THE DOCTOR WHO RATINGS GUIDE: BY FANS, FOR FANS

Snakedance
BBC
Kinda

Episodes 4 There's just something about those Deva Loca women.
Story No# 119
Production Code 5Y
Season 19
Dates Feb. 1, 1982 -
Feb. 9, 1982

With Peter Davison, Matthew Waterhouse,
Janet Fielding, Sarah Sutton.
Written by Christopher Bailey. Script-edited by Eric Saward.
Directed by Peter Grimwade. Produced by John Nathan-Turner.

Synopsis: The Doctor and Co. experience a strange world where psychic forces lie in the darkness.


Reviews

A Review by Jen Kokoski 27/3/97

An ancient evil from the dark places of the inside? With mysterious alussions like that, it is easy to predict a complex classic Who plot beneath the bones of this adventure. Davison was his usual pleasing, knowledgeable Doctor self. Adric, the ever annoying adolescent and Tegan the victim of her own hidden thoughts. The unexpected revelation was the performance of pseudocompanion Dr. Todd (Nerys Hughes). For a guest star, she filled the role admirably as the Doctor's sidekick, asking all the right questions and falling into an easy friendly banter with him as well.


Return to Paradise? by Dennis McDermott 26/4/97

Carl Malmstrom, in his review of Planet of the Spiders, observes that Doctor Who generally doesn't do well in the realm of psuedoscience. If you include mysticism under the umbrella of psuedoscience, Kinda supports Carl's assertion nicely. This is an awful, naive story -- almost anti-Wholike. It seems to be saying that man's folly is the pursuit of knowledge. The biggest mistake ever made was succumbing to the serpent and eating the fruit of knowledge (the allusion here is obvious -- too obvious).

To put it bluntly, such thinking is silly. While knowledge has brought problems (environmental degradation, for example) it has brought numerous benefits as well (longer, happier lives, higher standards of living, the internet, even Doctor Who for crying out loud). If anything, this story seeks to bite the hand that feeds it.

Nor is the writer terribly consistent on how the Kinda is portrayed. The Kinda are stated to be sophiscated people, but we are given no evidence of this. They believe their souls can be captured by mirrors, for example; hardly the essence of sophistication. Apparently, the magical healing box is their claim to sophistication.

Nor is it a tremendously well-acted program. While Jen Kokoski is right that Nerys Hughes as Dr. Todd puts in a good performance, Arris, as the chief villian, is very weak. Very few Doctor Who episodes work well with a weak villian.

In short, while "ancient evils from the dark places of the mind" may sound good, in reality it is a meaningless phrase that doesn't belong in a class program like Doctor Who. This episode is not recommended.


The trees have no mercy by Will Jones 8/7/99

Anybody reviewing Kinda has at some time to confront what many Doctor Who fans see as its greatest weakness. Yes, I'm referring of course to the presentation of the Mara when it finally appears: as first a rubber snake and then an obvious prop. Some say that this lets the entire tale down.

Good grief, a Doctor Who story with a bad special effect. Not many of them are there?

To claim that this ruins the entire story is like claiming that the cliff-hanger of Part Two of Genesis of the Daleks ruins that one - a laughable claim. Giant snake aside, Kinda is Doctor Who at its most trippy and weird, and this can only be a good thing.

Kinda is brilliant. It's brimming over with allusions to Buddhist and Christian mythology, psychology, matriarchy and primitive v dehumanising technological. It's also completely bizarre. No other story would give us a trip inside the dark places of a companion's mind, populated with twisted entities. No other story would allow the 'establishment' characters to undergo a complete mental regression to the level of seven-year-olds. No other story would dare to do what Kinda does. Considering, therefore, what a total and utter break from the norm, not just of the Davison era but of Doctor Who as a whole, Kinda was it?s astonishing how well it?s all done.

The acting is rarely less than first rate. Everyone knows how good Nerys Hughes is, but for me Simon Rouse and Richard Todd are equally good if not better. Matthew Waterhouse has never been less annoying, and Janet Fielding, given one of the most interesting roles Tegan ever had, impresses in it. It also stars one of the most accomplished child actors the series ever saw, Sarah Price as Karuna. To criticise Adrian Mills' Aris for being a weak 'main villain' misses the point somehow ? Aris isn't the main villain, it's the inherent evil of the Mara that is. Aris is merely the shell of the Mara.

Kinda is thematic, deep and wonderful. It allows loads of time away from the plot to get into the minds of other characters and thus explore the effect of the box on them (to name but one thing) and in the 'you can't mend people' we have a genuine classic Doctor Who moment. In a sense I wish there had been more stories like Kinda. Then it occurs to me that if there had been they'd all have been pallid rip-offs of the original. Kinda works best as a standout psychological drama told the Doctor Who way. 9/10


Best of the season by Mike Jenkins 3/12/01

Easily the strongest story of season 19. Doctor Who is more grown up here and less juvenile but some stories become droll in their seriousness such as Earthshock but it's carried off well to a hilt here. Kudos to Simon Rouse as Hindle. The man who played Sanders and the woman who played Todd are good but not quite on par with Simon. The references are not obscure but are fairly general. They could only be labeled as obscure by those who know absolutely nothing about the show and who cares if they understand it because they're not watching anyway.

Not only is the story rich but the acting as well, a rarity for Doctor Who. Everyone pretty much plays well off of everyone. Even Adric has an uncharacteristic lapse here, giving a good performance in the Davison era? This must be a gem. Matthew got a lot of the blame for poor characterisation. The heart of the idea behind Adric is a good one. It's the schiztsophrenic scripting that let his side down. The Kinda are all portayed excellently and just to clarify a point the story is not saying the mans folly is the pursuit of knowledge but his lack of interest in the pursuit of spiritual well being, inclining him to bring on his own destruction. I think that's something we can all agree on whether or not you like the story. There are more complicate references to the show and to mythos in The Curse of Fatal Death and that was a comedy piece. A good story if you now how to listen.


A Review by Daniel Spelner 11/2/02

This story has a highly original screenplay, indeed so much so that most directors would have baulked at the prospect at directing such a sophisticated and unusual script. However they assigned exactly the right director - Peter Grimwade - who was well able to explicate and comprehend C. Bailey's carefully contemplated script. Grimwade delivers some extraordinary directorial shots which serve to give an intellectual depth to the series very rarely seen. In particular the scenes inside Tegan's mind where the Mara tries to exert its control over her are genuinely unsettling, as are the scenes in the base with the deranged Hindle. The acting from everyone is superlative including Simon Rouse for the most terrifying and realistic portrayal of madness seen in the series and Janet Fielding's seductive depiction of evil. A supreme psychological drama.


Mind the Gap! by Andrew Wixon 1/5/02

With the partial exception of Castrovalva, Kinda is the only story in Season 19 that feels like it could possibly have been transmitted a year earlier when Chris Bidmead was script editor. This is quite simply because it's a very experimental story in all sorts of ways, not typical DW at all. Back in 1982 it came a resounding last in the DWM season survey, but more recently opinion seems to have changed - some people regarding it as an overlooked classic.

Well, it doesn't stink out the place when you watch it on video, but it ain't gonna challenge Seeds of Doom for a place in the all-time greats list, either. This is mainly because there's a great big hole smack in the middle of Kinda's narrative structure - this is really two two-episode stories smushed together. One of these is the story of Hindle's nervous breakdown, a powerful and frightening study of mental illness brought on by stress. The other is rather more traditional Who fare of a monster going around possessing people and generally causing mischief. Other than the Doctor and Todd wandering back and forth between the two they have nothing causally in common - the Mara doesn't cause Hindle to go ga-ga, Hindle doesn't summon the Mara. This is distracting and gives the story a weird, disjointed atmosphere.

But apart from this it's fine. There are tremendous performances from Richard Todd, Simon Rouse and Mary Morris ('Come along, idiot'). And you have to smile at Chris Bailey's impertinence - given the fifth Doctor and his travelling freak show as regulars, he ignores them all and pairs the Doctor up with Todd throughout, even going so far as to stick Tegan in a coma too for the whole of episode three! Perhaps it's this Doctor-with-single-female-companion vibe that makes this story seem like it's wandered in from an earlier season - but then there is all that experimentalism I mentioned earlier. The unsubtle colonial overtones, even down to pith helmets and what-not, and the unusual nature of Hindle's madness (DW has many a raving nutter, but only one who screams 'Mummy!' in moments of stress), make this seem less like DW and more like fringe theatre. Then there's Tegan's encounter with Dukkha in the void - a very well-executed sequence, and the echoes of the opening TARDIS exterior scene give a strong indication that there's more going on here than we're told. And, obviously, the biblical motif - a serpent manipulates a woman into nearly destroying paradise. (And those are just the bits I understand!)

In the end though, Kinda is poleaxed more by lack of focus than anything else. If it had concentrated on the Hindle storyline and dispensed with the Mara, it'd have been great. And a Mara-only story might well have been pretty good too (although, given the realisation of the climactic snake - come on, I had to mention it, if only in passing - maybe not). But it's neither of these, and suffers greatly because of it.


A Review by Terrence Keenan 29/5/02

Kinda is a Peter Davison story. No other Doctor could have been placed in this tale without drastic changes.

