Actress Kate O’Mara has passed away at the age of 74 after a brief illness; she had been active, doing a one-woman show on the stage up to last summer, but her health apparently went downhill rapidly. Soap-opera fans know her as Cassandra Morell from “Dynasty”, but Whovians know her as the Rani, a villainous Time Lady scientist who put her own personal scientific goals ahead of ethics, morality, or, well, anything, really. We first met the Rani during Colin Baker’s first season, using Jacobite riots during the Industrial Revolution as cover for a scheme to extra critical sleep hormones from humans to help pacify the native population of a planet she had enslaved (the natives of that planet having become violent as an unexpected side effect of her experimentation). She found herself an unwilling ally of the Master against the Doctor, but the two villains were not truly allied and got in one another’s way often enough to allow the Doctor to prevail. We saw her again, hijacking the TARDIS and inadvertently causing the Doctor to regenerate into Sylvester McCoy; while he struggled with post-regenerative trauma and the difficulty of working out his new identity, she impersonated his companion, Melanie Bush, in a plot to get him to complete her collection of genius minds to enslave in a biological supercomputer in her quest for a material called Loyhargil. O’Mara’s performance in both episodes was devious yet forthright, unwilling to waste time with fools, and also devastatingly gorgeous — a sort of opposite River Song, in a way. Although her second outing, “Time and the Rani”, was honestly not a particularly good story (and plagued with production problems — including inadequate budget and also the absent Colin Baker, who understandably refused to film the regeneration scene after having had his contract terminated a season early), her impersonation of Mel is almost eerie, and the whole thing is worth it just for her. Kate O’Mara really was an excellent baddie, and the world will miss her.
She reprised the role one more time, for “Dimensions in Time”, the Children in Need charity special from 1993 that crossed Doctor Who with EastEnders, playing the principal villain whose meddling draws various Doctors together (including the final appearance of Jon Pertwee as the Doctor).