The Serial (4/5)
While watching Snakedance I realized the problem I have with the Fifth Doctor's era, his companions. I'm not going to play the too many companions card, because I believe The Doctor can have a full TARDIS, and still have a decent show, but the quality of his companions was severely lacking. I lacked Adric, when he traveled with Tom Baker, and enjoyed the teacher/student relationship they had, but when Davison entered the picture that relationship changed, and Adric as a character, became more irritating. The latter companion Turlough was great conceptually, but executed badly, as was Kamelion. Now, before Snakedance I have never noticed this, but more than any other companion one of the Fifth Doctor's longest serving Tegan Jovanka, really not on my nerves this go around. The irony of this is not lost on me, as Tegan is one of those companions known for being irritating (at one point describing herself as a "mouth on legs"), and in this one actually spends time acting.
Snakedance picks up a while after the incident on Deva Loka documented in the prior Mara tale Kinda. It begins with the TARDIS mysteriously landing on the planet Manussa. It turns out that Tegan's subconscious is still under the control of the Mara who forced her to program the TARDIS coordinate, to go to it's home planet from which she was banished 500 years prior. Coincidentally, they arrive on the planet during the festivities celebrating the expulsion of the Mara from Manussa. Manussa is ruled over by a Federator, who controls over the 3 planets that make up the local interplanetary federation, and for some reason he is off of Manussa at the time of the celebration, leaving his son Lon in charge of the festivities. While Lon, and his Mother the Lady Tanha explore a series of caverns that are related to Manussa's Sumaran period during which the Mara thrived, Tegan escapes into the celebration, and the Doctor and Nyssa pursue her.
While in pursuit of Tegan, the pair end up at the caverns, and meet up with the Lon, the Lady Tanha, and the local expert on the Sumaran era, an archaeologist named Ambril. The Doctor attempts to convince the trio that the Mara has returned in the guise of Tegan, but Ambril refuses to believe it, being too sensible for such nonsense. However, his deputy Chela thinks their might be some substance to the Doctor's story and gives the Doctor a blue crystal known as the Little Mind's eye, this crystal is used by the snakedancers, a cult that lives in the mountains of Manussa, in their ceremonies to prevent the Mara's return. The Doctor is told that the crystal has a larger companion known as the Great Mind's eye, and speculates that the 2 can be used as ways for mental energy to bring physical things (like the Mara) into existence, thus he believes, this is how the Mara will resurrect.
While this is going on Lon runs into Tegan, not knowing that she is the woman the Doctor was warning about, and gets possessed by the power of the Mara. Tegan and Lon, then lead Abril to a cave filled with wonders from the Sumaran age, and are told that these relics will be destroyed if he does not cooperate with them in getting the 2 crystals needed for the Mara's resurrection. It is up to the Doctor, Nyssa, and Chela to prevent the return of the Mara before it resurrects, and begins a new reign of terror on Manussa.
I did a marathon viewing of both Kinda and Snakedance and watching them together, really brings out the differences between the two serials. While the two are tied by having a similar villain, aesthetically they could not be more different. Kinda is practically an avant-garde take on a typical Doctor Who serial, and while it does hit similar plot points to other past serials, it has a really intricate plot with highly excellent dreamlike imagery. Snakedance, however, has a much stronger, more straight forward narrative approach. And so while the imagery isn't even close to it's predecessor, it goes into an entirely different direction. The performances from the cast are uniformly good, although like I said Janet Fielding as Tegan really got on my nerves here. I can't explain why, but in these last 2 episodes I really couldn't stand her performance. This actually would have been closer to 5 stars, if it weren't for that.
Also, being a sequel I had lowered expectations, especially a sequel to such an amazing episode as Kinda, but was pleasantly surprised. The change in setting from the Tribal world of Deva Loka to the yuppie-esque world of Manussa was also a welcome, and interesting change as we see how 2 different societies deal with the Mara. Really, if you were interested in picking up Kinda, and if you are a fan of Doctor Who you should be, then you should definitely pick up Snakedance, as this is an excellent one-two punch of classic Doctor Who!
As expected The Doctor Who Restoration Team have done another superb job with their A/V work on Snakedance. This serial is presented in it's original 4:3 aspect ratio of it's original broadcast. The colors are vibrant, flesh tones are accurate, and black levels are solid. The audio is presented in the original English Mono of it's original broadcast once again an excellent track. The dialogue, music, and effects are mixed well, and can be heard easily throughout the track. I could not hear any audio defects on the track.
This excellent DVD edition of Snakedance kicks off with a commentary track with Peter Davison, Sarah Sutton, and Janet Fielding. These 3 are really fun, and provide a track that is both informative, and also fun. This is followed up by a nearly 30 minute documentary called Snake Charmer about the making of Snakedance. WE then have a collection of deleted scenes, in studio out takes, a photo gallery, isolated score, and some coming soon trailers. Their is also some clips from the show Saturday Superstore with Peter Davison taking calls from viewers.
A really excellent 80's Doctor Who episode, with a fantastic villain, and a very strong narrative. The A/V work maintains the quality standard of the Doctor Who Restoration Team, and the extras are excellent. If you picked up Kinda, pick up Snakedance, and make it a double feature. For all the Whovians out there Highly recommended.