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.

Ah well.

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.

30 Responses to “Casting Call: The Rani”
  1. Chad says:

    I’m glad to have you on board as a fellow Rani-sort-of fan. On top of the rationale you sighted, the 2005 series has been hurting for good female villains, Miss Hartigan being the exception that proves the absence, especially recurring ones.

    I’d be surprised if any of the above are picked, if The Rani is cast anytime in the near future at all, since the showrunners seem to have been deliberately keeping major casting limited to British stables. That said, I do think Gillian Anderson would have the best potential. After all, The Rani is basically Agent Scully with the mind and drive of a mad scientist.

    That said, I’d probably have a fatal nerd-gasm if Tina Fey somehow was enlisted to play The Rani.

  2. M.A. Masterson says:

    Can we have The Rani and not call her “The” anything?

    Anyway, have you seen Mary Tamm lately?

  3. Thom says:

    I was all for Grace Park…then you pulled the Carol Channing card.

  4. Chad, I believe my husband would have same nerd-gasm. I am SO forwarding him a link to this. That photo…damn.

  5. Siskoid says:

    Nothing wrong with the Rani except the writing.

    I’m actually all for a “bring back the Time Lords and turns out they’re a buch of asses” (since that’s what they WERE no matter how much the Doctor grieves for them now).

    Go Tina! (but can she do the accent?)

  6. David Thiel says:

    I’ve never understood why the British tabloids keep bringing up the Rani. While I absolutely agree that the character concept is sound–and I actually get a kick out of Kate O’Mara constantly berating both the Master and the Doctor in “Mark of”–the Rani’s a very minor footnote in the long history of the series.

    Actually, I like the idea of Gillian Anderson in the part. Having watched the entire run of “Bleak House,” I know she can do cool detachment.

    But hey, what’s the thing about Tina Fey’s geek fans being “actually really kinda creepy?” Oh, sure, I post the occasional photo of her for no good reason ( And I gave her her blog category. And every once in a while, I like to think about her and Samantha Bee from the “The Daily Show” doing a very special newscast. But that doesn’t make me “actually really kinda creepy.” Kinda creepy, perhaps, but I strongly object to the “actually” and “really.”


  8. Tim O'Neil says:

    Why not go in the other direction entirely – not a young sexpot (given how prone the new Who is to casting attractive young people whether the role requires it or not), but an older grand dame, to provide an interesting and novel kind of tension into the conflict.

    I nominate Academy Award Winner Helen Mirren. She’s got the connections with BBC TV and could probably be convinced . . .

  9. Mojo says:

    Honest question here: You say “Traditionalist Who fans would, predictably, freak the fuck out over a non-Caucasian being cast in a major role on the show. ” But wasn’t Freema Agyeman non-Caucasian?

    Also, what are the other problems of the Colin Baker run? I never watched it. I tuned in for Peter Davison, and then stayed away until Eccleston took up the role.


  10. Dorian says:

    But wasn’t Freema Agyeman non-Caucasian?

    Yes. And many Who fans freaked the fuck out. There’s a lot of barely concealed racism in the anti-Martha rants you come across. At best, you saw complaints that she was too “different” from the typical companions, and “different” is frequently nerd code for “black”. See also: the new Firestorm from DC and Smallvile‘s Pete Ross, who also saw nerd complaints about being too “different”.

    Problems with the Colin Baker era: Nicola Bryant (I’m sure she’s a lovely person, but her character was extremely annoying and made you long for Adric), an obsession with continuity and trivia, the mistaken belief that “violence” equals “maturity”, writers unable to handle the two-part, 45 minute episode format, and Colin Baker playing the Doctor as an out and out asshole.

  11. Mojo says:

    I think I’m glad that I stay well the fuck away from WHO fandom.

    Thanks for the knowledge drop.

  12. Mister Terrific says:

    My wife contends that the Rani is most certainly alive and well out there, because there is no way in hell she’d concern herself with little boy Time Wars that would interfere with her research. And she’d be certainly clever enough to mask her existence. And now I’m getting visions of Yoda and I think I’ll break there.

  13. Dorian says:

    I’m actually all for a “bring back the Time Lords and turns out they’re a buch of asses” (since that’s what they WERE no matter how much the Doctor grieves for them now).

