Doctor Who: Mara Tales - Kinda (UK - DVD R2)
Will The Wilson Bros get a surprise as they revisit this Peter Davison story?
An expedition on an alien world inhabited by what appear to be a primitive race; a iron-fisted British Empire-like ruler who wants the planet to be colonised at all costs; the Doctor siding with the scientists in a desperate bid to scupper the plans of the military; hang on—didn't we just review The Mutants...?
The TARDIS materialises on the planet of Deva Loka; Nyssa (Sarah Sutton) is unwell and the Doctor (Peter Davison) ensures that she gets a nice rest. Whilst exploring the seemingly idyllic planet, Tegan (Janet Fielding) begins to experience strange visions, whilst the Doctor and Adric (Matthew Waterhouse) encounter a survey team run by the genial-but-officious Sanders (Richard Todd), who are checking the suitability of Deva Loka being used as an overspill planet for their own population, bringing to an end the harmonious existence of the natives of the planet, though they seem to be primitive, they have telepathic abilities and seem to be wearing the sign of the double-helix.
This was an interesting period of producer John Nathan-Turner tenure, as he seemingly went for quality guest actors, rather than getting in comedy stars into roles that were meant for dramatic actors in a bid to score some cheap publicity from them and thus increase the ratings of the show.
Richard Todd was an inspired choice for the role of Sanders, a distinctly "old school" type of colonial/military man who has been there, seen it and shot it if it dared to look at him in a funny manner. Todd brings a sense of gravitas and world-weariness, to the part that a lesser actor would have greatly overplayed. Todd also imbues his character with a sense of duty and has even an enthusiastic twinkle in his eye even though Sanders is perilously near to retirement age, but still has that thirst for adventure. One could wonder what actor Paul Whitson-Jones (from the similarly-themed The Mutants) would have done with the part if he had been cast; though he would have been adequate, Todd would have had the weight advantage, at least in dramatic terms. Todd gets to expand beyond Whitson-Jones after the first episode, as Sanders seemingly undergoes a strange St Paul-like transformation during an expedition and Todd plays this for all it's worth, but never in a manner that seems overstated. Though the late Mr Todd will be best remembered for his role in The Dam Busters, we'll always have a soft spot for him for his thespian contribution to the Frozen Fear segment of the Amicus anthology Asylum, in which he portrayed a swaggering, drink-swilling philanderer who murders his wife, cuts up the body, wraps the bits up in brown paper and string and dumps them in the freezer.
Peter Davison is particularly good in this story; the Fifth Doctor isn't exactly our favourite, despite watching all of his tenure when it was originally transmitted, but it is clear that Davison was still playing around with his portrayal of the Doctor and the influence that Patrick Troughton had Davison is more clear in this story than in any other as he plays off Waterhouse in a manner that is unmistakably the Second Doctor and Jamie.
Speaking of Waterhouse, he's pretty much his usual self in Kinda (Adric-haters can make of that what they will), but he is allowed to develop a little more in this one, probably because when the story was written, there were still only two companions on the show. Having three companions in the TARDIS at any one time was always a tricky thing; when Doctor Who began, the show ran for a couple of years with having three companions and it worked rather well, but after whittling them down to two during the latter-half of Hartnell era and (mostly) through the Troughton years, the One Doctor/One Companion was cemented with Pertwee and continued on during most of Baker's reign. To suddenly go from this to having three companions and trying desperately to give them all something to do just didn't feel right. It was almost as though JN-T wanted to go back to the original concept, but times had moved on and it didn't really work. The writing out of Sarah Sutton from this story worked to its advantage, as it allowed the other members of the TARDIS crew to have a little more dramatic breathing room, as more of the script could be devoted to the Doctor, Adric and Tegan. The reality was that Sutton was signed up to be a regular cast member after the Kinda had been commissioned, so there was no part for her in the story. With Nyssa being ill, it wouldn't have surprised us if she had periodically snapped into consciousness to yell "The Phantom Kinda!!!"
