langford.  Meanwhile the real Bonnie Langford is running round an abandoned quarry being chased by men in bat suits. 

Colin Baker refused to show up for the transformation scene, so that's McCoy lying on the floor in a Colin Baker wig. Once he's up and running this Doctor is mostly tumbling and fumbling and mangling proverbs ("Every dogma will have its day.") Oh, and playing the spoons. There's a fair bit of Chaplin in the physical comedy. The hat is more Buster Keaton. Or is it Bud Flanagan? Before he signed up for this gig McCoy had worked with The Ken Campbell Roadshow and was noted for sticking nails up his nose and ferrets down his trousers. You get what you pay for. Later some gravitas was added, but you're not seeing it here.

Bonnie Langford had been a child star, specializing in sweet and sour. She was brilliant as the lisping, blackmailing Violet Elizabeth Bott in a TV version of the Just William stories. Then she grew up.  Langford as Mel is still the little girl you love to hate. You don't identify with her. You don't fancy her. Also she screams a lot. 

If I'd been Michael Grade  I'd have been angling to get this show cancelled too. It's a waste of licence money. But I'm not Michael Grade and it's a quarter of a century later and I'm going, "Wait a minute, but this is fun!"

[User Picture]From: davesmusictank
2012-07-11 12:06 pm (UTC)
Not my favourite Doctor by a long way but i agree it is fun, if somewhat dated
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2012-07-11 01:55 pm (UTC)
McCoy got better. I used to watch him with my kids- which means he has a special place in my affections.
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[User Picture]From: internet_sampo
2012-07-11 02:17 pm (UTC)
Being 'across the pond' my familiarity with the different Doctors is spotty. Back before Christopher Eccleston the only way to see the Doctor in the US was on PBS, the underfunded government supported network. Each PBS station would need to negotiate and buy Dr Who from Lionheart, which was the BBC's overseas syndicator. Thus, whether you saw a given Doctor was based on where you lived and how much money that given PBS station had at the time. I've seen several Hartnell and almost all of the Baker and Davidson episodes. I've only seen one McCoy and kinda like him.
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2012-07-11 03:17 pm (UTC)
I watched the early Doctors as they came and went. Troughton is my favourite. By the time Baker arrived there were other things going on in my life so I didn't pay him much attention. McCoy is my second favourite because I watched him with my kids.
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[User Picture]From: setsuled
2012-07-11 03:06 pm (UTC)
Time and the Rani benefits a great deal from having to watch all of Colin Baker's episodes first. Time and the Rani is by no means perfect, but it was just so nice having Colin Baker gone. And I don't even hate all of Colin Baker's episodes.

There's a fair bit of Chaplin in the physical comedy. The hat is more Buster Keaton.

Definitely. I saw him playing the Fool in a 2008 King Lear--he played it exactly like he played the Doctor. He even played the spoons, but I'd say it worked.

Langford as Mel is still the little girl you love to hate. You don't identify with her. You don't fancy her. Also she screams a lot.

Yeah. I consider her the last vestige of the Colin Baker era's tone deaf casting. Then again, the Colin Baker era had Clive Swift and Eleanor Bron.

I think its generally agreed Dragonfire is the first really good McCoy serial. This is probably true, though I missed the bamboo handle on his umbrella in episodes afterwards.
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2012-07-11 03:24 pm (UTC)
I've just watched one of Colin Baker's stories. I liked the story but Baker leaves me cold. He's the only Doctor who does.

I may watch Dragonfire. I probably saw it first time round, but I've forgotten it. At present I'm dipping into the archive as fancy dictates. I think I'll sample a little Tom Baker next.
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[User Picture]From: setsuled
2012-07-11 04:14 pm (UTC)
I liked the story but Baker leaves me cold. He's the only Doctor who does.

Same here. There's something about him that fundamentally doesn't connect. To think he wanted to stay longer than Tom Baker.

I think I'll sample a little Tom Baker next.

The best period of the whole of Doctor Who, in my opinion, is the Fourth Doctor with Romana (beginning with "The Ribos Operation") and of those three seasons, "City of Death" is my favourite. There has never been better chemistry between Doctor and Companion.
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2012-07-11 04:17 pm (UTC)
Thanks for the tip. I'll head for the City of Death.
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[User Picture]From: butterscotch711
2012-07-12 09:43 am (UTC)
I haven't listened to enough of the Big Finish audio Doctor Who dramas (Wikipedia) to know, but I think fan consensus is that both Colin Baker and Bonnie Langford redeemed themselves in those.

In a documentary on one of my Doctor Who DVDs, script-editor-of-the-time Eric Saward says after producer Jon Nathan Turner stunt-cast Bonnie Langford he insisted on having her do a screen test, and he was pleased to find she could play against her child star persona well, provided the script was letting her. But then all the writers just pumped out Bonnie Langford child star stuff (and Saward couldn't find a way to script edit them, apparently).

My impression is that when Colin Baker arrived Doctor Who was already overloaded with internal politics, with a script editor and producer barely talking to each other, and it was surprising the production cogs kept turning as well as they did. It seems so unprofessional, compared to today's TV making where roomfuls of writers and producers sit around big tables endlessly polishing everything months in advance of filming.

Trial of a Time Lord (Colin Baker's last season) was that production team's attempt to finally get their crap together. It has some really interesting stuff, including Robert Holmes's last script and Peri's controversial departure, but it all falls apart at the end (because Holmes's death prompted an eruption of all the buried politics).

I can't remember much about early McCoy, but I think late McCoy is great. It was becoming a more mature 90s show just as it got cancelled.

I think the new show should bring Kate O'Mara back to be the Rani again.
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2012-07-12 12:49 pm (UTC)
Colin Baker was burdened with a silly look- those clothes, that hair- but I think we'e also talking about his limitations as an actor. I find him the blandest of the Doctors. He has an inexpressive face. He doesn't bring anything new, distinctive or quirky to the role.

Langford has bags of talent. I can well-believe she was ill-served by the writers. Again, she's burdened by a silly look.

McCoy is one of my favourite Doctors. He grew in the role. I have happy memories of watching him with my kids. They thought he was fab.
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[User Picture]From: butterscotch711
2012-07-12 02:57 pm (UTC)
I think the companions were ill-served by the classic series writers much of the time. :( There are patches where the companions are written well, but then they'll snap back into being written totally interchangeably.

I do think they were getting it right by the end of the McCoy era, with the psychological focus on Ace and McCoy's Doctor existing in the shadows a bit more.
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