This is a good thing.

I've always enjoyed Kinda, no matter what my view of the Davison era overall (in re-evaluation right now). It was a radical departure for DW, as far from Fascists in green rubber suits as you can get. That it came in the JNT era is a bigger surprise, considering what was to come (the Saward and Cartmel eras).

Kinda is, like great DW, a reworking of other ideas and stories the DW sprockets. This time the source material is Bhuddist and Christian mythology and mysticism, rather than old movies and classic sci-fi. Because of the source material, Kinda is allowed to explore certain areas -- Magic -- that were considered taboo in DW: the vision that Panna shows The Doctor and Todd, the healing box. Thankfully, we don't get a boatload of technobabble explanations. (A side note. I'm definitely anti-magic, but if you're going to do it, go whole hog and save the technobabble for the space opera stuff)

Christopher Bailey does a great job of weaving a pair of storylines -- the base/Hindle's derangement, the Mara/Tegan -- together, using one segment to comment and counterpoint the other, before bringing them together by episode four. Rarely during the JNT era do we get a commitment to a coherent plot/story.

The acting is superb, all around. Peter Davison gives one of his best performances. Nerys Huges is excellent as Todd ( a quasi-companion for the Doctor). Simon Rouse plays Hindle right -- OTT, but in a way that feels creepy, not like hammy acting. Tegan, for once, doesn't annoy, and Adric is the right mix of teen angst.

The one knock on Kinda, and it's a tiny niggle, is that I think it plays better without the episodic structure. The mandatory cliffhangers are out of place in Kinda.

In the end, methinks Kinda can stand up as a great example of what DW can be, when allowed to spread it wings.


All Things Are Possible by Matthew Harris

"While 'ancient evils from the dark places of the mind' may sound good, in reality it is a meaningless phrase that doesn't belong in a class program like Doctor Who." I wonder what the Dalai Lama would have to say about that? Not to mention that "This episode is not recommended."

The hell it isn't.

Kinda is brilliant, one of the reasons why the Davison years were so much better than they were given credit for. It's dark. It's disturbing. It's brilliantly acted. It's fabulously directed. It rocks serious cathedral bells, to coin a (faintly shallow) phrase. Even now, I can't see the fabulous Simon Rouse without jumping, ever so slightly. Or a lot (Although I think the hair he sported in his later years possibly has something to do with it). The scene where Sanders (a faintly self-mocking Richard Todd) unexpectedly returns is one of the series' most terrifying moments. Ever. Mind you, I say that all the time. And yes, the two situations do give the story a wierd, disjointed atmosphere. To go with the weird, disjointed situation. Oh, and the Mara does cause Hindle to go mad, in a roundabout way... but it's not adequately explored in the script, I'll give you that. But it's quite telling that he and Sanders are better once the Mara's been banished back to the Dark Places Of The Inside... or wherever.

What else? Well, Nyssa's short-changed again, but this time... it's contractual. JNT only wanted her as a bit-part companion, so her contract ran to two fewer episodes than everyone else's. Hence the pratfall ending to Four To Doomsday. Also, Tegan's asleep for the most part, and Adric's at his least infuriating, except in the jungle (There's a difference between serious scientific examination... and meddling. Isn't there?). But it's okay: there's always Nerys Hughes, and her Liz Shawesque character, and her fabulous rapport with Davison, and her Welsh argumentativeness (irony alert, irony alert).

What else? The cliffhangers. I don't agree with Keenan that they're out of place, since all three constitute little more than three breaks in the story -- albeit three exciting, frightening, worrying breaks in the story. Episode one especially is a masterpiece. I don't know why "I have the power of life and death over all of you!" isn't a classic line now. Maybe it is and I just haven't noticed. These are all enhanced by Mr Grimwade's wonderfully schizoid direction. Add his name to the list of "bestest directors".

What else? It's devastatingly intelligent. Don't ask me about the Bhuddist allegory (that's what Chris Bailey is, by the way, hence the names. "Dukkha" is a Bhuddist word meaning pain, "Panna" means wisdom, "Karuna" compassion, "Mara" temptation, and so it goes), because I have enough trouble convincing people that The Tempest is essentially meaningless. Refer to previous reviews for literary criticism, although Mike Jenkins seems to be "rightest".

What else? It's fabulous. If you come prepared. 9/10 if you feel you must.


"Are you an idiot?" by Joe Ford 23/8/02

I just can't like this story. I'm so, so sorry everyone who thinks it's the most wonderful piece of Doctor Who ever but I've watched it about ten times in the past five or so years and every time I come away thinking it was poor. This isn't just another anti Davison rant as, for a change, I would say he is quite effective in this story. It is his first sturdy portrayl and some off the decent guest actors that strike me as the positive aspects but in the end it is still outweighed by some inexcusable negatives.

There are lots of clever ideas here, lots of imagination. I like that. What I don't like is twisted them into a confusing and poorly paced story with any rewards coming from those who are up on Buddhism and spiritulism and smybolism. Well I'm not. I expect a good story, well told which this is certainly not. Panna's rantings in the cave... what are they all about? Who are those two weirdos in Tegan's dreams? I'm sorry if it sounds like I like to be spoonfed information but this 'brave' territory the producers are pushing the show in just makes me want to turn off. Compare to the traditional, but entertaining, The Visitiation which proves engaging throughout. Simplistic it maybe but at least it's watchable and fun which Kinda is not.

Also annoying is the horrendous production values thrown at this story. This is a story that screamed for a bigger budget... some atmospheric forest location shooting, some stunning effects to go with the clever ideas. Instead what do we get? Plastic trees! The worst backdrop the show has ever seen! The woobly cell they are locked into that wouldn't hold a fly! The snake! Doctor Who isn't a show that thrives on looking fantastic but things were rarely as poor as they are here (Warriors of the Deep and Timelash are the only two I can think that rival for cheapness). I don't expect wonders but basic competance is essential.

Peter Grimwade is one of the best directors to work on the show and he's trying so hard to make the damn thing work. Some of his touches are just stunning (the close into Tegan's eye, the end of episode three in the funny void, the harshness of the scenes in Tegan's mind) but he can't make the plot flow or the cheapness look like gold either. To compensate however he lets his actors reign free and finally I can find something to compliment.

Janet Fielding is great. Shock horror. I am not the biggest Tegan fan but she is used well here and it is great relief to see Ms Fielding spread her wings and do something other than moan and bully the Doctor. Her scenes possesed are frighteningly good and she makes great use of that little time to blow everyone else off the screen. Peter Davison is still the bland, friendly gentleman I've always hated him for but for once he's given some good lines ("An apple a day...") and moments (Hindle's rant about the trees is great thanks to Davisons mock reactions). He and Todd make a good team (the marvellous Nerys Hughes) and their last scene together is quite sweet.

Richard Todd and Simon Rouse are there too. They're both great. And old woman Morris... she's great too. Everyone's working so hard to make this truly bizzare script work and provide some great moments but ultimately the silliness and cheapness blocks out even their great talents.

The inconclusive ending annoys. So does the stupid cliffhanger to episode one (mind you episode two's is superb). But most annoying is how good it could have been with a little tightening of the script, some more money thrown in and good deal more entertainment (hell some of those infamous 'set pieces' would be nice!).

How odd really because I absolutely LOVE Snakedance. Which does everything right that Kinda does wrong.

This is Doctor Who...? Nah...


Living La Deva Loca by Rob Matthews 8/2/03

I've tried to like Kinda, really I have. Failing that I've attempted to at the very least admire it for being different, brave and so on. It is at the very least, I reassured myself, original.

But the more I think about it, the more I come to realise this: it's not original at all. Received wisdom tells me that Chris Bailey produced a well-written complex script laced with clever Buddhist references to be enjoyed by those in the know. On the contrary, it seems to me more like a slew of Buddhist concepts thrown lazily together in the form of some kind of ninety-minute companion video to Buddhism For Beginners.

Kinda isn't like, say, Planet of Spiders, where there was a decent story with a Buddhist subtext that you could take or leave. Without any knowledge of Buddhist concepts, Bailey's story is completely incomprehensible. And the intention of his script is not to tell a story, - which should be the intention of any TV drama -, but rather to promote a bunch of old ideas that aren't even his own. It's a form of propaganda - not one I find particularly offensive, since I've never heards of such a thing as a Buddhist fundamentalist , but certainly not a satisfactory piece of drama.

I'll put my cards on the table here - I think all religions are nonsense until proved otherwise. I honestly don't want to offend anyone by saying this, but neither would I want to be offended by having someone else's beliefs forced upon me. Granted there's a wealth of fascinating myths out there, but I don't think there's anything big or clever in deferring to them as if their truth were self-evident. That's just a lazy substitute for genuine thought. There's a tendency to think 'Oh, I see it's a Buddhist concept! Well, that explains it'. In fact it doesn't explain anything, it just points to a script that is offloading questions which the writer himself should be addressing onto stories far bigger and older, seemingly forgetting that those are essentially just stories too. It's like Bailey's saying 'Hey, you got a problem with my story, take it up with Siddartha!'.

