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It's a Kinda Magic,
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This review is from: Doctor Who - Mara Tales (Kinda/Snakedance) [DVD] (DVD)
I wanted to focus chiefly on the superior of the two Mara DVDs in this box set - that would be first story 'Kinda'. Arguably, the real strength of this four-part serial from 1982 is its guest cast: Simon Rouse is superb as the barking-mad Hindle, whilst Nerys Hughes adds gravitas and style as anthropologist Todd - and she even manages to look sexy in a potentially unflattering lab-coat cum dress! Richard Todd is excellent as Sanders - moving from overbearing bully to bemused simpleton, while Mary Morris also stands out as wizened wise-woman of the Kinda; her treatment of The Fifth Doctor in episode three is brilliant - "stay with the idiot!" Even the minor roles are played especially well - Rouse's soon-to-be compatriot in ITV's The Bill, Jeff Stewart, is suitably sinister and enigmatic as a humanoid embodiment of The Mara and Lee Cornes, later of Red Dwarf and Grange Hill fame is energetic and amusing as the Trickster.
Apart from a great cast - Matthew Waterhouse and the frankly bizarre sidelining of Nyssa almost immediately episode one begins notwithstanding - this serial has an intriguing storyline and is nicely directed by Peter Grimwade, albeit entirely in the studio; the only downer is the appalling rubber snake that appears in the final episode, however even this fails to ruin a superb story (and it still has more range than Waterhouse).
Snakedance, apart from an interesting early appearance from a pre-fame Martin Clunes who looks like he's escaped from a third division New Romantic pop group (who knows, maybe he had...), is less impressive than Kinda but still has a strong script and lots of good ideas; director Fiona Cumming seems to lack Grimwade's visual flair but does a good job of keeping Peter Davison's Doctor at the centre of the story. The TARDIS crew arrive on the planet Manussa where The insidious Mara is once again attempting to establish itself via an unsuspecting Tegan. The dodgy snake once again makes an unwelcome appearance, whilst Jonathon Morris of 'Bread' and 'Beau Geste' fame is pretty good value as the enthusiastic curator Chela and Elisabeth Sladen's husband Brian Miller pops up as a showman named Dugdale.
The DVD extras are many and varied, but for me the best are an impressive CGI Mara snake that can be viewed instead of the rubber original, and 'Directing with Attitude', an excellent documentary tribute to late director Peter Grimwade.