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Kate O’Mara: An Appreciation

Guest contributor Francis Milan pays tribute to the late Rani actress.

the rani

There’s no argument about how much of a brilliant and awe-inspiring role Kate O’Mara had to play in Doctor Who in the late 1980s. She’s the esteemed actress who graced our screens as the Rani, one of the fandom’s all-time favourite antagonists, who transformed a fairly rusty pair of serials into two wonderful pieces of Who history.

First materialising onto our screens in 1985 for the famously okay-ish The Mark of the Rani, O’Mara captivated audiences with her inimitable zeal and watchability, performing alongside the Master as portrayed by Anthony Ainley. They made for a fantastic pairing, which emphasised how quickly Kate managed to acclimatise to the role. It was an important part to play; the Doctor, the Master and the Rani were familiar with each other since their youth, before taking completely different paths upon leaving Gallifrey. O’Mara was perfectly cast, completing the Time Lord trio with style.

Moving on to 1987, the Rani came back for the opening episode of the Seventh Doctor’s era. Here, Kate was really in her element, and served us her finest outing as the iconic villainess. For the majority of the first episode, the Rani cunningly disguised herself as the Seventh Doctor’s bubbly loudmouth companion Mel. This resulted in some truly commendable acting from Kate, as she switched between the vivacious Mel façade and her cold, shrewd Time Lord persona. In fact, she even surpassed the quality of Sylvester McCoy’s début performance, bringing refreshing vigour to the notoriously below-par Time and the Rani script.

Behind the scenes, Kate’s love for Doctor Who was especially apparent. In 1986, having recently played a lead role in popular US soap opera Dynasty, she was struck with a decision to make – stay in sunny California to perform among American superstars, or return to a wet and muddy quarry to film the new series of Doctor Who. And lo and behold, she returned to Britain, choosing to reprise her role as the Rani on Doctor Who. It really says a lot about how much she adored the show, doesn’t it?

Following her two major Doctor Who appearances, she would reprise her role twice more: once in 1993 charity special Dimensions In Time, and again in 2000 for audio adventure The Rani Reaps the Whirlwind. On top of that, she’s been no stranger to the show in recent years, meeting fans at conventions and enthusing about fond memories of the often divisive serials she appeared in, and she was such a lovely person for every fan who had the good fortune to meet her.

We may all jest from time to time about wishing the Rani to return – though her characterisation lacks somewhat in the writing department, Kate’s performance more than compensates for it. At heart, thousands upon thousands of Doctor Who fans really would have long to have seen more of her. And following Kate’s marvellous portrayal – is it any wonder why?

In loving memory of Kate O’Mara (10 August 1939 – 30 March 2014). Gone, but most definitely never forgotten.

Step back in time...

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50 comments
Gustaff
Gustaff

Know what's really sad?


I'm almost 90% certain that the Classic era villain making their debut later this year in the Six+Peri audios is the Rani. She is the only villain left as everyone else has been featured by Big Finish:

Daleks, Cybermen, Master, Autons, Silurians, Macra, Toymaker, Davros, Omega, Sontarans, Valeyard, Kraags, Black Guardian

They all have made the roster

Americanwhovian
Americanwhovian

Am I the only one who realy liked mark of the rani and thought time and the rani was ok

VERITASERUMUK
VERITASERUMUK

I have never agreed with Steven Moffat's excuse as to why he never brought the Rani back: "People always ask me, 'Do you want to bring back the Rani?' No one knows who the Rani is."  This is simply not true. Any new fan of the series (ie those who from 2005-present) likely did not know who the Master was or even Davros before they returned. They may (and I stress may) have recognized the Daleks and Cybermen, but whose to say they knew them? Any die hard fan of the Classic era will know who the Rani is. Now it is too late to have Kate regenerate into a younger body - despite her willingness to return.





PK-S
PK-S

Kate O'Mara was a talent. A wonderful, cool, sophsticated, beautiful talent. She brought something to the Rani, I think Richelle Mead (who wrote her into her great Sixth Doctor e-book, last year) described the character as having a specific haughtiness. She was so condescending to the Doctor and even the Master and all through O'Mara's superlative acting.

At the Doctor Who Celebration she was fun and lively; a complete hoot. She even dressed up an ensemble deliberately echoing the Rani's notorious glitzy wardrobe.

She was, like so many of the people who have contributed to the show, a crucial asset of Doctor Who and one of the best things about the Baker/McCoy era. I'm serious, she took a undeveloped character and tried to inject as much into it. The Rani wouldn't be the Rani without Kate O'Mara.

Farewell, Kate O'Mara - you will be missed. Always.