Worse, even this lame excuse for an 'original' story is fatally compromised - the Mara is meant to represent the repressed, 'dark' side of each of us - with Tegan it's supposed to be her sexuality, with Aris his male assertiveness. But any reference to sexuality - even in the body language of Janet Fielding's performance, was deemed too risque and stamped out. Thus the story couldn't even admit what it was about, and the Mara came to seem more an entity of its own drifting in and out of people's bodies, rather than something that, in a sense, 'brought out the worst' in different individuals, in different ways depending on the person. Any subtlety is thus lost, and the Mara becomes instead a Satanic figure, his/her association with a serpent then introducing a whole new Christian aspect, transforming the tale into a variation on the Garden of Eden myth.

I hate the Garden of Eden myth. It's the misogynist text of our culture. It blames the 'fall' of man on the weakness of women (and how arrogant in the first place to assume that our natural home is paradise!), and it devalues women as life-givers by telling us that childbirth is a punishment and procreation sinful - the only 'proper' creation of life is performed by a male God, who makes Adam out of nothing, and Eve from a man's rib (and there I thought human beings were female by default). Not only does this show myths up as the convenient human constructs they are, it's also far better known than any of the Buddhist stuff Bailey likes, and so is going to be cottoned onto more easily by most of the audience. Far from being original the story ends up a lame retread of the serpent-in-Paradise story, with the serpent in this case defeated. The story ends up this way almost by accident, because it drifts lazily into an accessible and familiar schema that the director probably didn't even notice or question. It's not misogynist like the older myth, far from it, but since it never set out to be a garden of Eden tale in the first place, we can't credit Bailey with reinventing a myth for the better. Like I say, the director did that by accident while Bailey sat back and awaited his Buddhist parable.

So it's not a challenging story at all (we all have a dark side? wow), except for the challenge of sitting all the way through the bloody thing. This is lazy in its conception and even worse in execution. Hindle's breakdown is pretty scary and Mary Morris (is that her name?) is great, but none of this is enough. I guess Peter Davison deserves credit for making a splash in the role - Terrence Keenan and I both thought this story was tailor-made for him, when in fact it turns out what Bailey really wanted was a Doctor who fitted a 'wise-old-man' archetype, and would have preferred Tom Baker. But apart from that, I'm just not engaged by this at all. I used to think I just couldn't be arsed with this serial - it's only by pondering over it like this that I've come to realise how much I truly dislike it.

Still, Bailey struck a much better balance with Snakedance. I probably should review that one too after this bloody slating...


It's all in here, you know by Mike Morris 12/2/03

Now of course, some readers may not have seen Kinda lately. So here's a brief recap of the plot.

The Doctor lands on Deva Loka, a world populated by the apparently primitive Kinda tribe. Also present are an away team from an unnamed planet, examining the planet with a view for colonisation. One of them, Hindle, is one the verge of a nervous breakdown, and when the strident leader leaves him in charge he collapses into a world of paranoid delusions. Meanwhile, Tegan has fallen asleep and through her a malevolent presence, the snake-like Mara, takes possession of her. She passes it on to a member of the Kinda tribe, who takes control of his people and organises them to mount a hopeless attack on the dome. But this attack will be enough for Hindle to self-destruct the dome and destroy them all...

Okay. Now, those of you who haven't studied theology for ten years, or at least have a well-formed knowledge of Buddhist and Christian lore, may have found that paragraph completely incomprehensible. I mean, it has the word snake in it and everything. I guess you'll just have to bear with me.

Kinda is one of the most perfect and exemplary Doctor Who stories of all time. It has a number of themes, dealing quietly with male-female relationships, our fear of the unknown, and questions whether knowledge for its own sake is a morally justifiable goal. But these subtexts settle unobtrusively into a well-performed psychological thriller, with Simon Rouse turning in one of the best performances in Doctor Who's history. The pace is slow, but much of the slack is taken up by carefully examining elements which Doctor Who usually dismisses as clich? As a result the story attains a sense of wonder, a completeness and above all a finger-on-the-button tension that Doctor Who rarely managed.

Nowadays, some of the elements of Kinda have been reproduced time and again, and the level of invention is easily overlooked. The scenes of Tegan wandering around in her own mind are a fine example; we've done this so many times since. But then, rarely has it been done with the minimalistic genius seen here; a black set, some harsh lighting and great dialogue, and we have some genuinely unsettling scenes. Like many story elements it also has pleasing depth when probed; the draughts game would suggest that the two players are Tegan's subconscious representation of Nyssa and Adric, and that the main character is a similarly twisted representation of the Doctor. As he probes and jibes Tegan, the quiet inferiority complex that always underscored her character is beautifully expressed. This is marvellous, marvellous stuff.

Equally effective are the initial scenes in the Dome. The Dome, like the TSS, is one of the numerous means of isolation the colonists use to keep themselves in a world they understand. Another is the use of acronyms; TSS for total survival suit is harmless, but others modulate emotive or downright nasty elements into something palatable - ILF for Intelligent Life Form, TED for Total Area of Devastation, and ZMI for Zone of Maximum Impact all conceal nasty truths. And they also isolate themselves in everyday lives; Todd takes refuge in her laboratory, Hindle in the rule book and Sanders in his self imposed routine.

The missing colonists add the sense that outside might be hostile, but the fact that we don't see them being eaten by a nasty snake at the start is one of those Doctor Who clich? that the story circumvents. Equally pleasing is the way that the Doctor slips into the colonist's confidence without the usual suspicion, freeing up some time for the Doctor and Todd to establish some nice interplay, and for the creepily silent Kinda to make their impression.

For every Doctor Who clich?avoided, another is inhabited and treated as something fresh and new. For example, the story revolves around a hoary old staple; the leader goes mad under pressure. But by treating that seriously (the embarrassment of the onlookers during Hindle's rants is beautifully achieved), and having it happen in Part One rather than Part Four, the story makes this provide a host of terrific and unsettling scenes. Compare 'You can't mend people' or 'I was beaten every day... made me the man I am' or 'I am on to you, you know' or 'rooting, branching, blocking out the light' or 'you spoiled it, I wasn't ready' or pretty much anything with the six zillion comparable Doctor Who scenes - Salamar's 'this is leadership, strong action' scene from Planet of Evil to pick one. Kinda leaves them standing, so much so that it actually uses Hindle's madness as a cliffhanger - expecting Doctor Who fans to be shocked by something we see every five minutes, and we are, because it's presented with more thought and more care. Part Three's cliffhanger pulls off the same trick, shocking a Doctor Who audience with the death of a character, when Doctor Who usually has at least five death per episode. Christopher Bailey was presumably unfamiliar with Who's format, and the freshness is marvellous; how refreshing for a writer to convey danger by means other than killing some anonymous UNIT soldier. The man, in the two stories he wrote, killed just one person - and that was more natural causes than anything else.

The Kinda themselves are perhaps the story's least impressive attribute (with the obvious exception of a big papier-mach?snake), running to corny on a few occasions - although largely they remain interesting. Aris, so very effective as a silent mute, becomes rather annoying once given the 'gift' of voice, taking it as a cue to shout everything - with exceptions (his delivery of 'come here Karuna' is extremely effective). Other elements are more rewarding, with Karuna being a rare example of a good performance from a child actress. Star of the show, though, is Mary Morris (No relation to me either, although rumour has it she is Jonathon Morris' mum and Mark Morris' auntie). Her delivery is perfect and she is simply amazing looking.

As always, Davison is marvellous and subtly amusing (his oft-quoted 'apple a day' joke is a bad joke made funny by his delivery), and the scenes where Nerys Hughes flirts with him are terrific. I love all the stuff with the coin too. I'm intrigued that Bailey envisaged an older Doctor, as I do feel this is the story that suits the Fifth Doctor best. Then again, the worst critic is often the writer. Bob Dylan thinks Blowing in the Wind is spiritual, but he doesn't like Please Come Crawl Out Your Window or On a Night Like This. What does he know? And, it might seem perverse, but I don't think Christopher Bailey's take on Kinda is any more valid than anyone else's.

Waterhouse is his usual crap self, by and large, although he has some funny moments - I love it when he bitches at Tegan. But Fielding outstrips all the regulars, producing a sexually-charged performance - particularly her aggressive temptation of a terrified Aris. I'll never concede anything to Tegan-bashers, I love her to bits and find her utterly believable, and she has some really terrific moments - the way her voice cracks, on the verge of tears, when she finds herself 'alone' in her head. Ooh, wonderful.

The way the Mara emphasises Tegan's sexuality is rather mirrored by Nerys' Hughes' flirty behaviour, and is one aspect to the male / female behaviour the script examines. The response to the box is interesting, with men losing their minds when confronted with a world which neither cares nor responds to them - a challenge to male ego if ever there was one. This crops up again, with the Mara accentuating and villainising Aris' need to control. Like a few of these themes, I'm not entirely sure I agree with it, but I respect the discipline with which the argument is made. There's a similarly general theme about knowledge; the thirst for knowledge is seen as destructive here, a fact which has annoyed a reviewer above. I see it more as a question of humility, with the Doctor recognising that this is a world which works well on its own terms. The Kinda, who have no need for shelter, defence or food supply, are actually inquisitive enough in their own way (they understand DNA, for example) - but their curiosity is worlds removed from that evidenced in Sander's wonderfully blunt question, 'If the Kinda are so clever why didn't they build their own interplanetary space vehicle and come and colonise us?' The Doctor is the perfect man to understand this, being the only male wise enough to know that he doesn't need to understand everything.

