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A Defence of Pip and Jane from FanWnak 2

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1 A Defence of Pip and Jane from FanWnak 2 on Mon May 14, 2018 1:01 pm

Between 1985 and 1987, 'Doctor Who faced one of its most deadly times in the BBC schedules and amongst the world of fandom itself. A lot of the blame goes down to the same problems, people not liking the casting of our lead hero, the producer, John Nathan-Turner or possibly the production values but another factor that gets far too much of the blame is husband-and-wife writing team Pip and Jane Baker.

DEFENDING PIP AND JANE BAKER
by Matthew Holsman

The Bakers are guilty of giving us The Mark of the Rani (1985), five instalments of' 1986's Trial of A Time Lora (9-12 and 14) and the 'much-loved' Time And The Rani (1987). But this wasn't their first relationship with the show in question. Friends and co-workers with Torn Baker producer Graham Williams, Pip and Jane were asked to submit a script for him, which they sadly declined. well-known the Williams' era is oozing with jokes, puns and comedy moments (helped somewhat by Torn Baker and script editor Douglas Adams), but when talking about the disappointing outcome of' Thin' And The Raid, the Bakers have admitted they can't do comedy. Part of me can't help but wish they picked up the job over five years, previous, just to see how popular that story would become. Sadly, however, there was no script from our duo until 1985, when they were commissioned to write a story involving another renegade Time Lord, as JNT had supposedly gotten bored of Ainley's Master impersonation.

I think I speak for the majority of the fans, when I say Mark is the best received from the set of four serials and finally gives us another edge in the renegade Time Lord story line, the Doctor/Master relationship having stretched itself to breaking point across the Peter Davison era of the show.

Interestingly, Pip and Jane decided on a female Time Lord (or Lady) to play this new renegade. I know what your thinking, "a female? Written well in Doctor Who in 1985?" but that's exactly what happened with Kate O'Mara's casting as the Rani, who does a brilliant job, but mainly because she has some brilliant dialogue, which she herself admits in a DWM interview with Ben Cook. Sadly, this episode did see its fair share of torture for our budding scriptwriters, labelled on 2006's DVD release as "hugely experienced", as they were also forced to include a third renegade into the mix, with the Master.

The writers thought this was too much, and it's clear to see on paper that fitting in the Doctor, establish new renegade the Rani and supply some material for the aging Master makes a ninety-minute story a little crowded, but no, the Baker's pulled through this and provided some great moments of contrast to their script. On one side we have the Doctor/Peri relationship that relates so well with the Rani/Master storyline provided here. The Master does take a bit of a beating here though, to make the Rani look better, which is one of the lesser aspects of the script. It's nice to see the Master playing a different sort of role, rather than his norm.

More problems mounted for the writers as JNT managed to acquire a free film crew for two weeks, making them have to rewrite large aspects of their script. Personally, I think this is quite right and a good 'money-saving' effort for the producer. As we all know, money had to be saved to spend on that giant tree that looked so amazing in part two. As with all Who stories, different people say different stories, but according to Lords Am') Luddites (from the Mark DVD) , it was no more than changing 'Exterior' to 'Interior', which I'm sure they could handle.

Mark Of The Rani will probably be more memorable for fans that witnessed the original transmission for the breaking news that emerged after it and not the wonderful script or production. It was announced in the week Mark aired, that the show would not be returning, the beginning of the end.

When the show did return, after an eighteen month hiatus and a dodgy "save the children" style musical plea, script editor Eric Saward found it hard to find people who wanted to write for the show and be 'honoured' with a Doctor Who credit on their resume.

But here to save the day was good old Pip and Jane, back for more as they were given parts nine to twelve of Trial of A Time Lord to write, subtitled Terror of The Vervoids.
Again, I don't see problems big enough to give Pip and Jane the reputation they seem to have been labelled with. The story is another cracker, not highly memorable by any means, but it’s certainly not dull. We get an Agatha Christie mystery, full of red herrings and multiple suspects, brilliant guest stars with the likes of Honor Blackman and if that wasn't enough, there's even phallic looking monsters! Who could want more than that?

