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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars "Snakes on an Astral Plane", 28 April 2011
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This review is from: Doctor Who - Mara Tales (Kinda/Snakedance) [DVD] (DVD)
Sorry about the title, but I couldn't resist. 2 unusual stories from innovative writer Christopher Bailey. For me Kinda has the edge.
The Tardis crew land on paradise planet Deva Loka where an Earth survey team study childlike inhabitants the Kinda. Tegan is attacked in her dreams by malign intelligence the Mara, seeking to cross over into the real world.
Kinda's striking dream sequences mark it out as something different to the norm. They work fantastically and are mixed with a great performance from Janet Fielding who gives us scared, paranoid, on waking up-virtually post coital and evil.
The Doctor's role is perfect for Peter Davison as he's a man who sees further than most but doesn't have all the answers-note Todd correcting his assumption that the Kinda are primitive.
Adric is an annoying brat as ever, partly due to Matthew Waterhouse's performance but to be fair, a stupid boy who makes everything worse through his idiocy is not stellar material to work with!
Sorry Sarah Sutton fans but Nyssa does a Susan Foreman tribute act, she goes for a lie down in part 1, then returns in part 4 feeling better.
A good guest cats; Richard Todd, Nerys Hughes, Sarah Prince, Adrian Mills & especially Mary Morris as mystic Panna & Simon Rouse as the unhinged Hindle-yes he's a little OTT but no more than the role demands.
The script has many facets; commenting on colonisation & empire-Hindle arming the peaceful Kinda, Buddhist themes such as fighting evil within yourself and biblical influences-garden of Eden, snake, temptation, apples! A nice touch is the Kinda calling outsiders the "Not we."
Mostly good production values like the jungle set (if only it could have been shot on film) and the War Machine like total survival suit. Only a badly made Snake lets it down but by the end you should have loved the story enough to overlook it (or you can activate a CGI one instead1).

Sequel Snakedance is better structured but less strong. Tegan is still plagued by the Mara which again seeks to cross over into this world on the planet Manussa. This is a world familiar with the Mara but believing it's all a myth. Here the Doctor struggles to convince sceptical people that their rituals are not mere pageantry.
It would have been foolish to try another dream sequence, so here there is a Hall of Mirrors sequence instead. It works well, the imagery fitting the story & underlines the Mara is a difficult enemy as while a circle of mirrors can be used against it, mirrors not in a circle have no such effect.
Nyssa is back to full duties here and apart from a few nice moments like trying to steal the key to the Doctor's cell, mostly spends her time worrying. She gets an awful milk maid costume.
Good guest cast again, the James Mason like John Carson, a pre-Bread Jonathon Morris, Martin Clunes as a bratty spoiled Prince and Collete O'Neil as his mother, plus Preston Lockwood as Dojjen and Elisabeth Sladen's husband Brian Miller as a dodgy Arthur Daley/Del Boy type.
Great Market, Hall of Mirrors and cave sets, although Lon & Tanha's quarters look like a vintage Blue Peter studio. Yes there's another dodgy Snake but not so out & proud as in Kinda.
The script has some good characterisation, note the exchange about Lon's absent father between him and Tanha and how real it sounds.
There are Pete n' Jan show commentaries for both stories and although they are both fun and witty, I did feel they picked a little too much on Matthew Waterhouse who must have gritted his teeth to get through Kinda. They discuss bad snakes, Peter Davison's plan to be rid of Tegan, bad costumes, great guest stars, why Peter Davison looks so odd in the title sequence photo ("I was trying to look like Tom Baker" "Why would you want to do that?") and Waterhouse's artless acting advice to film star Richard Todd.
The competently making of documentaries are both based heavily on the writing interviewing not only Bailey but all 3 script editors he worked with (there's a rare contribution from Anthony Root). There are a range of contributors. & as well as both stories Bailey's aborted 3rd one is discussed.
Directing with Attitude looks at the work of the late Peter Grimwade and is a good tribute making it clear his writing talents were not the equal of his directing. There is an anti-JNT bias which some may not like.

You can compare the CGI effects for Kinda (primarily a better snake) with the old.

Of the most interest in deleted/extended scenes is the full ending to Snakedance.

There's also some Saturday Superstore material and an Easter Egg of Robert Shearman telling Bailey how Snakedance inspired him (I've read this but been unable to find it)

A good package for innovative stories with wide appeal.
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