Tag Archives: the master

The Project Manager’s guide to Doctor Who: The Mark Of The Rani

forest face

“I doubt the Rani ever does ANYTHING at random,” says the Doctor. But is her project management sense really as strong as her fashion sense? Let’s find out.

1. SET A CLEAR GOAL

Manic miners

In The Mark of the Rani we see a classic example of a fix-up project. A larger strategic project has gone wrong – in this instance, the Rani’s experiments on her planet Miasimiah Goria have heightened her slaves’ awareness as planned, but lowered their ability to sleep – and an offshoot tactical recovery project is initiated. Wisely, the Rani stages her subsidiary project offsite in Victorian England, where her activities will cause no disruption to the mother portfolio. Her metrical objective is to collect enough brain fluid to restore the balance at home, and from everything we see of her I’m confident in assuming she’s planned out her milestones and set a clear endpoint. A great start.

2. ESTIMATING AND PLANNING

bathhouse

Most establishments would charge you extra for this sort of thing

The Doctor’s surprised to see the Rani’s volcano screen-print as he reckons her tastes are sterile. But in fact all the indicators on her balanced scorecard expose her as a fun-lover. Her chosen methodology revolves around milking miners, for a start. And there’s an element of cosplay to the whole thing, with her man-slaves adorned in fetishwear and her own time spent dressed up as an old lady watching rugged Geordies getting naked. (Is the Doctor into that too? “When we went past the bath house that instrument of yours reacted!” squeaks Peri at one point.) She might claim she sees everyone as just “walking bags of chemicals” but I’ve heard better excuses.

Most excitingly for a Doctor Who villain, the Rani actually understands marketing too. We see her sending a child running off to the tavern with a penny and instructions to tell the men there’s still a bit of hot water left if they hurry. Crafting scarcity into your call to action is a time-honoured technique for driving footfall.

So her skillset includes attention to detail AND flair. And on learning she’s been doing this sort of thing undetected on Earth for centuries, even the Doctor has to concede she’s a brilliant tactician.

3. CONTINGENCY

glitter

Peri gets glitterfaced and shafted

Theres a consequence to her removing chemicals from miners’ brains of course.  One minute they’re enjoying a friendly spot of post-bath towel flicking, the next they’re kicking potatoes everywhere and smashing machinery to pieces. But she’s factored for this resultant aggression and keeps well out of the way when the lads are getting lairy.

There’s nothing to suggest the Rani’s project wouldn’t have successfully delivered had she been left to her own devices. But even so, she’s well prepared for any eventuality with a state-of-the-art remote-controlled TARDIS, the insanely camp touch of a glittery pellet bomb built into her bracelets and of course – lying around just in case – mines that turn people into trees! Well you never know.

tree

“Hoist up your skirts, Peri, off we go!”

4. MANAGING THE TEAM

She’s definitely not a team player by choice, and the Rani’s plans are only spoilt when the Master turns up, purely to see what’s going on and what trouble he can cause. He obviously fancies her too – “Anything connected with you would undoubtedly be fascinating!’ he gushes on arrival. Sure, he goes on about some grand plan to upset history but he’s clearly just making it up as he goes along.

So she’s forced to work with someone she hates and who keeps getting in the way of her iterative dependencies. It’s basically an Industrial Revolution Apprentice special, and it’s surprising we don’t get a glimpse of Alan Sugar selling an early version of his difference engine in the town square.

sweetmeat

“Luke, I want you to swallow this very special sweetmeat” – the Master’s repertory of Victorian chat-up lines in full play here

The Master’s the worst kind of team member to be accountable for too, and spends the whole story pissing on the Rani’s baseline – threatening to break her machinery, stealing her hard-won brain fluid and her mind-controlling maggots, and even bringing the Doctor there so she’ll have no choice but to join forces. The Rani’s critical chains are completely disrupted.

5. TRACKING, STATUS REPORTING AND CHANGE MANAGEMENT

dinosaur

The Doctor uncovers the Rani’s sideline as a researcher for the value meat industry

With the Master and the Doctor in town, the Rani MoSCoWs the hell out of the earned value to date, deciding that the only sensible course is to abandon the project entirely and salvage what she can. It’s a brave choice for any project manager, but absolutely the right one. She maintains a cool sense of priorities while prevented from leaving, spying on the Master at every opportunity and commenting acidly on his own lack of business prowess: “What’s he up to now? It’ll be something devious and over-complicated. He’d get dizzy if he tried to walk in a straight line.”

When the chance comes she’s even able to give him a face-to-face appraisal: “You’re unbalanced – no wonder the Doctor always outwits you.” Such is her own composure that we don’t doubt her. Finally, with her deliverables in tatters thanks to the Master, she takes a well-earned opportunity to knee him in his own deliverables. “I don’t make mistakes,” she’d claimed earlier. And she’s right.

DEBRIEF

  • The project’s measurable goals were well-established
  • The proposed methodology combined creative flair with metrical precision
  • Every contingency was fully risk-managed
  • The project manager was forced under duress to induct additional team members, which enabled catastrophic chaos creep to the scorecard
  • The key deliverables were unsalvageable, and it is recommended that the project manager works entirely in isolation in the future
rani

Project FAIL

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The Project Manager’s guide to Doctor Who: Castrovalva

Welcome to a new series in which I apply the methodologies of my day job to classic Doctor Who stories. Project management is a subtle profession requiring people skills and precise organisational abilities. Let’s find out if the Master’s got what it takes.

