Sunday, 22 February 2015

Story 118 - Kinda

In which the Doctor and his companions spend some time on the verdant world of Deva Loka whilst Nyssa recuperates from the effects of the robotising machine on the Urbankan spaceship. She rests in the TARDIS whilst the others explore. In a glade they come across a set of wind chimes, so realise that there is - or has been - some advanced form of life here. Tegan lies down and falls asleep, whilst the Doctor and Adric encounter an armoured vehicle which forces them to go with it. They are taken to a dome which has been set up by an expeditionary force, come to check the planet for colonisation potential. Commander Sanders has designated this world "S14". After three of the crew have gone missing, the security officer - Hindle - has insisted on taking hostages from the local population. Science Officer Todd is against this, as the Kinda are a gentle, peace-loving people. The Doctor can see that Hindle, constantly bullied and mocked by his commander, is close to breaking point. Sanders decides to go on a reconnaissance mission alone, using the armoured unit that had brought the Doctor and Adric here - the TSS (Total Survival Suit). As security officer, Hindle is left in charge. Todd explains that the Kinda are mute and seem to have telepathic abilities. They were once a highly technical civilisation, and she shows the Doctor an emblem they wear which is exactly like the DNA double helix. Hindle discovers that the two hostages respond to him when he catches their reflection in his hand mirror. He finds that they obey his orders. As his mental health deteriorates, he takes over the dome and begins to plan a campaign against an imagined enemy. The Doctor and Todd are locked up, but Adric humours Hindle and is permitted to remain at large.

Tegan, meanwhile, is still asleep and has found herself in a nightmare black void. There are three figures present, an old couple and a young man who starts to torment her. Sanders comes upon a wooden box lying on the path, left by a Kinda girl named Karuna. Opening it, it has a strange influence on him. He returns to the dome where it is found that he seems quite childlike now. Hindle wants to know what is in the box, and forces the Doctor and Todd to open it. A jack-in-the-box figurine leaps out, but then some force begins to affect the dome's power. The Doctor deduces that it must emit some high frequency sound. He and Todd are able to escape and meet Karuna who takes them to a cave to meet an old wise woman, Panna. Both of them can speak. From her they learn of an ancient evil force called the Mara that once brought destruction to the Kinda - and will do so again. She reveals this in a vision which the Doctor and Hindle can share. Panna dies, but her consciousness merges with Karuna's. In her nightmare world, to save her sanity, Tegan relents and allows the young man to hold her hand. A snake tattoo on his arm comes to life momentarily and glides onto her arm. Tegan wakes in the glade, now possessed by the Mara.

She encounters a young Kinda male named Aris. His brother is one the hostages in the dome. The Mara transfers itself to him, as it needs him to influence the tribe. He also gains a voice. He starts to incite the Kinda against the colonists. He builds a mock up of the TSS out of branches, to mimic them and show that he has as much power as they. Adric escapes from the dome in the real TSS but finds he cannot control it. It ploughs into the assembled Kinda, causing them to run in panic. The Doctor and Todd return to the dome with Adric and Tegan and find Hindle has set up explosive charges. In his madness, he plans to destroy the whole area. Todd tricks him into opening the wooden box. It is really a Kinda healing device. His mind is cleared. Realising that evil can never face itself, the Doctor arranges for Aris to be surrounded by huge reflective panels. The snake tattoo on his arm slides off and begins to grow into a gigantic physical serpent. Trapped in the circle of mirrors, it is destroyed - sent back to the black void. Tegan's sleeping in the glade alone had given it a chance to return to the real world. Sanders and Hindle are both cured, and Sanders even contemplates settling down on Deva Loka. The planet will not be recommended for colonisation. Back at the TARDIS, Nyssa has recovered, and the time-travellers depart.

This four part story was written by Christopher Bailey, and was broadcast between 1st and 9th February, 1982.
Kinda is quite unlike any story which Doctor Who had previously attempted. The closest parallel might be Planet of the Spiders, but only in terms of the influences on both stories. Whilst a big monster does turn up in the closing section, all of the threats up to this point are psychological. We have Hindle's mental breakdown, and Tegan being driven insane in a nightmare world in her own head. The Mara is simply evil, which gets personified in the giant snake. Visually, a strong influence is the biblical Garden of Eden - the lush green planet, a serpent, and Tegan tempting Aris from a tree (dropping an apple on him just to ram this imagery home). Underlying all of this, in the detail, are Buddhist concepts. There is the wheel of life, and reincarnation. Not immediately evident to most viewers at the time are many of the names deriving from Buddhism. The healing device is called the Box of Jhana (meditation). Panna is wisdom, Karuna compassion. The three nightmare figures are named after states of being - Anicca (otherness), Anatta (impermanence) and Dukkha (suffering). The latter is the young tormentor. Mara derives from a demon.
We also have some psychoanalysis in the mix with the shared dreaming of the Kinda (after Jung).
Another influence is obviously the impact of colonialism on indigenous populations and their cultures. The uniform includes pith helmets - practically a visual shorthand for British Imperialism. Richard Todd was famous for stiff upper lip colonial type roles in the fifties. His name even hints at Sanders of the River.
And does the name Deva Loka derive from Vida Loca (mad or crazy life)? Makes more sense in a way than the actual 'realm of the gods'.
Bailey was a lecturer based in Brighton. Due to his keeping a low profile regarding interviews and so forth, a rumour sprang up that he didn't actually exist - very in keeping with some of the themes in his scripts. It was believed that the name was a nom de plume for someone else - possibly someone quite famous. Playwright Tom Stoppard had intimated in an interview that he had written something for a popular TV show under another name at just this time, but did not say what - so some thought him to be the mysterious Mr Bailey. Bizarrely, another suspect was pop star Kate Bush.