Well, JNT, actually, as he demanded the courtroom scenes making up the Trial got injected every ten minutes or whenever we needed the same cliffhanger for fourteen weeks. I think it’s safe to say that everybody tired of those scenes, as they broke up the fun storyline in between. Personally, I think if Terror Of The l' maid.' was its own story and not swamped with court scenes it would be hailed almost as a classic, as it's a bit of a mould between The Robots Of Death and The Seeds of Doom, two of the all-time greatest stories from the series. Surely putting these two stories together equals instant success?

One of the tasks JNT, nice bloke so far isn't he'?, gave to our favourite writers was that Terror of The Vervoids had to be 100% studio based, no location work could be given. Personally, if I was the writer I'd love this challenge. Another one of Pip and Jane's problems, though, is this story had been done once or twice in the Whoniverse before. As I said earlier, 1977's The Robots of Death was a similar story, Agatha Christie-esque, the plant-life monster had been done in The Seeds of Doom, and so the story comes out feeling not quite the most original, hidden amongst the fourteen-part epic.

But an unoriginal albeit decent working story in no way accounts for what happened to the Bakers next, as they appeared on the BBC show Open Air. This appears as an extra on the final disc in the Trial of A Time Lord box set and is in no way pleasant to watch. Pip and Jane are, for want of a better word, bullied by a gang of Scousers from the DWAS (Doctor Who Appreciation Society). Chris Chibnell tells them their stories are full of rubber monsters and running down corridors and accuses them of just being plain old boring. A mighty big insult coming from the man who gave us a poor rehash of Dr. Who And The Siluriuans (1970) last year.

It's times like this when it stops becoming fun to be a Doctor Who fan, yes there are stories that are truly abysmal and there are stories obviously destined to be classics, but there is no excuse for bullying two aging scriptwriters who have done their best to create a decent, watchable piece of children's television. The ordeal this couple went through is pathetic, Robert Holmes never had to sit through this for giving us The Space Pirates, Russell T Davies never had to sit down for a bullying because of The Long Game so why should two old experts get it for a pretty decent attempt?

As I recover from my Open Air torture, I turn to the horrid production problems The Ultimate Ere gave our challengers. I think it's fair to say that the legendary Bob Holmes from the 1970s best years were behind us, after The Two Doctors, and The Mysterious Planet both ranked low in Doctor Who Magazine's The Mighty 201) list, ranking all stories in order of love (might I point out here, as well, that Terror of The Vervoids came higher than the first eight episodes of this story). But nevertheless, Holmes continued giving us the Doctor Who we apparently wanted and scripted episode thirteen of Trial, marking the two-episode finale. Very tragically, Bob passed away before writing the big finale and arguments between Saward and JNT created another rift, leaving the producer with no script editor, no writers and the episode fourteen deadline.

Enter Pip and Jane Baker to the rescue! They were brought in at the eleventh hour, given three days to write a worthy twenty-five minute script to round off an entire season of episodes, with only a list of locations they had to include, due to them being pre-booked. I think a lot of people forget the enormous trouble and strain these two were under, and episode fourteen of Trial is a fantastic piece of television, even more so with the understanding of the production troubles.

This marked the end of Pip and Jane's run of stories for the sixth incarnation of the Doctor, but not before he provides a few kind words of his own, when interviewed in DWM 322, he points out that "You never, never, find any plot glitches in Pip and Jane's writing. They are meticulous in their research and they understood the role of the Doctor". Very high praise, coming from a Time Lord.

There were one or two plot glitches in their final story of the show, Time And The Rani however, as Alan Barnes pointed out in his Fact or Fiction article on the episode, such as how can the Rani unlock the Doctor's TARDIS or lock onto one person’s POV using the television monitor? But before we get into all the events from the Rani's second appearance, it's time to look back at the casting of Doctor number seven.

