Although Mary Morris was only in the studio for a single day, they certainly got their money’s worth out of her. She briefly appeared in episode two, but all of her key scenes are in this one.
There’s something delightful about the way that Panna crosses swords with the Doctor. Knowing that no man (save an idiot) can look into the Box of Jhana and retain their senses, she has no hesitation in tagging the Doctor as such. It’s a little hard to imagine some of the previous Doctors being so pliant (especially Pertwee – “Madam, I am no idiot” – or something like that) but it suits Davison’s Doctor well.
He’s no idiot, but rather like the Troughton Doctor it doesn’t bother him if other people think so. The Fifth Doctor doesn’t need to be centre-stage, commanding the action, he’s just as happy watching quietly from the fringes. After seven years of a Doctor who was always dominant, this was a refreshing change.
So after all the toing and froing with the Box (driving numerous men out of their wits) Panna and Karuna have finally managed to reach Todd – the woman who would be able to follow the vision. It seems a bit churlish (but I’m going to do so anyway) to wonder why the pair of them didn’t simply turn up at the Dome and explain in a more straightforward way. But whilst they may not be primitive, it’s possible they’re bound – like everybody else – to operate under certain parameters.
PANNA: It is all beginning again.
DOCTOR: What is?
PANNA: What is? What is? History is, you male fool. History is. Time is. The great wheel will begin to roll down the hill gathering speed through the centuries, crushing everything in its path. Unstoppable until once again
PANNA: I must show you. That is why you have been brought here. Then perhaps when you understand, you will go away and leave us in peace. If it is not already too late.
DOCTOR: You said once again.
PANNA: Of course. Wheel turns, civilisations arise, wheel turns, civilisations fall.
Whilst the Doctor’s seeking enlightenment, Adric is stuck with Sanders and Hindle. Matthew Waterhouse doesn’t do badly here, even though he’s sharing the screen with two actors who could run rings around him at any time. But the fact that both Sanders and Hindle are now childlike (Sanders docile, Hindle petulant) means that they fit rather well with Adric, who’s tended to act like a somewhat stroppy teen for most of his time aboard the TARDIS.
Those looking for faults could no doubt wonder why Panna’s projection features Earth-type clocks (although those of a more forgiving nature might decide that the images were drawn from the minds of the Doctor and Todd). Even given the limited budget this sequence is still suitably apocalyptic, although I’ve never quite understood why the episode didn’t close on the spooky close-up of Panna’s face.
Instead it trundles on for a few seconds more, leaving us with a cliffhanger where we discover that Panna’s dead. Which doesn’t seem nearly as dramatic.
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 …..
It does seem astonishing that Kinda ended up bottom of the 1982 DWM Season Survey poll. Although it’s easy to argue that Kinda’s theme and subtexts wouldn’t have necessary engaged the (I assume) largely teenage readership of the magazine (no surprises that the straight-ahead thrills of Earthshock were much more to their tastes) it does appear that contemporary Doctor Who fandom also regarded Christopher Bailey’s story with less than open arms.
Although Kinda did have its supporters, some fanzine reviews at the time were also fairly negative and you do get a sense that those who praised the story were well aware they were ploughing a rather lonely furrow. The puppet snake was then and will probably forever be a source of irritation and embarrassment for a section of the audience, although it’s never bothered me (and for those who still haven’t learnt to forgive, forget and love the snake, they can always use the nice CGI option on the DVD).
Initially Kinda seems to be operating on fairly normal lines. The concept of a planet where the seemingly primitive indigenous population face unwelcome and seemingly technologically superior visitors is a familiar Sci-Fi trope whilst the fact that Sanders (Richard Todd) and Hindle (Simon Rouse) are decked out in vague military uniforms (and in Sanders case, a pith helmet as well) means that the parallels to the British Empire are as obvious as they’re unsubtle.
