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Tegan is possessed by a slithering bonehead and Doc and Nyssa must face off against an old foe in this sequel to Kinda

An old guy wants to be alone in a desert, Nyssa wants Doc to notice her new outfit and Tegan’s having nightmares. Nightmares that are strong and weird enough to bring them to a new world, Manussa, whose former inhabitants — or so legends say — vanquished the Mara from their lands.

Of course those slippery serpentine scallywags aren’t gone at all and through the vessel that is Tegan are about to make their grand comeback — and just in time for the tacky festival celebrating their demise. They’ve soon poisoned a handful of the locals’ minds, and now Doc and Nyssa must battle their friend for the future of a race no one cares about.

Here's what we think of C125 Snakedance

We rate Doctor Who stories on a scale from 0.0 to 5.0. For context, very few are excellent enough to merit a 5.0 in our minds, and we'd take a 0.0 Doctor Who story over a lot of other, non-Whovian stuff out there.

Leon | @ponken

4.3

Jim | @jimmythewho

3.0

Here's what we think of C125 Snakedance

We rate Doctor Who stories on a scale from 0.0 to 5.0. For context, very few are excellent enough to merit a 5.0 in our minds, and we'd take a 0.0 Doctor Who story over a lot of other, non-Whovian stuff out there.

Leon | @ponken

4.3

Jim | @jimmythewho

3.0

Here's what you think 10 Responses to “C125 Snakedance”
  1. Ben O'Neill

    There was something I forgot to mention about the novels.
    First, “Blood Harvest” was written by Terrence Dicks, and as I said earlier, is a sequel to the Fourth Doctor serial, “State of Decay”, which is all the better because Terrence Dicks also wrote that story, both the screenplay and the novelisation.
    Second, in “Goth Opera”, Nyssa gets turned into a vampire, and the story very much has a “Lost Boys” vibe.
    Additionally, after hearing your review of “Snakedance”, especially on the point where you were comparing the specifics with “Kinda”, I came to a realisation outside of Doctor Who. When you were saying that in “Kinda”, the Mara could only possess one person at a time (a host), but in “Snakedance”, multiples could be ‘infected’. When Tegan was under its control, her voice was modulated somehow (you wanted to go on about this for an hour or so) and at one point her eyes glowed. Put it all together and it sounds a lot like the Goa’uld in Stargate SG-1. Snakes, possession of a host, modulated voice, glowing eyes? hmmm, I wonder if Brad Wright ever watched Doctor Who…

  2. Steven from Canada

    I don’t know why but I really have not been able to get into these Mara stories. Kinda I didn’t think lived up to its reputation and this one I simply did not enjoy.

    Typically I get through each story in an evening or afternoon, but this one took me 4 days to get through, I just was not invested. It was nothing to do with the length or pace I’ve sat through all of the Daleks Master Plan in one sitting. I guess these stories just weren’t for me.

    I was glad to see plot points carry over from other stories, I thought the chemistry between the Doctor and Nyssa was fantastic, I liked the archaeology aspect with the artefacts and dead civilization, and I thought the last scene was somewhat touching but those are all the nice things I can say about the story.

    Already Teagan isn’t my favourite of the Davison companions so watching a story of her going absolutely bonkers was not entertaining and just felt tedious. Gone is the surrealist aspects of kinda like the dimension with those scary ghost people and it’s all replaced with nothing but dumb pink snakes. It’s just lost whatever edge it had.

    While I usually praise them, the costumes are uninspired. Nothing but robes, Jerry Seinfeld-esque pirate shirts and tacky snake tats that would make Jon Pertwee blush. It doesn’t compare to some of the unique and beautiful designs in any of the previous episodes.

    I can sort of see why people like it but for me this whole story is just a load of mumbo-jumbo and earns 1.5 clearly plastic fake glass crystals out of 5.

    I bet this score will really skew the statistics for this one.

    Steven From Canada

  3. Kieren Evans | @kjevans2

    Hi folks

    The Mara is back! So it’s a sequel to last season’s Kinda (which is what the DVD of this one is packaged with) but sadly I don’t feel it as strong. The Doctor being locked up in episode 3 and the generally slow pace doesn’t help. It is also very exposition heavy, something even pointed on the DVD commentary by Janet Fielding. In Kinda, we get a good understanding of the Kinda’s society but here? Not really. More things are left vague and unexplained. Now, yes, that isn’t always a bad thing but here it is as we struggle to understand why people are doing what they are. The set up is just not as well crafted and involving, and I feel there are less likeable characters in this one than in Kinda. Perhaps I should stop comparing it to Kinda but as a sequel it’s only natural.

