Doctor Who: Mara Tales Boxset (TV series DVD review).

Oddly, for once, I can understand having these two stories in a boxset, although they are in different seasons, because they are connected although considering producer John Nathan-Turrner was keen on continuity between stories, you can’t spot the distance between them.

Doctor Who: Kinda by Christopher Bailey

cast: Peter Davison, Janet Fielding, Matthew Waterhouse, Sarah Sutton, Richard Todd, Nerys Hughes, Mary Morris, Simon Rouse, Adrian Mills, Lee Cornes, Sarah Prince, Anna Wing, Roger Milner and Jeffrey Stewart

The TARDIS is on an unnamed planet while the Doctor (actor Peter Davison) is creating a device to enable Nessa (actress Sarah Sutton) to have a deep sleep for 24 hours to get over some sort of headache she is having. In the meantime, he, Adric (actor Matthew Waterhouse) and Tegan (actress Janet Fielding) go off to explore. They find the chimes that produce some unusual music. Tegan seems to be enjoying its music and gone to sleep so the Doctor and Adric explore further, discovering what appears to be an environment automation which directs them at gunpoint to a human dome.

There, they discover a human military/scientific unit who, if successful, after 6 seasons will recommend the planet, S-14, as suitable for colonisation. Their leader, Sanders (actor Richard Todd) is a by-the-book leader, Todd (actress Nerys Hughes) the remaining scientist and security officer Hindle (actor Simon Rouse), who appears to be having a mental breakdown. The native people are called the Kinda and they have two hostage, whom the Doctor thinks are telepathic.

The unit has also lost several people outside. Sanders decides to use the Total Survival Suit, the environment automation, to look for his missing people and will be gone for two days leaving Hindle in charge. In the process and unseen by anyone but the Kinda hostages has had a breakdown and now under their control, well, sort of. After Sanders has gone, Hindle imprisons the Doctor, Todd and Adric, although the latter opts to change sides, going along with the security officer’s belief that the trees are dangerous in the hope to free the others later.

Meanwhile, Tegan in her deep sleep and finds herself in an odd realm and interrogated by Dukkahs (actor Jeff Stewart) who plays with her mind, finally forcing her to allow her body to be used as a conduit for the serpentine Mara.

Sanders encounters the blind Panna (actress Mary Morris) and her young helper, Karuna (actress Sarah Prince) and receives a box. When he returns to the Dome, he also had a personality change but can’t convince Hindle to open the box. Instead, the Doctor, Todd and Sanders have the box inside their cell and ordered to open it. This makes a connection to the Kinda hive-mind. Todd’s sanity is saved because she apparently connects to the Doctor. Leaving the smiling Sanders, the Doctor and Todd flee into the forest and encounter Panna. She describes Todd as the Notwe woman and the Doctor as the Idiot as only a male idiot could open the box. She gets them to experience the hive mind again and shows the Mara and that Aris (actor Adrian Mills) is now its host and that it was Tegan who provided the snake-god the means into our reality. Alas Panna dies in the process but her memories are now in Karuna and she guides them back to the Dome to stop Aris/Mara leading the Kinda to attack it.

Meanwhile, the deranged Hindle now has the help of Sanders in wiring the Dome to blow-up and Adric is hindered from escaping them. Finally, he gets outside in the Total Survival Suit and scares the Kinda away and hurts Aris/Mara who still manages to flee.

The Doctor sorts out the bombs inside the Dome and needs a clue to how to send the Mara back where it came from. That’s mostly spoiler but all done with mirrors.

Nyssa literally sleeps the story out. After a major part of episode 2, so does Tegan come to that and even Adric’s part is minimal. Mind you, considering the star status of the likes of Richard Todd, Nerys Hughes, Mary Morris and Simon Rouse, that’s hardly surprising. For the record, Mary Morris was once a Number 2 in ‘The Prisoner’. Although the young Simon Rouse looks like a young Harry H. Corbett, when he is older he has a major role in ‘The Bill’. It makes a good pub question that actor Jeff Stewart, also of the ‘Bill’, were in the same story but never worked together. Adrian Mills serves time in Esther Ranzin’s ‘That’s Life’, albeit with shorter hair. Blink and you’ll miss them, Graham Cole who also later to appear in ‘The Bill’ and the final Kinda show, which I did spot in close-up, Glen Murphy, who later starred in ‘London’s Burning’. Quite a who’s who.

The audio commentary is between Peter Davison, Janet Fielding, Matthew Waterhouse and Nerys Hughes who all admit that they don’t really understood the story. Much of it is chit-chat behind the scenes, including the changeover from film to video recording. I did think they missed the point of a white background as not representing the jungle mist, more so as they walked through it once.

Starting the extras we have the 34 minute ‘Dreamtime’ split between production and scriptwriter Christopher Bailey applying Buddhism to the reality and its pitfalls and the cast giving their thoughts. There were a couple notable absences and I would have liked to have heard what Jeff Stewart thought of his own part.

‘Peter Grimwade – Directing With Attitude’, running at 23 minutes, goes over his history which was linked for a long time in production before becoming both a director and scriptwriter.

Of the 15 minutes of ‘Deleted And Extra Scenes’, two of them would have made more sense in the story than being omitted, Condition 13 and why they were on iron rations than accepting the fruits the Kinda were happy to give them does explain why in what was shown the Doctor wasn’t very hungry. When Panna got Karuna to hand the box to Sanders when it should have been Todd also fills in the gap.

