The Watcher Cat

The Watcher Cat

Sunday, March 30, 2014

In Memoriam, Kate O'Mara

I am sorry to see that Kate O'Mara has died, age 74. As my friend Nick Kaufman notes, she was best known for her turn in Dynasty, but (like Nick) I remember her best as the recurring villain the Rani on Doctor Who.

Like Nick, I have to admit that the three stories she appeared in where rubbish; that said, as I wrote in 2012:
Doctor No. 7, Sylvester McCoy, opens inauspiciously with Time and the Rani--a hasty, weak regeneration, a Rani-plot that's more like the Ainley Master on a bad day, and more running around in a quarry. Also Bonnie Langford screams. A lot, and quite loudly. We're talking Chekov in Star Trek II, Fay Wray, only miked. Scream, Bonnie, scream.

I quite like McCoy's clowning as he finds his feet, especially his spoon-playing. And Kate O'Mara wins the good sport of the year award, doing an extended impression of a woman a quarter of a century her junior, as the Rani dupes the Doctor into thinking she is his companion Mel.
The sequence goes on longer than it should, but is especially funny as McCoy's clowning frustrates the seething Rani, who needs the Doctor's experience and equipment, and is taking advantage of his being in a daze after regenerating from Colin Baker. Needless to say, the first thing he must do is lose the outfit:

O'Mara's dead-on impression of Bonnie Langford's voice and mannerisms is all the more funny for the fact that the two women look nothing like each other. And, in fact, that the 80's getup which Langford wears comfortably (at last, a companion who can run without twisting an ankle), is clearly making the more formal Rani twitch with discomfort. The best bits are when the Rani can barely keep up the pretense--O'Mara playing the Rani playing Mel is a hoot, as all the Rani-isms insist on creeping through the chirpy take-off of Langford.

The Telegraph notes that she had a tumultuous life, but that she found ways to cope with adversity:
Late in life she talked how she had overcome her own bouts of depression: “particularly during my first marriage break-up 31 years ago. But I’ve since learnt a cure for depression: listening to J.S. Bach and reading P.G. Wodehouse. This got me through the break-up of my second marriage 17 years ago. The great thing about Wodehouse is that his books are full of romantic problems and yet so hilarious that it puts things in perspective.” The quiet country life in occassional retirement in Somerset suited her. “I’m not frightened of dying, but I love the countryside so much and I’m going to miss it. I’d like to be out in the wind and the trees for ever.”
Not a bad formula, that--Bach, Plum (Wodehouse), and nature. I'll bear it mind when the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune come my way, and meanwhile salute a brave lady who faced them down with élan.

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