Thanks to the Horror Channel I am slowly catching up with 1980s Doctor Who. For many reasons I missed a lot of the Davison and early Colin Baker years, finally I get to sit down and consider them for what they are. Christopher Bailey’s Kinda is the first of a trilogy that will include Snakedance and the Lost Story Children of Seth. On the whole I get why it remains popular; it has many flaws but many strengths. Let’s go to Deva Loka and meet the Mara!
The human expedition to Deva Loka is struggling to cope as members of the team go missing, the leader Sanders (Richard Todd) seems cut off from reality as second-in-command Hindle (Simon Rouse) has a breakdown. In the middle of this scientist Todd (Nerys Hughes) tries to complete her work of assessing the planet’s suitability for colonisation and deal with captive natives.
The TARDIS arrives. Nyssa is unwell and spends the whole story in bed, while the Doctor and Adric get tangled up in the paranoia in the expedition dome, leaving Tegan to enter a strange dream world and become the vessel of the Mara. The Mara puts natives in conflict with the humans, and we observe much of the story from the perspective of the shaman Panna (Mary Morris) and her apprentice Karuna (Sarah Prince). Tensions mount and are ultimately diffused, but not before the Mara does its best to steer things to a more dramatic conclusion. The Mara appears defeated, but not without some costs, though there is a strong spiritual dimension, evinced by the moments when the spirit of dying Panne enters her apprentice and the cycle continues.
There are many flaws in Kinda, yet at heart there is a rich vein of imagery mixed with a stand-out performance by Janet Fielding.
The flaw are many and would no doubt have irked the more casual viewer. The scenery is flimsy in places, some of the technology used by the humans is laughable and Sanders is played at times like a pantomime figure. The Mara puppet is poor and the surreal sequence with Tegan in the dream state show what happens when the BBC effects team get a new toy.
Structurally there are weaknesses. The story was written before Nyssa was added to the TARDIS crew, so Sarah Sutton is stuck away in the TARDIS out of sight. Adric is used to counterpoint Sanders and Hindle but does little, whereas the Doctor is mostly passive. And yet…
Hindle’s descent into madness is played perfectly and Nerys Hughes is a revelation. At the time (1982) Nerys Hughes was known for her part in the the BBC sitcom The Liver Birds. With respect to Adric and Nyssa, how could the show have evolved had Todd joined the TARDIS in their stead?
[pullquote]Tegan is superb[/pullquote]
The natives are intriguing (as is often the case) and (effects aside) the Tegan dream sequence with evil-Tegan is superb. On the evidence of this, Janet Fielding was badly underused in the TV show. Watching this recently it invoked bad Zygon Clara Bonnie from The Zygon Invasion / Inversion. Why did the Mara then jump ship to a native.
Overall this has strengths, but wouldn’t be made today without a dose of script polish. Very much enjoyed though.