The Rani is name of a Time Lord (er, Time Lady?) who has travelled to the 19th century industrial revolution era to steal brain chemicals from the local miners, resulting in the poor humans becoming aggressively violent. So, it’s another historical episode with an alien incursion to deal with… and, do you know what? I thought it was fairly good!
When the Master turns up on the scene, the dynamic changes for the better. Here we have a (seemingly indestructible) villain stumbling into a scenario without a plan of action, who almost immediately develops one, and it’s totally bonkers (“I shall rule the world by kicking Earth’s industry up a gear while controlling everyone’s mind!!”). He and the Rani work well together as characters, bickering and distrusting one another, leading to some great scenes. Meanwhile, the Doctor and Peri are well-established bickerers themselves, but there are hints of a stronger relationship developing, albeit slowly.
The Doctor’s quite tolerable in this. Since his first appearance, he’s mellowed out loads. He’s still something of an anti-hero at times, socially awkward and big-headed, but he gets some excellent lines now. I laughed when he implied he was a scarecrow.
I almost burst out laughing when the Doctor gets himself stuck between his two captors who have both stepped on mines that turn them into trees. It’s such a ridiculous idea but it’s completely confident that you’ll just go along with it. So too with the growing dinosaur embryo thrown in at the end, as the Rani’s Tardis goes spiralling out of the galaxy. Incidentally, for the short amount of time the other Tardis is seen, it’s extremely well-realised. It absolutely looks like a “next generation” Tardis control room. Those spinning loops on the console are really cool. I think the Doctor should consider an upgrade.
So, it’s a bit daft and light-hearted, but it’s good fun. And it’s set “oop north”, which makes a change!