In their early scenes, the characters of Sanders and Hindle operate as familiar archetypes. Sanders is bluff and gruff (albeit with a faint sense of humour) whilst Hindle comes across as a humourless by-the-book martinet. The third member of the team, Todd (Nerys Hughes) possesses a questioning nature, thereby providing her with an overview that the others (especially Hindle) lack. Given her scientific background this isn’t surprising though (especially since the hand of Christopher H. Bidmead was on the tiller – at least initially).
So it’s clear that when the Doctor enters their world he’s going to have one ally (Todd) and one adversary (Hindle) with Sanders possibly wavering in-between these two positions. Numerous Doctor Who stories feature an authority figure who complicates the Doctor’s progress, but whilst Hindle certainly fulfils this standard role it’s his highly unstable nature which is strikingly original.
The first discordant note is struck after he demolishes Todd’s laboratory in a fit of pique. It’s a very childish act which nobody in their right mind would have carried out (so serves as an early pointer that all is far from well with him). After Sanders heads out into the jungle, leaving the Doctor, Adric and Todd at his mercy, it’s not certain precisely what will happen next …
When Bailey was originally commissioned, Nyssa wasn’t part of the TARDIS crew, hence the reason why she’s written out (bar brief topping and tailing appearances). This is a shame, as with a spot of rewriting she could have taken on many of Todd’s responsibilities (both are questing scientists after all). But Nerys Hughes formed such a good rapport with Davison that it’s impossible to complain about the way things turned out.
Kinda is often referred to as Tegan’s story, although it’s striking how minimal her involvement is. If you added up all her scenes during the first two episodes it’s doubtful they’d reach five minutes, she spends episode three asleep and only comes to life again during the final instalment where she returns to fulfilling her more traditional companion duties (and is consequentially less interesting than previously).
In this first episode she’s trapped in a strange netherworld, menaced by the mysterious Dukkha (Jeff Stewart). And even though Tegan only features in a handful of scenes, they’re all deeply unsettling.
TEGAN: Am I dreaming you, is that it?
DUKKHA: Are you?
TEGAN: Or imagining you?
TEGAN: Then I can abolish you, can’t I?
(Tegan closes her eyes then opens them again.)
DUKKHA: Puzzling, isn’t it? And by the way, one thing. You will agree to believe in me sooner or later. This side of madness or the other.
Time has maybe not been too kind to Earthshock. In 1982 it was a clear fan favourite, voted as the best of the year in every story poll. But over the years its popularity has dipped a little, possibly because when you take away the impact of the Cybermen’s return the rest of the story does seem to be a little hollow.
The Cybermen’s last appearance was in Revenge of the Cybermen some seven years earlier. In 1981, Cyber co-creator Gerry Davis submitted a story outline on spec entitled Genesis of the Cybermen. There isn’t any evidence to suggest that the story was ever seriously considered for production, or that the submission was even acknowledged, which upset Davis.
Speaking a few years later, he expressed dismay at his treatment: “I’ve had one in mind for a long time which is a Genesis of the Cybermen story and I’d love to do it. But every time I turn around and go back to America I find Nathan-Turner’s commissioned another Cyber-script and I’m not even invited to do it. It wasn’t very pleasant to be snubbed like that.”
When Christopher Priest’s script The Enemy Within proved to be unworkable, this left a hole in the S19 schedule that was ultimately filled with a new Cybermen adventure. Eric Saward was keen to write the story and although the script-editor wasn’t generally allowed to commission themselves, a solution was found. Anthony Root, who had briefly worked as script editor earlier in the season, was credited as Earthshock’s script editor although there’s no evidence that he actually did any work on it.
The first episode or so is set in some very nicely lit studio caves and concerns what we later learn to be a bomb, guarded by two androids, who have been programmed to kill anybody who gets too close.
The bomb has been planted by the Cybermen who intend to use it to destroy the Earth. They aren’t too disappointed when the Doctor deactivates it though, as they have a back-up plan (a rather impressive back-up plan it has to be said, almost as if they knew the bomb wouldn’t work).
This transports the Doctor and his friends to a deep space freighter where they encounter a rum bunch of characters. Ringway (Alec Sabin) is a traitor who has sold out to the Cybermen and is cursed with poor dialogue, such as: “I’m tired of your snide remarks and bullying ways”. Given this, it’s not surprising that the character never comes alive, but he’s not the only one.
