Panna (Mary Morris) and Karuna (Sarah Prince) encounter Sanders in the forest. They give him a box which somewhat alters his wordview ….
This has always been a slightly odd part of the story for me. Panna and Karuna don’t wish the interlopers ill and clearly they intend that the box should be sufficient to explain why Sanders and the others should leave the Kinda in peace. The only problem is that the box can only be understood by a women, which is unfortunate since Todd appears to be the sole female in the survey team.
Presumably this is the reason why several members of the expedition have mysteriously disappeared (driven out of their minds by what they’ve seen within the box?). But if this is the case, why do Panna and Karuna insist that Sanders opens the box? If they know he won’t be able to handle what he sees, it seems a very strange way of going about things.
There’s possibly an irony at work here as the concept of female superiority is one that hadn’t really been explored in the series to date (apart from fairly unsubtle examples such as Galaxy 4 and – given what we know about it – the thankfully unmade Prison in Space). Apart from the later Mara-possessed Aris, Panna and Karuna are the only members of the Kinda tribe who can speak. This could also be taken as a statement of female empowerment, although Panna only says that voice is a sign of wisdom – not that it’s exclusively a female trait.
And anyway, non-speaking extras are cheaper than speaking ones ….
Hindle’s madness is explored in more detail. He now has a loathing of all life outside the dome (“Seeds. Spores. Particles of generation. Microscopic. Everywhere”) and proposes a fairly drastic solution. “I wish to announce the strategy for the defence of the dome, implementation immediate. We will raise to the ground and sterilise an area of forest some fifty miles radius. Objective, the creation of a cordon sanitaire around the dome. Method of implementation, fire and acid. Acid and fire”.
The return of Sanders should be the moment that normality returns, but his altered state – he now has the mind of a child – simply ensures that Hindle has one more person to dominate. In a way, Sanders and Hindle are now a perfectly matched pair as Hindle has also regressed to childhood, although he’s done so without any help from the Kinda. This point is hammered home when he spies Sanders returning to the dome. “Go away! Somebody make him go away! Mummy! Mummy, make him go away!”
Whilst the main action has been taking place in the dome, Tegan’s remains a prisoner of Dukkha. She’s offered a way out – he wants to borrow her body for a short while (“you would be suitably entertained by the experience”) – and eventually Tegan reluctantly agrees. Doctor Who is no stranger to possession, but although many companions have been taken over in the past, no examples have been as overtly sexual as the Tegan/Mara hybrid.
And given that the sexual nature of Tegan’s possession was heavily toned down from the rehearsals, it’s intriguing to speculate just what it originally looked like. Since the the story had space for two companions there was always the option that Nyssa (or god forbid, even Adric) could have been used by the Mara, although Tegan was the logical choice. Nyssa would have been interesting, but since she’s written as younger than Tegan (in Black Orchid, Nyssa and Adric are referred to as children, presumably meaning mid teens) this no doubt would have been somewhat problematic. Mind you, since both are aliens we don’t really know how old they are – just how they appear to human eyes.
So whilst the Mara in the form of Tegan is tempting its next victim (Aris) we leave the Doctor, Todd and Sanders with the Box of Jhana. Hindle wants it to be opened, but the Doctor and Todd, having seen what happened to Sanders, are less than keen. But open it they do, which leads to an ear-splitting scream from Todd. Hmm, so even in the future it’s the women who screams. Some things obviously never change …..