Region 1

Region 2
"Mara Tales"
Box Set
VHS Video
(Doctor Who Story No. 119, starring Peter Davison)
  • written by Christopher Bailey
  • directed by Peter Grimwade
  • produced by John Nathan-Turner
  • music by Peter Howell
  • 4 episodes @ 25 minutes each
Story: On the planet Deva Loka, the Doctor and Adric discover several space colonists who are worried about their comrades who have not returned from their explorations of the jungle outside. Meanwhile Tegan, still outside, falls under the spell of a creature that invades her mind through the dream state, and unbalanced states of mind begin to crop up everywhere. What is the full extent of the dangers on the planet? And how do the silent, telepathic local tribespeople, known as the Kinda, fit into the puzzle?

DVD Extras include:

  • Audio commentary by Peter Davison (The Doctor), Janet Fielding (Tegan), Matthew Waterhouse (Adric), Nerys Hughes (Professor Todd).
  • "Dream Time" making-of featurette (34 min.) with Fielding, Hughes, Simon Rouse (Hindle), Adrian Mills (Aris),
    designer Malcolm Thornton, writer Christopher Bailey, script editors Christopher H. Bidmead, Antony Root, and Eric Saward,
    and the late director Peter Grimwade.
  • "Peter Grimwade - Directing with Attitude" featurette (23 min.) - colleagues remember his life and work. Contains spoilers for seasons 18-21.
  • Optional CGI Effects sequence (part four only)
  • CGI Effects comparison (2 min.)
  • Isolated Music Score by Peter Howell
  • Deleted Scenes (15 min.)
  • Photo Gallery music montage (5 min.)
  • Pop-up Production Note Subtitles

Buyers' Guide Review

by Martin Izsak

(A more in-depth analysis, containing "SPOILERS" and intended for those who have already seen the program, can be accessed here.)

This story is different from most other Doctor Who offerings, dealing more with unbalanced states of mind than the usual technological sci-fi challenges, and successfully placing its emphasis on strong acting performances rather than ground-breaking visuals. Peter Davison finally begins to come into his own particular Doctor in this story, and the whole thing becomes a studio-bound mild success.

The cinematic style of "Kinda" seems to emphasize an anti-tech outlook on life, something carried over into its sequel the following year. The usual simple special effects for the TARDIS like materialization and the juxtaposition of the impossible interior/exterior relationship are completely bypassed in this story, by starting the tale off just after the TARDIS has landed, and oddly ending it just before the take-off that the audience is later well-primed for. There is also a complete absence of visual beam weapons fire. I found all this terribly disappointing on my first viewing years ago.

In fact, despite featuring two groups of space explorers on an alien planet, about the only piece of technology that gets a spotlight on it and a bit of an explanation is the T.S.S. machine, and even then perhaps only because the writer is using this device to emphasize and exaggerate the unbalanced states of mind of its various users throughout the story.

The introductions in this story focus more on display of character than plot-entrances, and work well enough. A later scene of the Doctor meeting the explorers from the dome fills in the remaining gaps later on.

The early portions of the story actually resurrect the base defence story beats that formulaically worked so well in the Patrick Troughton years, as the crew in the dome build suspense through the fear of the unknown and the mysteries that they have on hand. As this is contrasted with the very bizarre experiences that Tegan is having, and what few Kinda tribespeople we see early on have no lines of dialogue, a high level of anticipation is created for the future revelations in the story.

Part Two manages to escalate thanks to more mystery and unanswered questions, and neatly sidesteps most of the usual boring prisoner dynamics.

Each episode also seems to flow better when viewed immediately after its predecessor, in keeping character motivations clear and providing a continual drive for them throughout the story. Viewed separately, starting each episode cold, it's harder to get back into the characters and regain a sense of what they're working towards.