Scott (James Warwick) is a bluff, gruff soldier who is drawn pretty broadly. Warwick chooses to intone each line with such deadly earnest that the performance often teeters on the edge of parody.
And then there’s Beryl Reid as Briggs. Doctor Who has often cast against type, many times with great success (Russell Hunter in Robots of Death and Nicholas Parsons in The Curse of Fenric, for example). Reid is a little more of a stretch but she’s not too bad, even if she sometimes seems to be a little lost.
There’s no denying the impact that the return of the Cybermen had in 1982, but this is about all the story has going for it. The plot is a little wooly at times (something Saward could often be guilty of). Perhaps the best example of this is when the freighter starts to travel backwards in time in episode four. How is this possible? Anything’s possible, says Adric, when you have an alien machine overriding your computer. Hmm, okay.
There’s certainly a place for this type of story in Doctor Who. The Caves of Androzani managed to combine a high level of action/adventure but also had rich chacterisation. Earthshock has the action, but the characters simply don’t engage.
The story did make the brave move of killing off a companion, as Adric dies in a futile attempt to stop the freighter crashing into the Earth. This is another shock in the story, but like a whodunnit when you know the identity of the murderer, the shocks lessen when the story is watched again, so that ultimately Earthshock feels somewhat less than the sum of its parts.
Black Orchid is a fairly simple tale, but there are some plot flaws, particularly in episode two, which impact the story.
It was the first two-parter since The Sontaran Experiment in 1975 and there are times when it’s easy to see why this wasn’t a regular format for the show. On occassions a little more time would have worked to the benefit of the story such as in the opening sequence, when we see in quick succession a man being murdered, somebody who looks like Nyssa sleeping whilst a mysterious man spies upon her and then we see someone tied up on a bed.
It’s the same person – George Cranleigh – who killed the man, spied upon the girl and is tied up on the bed, but although there’s a cross-fade between the second and third sequence this isn’t particularly obvious. A little more time spent on the opening could have made this much clearer.
The TARDIS has landed in the 1920’s where, thanks to a case of mistaken identity, the Doctor takes part in a local charity cricket match (he is, of course, an expert at the game) and is later invited, along with his companions, to a party at Cranleigh Hall.
Sarah Sutton gets the chance to play two parts, as well as Nyssa she’s also Ann Talbot (who is engaged to Lord Cranleigh). The split-screen shots work very well, although some of the sequences when her double is also in the frame are less convincing.
The party is quite a sight. It was recorded in October and as might be expected the weather wasn’t terribly kind. There’s strong wind in virtually every scene and they clearly had some rain as well, but they do their best to convince us it’s a glorious summers day.
The mysterious man in the attic Is a very tidy chap. After taking the Doctor’s fancy dress costume, killing a servant and carrying off Ann, he then returns the costume to the Doctor’s room. This is so the Doctor can then put it on and be misidentified by Ann as the murderer.
With the Doctor suspected of murder and taken off to the police station, things look bleak. Ideally it would have been good for the Doctor to prove his innocence by uncovering some clues, but instead he shows the TARDIS to the police, which does the trick. This is a rather lazy piece of writing and indeed the whole trip to the police station is a little unnecessary, it would have been better if everyone had stayed at Cranleigh Hall until the truth was uncovered.
Eventually the identity of the mysterious man in the attic is revealed to be George, the elder brother of Lord Cranleigh. George Cranleigh had been engaged to Ann before his disappearance some years previously and he carries off Nyssa in a case of mistaken identity. There then follows a rather odd sequence. George Cranleigh has started a fire and has taken Nyssa to the roof. The Doctor and Adric run up the stairs but decide it’s too hot to follow them.
Everybody goes outside, then the Doctor goes back inside and does follow them this time (what had changed?). He also makes the point that Nyssa’s life would be in danger if George realised the girl wasn’t Ann. So what’s the first thing he does when he confronts George? Tells him that the girl isn’t Ann! Poor George, who didn’t seem to have had much of a life, then plummets to his death, so that this particular family secret is brought to a conclusion.