1. SET A CLEAR GOAL

In Castrovalva, the Master’s goal is to humiliate and kill the Doctor. It’s the vagueness of the ‘humiliation’ aspect that will eventually cause the project to fail. With the powers available to him in this story, killing the Doctor would be a precise and quickly achievable aim. But by over-complicating his win-conditions – namely that the Doctor must know before dying that he’s been trapped and defeated – the Master allows too many random variables to affect his plan. “These facile victories only leave me hungry for more conquest!” he declares at one point. And this obsession with setting himself convoluted challenges will be his undoing.

2. ESTIMATING AND PLANNING

This is however a very well planned project.  Castrovalva clearly doesn’t follow on as immediately from Logopolis for the Master as it does for the Doctor and his friends. He’s taken some time out in the vortex to consider how much more powerful block transfer computation is than he realised and decided to recruit Adric to his project team, noting that the boy can a) add up and b) fill a pair of pyjama bottoms to his liking. Then he’s made a quick trip to the planet Hadron, whose inhabitants will face some delayed trains the next morning as they find the overhead power lines missing. Only at this point does his Pillar of Doom pop up (in front of some pylons appropriately enough), his Web fully constructed and waiting within. Collating and readying all necessary resources before the project’s start date is an admirable achievement and ought to help towards success.

3. CONTINGENCY

The Master’s risk management record here is exemplary. He confides to Adric at one point that should his plan for the Doctor to perish in the hydrogen in-rush fail, he’s prepared a trap behind the trap. And when he learns that it’ll be necessary for him to use up this contingency, you’ll note that it then takes only seconds for him to cause all the associated information (about neutral interfaces in real locations, ‘Classic Plainness’ and ‘Dwellings of Simplicity’) to pop up unprompted on the TARDIS’s databank screen. It’s a clear sign that these project assets have been prepared well before they should be needed, and another good mark for the Master.

We can assume too that at this point the Master uses the other main tool available to him – time travel – to set up the dwellings of Castrovalva well before the Doctor arrives. It’s impossible to guess how long the citadel has existed for, as all its inhabitants are created with pre-loaded memories. But from the looks of it Adric hasn’t aged much, so it can’t have taken more than say a few months to set up. Although at one point the Master does threaten to keep him in the Web for eternity so who knows, maybe it keeps life in some sort of stasis and they’ve been hanging around for years. Either way, bodily functions aren’t impaired in the Web AS WE HAVE REGRETTABLY SEEN AND CAN NEVER UNSEE, so those pyjamas must stink.

4. THE PROJECT GOES LIVE: MANAGING THE TEAM

In choosing Adric as the only member of his team, the Master is putting a high project dependency on the lad’s computational powers. Happily they really are impressive. Seconds after the real teenager has been kidnapped and flung into the Web, telebiogenesis Adric appears and spends a remarkably short time at one panel of the TARDIS console, during which he not only dematerialises the ship but also, apparently, sets and locks the co-ordinates for Event One and pre-programmes both co-ordinates and landing for the contingency plan.

The depletion of Tegan's make-up supplies was NOT budgeted for

But the Master has made a sloppy assumption: that he will be able to restrict Adric’s activities to prevent him from aiding his friends and Tegan, or else command his absolute loyalty. So Adric manages to undermine the project goals by giving the inhabitants of Castrovalva enough intelligence and free will to assist the Doctor.

Is the Master’s management style at fault? It’s certainly inconsistent, roving from apparent sympathy with Adric’s viewpoint ( “If escape were that easy, we could all be free of this nasty world”) to an emphasis on detachment (“You must control these dangerous emotions!”) and an authoritarian slant (“You can’t escape, you’re mine, Adric! Mine! Until we have completed our final task”) which at its worst leads to his dismissively referring to his employee as “a mere utility”.

5. TRACKING, STATUS REPORTING AND CHANGE MANAGEMENT

“The Master leaves nothing to chance,” admits the Doctor at one point. And his enemy certainly loves a regular status check – he monitors the TARDIS up until the last moment as it hurtles towards Event One, and in Castrovalva he gets hands-on to keep an eye on the Doctor in person. He has a good feel too for the day-to-day timeflow and resource management that a big project requires – “Now save your energies. There’s so much yet to be done!”

Fashion design with Adric

One thing we never see is the design briefing meeting the Master must have held with Adric at the project’s critical point: the creation of Castrovalva and its denizens. They end up with such a sumptuous, ridiculous looking town that I can only imagine the Master flinging countless contradictory instructions at the boy and expecting them all to be met at once. This is not uncommon in the real world either, to be fair. “Let’s have alpaca robes and a sort of hockey mask for the hunting party! With a Mardi Gras feel! And hats! Lots of hats! The biggest one for me! And some cobweb gloves! And bindis! Oh and can you base the city’s shape on these old mathematically-inspired paradoxical etchings so that we can fold time and space in on each other at the end cheers nyah hah hah.”

DEBRIEF

  • An overcomplicated set of subsidiary goals contributed to the project’s failure
  • Project planning, asset collation and contingency allowances were all excellent
  • The team was chosen well with regards to its skill-set, however its lack of buy-in to the stakeholder’s win-conditions also contributed to the project’s failure
  • Time spent micro-managing the team might have been better spent motivating it
  • That cock-up with the library books was sloppy. A proofreader/quality-checker should have been employed
  • Overall the project manager was competent, but would work better as part of a team

Project FAIL