    WHO NERD SPECULATION: Well, Davies does love his reset button, and the Time War isn’t Time Locked anymore…And the Master seemed fairly incredulous at the notion that all the Time Lords died.

  14. Bill D. says:

    I like the Rani, too, Time and… & Dimensions in Time aside, mostly for the same reason already pointed out, that her amoral detachment made her a good foil for the Doctor and a nice change from the Master’s usual “Snidely Whiplash with a mancrush” shtick (not that that isn’t awesome, too). And as I recall, the Doctor really respected her intellect, yes? That’s an interesting fold in the relationship, too.

    Love the Helen Mirren idea. As much as I’d like to see any of the others in the role for reasons all my own, you know they’d try to play up the sexual tension angle, and I’d prefer their interaction be more a “antagonism but with a certain begrudging respect” thing.

  15. Alan says:

    Re: BoingBoing

    Yeah, they were posting a series of climate change denial posts (to show the “other side” – fox news really fucked us) a few weeks ago and a corporate-staged “by users” Funny-or-Die video about how we’re living in a commie burocracy hell after the “nationalization” as well. I guess the only thing interesting there now (but not at all, really) is quirky geekster videos and little techno-hipster fidgets and bits of curiosity which you’d find even on the most shitty of websites (like Warren Ellis’ blog). I guess it goes to show that you can’t really trust nerds’ sense of social scifi utopianism sprayed with Randian overtones (and techno-babble 2.0 “social revolutions”) to save the world TED-style, when most of the world has never even used a phone and isn’t drowning in a sea of blinding borderline-conservative privilege.

    And thank you for Grace Park and Anderson. Even as a geek, I was never captured by them until now (not a Battlestar or X-Files fan).

  16. Can we have The Rani and not call her “The” anything?

    Sarah Jane, series 2.

    I was about to suggest Keeley Hawes, tongue firmly in cheek…but thinking about it…Rachael Stirling wouldn’t be too far out of left field.

    (Diana Rigg’s daughter, for those of you unfamiliar with her work. Appeared in Tipping The Velvet with Keeley Hawes, currently starring in some bloody bodyswap jazz with Martin Freeman)


  17. Steven Clubb says:

    I not only like the Rani, but I also loved the Meddling Monk. Something about Renegade Time Lords who aren’t bug-f**k crazy that’s appealing.

    The great thing about The Rani in her first appearance is that she managed to point out exactly what had been wrong with The Master in the JNT Era, in that his only motivating factor seems to be to get the better of The Doctor… which was only his purpose in about half the Pertwee stories. By that story, The Master was little more than a stalker following around The Doctor.

  18. Dorian says:

    Something about Renegade Time Lords who aren’t bug-f**k crazy that’s appealing.

    I’ve always wondered what the deal with Drax was. Not in a “he should appear in an episode devoted to explaining why another Time Lord was just hanging around that space station” way, but in a “if there’s a licensed novel or audio that brings up Drax, I wouldn’t mind being pointed towards it” way.

  19. Tim O'Neil says:

    If I ran Dr. Who (NOTE: I do not) I’ve always thought it would be great if they brought back the Timelords in such a way that the Doctor was presented with a heavy, almost impossible challenge in order to do it – because he finds out that bringing them back will create some sort of disastrous, almost inconceivable consequences. So he has to fight to keep the TIme Lock closed, fight to keep his race dead – setting himself opposite against another mysterious force intent on bringing them back, someone who had decades to plan the Time War’s final final battle – someone we already know was the most methodical and devious planner in the history of the universe . . .

    The Seventh Doctor.

    The question is: why doesn’t the current Doctor remember any of this? And how can the current Doctor possibly defeat his most cunning and ruthless incarnation? Does he even want to?

    I guess going back to the Cartmel Masterplan is kind of a geeky thing to do, but you can’t tell me it wouldn’t fill your hearts with glee. Wouldn’t it be nice to find out, all these years later, just what #7 had actually been planning for? Or, for that matter, why he was doing such an odd thing as transporting the Master’s remains from Skaro at the beginning of the (ugh) American movie? It’s so perfect, but also so geeky. We know the Master wasn’t involved in the Time War, but we don’t know what the Master might be up to *in the future* . . .

