As it is with every new season, the rumor the return of The Rani to Doctor Who has reared its head. Now, I’m probably opening myself up to a complete loss of credibility here, but…I actually kind of like the Rani. In theory. Her premiere in The Mark of the Rani had potential that was crushed under the weight of all the other problems of the Colin Baker era of Who, and perhaps the less said about Time and the Rani the better. But that core idea, of a Time Lord renegade who isn’t properly a villain, just completely amoral in her dedication to pure science and who views non-Gallifreyean life-forms as little more than lab animals, is solid and a welcome change of pace from the lunatic antics of The Master. Heck, in Mark I think she spends more time berating the Master than she does the Doctor. And then Kate O’Mara played her as Joan Collins in a space suit.
But just because the Rani hasn’t been done well before, that doesn’t mean that she can’t be done well in the future! And so, let’s take a quick look at some of the leading contenders for the role, and why it may or may not be a good idea to cast them.
Pro: Sci-fi nerds who still keep laminated pictures of her in their sock drawers would tune in, thus boosting the show’s profile in the United States.
Con: Casual viewers would insist on the alleged “sexual tension” between her and the Doctor being resolved. If you thought Rose/Ten shippers were insufferable when they finally got their way, watch out!
Pro: Fans of Battlestar Galactica 2.0, without a long-form sci-drama to keep them occupied, would be attracted to the show by their familiarity with the actress. This is also known as the “what it would take to get Kevin Church to watch Doctor Who” approach.
Con: Traditionalist Who fans would, predictably, freak the fuck out over a non-Caucasian being cast in a major role on the show. (Actually, that may be a Pro…)
Pro: Has already displayed an ability to do good work on tightly budgeted fantasy/sci-fi serial dramas.
Con: If you thought complaints about the “Gay Agenda” were obnoxious, get ready for the “Lesbian Agenda” complaints to roll in!
Pro: Who fans who seem unable to process the idea of a companion who isn’t a vaguely bitchy blonde seem to have come to the show via Buffy fandom. Why not bring all the Buffy fans over!
Con: Would bring all the Buffy fans over to Who fandom.
Pro: Has massive appeal amongst both geeks and women, and would raise the profile of the show to incredible heights in several key demographics, and can handle the lighter, more humorous aspects of Who.
Con: Her geek fans are actually really kinda creepy, and it’s not as if Who fandom doesn’t already have plenty of aging man-children who behave inappropriately around women.
Pro: Accomplished actress who has worked in a variety of mediums.
Con: Not a one.