And yet this story is supposed to be about religion.

Bollocks. Religion my arse. It's not remotely important.

Yes, various religious myths are plundered, but to say this story is about Buddhism or full of symbology is crap. It's like saying that The Brain of Morbius is full of symbology about Frankenstein. The bottom line is that the Bible is a damn good read, especially the Old Testament - oh, and bits of Revelations are great - and Kinda borrows from that source, it much the same way that The Horns of Nimon steals from the Minotaur myth and Planet of Evil swipes from Forbidden Planet. Ditto any bits about Buddhism - the two Tegans story is there for no deeper reason than it's really great. There's only one scene where the cracks show, when Panna witters on about turning the wheel of life.

The closest comment I saw was some quote in The Television Companion, that Kinda 'creates its own religion' - but I'd argue that even this doesn't go far enough, because exactly where does Kinda introduce any religion at all? They have a very real enemy, they have a very real way of life, but golf is much more a religion than anything in Kinda. Planet of Fire, for one, includes far more religious symbology.

I don't wish to be offensive to anyone here. However, some of the comments have actually made me angry. All due respect to other reviewers (and you guys are due a hell of a lot - forgive me for this), but to say this story is meaningless if you don't understand the Buddhist bits is bullshit. It's just not true. I grew up on a farm, and even on my visits to silage pits I never encountered as much bullshit as in that statement. It's like saying Enlightenment doesn't make sense to anyone who hasn't achieved Nirvana.

The sum total of my knowledge of Buddhism is gleaned from a not-too-hot Simpsons episode. I do know a bit about Christianity, although I feel guilty I don't know more - well, that's Catholicism for you. Still, it was four or five viewings before I twigged about the whole snake-in-paradise angle. This indicates how obtuse I am, maybe, but the fact remains that beyond the basic setting (and a few inconsequential bits with apples) there's not much of a parallel to the Eden myth at all. Now, the whole thing could be based on Buddhist lore, I don't know. Yet strangely I managed to understand, enjoy and be unsettled by Kinda. My flatmate liked it too, and he's not a Buddhist. Neither are three of my friends who like Kinda. And thought it was scary. And well-written. And well-acted. And had good cliffhangers. And kept them entertained for an hour and forty minutes.

What happened is that the story had a few bits from religious texts, then someone noticed. Botheration. Since then, we Doctor Who fans have gleefully waved the 'semiotic thickness' of Kinda as conclusive proof that the programme was intelligent and not the stupid cheap kid's show the public view it as. A belief seems to persist that Kinda is good because of Buddhist 'symbology', which is for some reason inherently clever. That viewpoint made me angry too. And so, obviously, some people will react to the self-indulgence of having religiousy-themey-things at the expense of a coherent plot. I agree wholeheartedly, but what this argument misses is that the plot is perfectly coherent. I feel that all the twatting on about religious symbols is ultimately quite insulting to the author, since it's really not engaging with a piece of work that screams of thought, effort and discipline.

Kinda is not good or bad because it has a few religious bits. It is great, because of the acting and the direction and tension and pathos and humour and imagination and tightly-knit plot. The absence of Doctor Who staples, such as corridors and running, are perhaps the reason it splits opinion as it does. So perhaps the crappy snake is a blessing, since without it we might forget we were watching Doctor Who at all.

This is a wonderful story, an exemplar of what Doctor Who can achieve. It's great stuff. Ooh, I think I'll go and watch it now.

Supplement, 13/1/04:

It's not that long since I wrote my review of Kinda, so it might seem a bit odd to supplement it. The idea came to my head when Rob Matthews listed it in his Top Forty Turkeys -

(Tries not to cry)

- and it reminded me of something. Rob wrote a review of Snakedance a while back that referred to my original piece on Kinda, and in particular a comment I made at the end - namely, I said "the lack of Doctor Who staples like corridors and running, are perhaps why it divides opinion as much as it does." Rob claimed that the comment was slightly cheap.

First things first. Rob was being a bit polite. That wasn't "slightly cheap" it was extremely cheap, and not a little offensive. I was caught mid-rant, I guess, but when I re-read the piece I realised I'd implied that anyone who doesn't like Kinda is an imbecile who has to have guns and explosions in all their stories; so, in all sincerity, my deepest apologies for doing so. It was an inexcusably snobbish and arrogant thing to say, and I'm very embarassed about it. Sorry.

Excuse me, I've got to get my humble pie out of the oven.

Anyway, when I tried to figure out what possessed me to make such a crass statement, I realised that I actually had some sort of serious point to make, and that I'd somehow forgotten to make it, and instead I stuck a moronic sentence in my review for no good reason. So I'd like to expand a bit.

The corridors and running thing was stupid, but I do think it's true that Kinda can receive a hostile reception because of the lack of certain Doctor Who elements. In a way this would seem to borne out by the fact that the two negative reviewers who spring to mind, Joe Ford and Rob Matthews, both like Snakedance; and Snakedance has those elements in spades.

One thing almost every single Doctor Who story has is a villain. Not a monster, not a cataclysm, but a villain with definite aims. Related is what one might call an event-driven plot, i.e. the events motivate the actions of all the characters, and in return the characters serve to drive the plot further. Okay, so that's only two things, but they tend to set up all sorts of recurring formulas. You know, the villain normally has a plan, and a motivation, and the Doctor has to improvise to stop it. It's pretty basic stuff, and there aren't many Doctor Who stories that don't do this.

Kinda has a villain in the Mara that is pretty much unique. Its aims are unstated. Its origins are unknown. Its presence drives people mad (maybe, maybe not), it requests to borrow Tegan's form, it mounts an attack on the Dome, and it threatens the Doctor with its power... but what actually is it? We don't know. The Doctor doesn't know either, as he reveals at the end ("Back to the dark places of the inside. Or wherever. But not here. Not anywhere here. This world is free of it", and he's not really interested in finding out. There really hasn't been a villain like this ever. Only The Black Guardian and Fenric come close, with their unexplained desire for chaos, but they are presented as elemental forces of evil in a way the Mara isn't - and what's more they're quite chatty about it. When we do have inarticulate adversaries they're given articulate agents, in the way that the Master pops up in Survival to do the Cheetah People's talking for them.

Consequentially, in almost every Doctor Who story the events primarily derive from the villain's actions and motivations. This is very obvious in Williams-era stories in particular, but even in the more post-modern stories it's true. Everything that happens in The Curse of Fenric happens because Fenric's trying to get out of that old bottle. The links of "how" are missing, but we do find out why everything's going pear shaped.

And then there's Kinda, which doesn't play by these rules. We're never told what the Mara's aims are. I still don't know why Hindle goes nuts. I do't know if it's because of the Mara, or the Kinda, or the environment of the Dome, or all three, or something else entirely. Ideas keep recurring, but they don't drive the action, they just hang around in it. So in that sense, Kinda doesn't have a plot at all - well it does, and a taut one it is too, but it amounts to about ten minutes of screen time. The rest is more a sequence of events, unified by common ideas (Order/Disorder, Inside/Outside, We/Not-We). This is why I've refer to it as the great concept story, because its energy is derived almost entirely from its ideas rather than its events... and rather than the ideas driving the events (as per Williams-era stuff) the events suggest the ideas. It does have unifying logic - a discussion of our need for both order and disorder is how I see it - but it's not a plot as such.

Snakedance, meanwhile, does have a plot. We find out what the Mara is. We find out where it comes from. We find out how it can be defeated, really and truly. And in Lon and Tegan it is given a more articulate voice than Aris' yelling, which don't reveal a damn thing. However, to be cheeky and do to Rob what he did to me, I'll quote from his review of Fenric:

"For me it's made more powerful by the mystery... in my opinion a story of this sort shouldn't explain those things - the Doctor and Fenric are too alien for that. They're gods or elementals or what have you, they're operating on a level we can't see or comprehend. Me, I like it that way."
Absolutely. I find the Mara more satisfying as a dark, frightening mystery, and as such I find Snakedance vaguely satisfactory but rather anticlimactic. Oh, and it's not fit to lace Kinda's boots.

Here's the rub. The thing that pissed me off initially about Rob and Joe's reviews were their references to the whole Buddhist/Christian thing at the expense of the plot. I sort of went off on one on the whole Buddhism thing... but it was the "at the expense of the plot" bit that was important, and yes, they have a point. Although there's a plot there all right it isn't the core of the story, and in that sense Kinda is fundamentally different from every other Doctor Who story. Where we disagree is that I don't think it's self-indulgent at all. A massive level of thought has gone into the story and for me it works satisfyingly on all levels. Nor am I convinced by the argument that Kinda is pretentiously trying to be "art" - I think all forms of creativity are art, really, and what matters is whether they're good art or bad art. I don't think that Kinda's "art" and Snakedance is "storytelling", I just think that Snakedance is a less original and less effective piece of art than Kinda.