Janet Fielding is great in this story, giving her a chance to show that there was more to the character (and some would also say the actress) than just being an incessant whinger. Fielding makes the most of what is presented to her here, sinking her teeth into the part with all the gusto of a starving tramp that has just found a half-eaten kebab dumped in a gutter; she's genuinely good, providing distinctly different characters with subtle make-up and vocal alteration finishing off the transformation. Fielding also has to talk to herself during one of the vision sequences, and the results are quite astonishing, as her reactions and timing are flawless, with Fielding making it appear effortless and naturalistic, so much so she would have given that other great exponent of split-screen interaction, Kenny Everett, a run for his money.
Former Liver Bird Nerys Hughes potrays sympathetic scientist Todd, of whom the antiestablismentarian Doctor takes an immediate shine to. Hughes may have been an early example of JN-T casting someone best known for comedy in a Doctor Who role, but Hughes was always more than capable of delivering the dramatic goods on screen. It has to be said that whilst watching this, we had never before realised just how, um, shapely Hughes was...
Future That's Life! stalward Adrian Mills appears in an early dramatic role as Aris, one of the telepathic Kinda who inhabit the planet of Deva Loka. Mills is certainly an impressive sight, looking not a million miles away from Garrick Hagon in The Mutants. Mills would later become inextricably linked with phallically-shaped vegetables and crunching gear-changes between stories about kiddies with terminal illnesses and amusing miss-prints in newspaper ads; it wouldn't have surprised us to see Mills hand over to Davison in a scene, with the words "and now, Doc..." spoken in a sympathetic-yet-genial manner.
Turning up in episode three is actor Lee Cornes, who plays Kinda tribesperson, the Trickster, a sort of clownish jester-like character who helps to encourage understanding and diffuse tension between the Kinda and outsiders. Cornes will be known to many people over the age of thirty for his appearance in the Young Ones episode, Time, in which he played Spazpecker The Dull, who was convicted of the heinous crime of whistling on a Tuesday.
The most superbly eccentric performance in Kinda comes from Simon Rouse, who plays second-in-command Hindle; Hindle is about as far from command material as you can possibly get, immediately turning psychotic as soon as Sanders steps foot off the base and he becomes acting-commander; he manages to alienate everyone around him, threatening to shoot the Doctor and pretty much anyone else who dares to even mildly disagree with him. Hindle seems to relish the role and puts his all into his performance, adding even more layers to the character than what was already in Christopher Bailey's script. Hindle would scarcely be able to be second-in-command of co-ordinating the logistical requirements of a piss-up in a brewery, let alone an interplanetary expedition that might be essential to the continuation of the human race. Hindle isn't your common-or-garden megalomaniacal Doctor Who villain—he is the sad victim of mental illness and Rouse's turn taps quite accurately into the fickle thought processes of someone with their toes pointing over the abyss of madness. Rouse competes with Richard Todd for the most memorable performance in Kinda, but Rouse quite possibly takes that particular accolade merely by being more overtly memorable.
The script of Kinda moves along at a pleasing pace, with some great performances, nice use of greenery to try and convince an audience that the planet of Deva Loka isn't actually located within the microcosm of a television studio. There are many subtle Buddhist references in the script (check out some of the names of the natives...) and above all, it's a fun romp, possibly the most entertaining story in season nineteen—well, it comes a close second to Earthshock, anyway...
Kinda looks great on DVD, with a freshness that hasn't been seen since the original broadcast back in 1982. The potted plants that make up the world of Kinda look lusciously green and the blacks of Tegan's mental processes are pleasantly inky.
Nothing to complain about here, with clear dialogue and Peter Howell's incidental synthesised music score sounding pretty dynamic.
