Sunday, March 29, 2015

An Alternate History of Female Characters of a Childrens' Programme about Time Travel

Look I know this has been done, like ENDLESSLY, and how a curiously persistent children's programme about a magic alien in a blue box has mysteriously taken hold of the imaginations of vast swathes of the population to conjure up alternative fantasy star casts but that won't stop me.

Face facts Who Spods. Doctor Who is a massive jumped up panjandrum of a charlatan who needs a good kicking. I mean, LOOK at him. Forever gallivanting about the cosmos with his dubiously pliant and trusting Earth based consorts (sorry, 'companions', hahahahahahaha), forever going around and *intervening* and trying to make things better with his own version of what he thinks is best for whichever hell hole of a planet he has landed on, like some Intergalactic Tony Blair.

NO. What That overblown fop needs is CHALLENGE. And the only fictional character that had so far come anywhere close in his smug little universe ('Whoniverse', *vomits*) is THE RANI.
The RANI! THE RANI! THE RANI! I was going to make this an alt history list of female Doctor Who's but its already been done, like 50 times already and all of the choices were *meh*. NO. This is a list of the previous incarnations of THE RANI. As she is INFINITELY BETTER.

Rani 1: c. 1963-1966.
Margaret Rutherford.

Something of an eccentric choice for the ailing actress when approached by comrades in the BBC COMMUNIST cabal, the seasoned actress famous for playing batshit psychic Madam Arcati in Blythe Spirit and batshit Spinster detective Miss Marple (NB: there is a theme that will develop here) nevertheless agreed to take on the role of a mystical time traveling space alien whose adventures with her granddaughter could help the nations' school children with their history homework. Initial script suggestions from the actress that the show be used as a means to break down barriers over gender and sexuality - mindful of her recent adoption of one of Britains' first people to undergo gender reassignment - were however, met with disapproval. The Rani is a magical time travelling shape shifting space alien. Why of COURSE She couldn't change genders. Fears over her health however began to become apparent. In secret, auditions were held for a replacement and a plot device was constructed to explain the change in her appearance that would follow. Actresses Zohra Sehgal and Yootha Joyce were both approached but turned down the role. Producers were getting desperate. They approached....

Rani 2: 1966 - 1970
Flora Robson.

Chosen to replace 1st Rani Rutherford after a period of concern about her health, Robson played up the eccentric elements of the Rani and became the 1st actress to fully realise the explicit feminist dialectic of the role. In an era of Germaine Greer and the women's movement, Robson became the first Rani to expound on the background motives to her escapades. Namely, the overriding need to SMASH INTERGALACTIC PATRIARCHY for the future peace and prosperity of the universe. Aided by trippy visuals and freaky deaky soundtracks by DELIA DERBYSHIRE, this era of The Rani and Her Idiot assistants sketched out her time as a counterculture outlaw, inventing hallucinogenic shampoo to defeat the tyranny of the cosmetics industry.

Unfortunately the BBC wiped most of her shows. Never mid eh Beeb? You've still got all those episodes of Jim'll Fix It that you can show.

Rani 3: 1970-1974.
June Whitfield

AUGUSTA PRODWORTHY in da House! The outwardly conventional actress, later to fully relent on notions of SMASHING PATRIARCHY that she espoused in feminist action film Carry On Girls by appearing in Terry & June, initially took a more genteel approach to the gender warfare subplot but is memorable for the range of bizarre gadgets she invented. Originally part of a tie in with Labour (when that meant COMMUNIST) trade minister Barbara Castle to encourage more girls to take up engineering, Whitfields' Rani was seen explaining the need for equal pay (a nod to the Dagenham Machinists strikers) and the looming environmental catastrophe of nuclear and fossil fuel dependence. Bit grim for a kids show though.

Rani 4: 1974-1975.
Penelope Keith.

Tall? Check. Imperious demeanour? Check. Looks good in a period costume? Check. Often seen as the Definitive Rani by contrarians, Keith in many ways set the standard for many nerdy spod dames in future years. Highlights include radicalising the Sisterhood of Karn into forming a militant feminist sect venerating the SCUM manifesto as their sacred text, and some cobblers with Daleks or something.

Rani 5: 1975-1979.
Diana Rigg.

Pam Grier being otherwise indisposed due to illness and the poor dollar-sterling exchange rate, the Ex Avengeress was chosen to take up the cudgels after posh leftie Penny Keith departed to attempt to subvert bourgeois aspirations for the non existent utopia of subsistence farming in the Good Life and feudalist-migrant romance To The Manor Born, Rigg was one of the few remaining actresses not by then appearing in radical agitprop. There wasn't much for her to do though in this era so she ended up doing cameo's in The Muppets instead.