JNT, for reasons made (mostly) known to us, had to fire Cohn Baker, giving him the trouble of finding a new Doctor. Enter Pip and Jane Baker to the rescue! Sounding familiar? JNT asked them for their casting advice, to which they suggested David Warner, who later played the role in the Big Finish series Unbound. When, quite rightly, Sylvester McCoy was cast as the Doctor, Pip and Jane weren't quite sure on the idea.

The disbelief in Sly McCoy grew and grew, as they hated Time Am) The Rani themselves, as it entered the production stage. From various interviews, it's told how it was JNT's idea for a lot of the serials 'brilliant' ideas. Here's a run through of JNT-inspired direction: McCoy to play what can only be gathered as 'intergalactic' spoons (otherwise who knows how they got there, let alone what importance they have in the Rani's HQ). Sly has admitted liking the scene as he got to attack Kate O'Mara's front, but also went on to say it wasn't a fantastic scene. Unhappily Pip and Jane gave us lines such as "Time waits for snowman" but it was Nathan-Turner's idea for the Doctor to mix aphorisms, to make him differ from Colin Baker. Both the writers nor script editor Andrew Cartmel liked the idea and it was very quickly dropped.

The slapstick, comedy element seems to come from a mixture of' producer and main star, to which McCoy owns up for in The Last Chance Saloon (a bonus feature on the stories DVD), saying how there was too much comedy and not enough drama. The costume changes in the TARDIS wardrobe, whilst a decent scene, even more so for fans who jumped at the chance to see Troughton's 'yeti coat' or Peter Davison’s cricket whites one last time, goes on a little too long for the Bakers. Whilst not a JNT decision (this one fell to director Andrew Morgan), the idea for the story to be set in a quarry (filmed in three!) was a change from the scripts. The original idea was to set it in a lush forest, filled with greenery. Whilst definitely more attractive to the camera, it's hard to judge which is the better idea without seeing both filmed.

My final defence for the Bakers is that their final script was written as a swansong to their friend and namesake, Colin Baker. It was only about halfway through writing the four-part script that they were told the bad news, and had to rewrite it before the next Doctor was cast! You can imagine how hard that must be, the only people who have done it successfully are the new series show runners, although they had time to redraft and had an idea in mind for who to play the role. I know what you're all shouting, 1966's Power Of The Dalekd is a fantastic script for a new Doctor, but it was masterfully rewritten after it had left author David Whitaker's hand, who'd written it 'loosely' for the part of William Hartnell.

To face all these problems and still provide us with four fantastic stories across eleven scripts is a wonderful achievement. As fans we owe a lot to the Bakers, as not many writers would even touch Doctor Who from the mid-eighties. And if you still don't like them, then how's this? The Mark Of The Rani is one of only two stories from the 1985 series not involving a character with a hidden face leading to a dramatic close-up because he's got some bad prosthetics on. Time elm) The Rani is the most accomplished and professional script from the 1987 series, I still can't get over all the terribly edited footage of McCoy on the back of a scooter with Benny Hill music from Delta And The Bannermen. And Bonnie Langford didn't scream that much in the original script for Terror of The Vervoid. Simply put, Pip and Jane are the most determined, most experienced, most friendly writers from Doctor Who's most troubled times on screen and have been rewarded for it in the worst way possible. We should praise these people for giving us great stories at a bad time and learn to love the Rani stories again. After all, they didn't write Dimension In Time, did they?



Last edited by Mr. Happy on Tue May 15, 2018 12:39 am; edited 1 time in total

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2 Re: A Defence of Pip and Jane from FanWnak 2 on Mon May 14, 2018 1:10 pm

I don't have time to read this now as I have to get back to work, but IMO Pip and Jane are unfairly bashed.

The only terrible story they wrote was Time and the Rani, and that was poor for many reasons, not all of which were even down to the plot.

The Mark of the Rani is a classic and the Rani is the last great original villain in Classic Who (obviously you get great one offs after her, but she was the last one who really had potential to be another archenemy.)

Their Trial of a Time Lord scripts are probably the best part of that season, and they had a lot of interesting ideas. I don't get the hate for them personally.

I'd much rather they were making the show than that little punk who attacked them on air. (I might add their choice for the Doctor, David Warner would have been awesome too!)

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