Black Orchid has some very decent guest actors (Barbara Murray, Moray Watson, Michael Cochrane) and it chugs along nicely, but the flaws in the plot are a bit of a problem. If you want an expanded take on the story then Terence Dudley’s novelisation (available as an audiobook read by Michael Cochrane) does help to fill in the background and make the story feel more coherent.
Although Antony Root was only attached to the Doctor Who production office for a few months as a temporary script editor, he made one important decision that would shape the course of the series for several years to come.
One of the scripts Root worked on was The Visitation, by a writer new to Doctor Who – Eric Saward. Root was impressed with the script and when John Nathan-Turner asked him if had any ideas about who would be a good permanent script editor, Root suggested Saward.
Eventually the JNT/Saward partnership would implode in spectacular fashion when Saward quit the series in 1986 (during production of The Trial of a Time Lord) taking his script for the final episode with him. I’m sure we’ll come back to the troubles between the two of them in future posts, but for now let’s take a look at Saward’s debut script.
By his own admission, he hadn’t followed the series very closely for some years, so The Visitation does feel like a little bit of a throwback to a previous era. It bears some resemblance to the likes of The Time Warrior and The Masque of Mandragora, both of which featured aliens interfering in Earth’s history. The Time Warrior is the closest fit, since that story was also concerned with a stranded alien using human labour to achieve his goals.
I’ve previously touched upon the difficulties in writing for three companions. So far this season, Castrovalva put Adric In the background and Nyssa only made a token appearance in Kinda. All four regulars appear throughout The Visitation and after the opening sequence Saward only features two other main speaking parts (Richard Mace and the Terileptil leader) which does help matters.
But even this doesn’t hide the fact that Adric is very much surplus to requirements. After escaping from the Manor House in episode three, he spends part of the episode hanging around the TARDIS with Nyssa before deciding to go and look for the Doctor. He quickly gets captured by the villagers and is taken away (very slowly it has to be said). Eventually he escapes and makes his way back to the TARDIS. Therefore in the course of an episode or so, he’s done very little of consequence. But a solution to the overcrowded TARDIS was just around the corner.
Nyssa’s sub-plot (building a device to destroy the Terileptil’s android) isn’t terribly interesting but it does give her something to do. That leaves Tegan, who is closest to the action during the story. But it’s clear that Saward is most interested in his own creation, Richard Mace,
It’s a feature of Saward’s scripts that they often feature characters (such as Lytton or Orcini) that you sometimes feel he would be happier writing about, without that pesky Doctor always getting in the way. Richard Mace is the first example of this, as he gets many of the best lines. And like Kinda, Peter Davison benefits by linking up with a guest actor for a good part of the story (Nerys Hughes in Kinda and Michael Robbins here).
If the majority of the story is quite traditional, with few surprises, then the opening is a little different. We’re introduced to the inhabitants of the Manor House, who we assume will feature in the story, but after this scene we never see them again and their fate is only confirmed during episode three. They’ve been disposed of by the Terileptil leader (played by Michael Melia).
Given the heavy mask, Melia’s performance isn’t particularly subtle and it’s a shame that his voice wasn’t treated – since he sounds like a man speaking through a heavy mask. But although the design of the costume is a little crude, it does have some nice animatronic touches, such as an impressive curling lip.
The Terileptil’s plan to wipe out all of humanity does recall Tom’s line from Terror of the Zygons when he queries whether the Earth isn’t just a bit too big for only six Zygons (and there’s only three Terileptils!).
Overall then, The Visitation is a good story with a strong guest performance by Michael Robbins. If it feels a little insubstantial then that’s probably due to the small number of main characters. The villagers never tend to say much apart from “kill the strangers” which means that we don’t have a great deal of perspective about the world outside the Manor House. But it’s a decent enough story midway through a solid season.