The first time I saw Kinda I found it to be a weird, off-kilter story that confused me a little, creeped me out no end, thrilled me at times and finished in a pleasingly enigmatic way. It got under my skin in a way that few stories do, and although I knew it was good I wasn't sure why. Since then, repeated viewings lead to me finding more and more stuff going on beneath the surface, and now I'm happy to call this one of my very favourite stories.

As the storytelling style is one of the things that attracts us to Doctor Who in the first place, some people aren't going to like a story that operates in a completely different way. I respect that opinion absolutely, but I don't agree with it. I think Kinda is a bona-fide work of genius. It's thoughtful, it pushes the envelope, and has some astounding sequences. Not everyone will engage with it, but I do think it deserves respect.

That's roughly what I meant to say originally. How it came out "corridors and running" I don't know... maybe it was a typo. Apologies again.


Ignore the sets and snake by Tim Roll-Pickering 17/3/03

Okay the sets are cheap, the snake is so blatantly made of rubber and the studio floor can often be seen in the jungle. And the whole production would have benefited no end if it had been made on film instead of videotape. But Kinda is one of the most thought provoking and bizarre stories in the entire series and it easily escapes from such weaknesses. What more than makes up for these limitations is the quality of both the writing and acting.

Christopher Bailey's script is packed with strong ideas and rarely pauses. At one level Kinda is a blatant attack on the values of colonialism but at another level it has much to say about the very nature of existence and the state of an individual's mind. The story is full of religious symbolism and this benefits it no end. I know very little about the story's supposed Buddhist influences, but the tale of a paradise that is invaded by a serpent which tempts through apples is familiar from the Bible and borne out by scenes such as the one where the possessed Tegan drops apples on Aris' head. Each of the main characters is strongly defined, ranging from the scientific Todd who manages to stay sane throughout to the brilliant Hindle who suffers a nervous breakdown and goes completely insane before eventually being cured by Box of Jhana. Each of the story's cliffhangers is constructed carefully and are extremely memorable despite their simplicity, since they rely on the acting and scripting and not special effects or camera shots. This is a story that has been built at the script level and it is all the better for it. Whilst some of the concepts may not be immediately obvious to some viewers whilst others require a great deal of thought, Kinda never noticeably suffers at all from this. Instead the story continues towards its conclusion and remains easy to follow at a superficial level.

The cast is uniformly good for this story, which helps it no end. The decision to exclude Nyssa from the story is a strange one to take but it benefits the story no end since Bailey doesn't have another companion to work into it. Peter Davison and Matthew Waterhouse both get some strong material to work with but the star performance comes from Janet Fielding as Tegan tries to understand the images she is faced with whilst dreaming and then later when she is possessed by the Mara. The guest cast is equally strong, with Simon Rouse (Hindle) making his character seem all too real, whilst Richard Todd (Sanders) is successful at playing a very traditional Old School type caught in an extremely bizarre situation and Nerys Hughes manages to play Todd as the rock of sanity amongst the humans. Mary Morris brings a strong sense of authority to the story through her role as the aged Panna and even Sarah Prince gives a good performance as the girl Karuna when it would have been so easy for the child actor to let the side down.

Productionwise Kinda has a brilliant dream sequence and some good direction and music but the story's weak points come from the cheapness of the design and the impact that studio lighting and the use of videotape can have in exposing such a weakness. It is to the story's credit that it does not let the budgetary restrictions drag it down but instead it manages to shine despite such problems. The story may not be the easiest to follow for all viewers, but it shows a strong level of thought and sophistication to make it one of the most memorable of the Davison stories. 9/10


A Review by Paul Rees 19/6/03

Kinda is one of those stories which seem to divide fan opinion - between those who see it as an incoherent and unintelligible mess on the one hand, and those who see it as a finely crafted and multi-layed classic on the other. I fall firmly into the latter category.

The acting here is simply superb: Tegan is wonderful as the Mara-posessed fiend, Peter Davison is on top form and even Adric scales new heights of adequacy.

The real bouquets, however, must go to the guest cast. Sanders is the epitome of the crusty, set-in-his-ways British colonialist; his comment of 'What point of view could they possibly have?' indicating his arrogant disdain for the Kinda tribe. The unstable Hindle is simply awesome; he progresses from being merely close to the edge to being totally mad in a very convincing manner. His ranting cry of 'You can't mend people!' when the Doctor tears apart one of his cardboard cut-outs is a very telling moment.

The sets have been criticised by some fans as being rather obviously artificial and rubbery, but I think that they are pretty good. The dome itself is also very well realised, and is very convincing as an imperial outpost/scientific establishment. The only downside in terms of production values is that the final manifestation of the Mara is as a rather obviously rubber snake, although this effect is no worse than many others in Who's history.

There is no doubt that Kinda ranks alongside Ghost Light and Warriors' Gate in terms of its complexity. This story really does need to be viewed on a number of occasions in order for the viewer to fully appreciate its enduring value. The central theme is one of colonialism: opening the Box of Jhana enables the Doctor and Todd to see the world from the Kinda's perspective - however, opening it also causes the arch-imperialist Sanders to lose his mind (so great is the shock to his system).

The scenes which delve into Tegan's subconscious are particularly effective, and the way in which the Mara cajoles her into becoming its vessel highlight s the fact that in the Buddhist tradition the Mara is often viewed as being a personification of 'temptation'. The religious themes resound throughout the story - both Christian (the Mara as a snake, Deva Loka as a paradise) and also Buddhist (the Wheel of Time).

It is certainly true that Kinda is not the easiest of Who stories to understand, but I think that it actually hangs together pretty darn well. A true classic, Kinda is not only one of the best Who stories ever - it is also one of the very best dramas ever to be screened on British television.


A Review by Stuart Gutteridge 11/5/04

Kinda is very much a multilayered tale that finally sees Peter Davison fully embrace the character of the Fifth Doctor and allows Janet Fielding to show off her acting prowess. The only thing that lets the story down are the sets notably the jungle and the giant snake; but this aside it's a great tale albeit a little out of the realms of conventional Doctor Who.

Regardless of this the story is very much a tale of good versus evil actually helped by the Buddhist references, in that they bring a certain sense of mystery to the story. Acting wise Peter Davison is great as the Doctor, unable to cope with Hindle`s breakdown (superbly and realistically portrayed by Simon Rouse) and is ably supported by Nerys Hughes. Janet Fielding also seems to relish the opportunity to play the Mara possesed Tegan and as such she conveys her evil side particularly well.

In short Kinda is underrated, a clever yet simple tale which entertains although not to the heights of its sequel, Snakedance.


A Review by Charles Tuck 4/5/05

Kinda is a story that in my opinion does not get the credit it deserves. Yes, I know the Mara is one of the most awful and fake props ever used in Doctor Who but as we all know, the budget was small.

What surprised me in this story was how little the Doctor’s companions did. Tegan, although she causes the Mara to enter her mind does very little else, Adric does the most (injuring Aris and almost getting himself killed) and Nyssa sleeps for 98% of the story! Instead, the Doctor is aided by Todd, a scientist from the dome, who in my opinion would have made a good companion. She asks what we actually want to know and doesn’t do anything stupid or unnecessary (Adric, cough…cough).

Hindle going mad I thought was a very adult concept for Doctor Who at the time, but a lot of other episodes have had disturbing moments (the troll doll from Terror of the Autons?). I am confused though as to what caused this insanity, although stress is likely, maybe he was affected by the telepathic waves from the Kinda?

The Doctor himself is a bit of a mixed bag in this episode, showing what seems to be affection for Todd and later grappling with Hindle (I thought he was supposed to be vulnerable), and wrecking his cardboard city…….

The giant snake, although fake-looking, just had to be in this story. We had to see its true form, how bad would Kinda be if we didn’t see its true form!?!

Overall, Kinda is a well planned out story. Maybe there's a dodgy rubber snake but the bad special effects are one of the joys of Doctor Who!


A Review by A.D. Morrison 5/8/06

It's difficult for me to restrict my praise for Christopher Bailey's first (of only two) contributions to the classic Who canon. This is chiefly because Kinda has pretty much been my favourite Doctor Who story for many years now; ever since I re-watched it on video for only the second time back in 87/88. I remember as an impressionable eight year old back in 1982 being very beguiled by this peculiar story; and my second viewing at the age of 13/14 confirmed that my formative instincts had fermented into a timeless appreciation of this unique classic.

I'll get the bad points out of the way now, as for the most part I can spot only good ones. The snake: the Mara incarnate, yes; pretty atrociously realised I admit, a sort of inflatable fairground manifestation. The sets? Well, there I tend to disagree on the whole with the conventional view of Who fandom: I don't think they're all that bad overall, the intrusive studio floor aside, what we have are fairly standard video-shot outside sets which are certainly no more offensive than, say, those in Meglos or Keeper of Traken. The sets of the base are, in my opinion, very well designed and, after all, it is in the base that the most important sequences of Kinda are shot: namely, those revolving around Hindle's burgeoning breakdown.

