Released December 2014
The Rani is one of the great unexplored villains of the Doctor Who universe, only appearing in two televised serials and a handful of spinoff material. Another renegade Time Lord, her thirst for knowledge and experimentation at any cost makes her a uniquely-positioned threat who can challenge the Doctor intellectually as well as cunningly. With the passing of Kate O’Mara- the only actress to have played the Rani- in early 2014, the odds seemed stacked against the Rani ever making it to the audio medium, but ‘The Rani Elite’ proves that the essence of the character can live on thanks to her Gallifreyan roots and the great work of Siobhan Redmond.
Pitting the Doctor against an intellectual equal always works exceedingly well for Colin Baker’s Sixth incarnation in particular, and that is most certainly the case in ‘The Rani Elite.’ Drawn into the CAGE, the College of Advanced Galactic Education, with the promise of an honorary degree in moral philosophy, the Doctor proudly bursts onto the scene only to discover that he has led Peri into a trap with a not-yet-invented Sidelian brain scanner at its core. As Peri soon finds herself in the clutches of another scientist’s trying to force yet another consciousness into her mind, the Rani proves more than capable of thinking ahead to plot and counterplot the Doctor’s own actions. She is one of the few people able to truly understand and comprehend the Doctor’s thought promises, making for an immensely intriguing intellectual battle as the Rani’s experiments to offer the elderly the change to be young and lively again reach their next level and as her true lack of compassion and scruples shine bright.
The truth behind the goings-on at CAGE and the Rani’s promise new bodies for elderly minds is suitably engaging, and the Rani taking the place of Professor Braxton to hide the Professor forcefully being plugged into her system as a sort of controlling mind for the taken students’ minds and consciousnesses sets the scene quite well for the sinister affairs on display. Though the idea of Time lords meeting each other out of sequence has been done before, it’s quite amusing how the Sixth Doctor tries to keep from hearing anything about his future selves as the Rani mentions that she was expecting to see the Seventh Doctor. This may implicitly rob the story of some of its threat since the Rani must accordingly know that her plan to link the Sixth Doctor into her system as the controlling presence is bound to fail, but the devious plan and the tension that result more than make up for that apparent flaw.
While ‘The Rani Elite’ may not introduce anything completely new or novel, the performances highlighting the wonderful chemistry and truthful emotions amongst the three leads make it a very strong story. Siobhan Redmond has captured the quiet menace of genius run amok perfectly, and this new incarnation of the Rani will make for a most enjoyable recurring threat in the future. ‘The Rani Elite’ is a traditional Doctor Who tale in almost every sense of the word, but a more straightforward story to reintroduce an old menace is certainly a forgivable tactic when the results are so enjoyable.