Like Warriors’ Gate, Kinda was written by someone new to television and required a substantial rewrite before it was of broadcast standard. And while Christopher Bailey, like Steve Gallagher before him, had a very clear vision of what he wanted to achieve, there had to be a comprise between his original story concept and what script editors Christopher H. Bidmead and Eric Saward required from him in order to produce a Doctor Who story.
Bailey approached the Doctor Who production office in 1980 with a story outline entitled The Kinda. The inspiration for The Kinda was derived from Ursula K. Le Guin‘s 1976 novel The Word for World Is Forest.
Le Guin’s novel is set several hundred years in the future and concerns a human colony which has been established on the planet Athshe. Athshe is an unspoilt paradise which the humans regard as rich for exploitation. The Athsheans appear to be docile and primitive and have a culture based on “dream-time” in which they share their thoughts.
Although Kinda does superficially resemble this brief outline, Le Guin’s novel develops in quite a different way as some of the humans, particularly Captain Davidson, enslave large portions of the Athsheans and his cruelty eventually results in a revolt from the Athsheans with a considerable loss of life.
In Kinda nobody dies (except Panna, and as her knowledge and experience were passed over to Karuna, it’s debatable if we can regard this as a “death”). The disappearance of three of the expedition party (Roberts and two others) prior to the TARDIS crew arriving is more of a mystery and is never explained. Hindle (Simon Rouse) does, like Davidson in Le Guin’s novel, enslave some of the natives and poses a considerable threat to them, but unlike Davidson, Hindle is redeemed.
Christopher H. Bidmead was very impressed with The Kinda. For him, it was exactly the sort of intelligent science fiction he was always striving to find. Bailey was commissioned to provide a full story breakdown in summer 1980. He was briefed to include two companions (as this was before Nyssa was added to the crew) and as Tom Baker hadn’t yet decided to quit, it was written with the fourth Doctor in mind.
Bidmead found plenty of interest in the story breakdown but was well aware that a great deal of work needed to be done in order to turn it into a Doctor Who story. One major problem was that it lacked any villains – instead the conflicts came from the various choices and temptations faced by the characters. One of Bidmead’s first recommendations to Bailey was to make the Mara much more of a tangible, corporeal presence.
Although rehearsal scripts had been delivered by August 1980, it was clear that it wouldn’t be ready in time to form part of S18, so it was deferred until S19. By this time Tom Baker had been replaced by Peter Davison and a third companion, Nyssa, had been added to the mix. And by early 1981, Eric Saward was now in the script editors chair and he continued to work with Bailey on the scripts.
One early decision made by Saward was not to ask for the scripts to be rewritten in order to include Nyssa. It was felt that her absence would benefit the story as it would allow the other characters more room for development.
Thanks to Bidmead’s input, episodes one and two were in a workable shape but episodes three and four still required a substantial amount of work. For example, Saward would later comment that he always had a great deal of difficulty in getting Bailey to understand the importance of including a strong cliff-hanger at the end of each episode.
Saward’s major contribution to the script was the ending, where the Mara is drawn from the body of Aris and banished from Deva Loka forever. Bailey understood in the end that dramatically the serial needed such a conclusion, originally he had written something much more low-key.
Eventually, filmable scripts were delivered and John Nathan-Turner assigned Peter Grimwade to direct. Although they were later to have a spectacular falling out, at the time Grimwade was one JNT’s favourite directors. He had already directed Full Circle and Logopolis and would direct Earthshock towards the end of S19. Grimwade would also pen three stories for Davison’s Doctor – Time-Flight, Mawdryn Undead and Planet of Fire.
Grimwade was able to assemble an impressive cast, headed by Richard Todd. Todd had been one of the major stars of British cinema during the 1950’s (probably best known for The Dam Busters) but the decline of the film industry in the 1960’s meant he had spent more time acting on the stage during the 1970’s and by the early 1980’s he had also instructed his agent to look for interesting television roles.
Nerys Hughes was a familiar television face, thanks to her ten-year stint on The Liver Birds. Following the end of that series she had found other television work harder to come by, so this was a welcome role for her to re-establish her profile.