It is to Hindle I turn first, and almost entirely. For me, Simon Rouse in Hindle put in the most affecting, powerful and hypnotic performance of any incidental character in the series' history. Close contenders such as John Abineri's Colonel Carrington, Bernard Miles's Nyder, Philip Madoc's Solon, John Bennett's Lee H'sen Chang, David Collings' Poul, Mark Strickson's 'early' Turlough, Christopher Gable's Sharaz Jek and Alfred Lynch's Commander Millington aside, for me Simon Rouse's Hindle is the most powerful incidental character of all time.

Rouse provides a truly flawless performance - augmented no doubt by Peter Grimwade's consummately mature direction - and in my view entirely defines the extraordinary power of Kinda. Rouse clearly thought much about every line he delivered - and presumably Grimwade too made sure to milk Hindle's rich and often bizarre dialogue and monologues to their full dramatic capacity - and my God, Chris Bailey certainly loads the part with legion stunning outbursts of neurotic exegeses on "the nature of the threat posed by the trees"; craned pensively in his swivel-chair, legs folded into the seat, fanatically pressing his finger on the rule book etc. "I am on to you you know"; "don't you see, that way the outside can never get in?" and so on. For me the crowning scenes for Hindle are his tearing up the plants in the botanical room in the first episode; the cliffhanger for episode one, when he literally spits out "You forget: I am now in command: I have the power of life and death over all of you!" and his collapsing on his knees in episode two at the sight of Sanders' returning vehicle: "Mummy, mummy, make him go away!" Simply stunning. For me, the greatest ever dramatic piece of acting from an incidental character in the show's history, a close second being Sharaz Jek's "Look at me!" outburst in Caves of Androzani and subsequent cowering in tears on the floor.

Rouse delivers some of his lines so powerfully the effect is almost blackly comical, sometimes almost spitting out his tirades; his effort in this role cannot be faulted and it's hard to imagine any other actor pulling it off quite as well (no doubt Rouse, a relatively unknown face in 1982, felt he had to prove himself in what was absolute gold-dust for an aspiring actor). In fact, the only other actor - and one of my all-time favourites - who could have given Hindle a good shot is the inimitable David Collings, the perfect Doctor that never was; indeed, Rouse rather resembles Collings physically, with his late 70s lank fox-brown crop of hair and rather gangly frame. There is a lot of Poul (Robots of Death) in the realisation of Hindle, but the latter even surpasses the former with a far fuller, more pivotal, role in what is one of the most symbol-laden, subtext-rich plots ever written for the show.

It is almost impossible to imagine an incidental character such as Hindle getting such a central focus and development in any other era of the series. Imagine if Tom Baker had stayed on for Season 19? I could not imagine such an explosive characterisation as Hindle's having enough space in the giant presence of Tom Baker. Indeed, muted and markedly plain though the new Doctor, Peter Davison, comes across in comparison to the power of Simon Rouse's performance, this is in itself the main reason that a character as Hindle is able to shine and indeed exist in the first place: alongside a less dominant Doctor. Davison was, in a sense, pushed aside a little from the offset, having three companions on entrance, two of whom, Tegan and (the shoddily acted) Adric, continually had pivotal inputs into the narrative of the new era. Given the circumstances, Davison does remarkably well in the part, in Kinda first perfecting his "old man in a young man's body" approach, replete with Bidmead-introduced occasional spectacles. But try as he might, Davison's rather vague deep-set stare and somewhat gormless demeanour are no match for the intensity of expression exuding from every pore of Rouse in his gibbering, tensing performance.

For me there are two other stories in which Davison's somewhat blanched portrayal of the Doctor is seriously overshadowed by the sheer might of incidental actors, both of whom would have seemed far more obviously enigmatic contenders for the very role they were playing opposite: Paul Shelley as Persuasion in Four to Doomsday and David Collings as Mawdryn in Mawdryn Undead (who even pretends to be the Doctor at one point, no doubt fulfilling many fans' former fantasies of his actually playing the part, me for one). This rather fainter incarnation of the Doctor however was at the time very refreshing, and Davison is the master of subtlety and underplaying, and in this sense actually works very well in the part, culminating ultimately in his superb and definitive portrayal in Caves of Androzani (alternately polite, ponderous, witty and angry).

In Kinda, Davison's very understated Doctor was never more needed in order to allow the character of Hindle frequent centre-stage. After the growing silliness and omnipotent central portrayal of the late Graham Williams era, from Castrovalva onwards, I felt Doctor Who started to grow up a bit (though sadly to be short-lived). For the first time we had a graphic depiction of - and literal script reference: "I think he's on the verge of a nervous breakdown" - someone suffering psychological collapse. This was a mature trend which was to continue into the following season with a more controversial focus on the post-breakdown amnesia of the Brigadier - again, could you imagine such adult depth in any other era of the show (bar the Hinchcliffe era)?

I'll leave it to other reviewers to debate about the Bhuddist/Paradise Lost/Tempest subtexts to this story - and anyway, I've gone into it in quite some detail years ago in a fanzine called Time Incorporated. What is more interesting in a way is the directorial juxtapositions of Kinda: the subtle camouflage effect on the TARDIS exterior seen at the beginning, as if its chameleon circuit is attempting to blend in a bit to Deva Loka; the chess player parallels in Tegan's Mara-gripped mind (no doubt the two chess players, Dukkha and the iron monolith, are dark representatives of Nyssa and Adric, the Doctor and the TARDIS); the shot of Hindle jumping out like a jack-in-the-box in his cardboard city echoing the earlier shot of the small puppet popping out of the box of Jhana, and so on and so on. No wonder The Unfolding Text came about: Kinda is so rich with detail and subtext one could rant on forever about it. But enough.

I restrict this retrospective to focusing almost entirely on the direction and acting of this story. Grimwade's direction indeed is superb, almost sublime in places. His masterly direction of Hindle aside, there are also the truly disturbing scenes inside Tegan's mind, strikingly shot on a sharp white filter which makes the grotesque apparitions of Dukkha and the gloriously dark-take Lewis Carroll-like chess players all the more frightening; the shots of the Mara-possessed Tegan waking up to a panning out camera - inspired. It is a testament to the old series that with such tiny budgets (compared to new Who), with concentrated acting and direction one is actually seriously unnerved by two actors alternately portraying sheer evil with only the aid of red dental mouthwash staining their teeth. Of course, Janet Fielding excels in this story (as she does the following season in the consummate, though slightly inferior, sequel, Snakedance): striking though Fielding is, there is also something potentially sinister about those slitty eyes of hers, and she puts in a brilliant performance in her Mara-possessed scenes, seeming terrifying and seductive all at once. Superb. Even the lanky Adrian Mills does fairly well when possessed.

Mary Morris as Panna is superb: her Shakespearean delivery fits the Tempest style of the story expertly, and with her suitably grizzled countenance, she really resembles Gagool (sic) from Rider Haggard's King Solomon's Mines. Nerys Hughes proved she could do a straight dramatic role to good effect, though she pales in comparison to Rouse and the excellent Richard Todd. I am quite a fan of Todd in some of his old films, particularly his ineffectual character in the otherwise dodgy Never Let Go and his emotive performance in The Hastey Heart. But as an actor Todd always came across a little vague, somewhat mannered and plain, though always very likeable. But in Kinda he demonstrates a breadth of acting which ironically surpasses his filmography. His childlike depiction of post-"box of Jhana" Sanders is magical to watch, especially when contrasted next to the craning intensity of Hindle. Todd was inspired casting for this part, perfectly fitting the fusty colonial Blimpishness required for the initial portrayal of Sanders. And the colonial aspects to this story also work brilliantly in the blatantly incongruous symbolism of the Earth surveyors actually wearing 19th century style uniforms with braces, sand-coloured tunics and those inimitable pith helmets. At the time I remember thinking this seemed a little too peculiar, as the story is set far in the future of Earth history, so to have the colonists wearing 19th century pith helmets looked very strange to say the least. But, perhaps partly because I just love the design of the pith helmets, I think it simply works, yes, as a blatant polemical allusion, but I honestly believe this bizarrely anachronistic comment on colonialism is a stroke of sheer genius and adds to the uniqueness of Kinda.

Finally, I love the treated shots of Sanders' and Hindle's faces as their eyes magnify with enlightenment on peering into the box of Jhana - beautifully shot to suitably ethereal computer chords. Magical.

And so Kinda remains my favourite story of all time, mainly due to Rouse's portrayal of Hindle, but also for its uniqueness of realisation in general, the anachronistic colonial outfits, the seminally analytical possession of a companion, and the story's very daring attempt to stage an entirely confined, dialogue/concept-driven scenario, playing to the hilt on its dramatic potentialities. It's no surprise then that this unique story in the Who canon was originally written as a Play for Today, for Kinda truly is a play, a story which can exist entirely in its own right outside of Doctor Who, and not many other stories can claim such a dramatically transcendental status. Kinda shows above all how - sadly or not - the new Who series can never touch the dramatic power of the classic series; at least, not until it abandons its soap aspects and breakneck pace. Kinda is a classic example of old Who theatricality and emphasis on character, and in the entire canon of the show is, in many of these aspects, a peerless work of art.