Audio Commentary: Sitting in on a group screening of Kinda are Peter Davison, Janet Fielding, Mathew Waterhouse and Nerys Hughes. You know that things are going to be a good deal of fun from the outset, when Davison waits for his name to appear before starting things off, Fielding uttering “Christ…” whilst waiting. Naturally Davison’s ego is squashed when he realises that his name isn’t on the opening credits. This is followed in quick succession by Davison‘s view that Kinda “…is one of the better stories. It seemed to me that it wasn’t written by someone who wasn’t kind of a BBC hack writer…”
Waterhouse unwisely launches into his take on some of their own characters being mirrored in the story by members of the Kinda, and intellectual approach which prompts Davison to ask: “Has Matthew been reading a book?” To this, Fielding is almost horrified: “I know. It’s scary.” Speaking of Mr Waterhouse, he inadvertently puts his foot in it by polarising the gender of fans between Doctor Who and Star Trek. We won’t say which way it goes, so you’ll have to find out for yourselves.
Davison retells the story of just why he spent a couple of years running around with a stick of celery on his lapel. This prompts Fielding to utter the hilarious piece of wisdom: “If John (Nathan-Turner) said that phrase, “I’ve got a great idea”, you really knew you should run for the hills.” Speaking of costumes, Davison realises that he shouldn’t have admitted that he still has his jacket from the show, which prompts Fielding to reveal that she threw out her moth-eaten Quantas outfit only two weeks before. This horrifies her fellow cast-members, with Davison stressing that she could have made a fortune from it on Ebay.
Things get scholarly when Hughes ignites an intriguing discussion on the limitations of videotape, and the techniques now employed to make it the format look like film. Just when things might be getting to serious, Fielding is inspired by the jungle foliage on the lush, green planet in the story: “I must get those for my conservatory”. It’s a worthy listen, but this is usually a guarantee with any combination of these participants.
Dream Time: Coming in at a fairly epic thirty-four minutes, this is an authoritative look at the making of a story highly regarded by many. From the moment Christopher H Bidmead read Christopher Bailey’s very personal script, it wasn’t plain sailing, but this was to be expected, given that its writer infused Buddhism and elements of other philosophies into his work. With a show where its meat-and potatoes is good against evil, there was a major problem with using Buddhist scripture, which doesn’t believe in “monsters” in as polarising a way as Christianity.
Much like the writing of The Mutants, it was a titanic battle of writer vs. script editor, but this time the scribe wasn’t up against a Dick, Mr Bailey ending up slugging it out with no less than three of the square-bashing, existentialism-stompers. Initially Bidmead loved the “haunting quality” to the script, but felt that it lacked the structure necessary. He left the production office, and to replace him came Anthony Root who liked “the tone and texture” After Roots’ brief tenure, it was picked up by Eric Saward, who felt it was “far from complete”. Bailey’s trial by production fire is a fascinating one, which more than most, reveals the just how inflexible the BBC and its minions were when it came to putting fresh, intriguing ideas into the show. Sure, there is a definite formula at work, and by that point, it was so more than ever, as the four-parter had become the norm, but we find here that the BBC was no place to dabble in such things as existentialism when they had a good-vs.-evil show to put out for the kiddies.
Malcolm Thornton reveals the problems of creating a forest environment in a television studio, which as impressive a technical feat as it was, you feel that Bailey is still smarting from his experiences when he described the set as being like “a garden centre”. This is unduly dismissive of the efforts pulled off under the obvious constraints, as we’ve seen it done much worse with little more than a back-drop and a few Yucca plants. However, something which Janet Fielding says in the audio commentary innocently devastates Thornton’s work. More on that later.
The real ace in the hole of this documentary is the welcome inclusion of Adrian Mills, always one of our favourite That’s Life! presenters. He marvels about the incredibly diverse cast—particularly Richard Todd—and reveals the moment when Mathew Waterhouse unwittingly took it upon himself to give seasoned veteran Todd some advice on acting! On the subject of Mr Todd, Nerys Hughes dishes out praise for his very “internal” approach to acting in Kinda, impressed with not just being “top-of-the-head” in his method. This is at odds with many fans’ opinion of dear ol’ Dick, generally painting him as being completely OTT, but it might just be that his embodiment of Colonial British is something which most has little frame of reference with, much like sticking a teenager today in front of Zulu as they wonder why everyone talks so funny.