There is a very impressive cast on view. Todd is Nerys Hughes - best known for The Liver Birds and then District Nurse. She has since been seen as Rhys' mum in a Torchwood Series 2 episode (Something Borrowed). Sanders is the well known movie star Richard Todd - Guy Gibson in The Dambusters is probably his most famous role. Simon Rouse plays Hindle. His best known work will start soon after this - a long running role in The Bill. His co-star in that, Jeffrey Stewart, is Dukkha. Someone else who would soon find popular fame is Anna Wing (one of the original Eastenders cast). She is Anatta. Panna is Mary Morris, in one of her last screen roles. Aris is Adrian Mills - best known for being one of the co-presenters on That's Life (a series almost as bizarre as Kinda. Imagine consumer affairs show Watchdog, but with talking dogs, boy scouts trying to eat their lunch on roller-coasters, and vegetables shaped like genitalia...).
Episode endings are:
  1. Hindle appears with the two hostages - now armed and dressed in uniforms. He announces to the Doctor and Todd that he is in command now, and has the power of life and death over them...
  2. Todd screams as the Doctor opens the Box of Jhana...
  3. The Doctor needs Panna's help if he is to defeat the Mara and stop the Kinda attacking the dome. She is dead, however...
  4. With Nyssa well again, the TARDIS crew depart...

Overall, an interesting story that benefits from repeated viewings. A lot of the depth was lost to viewers on its initial screening. The planet is obviously all studio-bound, but somehow this unreal look almost becomes part of the story. The big pink snake at the end is the only obvious misjudgement. 
Things you might like to know:
  • Yes, that snake. The one big let down of the whole production. I do not know your views on the use of CGI enhancements on some of the DVD releases. Some purists won't touch them, but I am really not going to inflict the hub-cap Dalek saucer dangling in front of a photo of the Houses of Parliament on myself when I can see instead a natty TV Century 21 style version. If you have the Kinda DVD, for goodness sake switch on the CGI option for a far more satisfying Mara manifestation.
  • Back in 1982 fans were not enamoured of this story. The DWM season poll had it in last place, though they rated Simon Rouse and Nerys Hughes. In the most recent poll (for the 50th Anniversary) Kinda is the second most popular story of this season - in 63rd position overall, out of 241.
  • Amongst the Kinda extras is a very young Johnny Lee Miller - best known these days for that other Sherlock Holmes inspired programme.
  • Nyssa sits this story out, but Sarah Sutton was still under contract so appears at the start and finish on the story. There were back stage wrangles with her creator, Johnny Byrne, regarding her becoming a full time companion. Most companions were created jointly by the producer and script editor of the day, with a writer being asked to then introduce them. Nyssa was different - being a character for a one off story who it was then decided should stay on. Byrne got a few £s for every subsequent episode she appeared in.
  • Notoriously, Matthew Waterhouse gave veteran screen star Richard Todd some acting tips during the recording of this story. This has often appeared as one of the chief pieces of evidence for the prosecution case against him. As he tells it, Todd said that he hadn't a lot of specifically TV studio experience, and so this is why he shoved his groat's worth in.
  • One thing that is never resolved is: just what did happen to the three missing crew members? No explanation is given. Did they just wander off into the jungle after opening the Box of Jhana, or did the Mara get them? Were they the three tormentors in Tegan's nightmare. A popular school of thought has it that these three are actually representative of her travelling companions. The old couple are playing draughts - as Nyssa and Adric had been as the story opens. That would make chief tormentor Dukkha the Doctor. It has been proposed that the metal structure - the only other thing in this void - represents the TARDIS.
  • Talking of the TARDIS, this is the only Davison story not to feature the control room set.
  • As well as returning for a rematch in the next season (and the inevitable BF audio) the Mara have been name checked in Torchwood - as being possible relatives to the faerie creatures in the PJ Hammond story Small Worlds.
  • I've just realised that I have managed to go this whole post without making any jokes about toy-filled chocolate eggs. Now that is a surprise.
  • D'oh!


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