Posted in Episode by - February 27, 2017

Aired 1 -9 February 1982

There have been many Doctor Who stories featuring more cerebral concepts than simple filling tales with good versus bad or glorious spectacle, but ‘Kinda’ is one of the few to warrant actual discussion on an academic level. Writer Christopher Bailey is able to imbue a rich tapestry of Buddhist themes and images throughout the script, calling into question the evils within more than out and providing a source of strength and steadiness in a somewhat uneven production.

There are two very distinct storylines within ‘Kinda,’ the concepts within each also able to overcome a certain obliqueness to create a rather fulfilling parable. Unquestionably the more successful plot thread is Tegan’s struggle with herself and internal negativity, especially when placed in an idyllic, Eden-like environment with a native population perfectly in tune with nature and thus so prone to corruption from any force. The storyline reminiscent in some respects to Heart of Darkness with colonists coming to conquer an untamed world but instead becoming the conquered as they succumb to madness doesn’t quite capture the imagination in the same manner, but the experimental nature of the production and the wonderful imagery lend each a sense of distinction and lasting appeal. It is quite apparent in some instances that Bailey is quite familiar with the live stage and its creative process given the script and some of its subplots, and this unique feel will undoubtedly cater to certain portions of the audience more than to others.

Nonetheless, even with three script editors having been involved in the process from commission to realization and several changes made accordingly, ‘Kinda’ is surprisingly able to hold onto its more thought-provoking elements admirably, even many of the names employed channeling the Buddhist spirituality. And although it’s understandable that the ultimate manifestation of the snake-like Mara would become a more physical presence than Bailey intended in order to better fit in with the motifs of Doctor Who, this strangely does not detract from what has come before it and adds an intriguing dichotomy as a very physical evil becomes known. The puppet used to physically realize that threat is ultimately a major downfall of the production, but ‘Kinda’ is hardly the first story to ask for suspension of disbelief for its villain.

Even if the script had to be reworked when Nyssa was made a full-time companion, in this case having her conveniently faint and necessitating the constant presence of the sonic screwdriver, ‘Kinda’ is all the stronger for being able to focus on a slightly less crowded TARDIS crew with its large guest roster. The tone of the story never becomes too serious to inhibit enjoyment, and the cyclical nature of time as the destructive nature of reality is doomed to repeat itself works incredibly well within the confines of Doctor Who. Indeed, with a smattering of Christian imagery and a rather disparaging take on the audacity of British colonialism, the tale of how violence begets violence no matter the scope or scale comes to life well with literal and figurative reflections being the ultimate source of culmination. The concepts on display here are much deeper than usually explored in a family programme, but the notion of what the Mara is an how it functions as well as the wealth of information gleaned about Tegan are superbly realized and standout moments of the early Davison tenure.

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