For a long time, Time and the Rani was The One That Got Away. The first time I tried editing this story I just couldn`t make it work. I`d not done a McCoy story before and I fancied the challenge of trying to make something out of one of the worst stories from the worst period of Classic Who.
From the evidence of these four eps, by the time they hit our screens the show under Cartmel finally became what fans always claimed it wasn`t – a kid`s show. It would have been better off transmitting at half past four in the afternoon instead of seven o`clock at night.
And it was Cartmel who I think was the real powerhouse behind the last three years of the show, with JNT completely burnt out after having to deal with Eric Saward and Michael Grade for all those years, happy to leave the heavy lifting to his young, energetic script editor so long as he retained the power of veto. Of course, I wasn’t there and I could be wrong, but on the evidence available that how it looks to me.
Anyway, when I started to try and edit the story I quickly realised how much material there was that I wanted to excise but simply couldn`t and abandoned the project. But it always rankled me that I`d been “defeated” if you like. Second time around I approached the story in the same manner as the production team of the time – don`t take it seriously.
The whole point of Fan Editing is to do something creative and different with the source material – and the mk2 version was certainly different as I took my inspiration from the idea of doing the edit as a Silent Movie, even though it didn’t end up like one. I found that if I increased the play speed – to around one and a half times as fast – I was able to make decisions about cuts much more easily than when I had tried it the first time round. That was a bit weird but it really did make the story really easy to edit, whereas before it was a chore.
Thing is, when I was finished I found the whole thing so funny and unusually enjoyable to watch, unlike the original, that I decided to leave it speeded up! There were two main advantages to this approach – one was that Bonnie Langford was nowhere near as irritating since everybody else’s voices were now the same pitch as hers! The other was that it ran less than half an hour! It was Doctor Who On Helium- a comedy version of Time and the Rani that I found funny where the original was embarrassing.
That was back in 2011, but fast forward to 2015 and things have changed. By this time I’ve completed the entire McCoy run and the four S24 stories are the only ones that are Helium edits. The last of these was Dragonfire, my personal favourite by which I mean it was the least worst of the four and had Glitz in it. [Is it bad of me that I wish he had replaced Mel instead of Ace? And why hasn’t Tony Selby done any Big Finish?] Dragonfire was the first S24 story to be uploaded at both Standard Speed and On Helium.
The download numbers made it pretty clear that the standard speed version was the preferred version, and that was what gave me the idea of revisiting the other three S24 stories as “normal” edits instead of the speeded up versions I’d originally done. And so I tackled this one first, keen to see how differently I would do things with an additional four years fan editing experience.
This edit was always going to open with the updated version of the regeneration, featuring Colin magically morphing into Sylv. I can quite understand why Colin told them to stuff it when they asked him to come back one last time just to make it easier to get rid of him, I would probably have done the same.
You can only wonder what this story might have been like if Colin had regenerated at the end instead of at the beginning, but I think it would have been better than the version we got. Editing this for the third time, I found that my low opinion of it hadn’t changed much. The key to tackling it was to think of it like a Graham Williams story, cutting out the silliness and trying to take it all a bit more seriously.
So all that slapstick nonsense, all those annoying pratfalls, they all get cut, and don’t look for McCoy playing the spoons either. After the titles, I had planned on opening with the Doctor waking up after his “amnesia shot”, but every bugger having a butchers at Sarn’s sad skeleton make that impossible. As for the decision to have the Rani disguise herself as Mel, that’s about as “Kid’s TV” as it gets. It would have been much better if the Rani spent her time coercing the Doctor into helping her, and if he doesn’t help her, Mel dies. If nothing else, that would have given the plot the dramatic tension it lacks early on. Instead they went for the comedy option of pratfalls and naff disguises, and it just doesn’t work. Could you imagine Barry Letts doing that with Pertwee and Jo? Of course not, but that’s what happens when the Sixth Floor are trying to get rid of you. No wonder the viewing figures continued to tank.
And wouldn’t it have been more dramatic if we suspected that the Doctor knew full well all along that it was the Rani in disguise, and was just playing along to find out what she was up to without arousing her suspicions? But no.