By Will Barber – Taylor
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?
The Rani Elite is the culmination of a Big Finish’s most recent trilogy with the 6th Doctor which began with The Widow’s Assassin and continued with Masters of Earth. Like the previous two audios it questions The Doctor’s relationship with his companion, Peri (Nicola Byrant) but also puts The Doctor’s own morality into a new light as he is put up against one of his most immoral villains; The Rani (Siobhan Redmond), a Time Lord scientist who goes to any extremes to achieve her twisted goals.
The central point of the drama is a question of morality. This is an interesting choice for a Sixth Doctor audio and author Justin Richards should be applauded for it because The Sixth Doctor is often known for his questionable ethics. By putting him up against an advisory who is not only as intelligent as him but someone who also puts The Doctor’s possibly dodgy ethics into comparison with her own complete lack of ethics, it makes The Doctor seem even more of a hero more than he does when he is up against an enemy who are evil simply because they don’t know any different – like the Daleks for instance. This comparison emphasis The Doctor’s better quality while putting his sometimes dodgy actions into a much more understandable light when compared with The Rani’s worst actions which are much more deplorable than The Doctor’s.
The main plot point of morality is underpinned with The Doctor’s relationship with Peri. Throughout the trilogy, The Doctor has been reminded either by Peri or by himself of his failure to save her as he originally intended to do. This comes to a climax in the middle of the story when The Doctor realizes he might have lost Peri forever – again. The Doctor’s morality and the question of whether it can be changed to save his friends and if doing that it makes him as morally void as The Rani is something which Richards uses to further illustrate the point of The Doctor’s heroism. By not acting immorally to save his friend, The Doctor proves that he can save his companion but also that he can do it without impending his deepest ethics.
Siobhan Redmond gives a fantastic performance as The Rani. While the absence of the late Kate O’Mara can’t be ignored when listening to the story; there are of course tinges of O’Mara’s performance but Redmond does not directly copy O’Mara’s unique performance as The Rani. She takes essential parts of it (such as her wit, fierce intelligence etc) and brings them to form part of her own interpretation of her character.
Overall, The Rani Elite is a terrific look at morality and the morality of a hero whose ethics can be sometimes be questioned. By putting The Doctor against an enemy who truly lacks morality it makes us realize that The Doctor is really moral and that simply because he makes bad decisions or sometimes does not react to situations in the same way as a human does doesn’t mean that he is a bad person.