    Still, there’s some inventive and very interesting visual stuff in this one (the hall of mirrors scenes) but again I feel it is lesser to Kinda. Fiona Cumming is trying to do stuff with the direction but the writing is just a bit fabby so you don’t notice as much. Creeping around corridors just seems to waste time so much and the end of part three cliffhanger is so random.

    Not really much to say here, it does Kinda again but not quite as well. 3.3/5 Violent punch and judy shows with snakes!

    Cheers

    Kieren

  4. Ed Corbet

    Nyssa tries to allure the Fifth Doctor with the most garish outfit ever (it might have more appeal with the Sixth Doctor).

    When previous Doctors futilely try to warn people of impending doom, I’m thinking “Why do they never listen?!”, with the Fifth it’s “Nah, I wouldn’t buy it either.” He only has one song as well “It’s the Mara!! Blaarrgh!” Dude, if he didn’t listen to you during office hours, he isn’t going to listen when you ruin his dinner party.

    Martin Clunes does a good job of playing arrogant slacker Lon (the annoying youth Adric only dreamed of being), but he looks ridiculous in the traditional costume that’s ‘an exact recreation’ of the one his ancestor wore when defeating the Mara (did it laugh itself to death?).

    Like Pyramids of Mars we have a main villain that menaces it’s return while it’s henchpeople, provide the actual opposition, but Lon and Tegan aren’t menacing. In Pyramids of Mars, Sutekh’s threat was clear (stop him or everything dies) and he was originally defeated by the Osirans (who are now dead). The Mara’s threat is significantly vaguer and the people who defeated it last time are explained to be living in the hills and could potentially return, then Doc defeats it quite easily by… I don’t remember, I think he used the power of love or something.

    This story’s fine, but this is the second serial in a row where we have a returning villain, that no one asked for.

    2.6

    Ed Corbet

  5. Peter Zunitch

    I have a major problem with this script. The problem is I can’t write a script this perfect. The dialog is beautiful and there are so many lovely little moments that both relate to, and/or remain outside the main plot. All of the characters are perfect and every single actor from the lead to the bits are amazing in their role. Everyone shines. We also get a world so alive and fully realized with varied locations, eye-catching sets, and beautiful costumes screaming of a distant culture. We’re compounding on a story we already know, but delve even deeper with an entrancing backstory and exposition worked in so naturally that it’s never distracting.

    The directing is also flawless. Indeed we even get a better snake this time. Unfortunately however it’s only a minor improvement over Kinda. It only looks better because it’s not as big. Kidding aside, it’s used better this time, which helps tremendously. But why Janet Fielding couldn’t hold a solid rubber snake over a balloon escapes logic.

    The only other thing missing here is a mention of Pertwee’s Metabelis 3 crystal, which was also man made and had many of the same properties. If Big Finish hasn’t done a linking story, they need to. If they have, someone please tell me. I want more. I want the novel book series exploring the Mara universe.

    If you don’t agree that this is one of the best Doctor Who stories ever, you’re simply wearing a five headed ceremonial helmet. 4.9999~

  6. Caleb from Australia

    Hey hey hello!

    Snakedance feels almost like arthouse-Who for me, with dynamic visuals composed by the ever-inventive Fiona Cumming, an eerie and pant-wetting (in a good way) score from Peter Howell and brilliant performances that perfectly complement the unnerving, possession-inclined plot.

    Tegan’s dream visuals are totally bizarre, and have a sort of expressionist quality about them that extends to the lavish sets of the story (geometric deserts and caves, the arching house of mirrors, and the borderline German-expressionist jail cell are standouts).

    The episode is a great extension of Kinda, as we’re able to see how a civilisation closer to our own integrates the Mara into their society (reflecting the real-life recession and evolution of religions seen today in Western civilisation).

    I find the Doctor’s confrontation with the Mara had a greater pay-off in this story than that in Kinda with, still rubbery, but better special effects (I conceptually love the image of Tegan’s head inside the Mara’s unhinged jaw). Side note, I appreciate that Nyssa finally has something to do.

    I love Snakedance, I think it’s stylish, creepy and better-realised than Kinda (an episode I really like). One of my favourite 5th doctor episodes for sure and in my eyes almost perfect, which is why I’m giving Snakedance a 4.7/5.

