Tuesday, 29 September 2009

Doctor Who: Kinda

Part One

“An apple a day keeps the, er…”

Were introduced to some impressive guest actors from the off; him off The Dam Busters, him off The Bill and her off The Liver Birds. The jungle, though not bad looking, admittedly has a slight hint of plastic to it, but it’s already clear that this story is going to be very good indeed.

We cut to the TARDIS where Adric and Nyssa are playing chess. What is it with foreshadowing and writers called Christopher? If that’s not enough, the Doctor responds to Adric’s querying of the wisdom of leaving the sonic screwdriver in some thingamajig with a casual “Why should we need it?” Nyssa, after her recent collapse, is to stay behind. That’ll be one less companion to work into the plot, then.

We cut back to our pith helmeted colonists and straight from the Doctor to Hindle- appropriate as their character traits as recently displayed- paranoia versus possibly foolhardy carelessness- could not be more of a contrast. There are lots of nice digs made by the script at the colonists’ mindset (Sanders casually notes that taking “primitives” hostage is “standard procedure”) but already it’s clear this is just background detail, not what the story’s going to be about.

Yet again, the Doctor and Adric are not getting on, another sign that the Doctor’s inability to display the authority and gravitas he’s become used to commanding is affecting his relationships with his companions. In fact, pairs of characters and their relations with each other are something of a feature of this story- Hindle’s paranoia causes Sanders to trust the Doctor and Adric pretty much to spite him, whilst Todd and the Doctor appear to establish quite a rapport, even flirting by the end of the story.

Tegan, meanwhile, falls asleep, and has a strange dream. The environment seems to be pretty much a sensory deprivation tank (probably as bad, if not worse, than the Mara’s messing with her head), and the only objects Tegan can see are chess-playing figures who deny her existence and some other bloke from The Bill.

Back in the land of the pith helmets, Todd offers the Doctor an apple in spite of the fact that, as Hindle says, it’s “forbidden”. Oh, and we’re told this planet is “Paradise”. Do you think there might be some sort of subtext here?

Good lord, it’s Adrian Mills! Anyone who hasn’t seen him on That’s Life (I have fond memories of being allowed to stay up and watch it on Sunday nights- ah, nostalgia…) can have no idea how weird it is to see him in Kinda. On a slightly OT note, after looking up some footage of him on a certain video site, I came across a reference to him apparently being the inspiration for Alan Partridge!

Part Two

“No, the trees have no mercy.”

“Ah yes, I was forgetting that.”

This Doctor is so obviously unthreatening to the crew of the dome that everyone assumes he’s harmless, except for the one madman. Who is now, of course, in charge, which changes the situation entirely- a brilliant cliffhanger.

We get to meet some Kinda who can talk: Panna, the blind wise woman, and her cute friend; and hear on the “Not-We” from their perspective. They give a box to Sanders, he opens it, and we cut to the next scene. There’s mystery as well as thematic depth and very well written character conflict here, and it all adds up to something very special indeed. The icing on the cake, though, and the focus of everything, is the character of Hindle, who is crucial to making the whole thing work, and Simon Rouse plays him perfectly. He gets all the best lines (And Doctor, be sensible”) and plausibly retreats into childhood as he becomes less and less able to cope with the world around him. He’s a dangerous child, though, wanting to sterilise a fifty mile radius with “fire and acid, acid and fire”.

Todd is delightful in other ways, wanting to escape because it’s “what one does”, and Nerys Hughes shows what a bloody good actress she is. The Doctor, meanwhile, is in an extraordinarily passive position, but it works.

Adric apparently betrays the Doctor yet again, but this time it’s an obvious ruse, and not a very good one at that. He only escapes punishment at Hindle’s hands because of Sanders’ return. But Sanders has looked into the box, and he’s not quite the same…

Tegan agrees to “be” the Mara, a kind of rape, and Janet Fielding is great as the Mara in Tegan’s body, which is more than can be said for Adrian Mills shortly after. Still, it odd that, in a story so supposedly Tegan-centric, she seems to get so little screen time.

Part Three

“It isn’t a game, it’s real! With measuring and everything.”

The Doctor opens the box… and aside from a short, psychedelic trip, not a lot happens, aside from confirmation that handle has no sense of humour. Still, he and Todd escape (odd how for once the Doctor spending a whole episode in a cell seems to present no problem whatsoever, just because this story is so damn good) and go in search of the figures from the dream. It doesn’t take them long to find the tribe, and a Trickster figure who seems to be some kind of parallel for the Doctor. But Aris, controlled by the Mara, turns the tribe against them, and they are quickly led to Panna before things get too nasty. The Doctor, a man who speaks, must obviously be an “idiot”!

We end with another trippy scene, full of images of hourglasses, metronomes and digital clocks approaching midnight…

Part Four

“You can’t mend people, can you?”

It’s revealed that Hindle and Sanders have been making a model capital city for “S14” indoors, because “Outside is for grown ups”. And Sanders’ cardboard people are indeed very good. Meanwhile, in true cargo cult fashion, the Kinda have made a version of the colonists’ body armour out of sticks for the Mara possessed Aris. But now it’s time for the endgame.

The Doctor and Todd return, to be greeted with a “Boo!” by Hindle from his “secret den”. But his childlike innocence turns to real menace when this doesn’t have the desired effect. It’s noticeable that it’s Todd, and not the Doctor, who persuades him to look inside the box.

The story then winds up, and there is a giant papier-mâché snake upon which I shall not dwell, for the same reasons I didn’t dwell on the giant rat in Talons. Nothing can spoil this story, not even Adric being a total git to Tegan for no reason halfway through this episode.

Well, most of the Buddhist stuff went right over my head, but I love this story. It’s a clear 5/5, and goes straight in at number two in my all-time list, displacing The Massacre and second only to City of Death.

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