A lovely tribute, Moxxy - excellent stuff.

Polyphase
Polyphase

Lovely tribute. I'm going to miss all those posts asking for the Rani to return :)

Deus_Ex_Machina
Deus_Ex_Machina

Wow that was great. I've never been all that fond of the Rani as a character, but Kate O'Mara's performance and dedication to the show was truly legendary and she will be missed.

It's only a shame she never did a Big Finish audio.

Pockydon
Pockydon

Kate O'Mara is a perfect example of how a good performance can completely make up for faults in writing, she was a brilliant woman and will be missed. RIP.

Regenerated Catterson
Regenerated Catterson

I was sad when I heard she had passed away. I mean, my heart was torn apart (Not that it was the first time this month) and I was gutted to hear Kate died. She was a fantastic actress and she even expressed her interest as returning as The Rani for Doctor Who (Which I think would be great). Like I said, it's a shame she died and may she rest in peace :( Another Who Legend leaves us :( </3

Adric the Genius
Adric the Genius

It's a shame that she is dead.  At 74, she still had a few years left in her; if only she could have returned to the role.

TheOncomingSnow
TheOncomingSnow

@Gustaff  Would it have been possible for Kate to have recorded? I'm fairly sure Caroline John managed to do so in her last few months, so we can hope.

Gustaff
Gustaff

@Americanwhovian No! I LOVED IT. It was a gorgeous script. One of Colin's best. For the first time in DW history the Doctor went up against TWO Time Lord enemies at once. That is an awesome idea.

TheOncomingSnow
TheOncomingSnow

@VERITASERUMUK  In addition to my earlier comment, if the Rani was brought back before The Day of the Doctor, we'd need an explanation as to how she also escaped the Time War, preferably one that didn't involve another fob watch. 

TheOncomingSnow
TheOncomingSnow

@VERITASERUMUK  I think people misunderstood Moffat's comments on this matter. He keeps things under wraps and lies so we're pleasantly surprised when our expectations are proven false, even at the risk of receiving vitriol from the fans. People keep falling for it and it's honestly becoming embarrassing. See 'no classic Doctors'. 


Also, though, you bring back a villain when you have a story to tell. You don't tell fans you're going to bring something back before you have an idea of how. To be honest, to me, the Rani was a poor villain, greatly elevated by Kate O'Mara. There is no real reason for the character to return any more,


Creepy_Ghoul
Creepy_Ghoul

@VERITASERUMUK Bringing back an old character from Classic Who is a good way to convince new Who fans to watch the Classic series.

Polyphase
Polyphase

@VERITASERUMUK As NeutronFlow said, He brought back The Great Intelligence and no one under 50 would have seen that before. I think he picked The G.I. because he never thought that The Web of Fear would be found so his work couldn't be compared to the original where as The Rani Is so well known and loved he felt that he couldn't match it

Meh Meh Meh Meh Meh
Meh Meh Meh Meh Meh

@VERITASERUMUK  I've never seen a complete classic episode and I know who the Rani is. If you don't know who she is, then the show will TEACH you! It's like ANY character! Nobody knew who Rose was until she showed up. 

The MasterDoctor
The MasterDoctor

@VERITASERUMUK "No one knows who the Rani is."  If that's the case, as Moffat seems to believe, then here's what you, as a writer, do:  TEACH THEM WHO THE RANI IS! 


Just as with the Master and Davros, as VERITASERUMUK put it.  The majority of new fans didn't know of the Master or Davros, so the writers had to teach them - or show them.  Yes, that's it.  Show them.  Television is a visual medium.  So that's what the production needs to do with a character like the Rani.  SHOW those new fans who the Rani is. 


This is what capable, talented writers/producers (etc.) do. 



Malohkeh
Malohkeh

@VERITASERUMUK I have a lot new series fans as friends, and when I mention characters like the Rani, they haven't the faintest clue what I'm talking about. A lot of newer fans just can't be bothered to look up stuff about the classic series (particularly the casual fans).

VERITASERUMUK
VERITASERUMUK

R.I.P. Kate O'Mara. I remember when she was in the prison drama Bad Girls (on ITV1) and she was pretending to be disabled to win sympathy with the courts. Her lies were later discovered when a bucket was being dropped on her head. She got out of the wheelchair and ran over the side of the room.

NeutronFlow
NeutronFlow

@PK-S  Very nicely done Patrick. 

Couldn't have put it better myself! :)

Deus_Ex_Machina
Deus_Ex_Machina

The Rani can still return, it just sadly can't be with Kate O'Mara reprising the role. There's not many actresses who could follow on from her though.