10/10


A Review by Brian May 1/6/09

Kinda remains one of my all time favourite stories. It's rich and textured, with a fascinating, multi-layered script that's both a fable and a gripping psychological drama. Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness and Ursula Le Guin's The Word for World is Forest have rightly been pointed out as major literary influences, especially in their anti-colonialist themes, and there's a nice infusion of Buddhist teaching that reflects writer Christopher Bailey's beliefs. The imagery of snakes and apples invokes a Christian influence, but despite the symbolism this is in fact a strong criticism of Christianity, especially the subordination of women that stems from the tale of Adam and Eve.

It's deep. It's complex. It's cerebral. But does that make it pretentious? Is it wannabe arthouse TV, unsuitable for Doctor Who? Well, no. It's heavy going for sure, and it steers clear of the usual alien invasion, but there's still a villain and a monster, and a race to defeat both. It's a fundamental Who adventure, with some added trimmings. Peter Grimwade's direction is very good. He positions the actors well, while the surreal dream sequences and Panna's apocalyptic vision are very unsettling. Speaking of Tegan's dream, we can also say this story is adult. She is cajoled, blackmailed and threatened into surrendering her mind to Dukkha - rape by any other name (and in this light Dukkha's "You would be suitably entertained" is very, very creepy).

The usual budgetary restrictions mean there are visual flaws - the fake-looking snake at the end, for instance - but Grimwade compensates with clever camerawork. I'm not too fazed over the studio-bound nature of the story; it's not as impressive as the exterior sets we've seen elsewhere in the programme, but I can't imagine a suitable location that would have done justice to the planet's tropical climes. Not in Britain anyway - it would simply have rained, and Deva Loka isn't the sort of place for "freak weather conditions!" There's only one scene where the studio setting compromises the visual impact, in part three when the Trickster confronts the Doctor and Todd - basically the only time you can see the floor.

This was the time when a plethora of high profile actors guest starred in Doctor Who. These were often miscast but Richard Todd, Mary Morris and Nerys Hughes certainly weren't; they are all wonderful. Hughes plays the one-story companion with a restrained sexiness; she's a great flirt, a good character foil and unfortunately didn't join the TARDIS crew. A special mention must also go to Jeffrey Stewart in his small but disquieting turn as Dukkha. He's a household name nowadays thanks to The Bill, but back then Simon Rouse was relatively unknown; however, he's astounding as the unhinged Hindle. Insanity in Doctor Who is usually a cop-out; someone like Professor Zaroff has to be insane... well, because he just is! He's the baddie, dammit! (One of the few exceptions to this rule was John Abineri in The Ambassadors of Death.) But, in Hindle, insanity is seen for what it really is: mental illness. Rouse does not need to ham it up or overact; when Hindle has his fits of mania, they're terrifying.

Peter Davison's third outing, both recorded and transmitted, is the one that cements the diversity of idiosyncrasies that I love in the fifth Doctor. His tetchiness, impatience, naiveté, the"\reckless innocent" Davison is quoted as seeing his role. When confronted by a man with a gun he doffs his hat and says "I'm delighted to meet you!" and when called an idiot by Panna he accepts it meekly and almost graciously. Great stuff! Janet Fielding also impresses here. We get to see a good actor given a chance to burst out from a rubbishy role. Most people laud her possession by the Mara - which is very good I admit - but it's the frightened, out-of-her-depth Tegan in the dream that is Fielding's great moment. It's a pity the script sees her revert back to the Tegan of old in part four, what with that dreadful verbal slanging match between her and Adric. But then this thankfully short scene is evident as the padding it is, shot during the recording of Earthshock to fill up time. Now there are other moments of padding - part two in the Dome, particularly - but we have excellent dialogue, tension and the dominant threat of Hindle to make these scenes more than watchable. In part four all we have is normal-Tegan and Adric. No contest.

The story is also a great argument for the one-companion rule. The overcrowded TARDIS crew that blighted most of this season is thankfully abandoned here, if only temporarily. For contractual reasons, Nyssa spends two episodes asleep, and Adric is shoehorned into the plot. Tegan is separated from the Doctor; the Doctor is therefore assisted by Todd for most of the adventure. Simple, really!

Kinda is very good. There's a lot going on. It's a prime example of Doctor Who getting deep and meaningful without disappearing up its intellectual backside. It's not the only story of its time to try something different, for most of seasons 18 and 19 were similarly inventive, but it is undoubtedly one of the best. 9/10


Could've Been A Classic by Michael Bayliss 3/11/09

Kinda is a story that I feel is a potential classic wanting to happen, but where the many positives (such as the central themes and some stellar performances) are almost overwhelmed and undermined by the negatives, such as fake sets that don't hide their fakeness, fake rubber snakes that hide their fakeness even less well, and some glaring inconsistencies in the scripting and direction. These negatives almost becomes the story's own "Mara" (if one permits me getting all metaphorical) that threaten to consume a great story that only just manages to hold its head above the water.

Tegan's subconscious scenes are excellent; as was leant from The Mind Robber and Warriors' Gate, minimalism is the key: the monochrome display of black background and the contrast turned up to the max is very effective. Some scenes, most particularly the chessboard scene, remind me of European art-house films (Bergman's The Seventh Seal, anyone?)? The ordeals that the Mara puts Tegan through prior to invading her shattered psyche is realized every bit as grim on screen as it sounds on paper.

The breakdown of the psyche is also explored with Hindle and Sanders, and I think it's a great twist in episode one where Sanders initially comes across as the crazed military autocrat by numbers but then it is Hindle who loses the plot. Seeing this character regress over 3 and a bit episodes from paranoid bully to a paper-doll-making child is jaw-dropping. Unfortunately, this stellar performance is undermined by a poor explanation of why or how Hilder goes insane. Kinda already presents two avenues in which people go mad; one is through the Mara (cue Tegan and Aris), the other by the Healing Box (Sanders.) Hindle is exposed to none of these but goes insane anyway. My guess his madness was a result of some "Heart of Darkness" syndrome, but his mad path is never explicitly made either distinct or similar to anyone else, only some mumblings of "he never looked in the box" and the "the trees are scary", but I feel Hindle was almost a separate story that needed more fully realized, otherwise the viewer is trying to fit the pieces by linking Hindle's madness with everyone else's, which becomes a red herring.

Imagine if the script was a little more explicit about Hindle's colonial fever (more comments about missing home, how much he hates the natives for no reason, "exterminate the brutes" or words to that effect). Imagine if one of the missing crew had returned (missing crew are referred to but they are never found, and the reasons are never made clear in another case of messy scripting). Imagine if that missing crew member was maddened to such a state where all (s)he could do was mutter "the horror, the horror". Kinda could then be a story exploring insanity in its myriad of forms, and having different people going mad for different reasons. At its heart, Kinda is two stories in one, but the script seems in denial, and makes a half-arsed attempt at linking things together, which it fails to do and just ends up disjointed.

The director does surreal very well, which is evident by above-mentioned Tegan scenes, as well as the prophecy scenes and the cliffhanger to episode 3, with brilliants plays of colours and video effects. By contrast, the director doesn't have the same grasp with the more straightforward scenes, although this is probably sabotaged to some extent by the cheap production values. Although I don't have a problem with the much-maligned forest setting (Fake Plastic Trees are now back into vogue thanks to modernist landscape architecture and Radiohead singles), the laughably cute rubber snake unfortunately undermines probably the most creative and interesting villain extermination scene ever seen on Who. The acting from the regulars doesn't seem to really help either. The Doctor and Adric spend much of episode 2 sleepwalking in an out of incarceration, for example.

The script seems to enjoy endless repetition, especially in scenes involving Adric's bad acting. One example is Episode 3 where he makes four attempts at escaping the complex; each time he does this by casually strolling out, each time he's caught and his captor says "back to the control room", Adric shrugs his shoulders, Hindle says "don't do that again" and everyone turns their back, allowing Adric to repeat this game many more times over, without any sense of forward progress. Can't you just feel the tension? The whole darn thing is so damn sloppy!

Then there are the lovely choreography sequences in episode 4; how the "we" were planning on invading the "not we" compound with their wooden replica of the mobile unit is completely beyond me, but it's soon over rather anti-climatically when an actual mobile unit comes out and kicks everyone's arse in a matter of seconds, all done in a cramped side camera angle for the least amount of tension. It turns out it's Adric in there, with the circruitry frying his brain or whatever, but we find this out after that dreaded scene, when the viewer should have known this beforehand, so during the scene we could go "bunch of natives fighting and out of control Adric; will he survive?" instead of "bunch of natives fighting a random malfunctioning machine... whatever". Wow. This scene was really spectacularly screwed up by everyone involved, wasn't it?

Kinda is a deep, complex story if you can get past the cheap sets, disjointed plot development, disjointed character progression and some questionable direction. Unfortunately, I can't get over this, so Kinda is an abused classic-to-be rather than an actual one.


"The age of idiocy" by Thomas Cookson 24/5/14

Tat Wood's main complaint about Kinda, and about early 80's Who overall is that it's didactic, like being subjected to a lecture. An incoherent pseudo philosophical lecture.

