Doctor Who: Mark of the Rani, The (Episode 140) (DVD)
Fans of the Colin Baker-era Doctor Who (which is somewhat underrepresented on DVD) will be pleased with this terrific and well-liked serial from 1985 that pits Baker's Doctor and Peri (Nicola Bryant) against not one but two formidable foes against the backdrop of the Industrial Revolution in 19th-century England. The villains in question are the Doctor's longtime antagonist, the Master (Anthony Ainsley), who despite appearing to perish in 1984's Planet of Fire is back for more world domination, and the Rani (UK TV vet and former Hammer starlet Kate O'Mara), a cold and calculating renegade Time Lady whose experiments on the population of a mining town are turning the citizens into savage killers. Scripted by the husband-and-wife team of Pip and Jane Baker (who wrote three additional Doctor Who serials, as well as for Space: 1999), Rani is a literate and exciting Baker episode, well buoyed by O'Mara's elegantly evil performance and clever touches like the Doctor's brainstorming session with real-life engineering legend George Stephenson.
Chief among the wealth of extras on the Mark of the Rani DVD is a commentary track featuring a typically charming Baker and Bryant, who are joined by O'Mara; Baker, in particular, shines here by giving a considerable amount of production information along with personal reminiscences. "Lords and Luddites" is a 43-minute featurette about the serial's conception and production (narrated by UK television personality Louise Brady) that's chock full of interviews with the cast and crew, including the Bakers and composer Jonathan Gibbs (who is also profiled in a short interview piece), who replaced John Lewis, who died during production (both composers' soundtracks are offered in isolated music tracks). A battery of deleted and extended scenes, a return jaunt to the production locations, related clips from the children's TV programs Blue Peter and Saturday Superstore, and the by-now standard photo gallery, text-only information track, and PDF files for the Doctor Who Annual and Radio Times listings round out the supplements. --Paul Gaita