Mary Morris had had an extensive career in film, stage and television. For fans of British telefantasy though, she was probably best known for her roles in A For Andromeda and The Prisoner.
Simon Rouse was still a number of years away from his defining role as DCI Meadows in The Bill, but he was in good company in Kinda, as several other Sun Hill regulars such as Jeffrey Stewart (Dukkha) and Graham Cole (member of the Kinda tribe) were also present.
The decision was made to shoot the entire story in the studio. Although this meant that the forest would occasionally look a little stagey it worked quite well, although there were some problems. Early on it became clear that the movement of the TSS machine and the cameras caused the covering of leaves to be swept away and revealed the studio floor underneath. For later days, more leaves were brought in, but the floor can still be seen at various times during the story.
Story-wise, Kinda is interesting in that there are two main plot-threads (Hindle’s madness and the Mara crossing over in to the real world via Tegan/Aris) which run totally independently of each other. Both of the plot-threads offer the same possibility of destroying the Kinda and starting again the wheel of life as described by Panna in episode three.
As episode one begins, we see Adric and Nyssa playing draughts outside the TARDIS. The fact that Adric is easily able to beat her is a clear indication that she is not herself. The Doctor rigs up a delta wave augmenter in order to allow her to have 48 hours worth of uninterrupted sleep whilst the Doctor, Adric and Tegan explore their new surroundings.
As happens so often in Doctor Who, the three are very quickly separated. The Doctor and Adric end up at the Dome whilst Tegan sleeps alone under the wind chimes. One intriguing aspect of the story is how events are repeated. For example, when Tegan enters the dreamscape she encounters two old people playing chess which mirrors the same scene between Adric and Nyssa. Are the people in Tegan’s dream her subconscious representations of Adric and Nyssa?
As Tegan is offered a way out of her nightmare by Dukkha (which like many of the names in Kinda has a Buddhist translation, this one means suffering or anxiety) the Doctor and Adric meet the survivors of the survey team. They seem to be all quite recognisable archetypes – Sanders is the uptight leader and a stickler for discipline, Hindle is the rigid security officer who probably believes he should be in charge and Todd is the scientist with probably the best grasp on the reality of the situation. Two of these three will change dramatically during the course of the story.
Sanders decides to solve the mystery of his three missing team members and ventures into the forest. There he meets Panna (wisdom) and Karuna (compassion) who offers him the Box of Jhana (meditation).
The properties of the Box of Jhana do seem to change during the story. At this point it’s designed to send a message to the humans in order to bring them to the cave so that Panna can explain about the wheel of life and why they must leave Deva Loka.
The only problem with this is that the Box of Jhana can only be opened safely by a woman. Since five of the six members of the survey team were probably male, this is a bit awkward. Why Panna couldn’t visit the Dome and leave a more straightforward message is a plot-hole that is never explained.
When Sanders opens the box he regresses to childhood, although this is only temporary. Eventually he re-emerges as a whole and better-adjusted person than he seemed to have been at the start of the story. Hindle becomes dangerously psychotic so that when he looks into the box it resets the balance of his mind. The Doctor concludes that the Box of Jhana is a Kinda healing device, which is somewhat different from the start of the story when it was designed to send a message. Perhaps it does both at the same time?
Tegan is still trapped in her dreaming and agrees to let the Mara (the personification of unwholesome impulses) take over her body. Janet Fielding’s three previous broadcast stories had all been somewhat problematic for her character and Kinda is the first time that she’s been allowed to really act. But given that this is seen as a Tegan-centric story, it’s a little surprising that she doesn’t have all that much screen time.
All of her key scenes are in the first two episodes, although if you added up all the sequences in the dreamscape then they wouldn’t run for too long. Her re-emergence into Deva Loka, now possessed by the Mara, is another stand-out moment (but again it’s a fairly short scene). She’s then pretty much absent for episode three and only rejoins the narrative in the last episode. But this is definitely a story where quality outweighs quantity and what she does is certainly memorable.
