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Audio Drama Review
The TARDIS arrives in the CAGE – not a trap, but the College of Advanced Galactic Education, one of the most prestigious academic institutions in colonised space. Not a trap – or is it? The Doctor’s here to receive an honorary degree in Moral Philosophy. But there’s something rotten at the heart of the Medical Facility. Someone is operating on the students. Someone without a conscience. Someone with access to a Sidelian Brain Scanner – a technology that hasn’t been invented yet. That someone is the ruthless Time Lord scientist known as the Rani – in her new incarnation. But will the Doctor and Peri recognise the Rani’s hand before her trap is sprung…?
Big Finish is not in the habit of recasting characters from the original television series for its full-cast audio dramas. Usually it’s a case of: if the original performer is alive, well, willing and able, then OK, we can do a story with them. Otherwise no can do. It’s different with Time Lord characters, of course, because they can regenerate into new actors – and so the late Kate O’Mara makes way for a new Rani, played by Siobhan Redmond. In case you are concerned that Big Finish has replaced O’Mara with indecent haste, in fact (as the sleeve notes and CD extras make clear) this story was commissioned because the actress had expressed a desire to reprise the role on audio. When she became fatally ill, it was O’Mara herself who suggested that the Rani should regenerate. Ever the professional, she said the show must go on.
Redmond gives us a very different Rani, exhibiting hardly any of the campness or scenery chewing that exemplified O’Mara’s incarnation. This is the Rani at her coldest and most calculating.
Writer Justin Richards also takes the opportunity to foreshadow the Rani’s hand in the demise of the Sixth Doctor (Colin Baker) at the start of Time and the Rani, which is in the past as far as Redmond’s Rani is concerned. She enjoys the thought that his days are numbered, while the Doctor unknowingly predicts a classic line from his own future, when he asks the Rani to “leave the girl, it’s me you want”!
Plotwise, The Rani Elite has a lot in common with Time and the Rani, with gifted intellects being enslaved to a scheme to reverse the chaos of the universe. There’s even a lizard person among the Rani’s victims. Well, at least she’s consistent! The brain-draining is also more than a little reminiscent of Shada and the Thoros Beta segment of The Trial of a Time Lord. The consequences of the latter were still being felt at the beginning of this very trilogy, in The Widow’s Assassin, which is an unfortunate coincidence – though Peri’s fear of history repeating itself does add some dramatic weight, which actress Nicola Bryant exploits to the full in her performance.
The Rani Elite is an entertaining adventure, though unlike the villain’s plan, it won’t tax your mind very much.
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