Moxx
Moxx

@NeutronFlow  Thank you. I was so shocked and saddened upon hearing of her passing that I just had to express my admiration of her Doctor Who career. She truly was a gift to the Who world.

Deus_Ex_Machina
Deus_Ex_Machina

I agree. I didn't like the character or either of the stories she was in, but her acting was brilliant and she pushed the writing to its very limits. Truly one of the shows greatest actresses and a truly great loss to the acting world.

Gustaff
Gustaff

Usually the audios are recorded six months in advance of release. Going by that, i suspect that either its already been recorded or the script will have to be replaced. Oh and i think u mean mary tamm, not cj

VictorWong1
VictorWong1

Escape? I'd argue that she ignored it.

The Rani is exactly the type of personality who wouldn't obey a summons from Gallifrey to go to war; she'd consider them too petty to let them interrupt her work. She'd probably consider herself smart enough to avoid any impressment campaign against her.

NeutronFlow
NeutronFlow

@The MasterDoctor @VERITASERUMUK Couldn't agree more. 

Moffat is the man who said ' No-one knows the Rani so i can't bring her back' and then went on to resurrect ' The Great Intelligence ' last seen in the 1960's. 

His arguments do not stack up, he makes it up as he goes along to suit his own agenda.

He says he writes intelligently and does not dumb-down. If that is so, then why does he treat his audience as if they are idiots? 


NeutronFlow
NeutronFlow

@Malohkeh @VERITASERUMUK  Well then. It's up to us more seasoned fans to educate the New-Who apprentices about the rich history of Doctor Who. 

It's fair to say that while 2005+ viewers have an opinion relevant to their viewing experience, it can't possibly be as valid as that of someone who is better acquainted with the show as a whole.


SEDAKRO XIV
SEDAKRO XIV

@TheOncomingHurricane @Gustaff  According to Wiki. Marry Tamm recorded seven new Doctor Who audio adventures for Big Finish Productions shortly before her death, and they were released in 2013 as Series 2 of the Fourth Doctor Adventures...



TheOncomingSnow
TheOncomingSnow

@Gustaff  I don't know whether Tamm also did this, but Caroline's last audio story was released in October 2012, 4 months after her death, having been recorded in January of that year.

TheOncomingSnow
TheOncomingSnow

@VictorWong1  She couldn't have ignored the war, even of she ignored the summons. Every time-sensitive being was aware of and impacted by it. And I believe she would have found the horrors of the Time War fascinating, and her head could have been turned if offered the opportunity to experiment on Daleks and Time Lords alike. The Master was given a regeneration cycle to tempt him, The Rani could have been tempted in this way.

NeutronFlow
NeutronFlow

@TheOncomingHurricane @VERITASERUMUK @NeutronFlow @The MasterDoctor You, in fact are missing my point. 

Moffat is treating fans as idiots by coming out with such an obviously ridiculous excuse. 

Surely if he thought more of the fans his justification for the non-inclusion would be far more plausible. 

How can we be surprised about something which due to lazy lies we strongly suspect will happen?


Lastly, i'll thank you to leave the childish cloaked insults at the door when replying.

VERITASERUMUK
VERITASERUMUK

@TheOncomingHurricane @VERITASERUMUK @NeutronFlow @The MasterDoctor  In my opinion, whether or not he ever planned to bring the Rani back during his era there is a good chance he would not have done so prior to Gallifrey being saved. However, I'm sure he could have thought up a way to bring a Time Lord/Lady back (like RTDs did for the Master). Look at The Doctor's Wife. The Doctor replied to Rory regarding no Time Lords in the Universe with: "There are no Time Lords left in the universe, but the universe isn't where we're going!"

TheOncomingSnow
TheOncomingSnow

@VERITASERUMUK @NeutronFlow @The MasterDoctor  You're missing the point. This was very obviously a fob off explanation.




The GI had no narrative obstacle to being brought back, whereas with the Rani, pre-Day simply could not without finding an alternative to the fob watch plot or just repeating it. Moffat fobs us off and lies to keep his plans under wraps so we can be surprised. He could have planned for a Rani return or he might not have had an idea for it, but pre-Day, that's all irrelevant. And now we'll probably never know. 


You say Moffat treats his audience as if they are idiots, he doesn't, but this comment chain is an excellent argument for it.





VERITASERUMUK
VERITASERUMUK

@NeutronFlow @The MasterDoctor @VERITASERUMUK  That is a good point actually. How many New-Who fans would have known of the Great Intelligence before The Snowmen? The Abominable Snowmen only has one episode found and the majority of The Web of Fear was only found last year. The Rani stories have been out for a while.