Then we come to the Simon Rouse question. Was he playing to the back or brilliantly batshit? Well, numerous contributors stick their oar in, with Bailey most impressed with where he took an insane character, and from a burned writer, that’s praise indeed. Hughes sits on the fence on this one, cautiously describing Rouse as “brave…a quite exciting performance”. Hmmm. Nice to know that even in her advanced years, this is one Liver Bird who can still tap-dance. Nu-Who scribe (and Kinda enthusiast) Robert Shearman calls Rouse’s performance: “…one of the very, very best Doctor Who’s ever had.“ The final word deserves to come from Rouse himself, where although he wished he’d have held back a little, but concedes that he’s “very, very proud of it, because I did a really good job”. From most other thespians, this would be read as boasting, but not in this case.
With Tegan figuring so prominently in the story, it comes as a surprise that Janet Fielding’s participation in this documentary is rather limited. She chuckles at the Richard Todd/Mathew Waterhouse anecdote, praises Hughes’ naturalistic acting whilst trashing her own performance, the dubious effects-work on the snake, and that’s pretty much it. She comes across as someone bitter with her lot in life, but maybe they caught her on an off-day. Fielding lays out her thought processes for Tegan‘s possession, specifically that she played the antithesis of Buddhism: “You can intellectualise anything and come up with crap, and I believe that’s what I did.” There is untransmitted footage showing her erotic interpretation of the Kinda aspect, which is liable to generate trouser-snake arousal. Naturally, one of the elements which Bailey really liked the execution of was thoroughly watered down in the final edit.
Finally, everyone brings their thoughts on working with Peter Grimwade to the fore, as well as the infamous snake. OK, we all know that the serpent wasn’t that well executed, and we remember thinking that it looked like one of those “Rip-Snorter” balloons they used to give away with The Beano, The Dandy/Buster/Whizzer & Chips/etc. Shearman tries to wax intellectual by saying that as a kid, he knew that it represented as giant snake, or that it might be an accurate representation of the alien beast. Yes. As for Mr Grimwade, he is remembered as a director who could deliver the goods, as well as being a man on the edge. He would become increasingly anxious as the recording day went on, and by the time the clock was ticking, any little bump in the road would “explode”. In spite of this, Grimwade is held in regard for the way he committed himself to the project by all involved. Things are wrapped up by archive footage of the director himself, who accurately diagnosed that the “main mistake” was that he saw the Doctor as a peripheral character, where events unfold around him rather than being directly involved. There are very few who would dispute that. Speaking of Mr Grimwade…
Peter Grimwade - Directing with Attitude: Mark Strickson presents a look at the pressure-cooker director Peter Grimwade, whom along with Graham Harper, was in an exclusive club of two Davidson-era directors who worked on the studio floor, rather than shutting themselves in the gallery. Here we follow his meteoric rise through the ranks via writing Z-Cars, before becoming a production manager of some repute, finally landing duties on Doctor Who.
The falling out with John Nathan-Turner was the stuff of legend, and is coherently detailed here by Eric Saward. Essentially, the BBC strike saw the Grimwade-helmed Resurrection of the Daleks shelved, so the director took his production team out for lunch to break the bad news to them. He planned to take JN-T for dinner to do the same, but the power-crazed producer threw a jealous hissy-fit when he thought he was being excluded. Although this stopped him from wielding the megaphone on another Doctor Who project, his scripts for Time Flight and Mawdryn Undead were already approved for filming. A revenge of sorts.
