Only two stories really break this mould, with the previously regarded The Web Planet crashing drastically, and Kinda, which fared badly in DWAS, came bottom of the season poll in DWM and was trounced as an-all time turkey in DWB surveys. You'd rarely get that nowadays, though there are still people - mainly Pertwee fans, ironically - who regard it as weak because of poor effects and sets. Yeah, the snake does look like a bouncy castle, but while Jon was content to run around karate chopping and preaching to the lowest common denominator, Kinda was taking religious iconography, Imperialism, telepathy, mental instability and existentialism and bringing it to the Who audience. The most recent large survey (In that horribly covered We © DWM special) saw it register as the 35th most popular story, and also the 4th most popular Davison. As for its placing in the season, which once saw it trounced by Time-Flight of all things, it was second only to the inevitable Earthshock.
Right from the start it scores bonus points by writing out the tediously wooden Sarah Sutton, a merciful contractual obligation. Yet the big test has to be, as my favourite Davison story - how does it stand up to Androzani? Sure, this one has higher intellectual ambitions, but is it better produced? Definitely not. Better acted? No - and, with hindsight, you can clearly see Peter has yet to find the character, his "no need to shout" just the tip of the iceberg in self-conscious eccentricity. Let's not even get into Waterhouse. Is it better written? Hmmm, maybe. As said, it does have more ambition than the taut thrills of Androzani, but that was Bob Holmes edited to by far his most efficient. Better directed? Nah. Grimwade is certainly no stickler, but when he directs behind "leaves" (4'48m in) the camera shakes the "leaves", thus effectively breaking the fourth wall. No longer is it snazzy directing, instead it's some clumsy berk in the bushes with a camcorder. Actually, looking at it again, so soon after seeing Androzani (which I watched just a couple of weeks before reviewing this, in case my million and one references didn't fill you in) it's surprising how pedestrian Grimwade's direction really is. The script is fine, and the music's not half bad, but it lacks the pace and urgency it required to make it genuinely first rate.
But to judge this or any story on a purely technical level removes the need for personal preference and indefinable "magic". If this were the case, then Androzani would be everyone's favourite story by default. But I'm waffling like a right girl, when really I should just say how much I like it. I admit, this is the first time since transmission that I've seen it on the proper BBC video and not fourth-generation copies, so I am a little struck by how cheap it is. Instead of an alien world, the home of the Kinda is a DIY garden centre with a few pot plants dotted about, while everywhere in the dome is Red Dwarf season one grey. Mike Jefferies could have done with turning down the lights, too. Yet for all the talk of the studio "exteriors" (and it warranted a whole chapter to itself in the underrated The Unfolding Text) I've never once seen a camera cable on the floor.
Highlight of the story undoubtedly has to be Tegan's journey inside the psyche of the Mara, the parallels between the two chess players there and Adric/Nyssa's earlier drafts game actually said to be coincidental by the writer. There's said to be many existing cut takes from this episode, including a scene where Tegan's shadow falls over the two players. It'd make a great feature for a DVD extra, but sadly at present they've decided to release The Visitation instead. That said, being forced to watch this story for a critical review and not specifically for pleasure, it hasn't impressed me as much as I thought it did. Shame. Ah, bugger it, I liked the cliffhanger, Simon Rouse rocks like a Daddy, so let's give it another half star:
PS. Anyone else spot how the Doctor and Adric change places when walking in front of the TSS machine?
I won't repeat the infamous anecdote where Waterhouse offered Richard Todd some acting tips (err… except I just have) but he's really quite poor here. Unbearably so. And if I want to be anal about it (why not? They namechecked K-9 in the first episode) then surely the Doctor would already know Adric's coin trick as he did it fifty million times when he was Pertwee? Meanwhile, Simon Rouse ably bridges the gap between humour and horror as he plays the increasingly deranged Hindle. In fact, with all the madness themes going on (including Sanders's enlightenment) I'm beginning to remember why I love this one so much. A major offset of the episode-by-episode that, when judging a story as a cohesive whole can often be so much more rewarding.
A bit of a downturn at 11'10m with some minor boom mike action, while Adric trying a ruse only makes you think "Shut up, you little twat!" I dare you to say it doesn't. Not only that, but the Doctor seemingly taken in by Adric's ruse doesn't make him come across as wide-eyed and innocent but a bit thick. I mean, this is Adric - he's just a spotty porky twat, he ain't Machiavelli, is he? Little bastard.
There's a touch of 80s Top of the Pops about this one with all the video FX, but they're used to strong effect. And while Fielding can be a little hammy, it's enjoyable ham, and they definitely chose the right one of the three companions to get possessed. Can you imagine how bad it would have been if Nyssa had been the one? You might scoff at the pathetic moving snake tattoo, but how many Who stories outside of Fury From The Deep have such obvious rape imagery?
Maybe you have to work in television to really notice, because I may have caught an electric cable on the overhead shot of Tegan in the tree. But to be honest, I thought it was a root. Yeah, that tree's obviously been borrowed from the local kid's panto and the camera's wobbling all over the place, but it gets on my nerves how people mock this one for being cheap and not looking at the masses of subtext and gorgeous dialogue. "Oooh, I can't enjoy it cos the sets aren't as good as those in Earthshock." Ah, shut yer bloody face! It's great - Janet is clearly having a ball (her passing on the phallic Mara to Aris an example of female empowerment?), Rouse is cranking up the gears and that cliffhanger rocks so hard it nearly laid me out for a ten count.
"Isn't that rather extravagant?" says the Doctor of Karuna having seven fathers. If fans wanted to read into it, they could say it's the Doctor referring to his own father when he says that generally the Not-We have just one. But there's also a Shakespeare reference and the Doctor being called an idiot. The music also makes the cliffhanger special, even if it's surprising to think that Kinda is actually one of the most special-effects reliant stories of Who's entire history.
Is that a cable at the side of the Dome a couple of minutes in when Aris is threatening to attack? If so, then yes, it is very visible, but I still say it can be taken as a root. I know I certainly never clocked it before, and I'm the sort of guy who loves spotting gaffes in Who. Anyway, back to my earlier pointless comparison with Androzani and I'm really not sure which is the better story. This one has the intuitive and intellectual thrills to counterpoint Androzani's visceral ones, yet is perhaps more of a traditional Who story. Sure, it's esoteric, but it's cheap and only adequately directed - with Androzani's virtuoso direction and fast-paced editing it's completely unlike a Doctor Who story at all. Okay, we still have Adrian's fillings and the rubber snake - if in doubt, show your mates Androzani.
Adric might nauseate when operating the Terrible Shiny Shit Machine or am-dramming in a corridor with Tegan, but this is the one where Hindle's breakdown reaches fruition. His "You can't mend people, can you? You can't mend people!!" is one of my all-time favourite moments in Who. This does unfortunately precipitate the fifth Doctor's conversion into a wuss as he gets knocked out by a flimsy cards table when it falls on his chest. The obvious clash between Peter's natural authority and the retooling of the Doctor as vulnerable is more jarring than I thought at the time, and doesn't come off completely successfully. At least Adric for once satisfies fan desires by turning round and demanding of Tegan, "Will you shut up?"
As for the final form of the Kinda, well, I always find it's never as bad as you remember. Yeah, it's lame, but not outstandingly awful when you get used to it. Not only that, but the Doctor having to leave when Nerys seems to have developed a genuine affection towards him is quite touching.
Still one of my very favourite stories, despite obvious limitations, this is Doctor Who daring to reach beyond its normal parameters and doing so with great accomplishment.
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