Matthew Waterhouse has more screen time and spends a large amount of the middle part of the story sharing three-handed scenes with Richard Todd and Simon Rouse. The story of Waterhouse offering the vastly experienced Richard Todd tips on acting is legendary, but Waterhouse doesn’t fare too badly against these two quality actors.
At the start of the story we know perfectly well what sort of character Sanders is. We’ve seen his type in countless films, books and television programmes before (indeed, his name is a direct lift from the British empire yarn Sanders of the River). So his return to the Dome as a wide-eyed childish innocent is a major jolt.
By far the most difficult role in the story is portrayed by Simon Rouse. Doctor Who has portrayed mad and unbalanced people before, but none quite like this. It’s a tour-de-force performance.
Eventually the Box of Jhana is delivered to somebody that can understand the message and Dr Todd and the Doctor venture out to find Panna. With Tegan isolated for much of the story and Adric teamed up with Sanders and Hindle this leaves the Doctor and Todd together.
Nerys Hughes worked very well with Davison, indeed she could have made a very interesting companion. There’s certainly more of a connection between the two of them than there has been between the Doctor and Adric, Nyssa and Tegan in his first few stories.
The Kinda, like many of the civilisations seen in S18, exist in a form of stasis. Panna explains to Aris, the Doctor and Todd why the presence of the Dome and the Mara threatens the Kinda’s idyllic existence –
PANNA: Please. What are you going to do?
ARIS: We shall destroy the dome. The Not-we must be killed. This is our duty.
PANNA: You fool, you blind male fool. Do you think it ends there?
ARIS: We shall be free.
PANNA: Of course not. It doesn’t end there. That is how it all begins again, with a killing. It doesn’t end. That ends as it has always done, in chaos and despair. It ends as it begins, in the darkness. Is that what you all want?
DOCTOR: Did you see the design on his arm?
TODD: What design?
PANNA: The sign of the snake.
DOCTOR: Yes, that’s right.
PANNA: It is the mark of the Mara, the evil ones.
TODD: Doctor, I really think we should …
DOCTOR: What do you know of the Mara?
PANNA: It is the Mara who now turn the wheel. It is the Mara who dance to the music of our despair. Our suffering is the Mara’s delight, our madness the Mara’s meat and drink. And now he has returned.
The Mara (in the body of Aris) doesn’t, it has to be said, seem to pose much of a threat. The Kinda lack any weapons and Aris’ decision to build his own TSS Machine (from wood) might work symbolically but is no match for the real machine even when piloted by the inexperienced Adric.
Hindle is a much more immediate threat, but luckily he opens the Box of Jhana just in time, which solves that problem. This only leaves the job of extracting the Mara from Aris and banishing it from Deva Loka.
With the help of the Kinda, the Doctor traps the Mara within a circle of mirrors. As he says: “No Mara can bear the sight of its own reflection. It must recoil from itself. Understandably, don’t you think, given it’s nature.”
The plan works, although for some the sight of the puppet snake is a major problem. Luckily there is now a CGI snake option for those that object to the original.
After its initial transmission in 1982, Doctor Who fandom was split over the merits of this story. Let’s look at some of the differing opinions.
“Kinda was by far the most mind-taxing story of the season, [but] despite the complex nature of the story I thoroughly enjoyed watching it — every moment was brilliant.”
(Michael Emmerson, Views, News and Reviews)
“The one feature cursed by all and sundry though was that wretched snake. With its balance of good and bad scenes Kinda was good, but not, like so much of this season, excellent.”
“I felt Kinda was an exceptionally good story, but it lacked something. I regret having to put it last in the DWAS poll, but the other stories far surpassed normal standards.”
(Tim Westerman, Laseron Probe)
“Kinda was one of the most visually striking stories since the Hinchcliffe era. Television is a visual art, but it is a rare treat to see work of such high artistic quality.”
(Simon Lydiard, Skaro)
The 2014 DWM poll ranked it at number 63 out of 241 stories, which is fairly respectable. It probably should be higher, since for me it’s an exceptional story that manages to transcend the limitations of the studio environment to produce a story of some depth. It’s certainly a story that repays multiple rewatches in order to discover the various different layers of meaning contained within.