His working relationship with Eric Saward also degenerated, even though the writer was happy to have Grimwade in charge of putting his work on screen. This lead to him branching out into novels, including his Doctor Who scripts, and Nigel Robinson, former editor of WH Allen and Target Books pops up to sing the praises of the efficient perfectionist. Pitching the books perfectly between adults and kids is no mean feat, but anyone who has read either Time-Flight or Mawdryn Undead will agree that Grimwade had the gift of doing just that. From this came his first outright novel, Robot. This Turlough rip-off/inspiration proved a winner, utilising the same non-patronising approach he used before.
There is some lovely accompanying material, particularly the really cool location picture showing Grimwade standing next to Roger Delgado in full Daemons regalia. Another real treat is the use of various time-coded rehearsal footage used in context, with the sight of Beryl Reid working out her marks as Grimwade orders the Cybermen around best of all. Janet Fielding is still deeply impressed by his grasp of narrative drive, describing Earthshock as “one of the better stories we did”. She also brings the Grimwade’s annoying habit of framing a shot through his fingers as actors are trying to rehearse, which annoyed Peter Davidson in particular. Fielding enacts her telling the director to “Piss off!” in order to demonstrate how annoying it became.
Grimwade’s untimely death is dealt with swiftly, but is no less tragic for its brevity. Fielding recalls that she became very close to him in the last few years, as the Leukaemia took its toll, and how shortly after, his partner died. The last word is left to Grimwade, who took pride in his work, that the shouting and screaming to achieve said work was not as important as the finished product, proud to sign things at conventions as testament to how much fans got out of his craft.
It’s a nice, thorough look at the work of one of the great losses suffered during the 80s run of Doctor Who. Another victim of JN-T’s unwise decisions, with Grimwade’s CV squashed under the loafer of a man with too much power. Peter Grimwade gave more positive contributions to the legacy of the show in the comparatively small amount of episodes he directed than JN-T managed in nearly a decade. Both are now gone, but only one is preferably forgotten.
Deleted and Extended Scenes: Taken from a slightly fuzzy time-coded tape (from the private collection of the late John Nathan-Turner) this collection of snippets are an interesting bunch, but all are easy to see just why they were deleted from the final story. Most are either bits of business which add nothing to the story, break up the flow, signal future events too early or merely seem out of place. One of our favourites is an example of pure Troughton-esque capering, where Davidson and Waterhouse try to make a break for it, only to b e captured a few seconds later. Another goodie is the very unwise decision of Richard Todd to shout “Boo” at the rather nervous Simon Rouse, being one of a couple of instances where Rouse’s Hindle is humiliated by his superior officer, giving him a smoother transition from “uptight” to “nutter”. Fielding’s journey through the dimension of bleached-out-whites delivers more weirdness for your viewing pleasure. Oh, and you get a little more of the “erotic” version of Fieldings’ Kinda experience. A nice collection of materials for posterity.
Info Track: We get seriously bored with saying the same things about the tracks produced for Doctor Who discs, but there are few ways of summing up the superlative efforts which go to make them up. “Exhaustive” is another cliché, as is “authoritative”. It’s both masterful and fun, pointing out where you can see the strips of tape holding the mystical Mara wind-chimes together, not to mention the instance where some viewers in the UK got to see the first episode of Kinda twice, through some rather odd regional programming choices. All Buddhist references are handily explained, be it vocally or thematically, providing a greater insight into Christopher Bailey’s intent to being the themes to a wider audience that he would in a philosophy seminar. The track also reveals that Peter Howell’s scoring of Tegan’s other-worldly experiences drew concern that it might be “too harrowing” for audiences at the time, but we rather like it, playing like some of Simon Boswell’s work on Dario Argento’s Phenomena. Speaking of music, it also brings up the strange instance which links Kinda with The Human League, but we‘ll let you find that one out for yourselves. On a curious note, when explaining the rare and tortuous procedures for getting overtime during filming, one of the captions flashes up for only a split second, with only those possessed of quick dexterity or keen eyes being able to read it. With the brilliant work up into this particular extra, it comes off as churlish to brand it anything other than an unfortunate glitch. Superb stuff, but this is par-for-the-course.