    Caleb from Australia.

  7. Neil | @neilandrozani

    With Tegan off being possessed again, we have the second story in a row with Nyssa being (more or less) the sole companion, and I think it really works well! I enjoy the bit of silliness at the beginning when the Doc fails to notice her new costume, despite her clearly wanting his reaction.
    There is also a great moment when the Doctor helps her climb down a rock and she hits him with this bit of sass:
    “Thank you. But it wasn’t necessary.”

    Speaking of Nyssa’s new costume….. it’s fucking horrible! But amazingly it’s not the worst costume on display in this story – that prize goes to the ridiculous creation that bratty Lon has to wear for the ceremony. Horrendous.
    Colette O’Neil as Tanha and Martin Clunes as Lon are fantastic in their performances. and I enjoy all their scenes together. The casting is really strong all round.

    The sets are well done, if a bit too over-lit at times. I especially thought they did a great job of pulling off that impressive market in a little studio.

    Finally, a shout out to the head-dress scene in which Ambril didn’t realise that the 6th face of delusion is the wearer’s face.

    Nothing bad to say about Snakedance. I definitely like it, but it’s not a personal favourite.
    Rating – 3.0

    Neil
    @neilandrozani

  8. Paul Waring | @pwaring

    Snakedance is an interesting contrast to Kinda, as this time round we already know about the Mara. As a result, they are a threat from the start of episode one, and the story feels like it moves along quicker than Kinda.

    Martin Clunes is the stand-out actor for me in this story – he does a fantastic job of portraying a spoilt layabout who suddenly acquires power. I don’t know if he looks back with fondness on some of the outfits he was asked to wear – especially the ridiculous one in episode four – but he is in good company with many actors who started out on Doctor Who.

    Nyssa gets a lot to do – she is in effect the only companion for most of the story – and I think once again she works well with the Fifth Doctor. I like that she is on a similar intellectual level to him and tries to rescue him from his cell, even though she does end up being captured.

    Of course we have the usual completely inept palace guards, who are outwitted in every interaction with the Doctor. At least the actors are saved any embarrassment by having their faces covered!

    Overall, this is a reasonable story with a great cast, and a good ending to the Mara storyline. However, I slightly prefer Kinda (3.5/5), so Snakedance gets: 3.3/5

  9. Tanz Sixfingers | @Tanz6fingers

    Hi Ho Leon and Jim!
    I thought Snakedance was an original sequel to tie up loose ends from Kinda, and although I enjoyed it critically, I can’t say that I was thrilled with it.
    However, more importantly, Between Arc of Infinity and Snakedance lies the novel Goth Opera, by Paul Cornell. You remember him? He wrote Father’s Day and Human Nature/Family of Blood (based on his 7th Doctor novel “Human Nature”).
    Goth Opera is the first of Virgin’s Missing Adventures novels that were written after the series was cancelled in the 80s. It also ties in with (New Adventures novel) “Blood Harvest” featuring the 7th Doctor, Ace Bernice Summerfield, and Romana 2, and takes up where the 4th Doctor serial “State of Decay” ends on the Vampire planet in E-space.
    Anyway, for your listeners who might want to take a peek at some of the original (almost canon) novels from classic Who, I wanted to give them a starting point.
    Also, the best thing about Snakedance is that it leads directly into my personal favorite classic Who serial, “Mawdryn Undead.”
    my rating:3.0 out of 5

  10. Michael Ridgway | @bad_movie_club

    .Doh. I thought I’d caught up with you! I’m with you in spirit!

    Things I liked:

    • More creepy snake stuff with Tegan. Particularly the creepy skull in the hall of mirrors and the ‘look at me’ voice-swap spiele.
    • The snake cave set was pretty cool.
    • The wacky Mara festival and ritual thingy.
    • Martin Clunes does a good villain.
    • Another wobbly rubber snake! Harrah!

    Beefs:

    • The Doctor spending the entirety of episode three in (yawn) jail.
    • Did the Doctor always suspect Tegan was still Mara possessed? Is this why he ditched her in Timeflight and appeared so nonplussed to see her again in Infinity?

    Observation: I don’t think anyone actually died in this episode?

    Summary: An entertaining creepfest. More Mara in New Who please.

    Rating: 3.3/5 scared townspeople staring at a giant rubber snake and thus enabling its existence, or something.

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