It’s time to meet the next regeneration of the Doctor. Sylvester McCoy takes over as the Time Lord as Season 24 gets underway. This four part story ran from & to 29 September, 1987 and was written by Pip and Jane Baker.
Conflict behind the scenes meant that we would never see Colin Baker’s Doctor regenerate into Sylvester McCoy’s, so in the opening moments of the season, the TARDIS is attacked (illustrated by some, for the time, impressive computer generated imagery) causing his regenration – something that also apparently affected the opening credits.
The Rani (Kate O’Mara), a devious Time Lady, takes advantage of the Doctor in his post-regenerative state, posing as his companion Mel (Bonnie Langford), who has problems of her own, if he refuses to help. She manipulates him in the hope if seizing control of an approaching asteroid composed of strange matter, something she needs for her continued, devilish experiments.
Sadly, McCoy isn’t give lots in the way of specific characterisation for the Doctor when he takes on the role, and consequently his portrayal is rather broad, approaching the point of slapstick in some regards. The Doctor’s previous costume is too big on him, giving him a rather foppish appearance.
As the story plays out, despite the fact that the Doctor is suffering from his regeneration, you get the impression that he’s cottoned to the Rani’s plan and is just playing along with her to figure out what she is up to. But that would have been too clever, instead, when Mel and the Doctor finally catch up with one another, we learn that he really was caught up in her plan.
The Rani, meanwhile has plans within plans, and is assisted by the bat beasts known as the tetraps.
The Doctor and Mel, of course, vanquish the Rani’s plans and continue their journeys together, but, I will go on record saying this probably wasn’t the best story to introduce him with, nor the best story period.
I’m sure McCoy’s Doctor will develop into a stronger character as he progresses, but right now, I think he’s far too comedic, edging on silly. He is still the Doctor though, and I’ll be interested to see how his tale plays out.
There are things I do like about the Doctor right from the off, like his wordplay, and adapting of well known phrases and slang into new ways. I also like his hat and umbrella, coupled with is behaviour lends him a Chaplin-esque type of being, which is entertaining, but works better in subtle ways. Hopefully the broadness gets reeled in a touch as the season progresses.
I guess we’ll find out next time when the Doctor and Mel visit Paradise Towers.