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Doctor Who Regenerations: A Tribute To 11 Epic Changes

11. September 1987: Sixth/Seventh Doctor

"Leave the girl, it's the man I want". The Rani's entrance during the opening moments of Time And The Rani was the most memorable scene of the entire story, which is a bit sad. There was virtually zero chance of the production team of the day kicking off Time And The Rani without a regeneration sequence. Sadly, the media coverage of what had transpired in the lead up to September 1987 ensured that the actor who was actually underneath the Sixth Doctor's technicolour dream coat and blonde curls was no secret. Unsurprisingly, following his unceremonious dumping from the role of the Doctor earlier in 1987, Colin Baker had politely declined the offer of returning to record a regeneration sequence. So it fell to the new Seventh Doctor actor Sylvester McCoy to don the Sixth Doctor's coat of many colours and some curly blonde horse hair, along with a spot of technical wizardry to ensure that the solo double act wasn't obvious. Since the technical wizardry would've been needed anyway, an extra few seconds of the same effect was presumably no big ask. Relative to the brilliant quality of the CGI at the head of the previous season's opener, the CGI sequence here - in which the TARDIS is buffeted about, before being sucked down a rainbow-coloured vacuum onto the surface of a planet with pink sky - was about as low grade as it comes. The key difference was that the opening sequence of Trial Of A Timelord still looks good twenty-seven years later; this one - broadcast a year and a day after Trial Of A Timelord - even looked rubbish at the time. Save for the Rani's entrance, all camp and overblown in its very understatedness, from there it only went further downhill than it had already gone up until that point! Cue Keff McCulloch's offensive score. Almost nothing about Time And The Rani has aged well and McCulloch's work, making its debut in this episode, has fought off the ravages of Father Time even less effectively than all of the many other travesties of this story combined. (Incidentally, those travesties include, but are not limited to, The Rani's hair, The Rani's shoulder pads, The Rani's shiny top; the Lakertyans; Mel's jumpsuit and Mel's spiral perm.) In stumbles the goofy-looking Tetrap who, finding the Doctor lying face down on the floor, turns him over to discover his facial features distorted and aglow, the regeneration process already well underway. Unlike other regeneration sequences from the classic series, which typically involved two different actors, here the most obvious features to change actually didn't - the eyebrows, the eye line, the nose, the ears, the mouth, the chin... all unchanged. Knowing it's the same person under there the whole time seriously detracts from the highly anticipated magic of ushering one Doctor out and another Doctor in. It might just as well have been animated, for all the emotional gravitas it conveyed. No doubt the producers did their best in less than ideal circumstances. But when you make do, there's always a trade-off and the trade-off here was quality on virtually every level. The result is the least memorable regeneration of the entire series.
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