In case you didn’t watch the story with modern CGI, as given in the extras, the ‘CGI Effects Companion’ shows them both together which is effectively 90 seconds focusing on the Marsa snake in the final episode. Finally, of importance, is the 5 minute ‘Photo Gallery’.


Doctor Who: Snakedance by Christopher Bailey

cast: Peter Davison, Janet Fielding, Sarah Sutton, John Carson, Collette O’Neil, Preston Lockwood, Martin Clunes and Jonathon Morris

With Tegan continually having a nightmare that she can’t remember, the Doctor is also concerned that she had given him the wrong co-ordinates and they are on Marunna, home of the now gone Sammuran Empire and the Mara. He devises a device to protect Tegan but it also makes her effectively deaf as it keeps things out.

Meanwhile, Lady Tanha (actress Collette O’Neil) and her slack son, Lon (actor Martin Clunes) are there from the Federation. Every ten years, there is a celebration for the banishment of the Mara and they are there to observe. They don’t really believe in the Mara and the local chief archaeologist, Ambril (actor John Carson), expresses certain biases on the subject and even refuses to listen to the Doctor when they are in the Snakemouth. None of which is helped when Tegan flees from Nyssa and collapses in the marketplace. The local soothsayer revives her and removes the device, alas letting the Mara control Tegan.

Although Nyssa finally finds Tegan, it becomes obvious that the Australian is unstable, The Doctor makes a second attempt to persuade Ambril to stop the ceremony the next day but does note a lot of information from his assistant, Chela (actor Jonathon Morris). The Doctor and Nyssa attempt to penetrate a crystal to seek the Mara, aware that it can turn thought into matter.

Elsewhere, Tegan/Mara persuades Dugdale (actor Brian Miller), the local owner of a house of mirrors to persuade Lon to his abode and he is also possessed by the Mara. The Doctor ends up imprisoned, well until after the ceremony. Lon, now possessed by the Mara still obeys Tegan/Mara who orders him to get the great crystal and he goes off to see Ambril.

Chela tempts the Doctor with food but the Time Lord thinks he’s wavering. More so when he is told that Dojjen (actor Preston Lockwood), the previous Director of Historical Research, had similar misgivings.

Lon shows Ambril an old relic and uses this to persuade him to come to the Snakemouth, albeit blindfolded, to see more relics and persuade him he can have them all if he hands over the great crystal at the ceremony.

However, Nyssa’s attempt to get the key to the Doctor’s cell is also thwarted and is also imprisoned, this time by Lady Tanha. When Lon and Amberil returns, Chula fears the worse hearing the great crystal is to be used and takes the cell himself. Lon does spot this and orders guards to kill the escapees. This time, Lady Tanha stops this but they do escape again. The Doctor used his own crystal to locate Dojjen and a plan to stop the Mara and, for that, you’ll have to watch for yourself.

It is revealed that that the Mara is the accumulation of psychic ability of people although that sounds awfully like the ‘Forbidden Planet’ film key element.

The audio commentary is divided between actors Peter Davison, Janet Fielding and Sarah Sutton, all of whom have been provided with notes about the story. They all agree that Sutton was given a costume disaster for the story. This was also actor Martin Clunes first TV work and they think Jonathon Morris’ second TV work but looking up IMdB, clearly wrong. Davison expressed concern that none of his companions had a lack of character development. Oddly, although they identify Brian Miller as Dugdale being a good actor, none of them seem to be aware that he was Elisabeth Sladen’s husband. They can’t understand why a skull appearing in a fortune-teller’s crystal ball made her scream. Considering the seer was a self-admitted fake and there was a celebration of the banishment of the Mara, I think that would make anyone jump.

There is also discussion of the difference between US and UK TV filming. Essentially, the Americans derive from a film background and we British with theatre. Oh, this was also the period when Davision appeared on ‘This Is Your Life’. Oddly, they managed a fairly successful discussion on how well explained the story worked for regular and Who fans. I do agree about the use of Dojjen in that he isn’t explained sufficiently. After all, there was only one small reference to him but not pointing to him in the early episodes. Then again, Dugdale was never addressed by name neither. I did wonder at their confusion as to who stopped the Mara 500 years back as I thought that was done by them in ‘Kinda’. As to why didn’t Ambril know where he was in the Snakemouth cave even blindfolded, one would suppose that Lan misdirected him around the cave system before getting there and back.

Oddly, there aren’t that many extras. ‘Snake Charmer’, running at 24 minutes goes over the production. Christopher Bailey explains that although he wrote the script in 10 days, he also decided that TV wasn’t for him and this was his last script. It’s also pointed out that the Doctor is depicted as a mad person to be ignored.

Of more importance is the 3 minute ‘Deleted Scene’ which was taken out for running out of time as it covers what happened after the Mara’s demise. I would strongly recommend watching it directly after the last episode.

‘In Studio’, at 7 minutes, shows the problems of blowing up the crystal ball and other scene preparations. Probably the funniest is the dying Mara who looks really sick spewing or pumping up a pink mess. The 14 minute ‘Saturday Superstore’ has presenter Mike Reid interviewing Peter Davison and doing an question and answer session over the telephone, showing how the under-10s can ask intelligent questions. Finally, a 5 minute ‘Photo Gallery’.

GF Willmetts

March 2020

(region 2 DVD: pub: BBC. 1 DVD 99 minutes 4 * 25 minute episodes with extras. Price: I got my copy for about £12.00 (UK) if you know where to look. ASIN: BBCDVD2871A)

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