Recently I had the opportunity to view a pair of Fifth Doctor episodes, “Kinda” from 1982 and its sequel “Snakedance” from 1983. Since the two stories are so closely connected, I thought it made sense to review them together.
Both stories feature Peter Davison as the Doctor, Sarah Sutton as Nyssa, and Janet Fielding as Tegan Jovanka; Matthew Waterhouse appears as Adric in “Kinda” but is not present in “Snakedance” (being trapped on an exploding spaceship will do that to you). In “Kinda”, the TARDIS lands on the peaceful planet of Deva Loka, but, of course, the TARDIS crew manages to stumble into trouble. While Nyssa is confined to the TARDIS as the result of mental distortion the planet effects of those of her species, the Doctor and Adric become the captives of a mad commander. As for Tegan–well, she becomes possessed by an alien force known as the Mara, who hopes to use her as a gateway to regaining corporeal form and destroy Deva Loka. In “Snakedance” we learn that although the Mara was banished to another dimension at the end of “Kinda”, it retained its hold on Tegan; through her it pilots the TARDIS to its old home world of Manussa and once more works to regain a flesh appearance.
“Kinda” really made an impression on me for several reasons–Hindle was a truly insane villain; Todd was a fun character that I would have liked to see join the TARDIS (she was smart, savvy, and willing to listen to the Doctor’s theories but also not afraid to put him in his place), and the Kinda were a truly unique, intriguing civilization. Also, Janet Fielding gave an outstanding performance not only when Tegan was trapped inside her own mind but also when the Mara gained control of her body. But as outstanding as she was in “Kinda”, she was absolutely on fire in “Snakedance”. Seriously, I was a little bit sad when Tegan was finally freed of the Mara’s influence; she made such a good villain. That snake skull was a good yet creepy addition, too.
By returning to the Mara’s home world in “Snakedance”, we got the chance to learn more of the backstory than was featured in “Kinda”, and we also got to see the effects it had on the culture despite having been banished from Manussa about 500 years ago (at which point it fled to Deva Loka). Interestingly enough, it was prophesied that the Mara would return, but most people passed it off as a myth. It’s entirely possible that the people might have assumed the Mara was a myth as well if its banishment hadn’t been a well-documented historical event.
On the whole, I think these were two of the Fifth Doctor’s best stories (I think “Kinda” might even outrank “The Caves of Androzani” as my favorite Fifth Doctor episode now), and I definitely recommend you watch them. You won’t be disappointed.