How's Who #11 - Kinda

 And you, the viewer, will give the same sideways glance to this vehicle when it shows up!

TARDIS Crew: The Fifth Doctor (Peter Davison), Tegan Jovanka (Janet Fielding), Adric (Matthew Waterhouse), and Nyssa (Sarah Sutton), though she's only in it for like a minute.

The plot: A beautiful, paradise planet, Deva Loka. Its inhabitants, the Kinda, are a gentle and seemingly primitive people. On the surface, a perfect place to colonise. But if it is so perfect, why are the colonisation team disappearing one by one?

Unaware of this, the Doctor and his companions choose to rest on Deva Loka. Enchanted by the beautiful Chimes, "the place of dreams", Tegan sleeps and falls prey to the Mara, a malevolent force out to steal her mind. But just what are its ultimate evil intentions?

Meanwhile, the Doctor and Adric are captured by the surviving colonisation team's officers, Sanders and the unstable Hindle. When Sanders disappears, Hindle collapses into a world of paranoid delusions and suddenly the security of the entire base is at risk.

Can the Doctor rescue Tegan from the Mara and defeat it - before it pushes Hindle over the edge? And who is the mysterious blind woman who appears in visions? Will she help the Doctor or ultimately impede him? (QUOTED FROM THE DVD CASE)

The thoughts:  Kinda.  Oh, Kinda.  Most people dismiss you because of the admittedly dodgy snake in episode four, but you're so much more than that.  If only they'd see.

Definitely NOT the snake puppet that came with the Masters of the Universe Fright Zone playset.

Seriously, you guys... Kinda is fantastic.  One of the true gems of the Peter Davison era, but I think it tends to get lost in the shuffle behind stuff like The Caves of Androzani (famously chosen as the best Doctor Who story of all by the Doctor Who Magazine Top 200 poll a while back) or The Five Doctors (hard to ignore the combo of anniversary-inspired nostalgia wrapped in a big, bright, John Nathan-Turner production).  While puppetry may not be this story's strong suit, there's a lot of great work going on here.  Why do I think it works so well? 
First off, it's a fact that there aren't a lot of "Rudyard Kipling in Outer Space" stories out there.  Space Westerns, space samurais, space socio-economic class struggles, sure.  19th century British Imperial expansion, right down to the bushy mustaches and pith helmets... not so much.  And while the race of "noble savages" concept had been done before, this still felt like a fresh take.  This could very well have been another "base under siege" / "man messing with things he does not understand" mash-up, but this is different in that it is not only singularly British, but it echoes a time, place, and literature not often referenced in TV sci-fi, even the equally singularly British Doctor Who.

It probably doesn't hurt that the 5th Doctor's usual companions are frequently sidelined throughout.  Nyssa's usually pretty tolerable, so you're right to feel a little worried at the thought of four episodes wandering around a jungle with Tegan and Adric when everyone's favorite Trakenite goes down with a migraine.  But unusually for the era, Tegan and Adric are actually given stuff to do besides complain.  Well, Adric doesn't get to do much more (besides a quick apparent heel turn and some close-up magic that ends up being kind of important), but the Doctor does yell at him a few times and it's hilarious ("Adric, there's a difference between serious, scientific investigation and meddling." "Yes." "ISN'T THERE?!?").

It's Tegan that really gets to expand beyond her usual mouth with legs "Where's Heathrow Airport?" routine as she becomes the vessel through which the Mara enters the story.  Janet Fielding does some wonderful acting in some moody, intensely creepy scenes as she gets dragged into the Mara's dream world, and then gets to act the part of the beast itself for a few minutes.  Such a departure, and Fielding really makes the most of it.

There's some outstanding work by the guest cast, particularly Simon Rouse as Hindle, the colony expedition's de-facto second-in-command, and Nerys Hughes as science officer Todd.  I think Hindle's complete mental breakdown as he assumes command might happen a bit too quickly, as he goes from "a bit too stuck on regulations" to General Jack D. Ripper in just a few scenes, but once he does board the Crazytown Express, he gives a chilling performance.  And Hughes is wonderful from word go, as she quickly develops a rapport with the Doctor and is warm, funny, brilliant, and more than a little sexy (what with the glasses, pulled back hair, hint-of-cleavage lab coat, and the purple leggings).  She is such a fun character, and if I were to ever make a list of favorite single story pseudo-companions, she'd be right up at the top.

Helloooooooooooooo, science officer Todd! And some other guys.
As the Kinda themselves become more involved with the story (seeing as they're the indigenous population and all) and we move toward the revelation of and conflict with the Mara, things do get a little surreal and the hokum-related shenanigans increase.  And then, of course, there's that puppet (though on DVD you can watch the final episode with new special effects that actually look pretty good).  But the story hangs together in spite of all this, and whereas in the current version of the show the Doctor would be quick to rattle off some sort of pseudo-scientific explanation about how the Mara is from an out-of-phase reality that can only be breached telepathically by a brain in the midst of a trance not unlike sleep and blah blah blah... here the Doctor is pretty much along for the ride.  He's heard legends of the Mara, knows it's bad news, and concocts a solution to the problem not out of science but pretty much straight out of Earth mythology.  It's Todd that tries to apply the rational explanations, though she always comes up empty in this regard.  Sometimes the monster is just the monster.

Overall: Overlooked by too many fans (though the authors of The Discontinuity Guide sure seemed to like it), Kinda just may be my favorite Fifth Doctor story of all.  It wears all its weaknesses right on screen, sure, but it's a truly original piece of work - not just for Doctor Who, but TV science fiction in general - and is ripe for rediscovery.  For that matter, so is science officer Todd.  Yowsa.

Why the knowing look on the Doctor's face? Because he's positive that there's fanfic out there where they totally make out.

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