“And I don’t know what life would be
If we stop dreaming now”
Blur, Out of Time
“There’s no self control left in me
What was not will never will be”
This is the best Peter Davison story. If anyone tells you otherwise, call the men in white coats and have them dragged away to a padded cell where they can have a big old think about their foolishness. Kinda is really quite simply the best. I really like it, I do.
This is an adventure where our heroes (and Adric) encounter a giant snake with scary mental powers. Sadly it is also an adventure where Nyssa spends all four episodes in the TARDIS twiddling her thumbs.
I wonder what Nyssa is doing in the TARDIS? Making a giant pizza? Trampolining on Tegan’s bed? Using a hairbrush as a microphone as she sings along to Radiohead’s No Surprises? Dressing up in a ballgown and riding a horse down the corridors of the TARDIS?
So, yeah. The TARDIS gang arrive on the planet Deva Loka (which my spellcheck amusingly insists on calling it ‘Dave Lola’) where the natives comprise of silent men and clever clog women who look like they have escaped from a production of Hair.
Let me discuss the Big Bad. The giant snake. The Mara. If you are watching this on DVD, you might want to select the version with the CGI snake. If you are watching on VHS, well, there is just no hope for you, Marty McFly. Deal with the original snake and try not to laugh yourself to death.
Ahem… The snake. The Mara is one of the vaguest monsters in the Whoniverse. It is, apparently, a manifestation of evil that can enter the real world as a giant snake or as a terrible tattooey thing. When we first encounter it, it is lodged in Tegan’s brain and pressing her buttons.
The Mara is messing with Tegan’s head and causing her to encounter crazies in the deep recesses of her brain. Yes, I really do love these scenes. The dream sequences are possibly the most unsettling scenes in 1980s Doctor Who. The oddest too. Reminds me a little of Twin Peaks.
“Damn good coffee. Damn good parasitical snake monsters…”
I could have watched four episodes of Tegan and her dream sequence but I guess that might have caused the original viewers to turn the TV over and wait for Channel Four to start broadcasting.
Snakeboy only has the opportunity to control her because she has an unshared mind. Or to put it more clearly, because she in not telepathically linked to anyone, it can hijack her thinklump and cause her to be a sultry little minx. But this is only until it can dump her for the first male savage it meets. Chauvinistic pig.
Kinda isn’t all snakes and savages though. We have some colonial types as well. From Earth. Sanders, Hindle and Todd.
Sanders is played by Richard Todd. He is very much the archetypal military man with the bluffness and no-nonsense attitude that we expect from such a person. We feel like we already know him, so strong being the archetype. But when the Box of Jhana puts the whammy on him, he changes completely. Richard Todd, post-Jhana, is childlike with the most wonderfully innocent expression on his face. It feels like a different actor, that is how good he is. It is worth watching this to see his performance.
The Box of Jhana, in case you are wondering, is similar to the glowing suitcase in Pulp Fiction except that the box doesn’t contain a lightbulb. It is a maguffin but one that does change the game.
Simon Rouse as Hindle also delivers a performance that is worth watching (and rewatching). Hindle is a man who is losing control and slipping off the rails of mental stability. His performance is subtle and obvious in equal measures, never jarring but adding up to a delicious whole. If Kinda was wall-to-wall rubbish except for Rouse, it would still be worth watching. That is how good he is.
Todd (Nerys Hughes) is great too. She doesn’t get to act the range that the other two do but she is most certainly on her A-game. Peter Davison spends most of his time with her character and he noticeably gets on better with her than his friends (and Adric).
Talking of which… Davison as the Doctor is understated as usual. Understated but powerfully played. Saying all that though, when I think back on the story, I barely recall him. Is that weird?
Matthew Waterhouse as Adric goes around being mathy and swotty and turncoaty but that is just Adric being tricksy. Quite nice to see get in trouble when he gets into that tank/cabinet thing that the Earth colonials have. Adric is slowly learning…
The cabinet things is called an automated total survival suit (TSS) system but since that makes it sound more impressive than it actually is, I will continue to refer to it as a cabinet (if I mention it again which I won’t).
Janet Fielding is a revelation as Tegan. This is her best performance ever. For the first time, we feel sorry for her character. She brings out nuances in Tegan that we never suspected she had. Blindingly good.
I think I will wrap up things here. There is, as usual, so much more that I could mention to tempt you to watch this adventure. In any case, don’t take my word for it, watch it yourself.