Isolated Score: There seems to be longer stretches without music on Kinda, but it certainly serves the storytelling well. A lot of Peter Howell’s work is decidedly eerie, as was the subject of debate when in production, and is genuinely unsettling, adding unease to the times when Tegan is quite beside herself. Bombast is catered for when the military are on the move, and the score as a whole manages to be its own entity, standing away from the rest of the syth-driven incidental music from JN-T-era Doctor Who.
CGI Effects: Yes, the credibility of Kinda is renewed by way the option to watch it with newly-created effects. All instances of the inflatable phallus have been given a digital makeover, and the results really have a resoundingly positive impact on the scenes in question, but to the story as a whole. We are all for such alterations, as long as we all get the chance to select which version we choose to see, as you can’t digitally replace nostalgia.
CGI Effects Comparison: Here we get a P&P version of the new CGI snake effects alongside the original material. It’s a great way of showing how much effort went into the new footage, along with illustrating the value of preserving what had gone before. Oh, P&P is “picture-and-picture”, the term used as a consequence of getting a new Sony TV with it on last week…
Photo Gallery: It’s to be expected that the two main names joining the show would be subject to the most publicity shots, and sure enough, Richard Todd and Nerys Hughes get proportionately more than the others. It’s as though they have pulled out the Who archive once again, as a few of the on-set pictures are a little shoddy. Images are grouped together in batches, including characters, production stills, set photos and the odd one or two which refuses to fit anywhere else. It’s all nicely done, with readers of Doctor Who Monthly sure to be chanting: “Seen… seen… seen… haven’t seen…” whilst watching, and all in synch with Peter Howell’s haunting score.
PDF Materials: Absolutely golden stuff, these Radio Times listings are manna from Heaven. “What is the secret of the wind-chimes?” asks the first article, to an audience which has no idea what they are talking about, relying on pure curiosity to snag them on the line. Our favourite thing has to be the little note at the bottom of the listing which reads: “A Doctor Who exhibition is currently at Madame Tussaud’s, London; single record (RESL 80) from retailers.” Retro bliss.
Continuity trails: Christopher H Bidmead! The wave of nostalgia was utterly intense!! For some odd reason, it radiated a Time Bandits vibe, but this is understandable, given that both were of the same era. Title-cards for Terry and June! [/i]Panorama[/i]!! Riverside!!! A mention of the obscure show Big Jim and the Figaro Club!!!! Oh, and plugs for the Doctor Who Exhibition. God, yeah! Anyone got a fag after all that…?
Coming Soon: And with this little lot, many Whovians will certainly be. The Revisitations 2 set is a cracker, with remastered editions and bounteous extras. We should know, it arrived on our collective doormats the other day. We have a really fun trailer, with superbly edited footage from all three titles, these being the surreal classic Carnival of Monsters, the Ice Warriors romp The Seeds of Doom and bloodbath that is Resurrection of the Daleks. It’s out at the end of March. Can you honestly wait that long???
Kinda is one of the better stories from the Peter Davison era; it's intriguing, exciting and boasts some great—and also bizarre—performances, not least of which from the often-neglected Janet Fielding. The story holds up well three decades after it was originally written and the new CGI effects included here enhance things wonderfully whilst still maintaining the original integrity of the story. The substantial amount of extras that are included alongside this story are the icing on what is a very moreish cake indeed.
Review by Wilson Bros
General viewing, but some scenes may be unsuitable for young children
Release Date: 14th March 2011
Disc Type: Single side, dual layer
Audio: Dolby Digital 2.0 English
Extras: Audio Commentary, Dream Time, Peter Grimwade - Directing With Attitude, Deleted & Extended Scenes, Info Track, Isolated Score, CGI Effects Comparison, Continuity Trails, Photo Gallery, Coming Soon Trailer, PDF Materials
Easter Egg: No
Director: Peter Grimwade
Cast: Peter Davison, Janet Fielding, Matthew Waterhouse, Richard Todd, Him From "That's Life"
Length: 100 minutes
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