Justin Richards tale, The Rani Elite, is of great interest to fans as it adds the Rani to the Big Finish portfolio. It also gives us Siobhan Redmond as the next incarnation of this brilliant yet evil time lord. Fan interest aside, is this story a decent tale in its own right? How does this newly re-formed Peri / Sixth Doctor pairing cope with machinations of the Rani?
The synopsis from the product page is:
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?
By the time the Doctor arrives at the CAGE, the Rani’s plans are well advanced. They involve a two-pronged plot, something that helps this story stand out. There is a plot to take over the students and lecturers using her brain scanner and also an even more sinister plot involving the minds removed from their bodies. There are also many references to early life on Gallifrey when the Rani and the Doctor (and others) formed an association of sorts (and this also links in various other bits of canon too subtle for me to recall). There is also the twist that this Rani is post all TV incarnations (inevitably as the actor has changed) and so has already met the Seventh Doctor! This extra twist adds to the sense of craft pervading the whole piece.
If there is a complaint with the plot (and perhaps this arc) it is that once again Peri is subject to mind manipulation and once more taken over. A nice echo to the setup for the trilogy perhaps, but maybe one story without mental shenanigans would be nice. Of course all ends well, and we are hopeful for further encounters!
[pullquote]dry, sardonic in places and manic[/pullquote]
Siobhan Redmond is excellent; dry, sardonic in places and manic. The chemistry between her, the Doctor and Peri works well, and she has a distinct identity of her own (useful in this post-Missy world). The sound is wonderful, Ken Bentley’s directing spot on (as ever) and Nicola excels in the multi-personality scenes (even if I think we’ve had too many recently).
The plot never fusses over the Rani’s regeneration and it is clear from this that the new Rani is here to stay and I look forward to her return.