  20. chrisdonia says:

    I think you’re missing the two most suitable people to play the part: Bonnie Langford or indeed, Kate O’Mara!

    I’ve been longing for a returning Rani since the ‘new’ series appeared. Sigh.

  21. “anti-Martha rants ”

    That’s insane. Martha was awesome… except for the wangst over the Doctor’s blonde fetish. But other than that, he best of the new companions.

  22. Siskoid says:

    Dorian on Drax: I don’t think there is one. He appears in a You-Are-the-Hero type book and briefly as a youth in the awful awful Divided Loyalties, but that’s it as far as I can make out.

    Tim on your idea: (Minus the 7th Doctor’s role) that’s what I thought was going to happen in Last of the Time Lords. The Toclafane would have broken the Doctor’s heart by being the remains of the Time Lords (there’s a paradox machine in the room after all), and the Doctor would have had to destroy them all over again to save humanity. Alas…

    And Martha is da bomb! (By the freak-out, I thought you meant if any Time Lord ever REGENERATED into a non-caucasian… or heck, another gender… fandom would freak out… it almost happened!)

  23. David Thiel says:

    Dorian, you forgot the other horrible thing about the Colin Baker era: that damned costume. First time I saw it was a publicity photo in Starlog. Colin was sitting outside under his equally garish umbrella, and my immediate reaction was, “What’s with the fucking clown?” I think that they might’ve gotten away with the coat, but the complete ensemble was too, too far.

    I was perfectly fine with Freema (who was perfectly fine as well, if you know what I mean), but Martha was overall a disappointment. All they ever seemed to want to do with her was make her Not Rose. I was grateful when Donna showed up, as it was a nice change of pace to have a companion who *wasn’t* hot for the Doctor. I still get a little sad when I think about how Donna was written out. To be honest, she’s probably my second all-time favorite companion (Sarah Jane will always be #1).

    Has it been explicitly stated that the Time Lock has been broken? I was under the impression that was exclusive to Dalek Caan. Not that it would bother me overly much; I was never sure why it was important to the new series that the Doctor be the sole remaining Time Lord. Besides, the idea of both the Daleks and Time Lords being wholly removed from Time never made a lick of sense to me.

  24. Derek says:

    non-white The Rani after The Doctor notices her non-whiteness: Honestly, Doctor, I never understood you aversion to melanin.

    P.S. Martha was the best companion.

    P.P.S. I like the Doctor as “an out and out asshole”. Some of the best Doctors were assholes.

  25. Brian S says:

    O’Neil: The general idea of the Seventh Doctor making an appearance in NewWho does inspire glee in me, as does your specific idea about his return (I’m fantasizing seeing your idea play out in an online fancomic, a sort of darker alternative to Rich’s 10 Doctors). But a return to the Cartmel master plan, or rather the origins the plan assigns the Doctor, is less ‘geeky’ and more ‘wrong.’

  26. Richard T says:

    What about a new career move for the Governor of Alsaka? She’s a fantasy character who can shoot, dominate (why do the Republicans idolise her otherwise?) and can act a part pretty well.

  27. Phil says:

    Although, as well as racist freaking out over Martha, there was also rather more justified anti-racist freaking out from fans once the season ended. For various reasons, most of which boil down to the extreme stupidity and obnoxiousness of making the first black primary companion also the first one to be consciously written as “the one the Doctor didn’t like as much as the previous one”.

    O’Neil: write it as fanfic, because that’s the type of impenetrable continuity-hammering thing that helped get the show cancelled in the 80s.

  28. “I like the Doctor as “an out and out asshole”. Some of the best Doctors were assholes.”

    Yes, because fandom certainly NEEDS more protagonists who are assholes.

  29. Neilalien says:

    I read “Carol Channing is the Rani” and my first thought is, “That ought to make Gallifrey more Sodom and Gomorrable…”

    Damn you Dorian and your 5-Year Anniversary CD! ;)

  30. Earlofthercs says:

    Hey, RE the 7th doctor’s schemes… havent they mentioned something in Torchwood about a strange little man in another office somewhere? Good that little man be seven?

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