But having Doctor Who blur the lines between family sci-fi and educational documentary should be workable and also not unprecedented. Most Hartnell stories are effectively historical docudramas, and even The Dalek Invasion of Earth feels occasionally like a speculative documentary about a future apocalypse. Splicing chemistry and biology educational animations into Terror of the Autons or Genesis of the Daleks would probably work seamlessly. Even City of Death's chicken and egg sequence gestures toward The Ascent of Man. Doctor Who has always been that strange and open to infiltration by other TV genres.

But somehow in Kinda's case, it's jarring. It feels suspiciously like an incomplete lecture you're only getting bits of, just to ensure you're as lost and unrewarded as possible. But it's also like watching a lecture, whilst enduring obnoxious misbehaving kids bickering throughout it, and knowing no matter how many times they're told to stop, they'll carry on.

Oh, the Season 19 companions. It's dawned on me that the problem with Logopolis is that it's forced to juggle being Tom's departure story with being a hasty introduction story for Tegan and reintroduction for Nyssa, whilst establishing the Master as regular fixture. It takes the focus from Tom's exit and makes it less about the end of his era and more about the new era gatecrashing on him.

Tegan was so shakily introduced she could never really ground herself. She meant nothing to Tom's Doctor, who spent the story largely avoiding her, and nowhere in the story does she seem to make a personal decision to be part of this adventuring life she keeps complaining about. She continues to shout and throw tantrums as the only way she can overcompensate for her permanently marginal status. A pity, because classic cinema is replete with entertaining romances about bachelors being stuck with ferocious hellcat pests with Bettie Davies' eyes that they gradually grow fond for. But all we get here is sour milk.

Nyssa has just as little grounding, being like luggage passed onto the Doctor by the Watcher for no apparent reason. For all the terrible things that happen to her, there's still no context for her, which is partly why her tragedy falls flat and cold, and gets barely acknowledged (ironic, given how Kinda and Castrovalva are primarily concerned with the therapeutic). Adric is the closest point of familiarity we have, but he's quickly making himself our point of contempt.

So the show doesn't really justify its sudden large ensemble, with the exceptions of Castrovalva and Earthshock. Notably Castrovalva has to put the Doctor himself out of action. The Visitation is a Hartnell throwback where the four-team TARDIS almost works, but the Doctor has so many companions to manage, that the scene where he abandons a stunned Tegan to the Terileptil's mercy not only reveals how one companion must be put out of action but it also marks the first point where Davison is characterized by Saward as a coward.

So after the contrived introduction story, and two passable ensemble pieces, this story now must focus on Tegan in order to belatedly justify her presence. I don't have much problem with this. It turns Tegan's outsider status and her fear of her shrinking presence into a frightening nightmarish metaphor. But the problem is, after she passes the Mara onto Arris, all her character development goes back to square one, the moment the Doctor awakes her. So it all amounts to nothing by the story's end.

Moreso, the obvious outcome and catharsis of Tegan's ordeal should be that her fears are conquered. That when reunited with the TARDIS team, she's finally reassured that she won't be marginalized or abandoned, thus completing the establishment of this new family. It sounds twee, but it's the logical emotional conclusion. Instead, the opposite happens. Adric decides to snipe at her about how this is all her fault and denigrating her weaker mind. It's obnoxious and comes from nowhere as inexcusable nastiness for its own sake, as if deliberately trying to destroy whatever good will the audience has granted this new sans-Tom Baker era. In a story of giant psychic snakes and cinematic, surreal cave visions, it's this scene that stands out as baffling us at what's happening and why, and why are we watching this crap? Instead of catharsis, we get a sad confirmation that we're going to be in for a long slog of more of this unpleasantness.

This leads to a problem by Snakedance. Because, between those two stories, nothing about Tegan's emotional status quo changes. There's no hint that the Mara's possession has had any effect on her, so when Snakedance reveals the Mara is still within her, affecting her now, it feels like the forced 'this week this character has issues now' moment it is. Despite its closeness to perfection, Snakedance never escapes its status as a mechanically contrived sequel having to go to convoluted, almost Miracle Day lengths to justify its continuation of an ended story.

Part of the reason Tegan's character journey falls so flat here though is that the story is so badly constructed and welded together. Nothing really flows from one side-plot to the other, and in fact you could cut out the Mara business without affecting the rest of the action with Hindle's insanity. And vice versa. It's as if the story was almost too faithful to the idea of separating camps between impenetrable walls whereby one civilization was not allowed to influence the other, that two separate jeapordies have to happen within them, in isolation from each other. So eventually the story has to contrive a conflict between two cultures who've had no previous effect on each other beforehand. So we learn nothing about any plausible escalation of hostilities, because madness and possession made them do it. And I hate to say it, but the problem could have been solved by making the Kinda far less enlightened and more savage.

For that matter, if there's such a danger of the Mara coming into being through dreaming under the chimes, why do the Kinda have the chimes at all?

Just to compare to Horror of Fang Rock. The involvement of the shipwrecked snobs is directly a result of the sabotage of the lighthouse causing them to crash on the rocks. In Genesis of the Daleks, whilst Davros is developing his Dalek weapon in secret, it's all in the context of an unwinnable war and the need for the total annihilation weapon. Hindle's breakdown barely has a context. There's supposed to be a transition from him being cranky to suddenly becoming completely delusional and homicidal, but it's so sudden that nothing supports it, and we know this is nothing to do with the Mara, even if some of us keep waiting for that to turn out to be the explanation. So it all rests entirely on Simon Rouse's performance to make it happen by sheer force of will, which he kind of does. But the problem is it's a coincidence too far to be credible, and the character is still directionless - and, whilst there is a lot of talk of plans to press the button, there is, ironically, because of Hindle's volatile nature, no certain ticking clock at work, which is made worse by some of the mispaced superfluous padding of Adric whining and panicking over his helplessness whilst the explosives are set and can't be tampered with.

It's been argued how strange and unlike anything the show's done before this story is, but I'm unconvinced. We had Buddhist metaphor before in Planet of the Spiders. We've explored tribalism and schizophrenia in The Face of Evil. Kinda is largely just Doctor Who cliches - unhinged commanders, malevolent possessions and bases under siege - that all seem to happen for their own sake, as if in the knowledge that fans will make excuses along the lines of 'sure Hindle's breakdown is hard to buy but that happens in a lot of stories'. Or that the prior sharing of an apple between the Doctor and Todd was supposed to be 'symbolic' of Hindle's lost innocence and paranoid realization of being in a scary new world.

Whilst there's a part of me that was willing to find it refreshing and even progressive that one Doctor Who cliche is turned on its head: that the hotheaded or unhinged commander who's usually guaranteed to die actually survives and regains his sanity, proving to not be such a lost cause. But we've even seen this before in Ambassadors of Death and Planet of Evil. And it only exposes how this story just feels much more bloodless and sanitized about it. It feels far too pat that nearly everyone lives; Hindle's regained sanity isn't based on inner strength but in giving him a character reset button that magics away his emotional problems.

Snakedance demonstrates that Christopher Bailey could have a more successful second go at making this framework connect and involve catharsis and interactions of influence rather than characters operating as out-of-control juggernauts off their own back (perhaps that's meant to be the point, about the isolation of space travel and what happens when humans break apart from civilization and each other, but it feels barely like clarity amidst the aimless fugue), and turn seedlings of his ideas into something that grew rather than floundered in barren, oversterilized soil.

But it's not all there yet, and the story ends up diverging into various dead ends, which make its hinting towards a greater fictional landscape feel like frustratingly hollow deflections without substance. Half the story feels half-formed, the rest feels like set concrete maintaining a chokehold. And some of the horrid jumpy editing from scene to scene, particularly in the early scenes with the Doctor and Todd, only makes this worse, leaving less to savour and fewer chances for this story to fully form, making a clunky story clunkier.

As for Davison, I'm afraid this is where the Doctor really loses any sense of enigmatic alien intelligence. He's too human, too unsure and reduced. Even stopping himself mid-sentence out of self-consciousness in the "An apple a day" scene. I'd like to think it's because he's surrounded by a far stranger, more alien culture, but no it's just not there. I've tried to imagine Davison working as a Doctor if you erased his worst Season 21 moments, but I've come to realize that even if the show ended on The Visitation you'd still be left with a weaker hero by the drag factor of his aforementioned cowardice there and by the verbal punching bag he is here.

As has been pointed out, if you will have surrounding characters denigrate Davison constantly as an 'idiot' whilst he takes it like a doormat, you need this Doctor to at some point do something spectacular to prove them wrong. Frame the term 'idiot' in dramatic irony, like how Iago in Othello is often called 'honest Iago'. It doesn't happen, so being described as an 'idiot' becomes Davison's characterization.

He lacks the Doctor's insight. Contrary to fan claims, he clearly doesn't know any more than he's letting on here. In fact, it's the Doctor who has to be lectured before he gains any second-hand understanding, having previously been an empty vessel. Even when eventually releasing himself from his cell, and concocting the mythic way of banishing the Mara with mirrors, his assessment of the Mara as 'evil' comes off as rather too simplistic. When talking of where the Mara will go when it's banished, he even describes it in obfuscating terms as 'the dark recesses beyond or wherever', it's clear he has no real idea. The process of him making steps toward a full understanding ultimately never reaches any completion.