Rani 6:1979-1993
Kate O'Mara

Well, *obviously*. Infinitely more badass than all the others before or since, Rani 6 remains glorious. Originally conceived as part of an effort to diversify the shows audience to appeal to ethnic minorities - The Rani was meant to have now escaped from an arranged marriage to Khan from Star Trek, O'Mara gave a barnstorming performance as the top time travelling lady psychopath working out her relationship issues through bank robbery and kidnapping of scientists to create all conquering superbrains to ... whatever.

Rani 7: 1993-4
Cathy Tyson.

Given that that the title 'Rani' is derived from the Hindi term for female ruler, and nerdy Spod rival Star Trek's fixation with all-powerful enemies with 'exotic' origins such as Khan (its Orientalism gone Mad), you would think that casting a non-white actress in the lead role for the adventures of The Rani and her hapless boy assistants would not have been that drastic a stretch of the imagination. Tyson lept at the chance offered, during an era when any attractive actress of BME origin invariably was cast as a sex worker or battered wife (or sometimes, daringly, *both*), but the ratings had been on the slide since the departure of Penelope Keith and the baffling story arcs and pretentious dialogue by John Nathan Turner set the seal on the Adventures of The Rani and her Idiot man assistants. The casting of Sylvester McCoy bombed too. Time had passed. Feminism, they said, was dead. Move along, nothing to see here.

There was talk of a reboot. people baulked.

Rani 8:1996.
Amanda Donohoe.

"but, but... ITS OUTRAGEOUS that she is kissing her companion! IT IS NOT DONE!!!AASSKLKSkdkjsbdjkskij *Suirgle HATESqueeeeee*. The mass outpouring of INDIGNATION at the previously UNTHINKABLE notion that a mysterious time travelling renegade intergalactic outlaw could cop off with her hapless adoring assistant (winsome man totty Paul McGann) coupled with the fact that the ill fated reboot was cobblers and everyone was watching the  X-files and Buffy and  Xena Warrior Princess which was like SO much more mature right meant that La Donohoe's tenure in the Femme-TARDIS remains a lost chance that became a cult within a cult. To this day you will meet crazed Rani Obsessives who will tell you that Donohoe's interpretation of the Rani set the template for all future incarnations and she deserves another go. And before any other fuckers ask, YES SHE DOES COUNT AS A PROPER RANI YOU HERETICS.

Rani 9: 2005-6
Daniela Nardini/Sasha Behar


Nardini, aka the main actress from This Life who hasn't ended up on telly in the US unlike the drippy faux Scouser and the twat. Not sure why that is. Some sort of XX chromosome condition? Dunno. The characters in This Life were all fairly punchable but Nardini as Anna retained the saving grace of a razor sharp wit and demeanour that would smash your jaw if you looked at her funny. This being the new Millienium, Behar (Mad Maya from Coronation Street! Why of COURSE!) filled in  as part of a job share and the writer Russell T Davies came up with some guff about alternate realities or fluidity of perception or something. Anyhoo, The Rani was BACK BACK BACK and all of a sudden there was REJOICING as geek ladies finally had someone badass to aspire to be rather than some sodding admiring assistant of that overrated fraud Doctor Who.

Rani 10: 2006-2009
Meghna Malik


Following the departure of Nardini/Behar after 1 series the franchise looked in danger of closing until a masterstroke by Show runner Russell T Davies forced the producers to look abroad. Realising that science fiction is essentially now soap for nerds, the producers drafted in Indian Actress Malik - later to wreak havoc as soap matriarch Ammaji in Na Ana Is Des Laado.

Rani 11: 2009-2013
Tatiana Maslani

"But isn't she a bit young?" wailed a cadre of spod fanz who took this sort of thing far too seriously. And "Woooo! she looks a bit odd but she's GORGE!!!!!!1!!!11!" sqeeeeeeed a whole load of other new fans. A disturbing development to those who'd ALWAYS LIKED THE RANI AND LIKED HER PROPERLY. For the 1st time the Rani was starting to become the object of an unseemly....desire. The gush of hormonally charged erotic fan fiction - from teenage *boys* - started clogging up fan forums listing the obscene things they would like Maslani would do to them. EWWWWW, griped a whole load of middle aged obsessives. But on review now after she left for Orphan Black, she was actually rather marvellous. Like, she can act and stuff. The Fez was a mistake though.

The War Rani:
Glenda Jackson

Like DUUUUH. There couldn't really be anyone else to spit out blood curdling lines promising death and destruction upon all those who had threatened, oh I don't know what the plot line for all this Time War cobblers is about, could there? Just LOOK AT GLENDA. Could you imagine any other actress with that stature stomping around so fabulously? Who? Also, looks a bit gnarled. In a nice way.

Rani 12: 2013-
Siobhan Redmond.

Last seen brandishing a potato peeler on the front cover of a Big Finish Audio drama. Currently fits the main criteria for show runner Steven Moffat of being Scottish and a bit gobby.

Like Michelle Gomez as The Master, then.

But better.

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