Kinda

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"Mara Tales"
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(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), and 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

In-Depth Analysis Review

by Martin Izsak

WARNING: This review contains "SPOILERS", and is intended for those who have already seen the program. To avoid the spoilers, read the Buyers' Guide version instead.


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.


Anti-Tech

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.

One device that perhaps does beg for better explanation is the Kinda's Box of Jhana, which appears to have magical properties, particularly when it comes to locked doors. The story padding tacked onto part four attempts an interesting explanation for its main properties, but I suspect that if Robert Holmes had been the script editor at this point, some other, more logical and practical solution would have been written in for the cage.


Mystery and Drive

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.

While the introduction of the Kinda women Karuna and Panna in Part Two dilutes this somewhat through their heavy speaking roles, the effect on Sanders and the mystery of what is actually in the box still manage to escalate matters. Thus, even with Part Two being the Doctor's mandatory captivity episode for the story, it remains enormously more interesting and avoids 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 when meeting Panna. 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.


The Real Companion

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. Not only do we get a giant CGI snake replacing the original puppet, but excellent reflections of the CGI snake in all the varied mirrors as well. Somehow though, the eyes struck me as not being alive as much as they should have. One also wonders how this mirror thing could continue to work once the creature's eyeline rises above the circle of mirrors - a problem with both versions. Still, our new CGI snake displays far more realistic movement, and is 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. The lengthy vision in the cave concluding episode three doesn't really provide the Doctor and Todd with any information that they didn't already just get from Panna. With that in mind, note closely the sequence of events. Panna spills all the beans to them, then Aris shows up with his army announcing his intention to attack the dome. Panna insists that they should not run after Aris to stop him or warn the dome because they don't understand enough yet. Then, after seeing the vision and learning nothing that she hasn't already told them, they decide they now need to run after Aris to stop him and/or warn the dome. A bit silly, but we can at least put that one down to the requirement of strong audio-visuals helping Panna's words make a stronger mental/emotional impact on the two protagonists, not to mention the audience who need a good cliffhanger build-up at that point.

More glaring is the lack of resolution of one of the story's more interesting mysteries. Whatever did happen to Roberts and the other two members of the dome who went exploring before Sanders? Yes, presumably Panna and Karuna offered them the box and they went mad. Then what? Did they put on loin cloths and join the Kinda? Did they run off into the jungle? Did they become possessed by the Mara? If not, how did they avoid it? The characters all seem a little too content in the "all's well that ends well" aftermath and coda, without anyone mentioning that there are still three crewmembers unaccounted for. They should be showing concern and searching for them, or Roberts and company should turn up so the issue could be resolved.


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 In-depth Analysis Review for the next story: "The Visitation"



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