Peter Davison's Doctor proves to be very lively and jovial in this story, while allowing his vulnerability and the limits of his experience to come to the forefront. It is at times puzzling to see him so much at a loss to understand or emulate Adric's simple magic tricks, or to admit so freely to being an idiot at one humorous point. Sadly we don't really see here the older, experienced man inside him, nor is there any glimmer of Tom Baker's brooding nature, which is nicely refreshing in this particular case. His inquiring scientific mind is very active and on the ball, however, and he proves capable of understanding and accepting the Kinda culture faster than anyone else. He still puts in a very good showing before the adventure is over.

This story is famous for putting Nyssa "in the cupboard", as Sarah Sutton herself put it, as apparently there wasn't enough to do in the adventure to occupy all three companions. It is interesting to note that Tegan also has virtually nothing to do in episode three, and only appears in one or two token shots allowing her to retain a credit on the episode. Adric has more to do than either of the women, and once more he makes a point of getting on the "bad guys" good side. This proves to have its advantages, as usual, and is better thought out on Adric's part than what he did in the previous adventure.

But surprisingly, the character who best fulfills the usual functions of the Doctor's companion on this adventure is the dome scientist Professor Todd, who sticks with him throughout, asks all the right "please explain the plot, Doctor" questions, and responds to events and alien cultures in ways that reflect the reactions one might expect from the audience. She's also well enough versed in science and technology to rival Nyssa or Romana. Perhaps Todd is the real reason why Nyssa was left in the cupboard for the adventure.

Hindle and Sanders prove to be a bizarre pair of characters, but are played very well by the actors. The dynamics here border on the kind of Candy-Horror stylizations that later became popular during Sylvester McCoy's era of Doctor Who, but Kinda works better than many of those offerings through its strong anchoring in the real world and the obvious stresses that have led to the characters' states of mind. Note that Hindle and Sanders do not wear bizarre make-ups or costumes, and that they inhabit an easily understood and believed set. Hindle also has a line about his boyhood which, when coupled with his opening scenes versus the stern Sanders, makes his character very believable and in many ways sympathetic.

It is a pity that Kinda is Peter Howell's only musical contribution to season nineteen. He turns out an excellent score as usual, full of fascinating instrument sounds and highly effective cues, magnetically pulling the viewers deeper into the bizarreness and alien wonders of the story. It's a joy to listen to.
Music by Peter Howell and Special Sound by Dick Mills
"TSS Machine Attacked" (1:07) is available on:
Audio CD - Doctor Who - Earthshock
Silva Screen FilmCD 709

More info & buying options

Peter Grimwade also deserves some honours as a director for bringing this difficult script to life so successfully. Although the most important piece of the puzzle may have been getting the actors and their performances to gel so well, he once again impresses me especially with his editing choices during the finale, when the limited effects budget could have been a far bigger let-down had it not been handled correctly.

DVD owners now have an alternate version of this sequence to enjoy, which is a definite improvement in believability and enjoyment. New CGI effects improve the believability of the sequence and make it a few levels more creepy. And as always, the new CGI is offered as an option, and DVD owners can watch part four with the version of effects that they prefer.

I also have to say that I like the way the jungle set is lit. It is far more believable day lighting than what we got in many Hinchcliffe era jungles like that of "The Face of Evil" (story no. 89).

The anti-tech stylizations must give way during a sequence with the TSS machine in the final episode. Visual beams are called for, and what we get is very pathetic - flash charges arcing towards the floor, reminiscent of the limp weapons fire seen in "Revenge of the Cybermen" (story no. 79). Thankfully this is limited, and doesn't do the story too much harm, although opportunities for obvious positive marks are thus lost.

The plot must take a hit for leaving at least two glaring holes.... but as these are potential spoilers, I'll only point them out in the In-Depth Analysis version of this review.

All in all, "Kinda" is a fascinating Doctor Who adventure, well put together, and an enjoyable story from a time when Doctor Who was still at its original height.

This story is available on DVD and VHS video.
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"Mara Tales" Box Set
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Read the Buyers' Guide Review for the next story: "The Visitation"

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