There had to be one serial that just fell short of the top one hundred. Fans of the Fifth Doctor please look away now and forgive me, as the dubious honour falls to this four parter from Peter Davison’s first season as the Doctor. And as with many other serials in this range of the countdown, it only suffers from being in the category of story that I enjoy, but am not overly wowed by.
There is a lot to commend this particular serial – for one thing the baddy of the piece is decidedly sinister – a entity of pure evil called the Mara, who dwells mainly in the subconscious, but manifests itself as a giant snake … albeit one that is undeniably a gigantic plastic prop! It enters the world through dreams, and so when Tegan falls asleep on the planet Deva Loka the Mara swoops in to take advantage. In the meantime, the Doctor discovers an impasse between the mostly militant earth colonists (very thinly veiled British Imperialists) and the native Kinda, a race that mainly communicate through telepathy and a shared mind – the Kinda wise woman doing what she can to urge the colonists to leave, and the colonists brutally determined to take advantage of the planet’s natural resources. We could, all by itself, use this serial as an example of the political BBC, alongside The Happiness Patrol, The Sunmakers, and The Mutants to name but a few obvious examples.
Kinda is not just a political commentary however, but also a spiritual commentary – not least the reference to the Buddhist notion of the unbroken wheel and of the unending cycle of construction and destruction. The scene where Tegan is dreaming and the Mara is forcing her to contemplate who she is, is very much unsettling … unless you’re a child, as I was when I first watched the VHS and was more taken by the gigantic snake monster! It is without doubt further evidence of the peace and love brigade of the 1960s beginning to put forward their vision of utopia in the 1980s by contrasting the simple and evidently peaceful lifestyle of the Kinda with the stress, anger and aggression of the mostly male human colonists – which I freely admit is an aspect of the serial I find very wearing!
Aside of these commentaries, there is a good story at play here. This was Davison’s second recorded story as Doctor, and he is properly settled into the role by this stage. It wasn’t anticipated that Nyssa would stay on, so one hastily rewritten contract later put Nyssa in the TARDIS for all of this adventure (apart from brief cameos at the very beginning and end of the story) – demonstrating again that the TARDIS crew would have benefited had there been one less member. And, with apologies to Matthew Waterhouse, Adric demonstrates with great ease in this serial why it would have been better not to have him – his main roles are to cause havoc, and to demonstrate that no-one likes a know-it-all show-off. Tegan on the other hand gets a very good outing, aided and abetted by spending much of the serial possessed by the Mara. I’m often quite harsh on Tegan, but Kinda is one of her finer serials and Janet Fielding is excellent throughout.
It is a pity to put Kinda just outside the top 100, but I’d like to think this is more of a reflection on just how good the quality of classic Doctor Who is. For a very good story like this to have 100 stories ranked before it, speaks volumes for the quality of the stories still to come!
Kinda is also a very neat connection to a series of posts I am planning to do before we begin counting down from 100. The Mara would reappear in the next season in the story Snakedance, and was meant to feature again either in Season 21 or 22, in a story called Maytime. That it was not produced is a great pity, and I still think that Steven Moffat could do worse than to invite Janet Fielding to return as Tegan in Season 9 alongside the return of the Mara. That has given me pause to think which other classic series villains were underused, and ought to make a comeback – so expect a couple of posts featuring these long forgotten villains, and how I’d like to see them re-used in the new Doctor Who!