by Mark Greig
Ahhh, 'Snakedance'. The one that pops up a lot in all those before they were famous shows so we can have a good laugh at Martin Clunes dressed like he was auditioning to join Adam and the Ants.
All joking about his wardrobe aside, the future Doc Martin is actually rather good in his first TV role as Lon, the bored aristocrat who falls under the Mara's sway. Along with Janet Fielding's delightfully hammy turn as the possessed Tegan, he is probably one of the few memorable things about 'Snakedance', a solid, if unremarkable, follow-up to writer Christopher Bailey's previous Mara story, 'Kinda'.
It is always a gamble when the producers of Doctor Who decide to bring back a popular enemy. This is as true now as it was during the series' original run. Some monsters just work best as one off adversaries and when you bring them back you risk diminishing their effectiveness. And if you can't think of anything new to do with them you are also in danger of repeating yourself. Which is exactly what Bailey does here.
Like many sequels, ‘Snakedance’ is the same toy in brand new packaging. Bailey recycles the plot of 'Kinda' (Mara breaks into our world by possessing Tegan, causes havoc, and is defeated after the Doctor has a cryptic chinwag with a local mystic), just in a brand new setting. Instead of the horribly fake forests of Kinda we have the horribly fake deserts of Manussa, former homeworld of both the Manussan and Sumaran Empires. The Mara once ruled over Manussa thousands of years ago, but the locals now view it as little more than myth and silly superstition.
The locals are so skeptical of the Mara's existence that the Doctor's warnings of its return are met with scorn, ridicule and jail time. This is one of those stories that lazily tries to kill time by putting the Doctor behind bars and throwing away the key. FOR AN ENTIRE EPISODE!!! Even for a four-parter, that amount of padding is excessive. When people try to argue that modern Who should go back to being serialised, we should make them watch 'Snakedance' and hope it shuts them up for good.
Notes and Quotes
--The success of 'Kinda' and this story prompted Script Editor Eric Saward to commission Bailey to write a third and final story to feature the Mara entitled 'May Time'. However, that story was abandoned due to production problems.
--Not a fan of Nyssa's new outfit.
--The Mara later appeared in 'The Cradle of the Snake', an audio drama from Big Finish.
--Brian Miller (Dugdale) was the husband of Elisabeth Sladen. He later appeared as the tramp in 'Deep Breath', as well as playing Harry Sowersby in 'The Mad Woman in the Attic', an episode of The Sarah Jane Adventures.
--I bet Martin Clunes seriously reconsidered the whole acting thing when he saw himself in this costume:
The Doctor: "Once a man fell asleep and dreamt he was a frog. When he woke up, he didn't know if he was a man who dreamt he was a frog or a frog who was now dreaming he was a man."
The Doctor: "Dreams are important... never underestimate them."
Dojjen: "Fear is the only poison."
The Doctor: "What is the snakedance?"
Dojjen: "This is. Here and now. The dance goes on. It is all the dance. Everywhere and always. So. Find the still point. Only then can the Mara be defeated."
The Doctor: "The still point. The point of safety. But it's in the chamber somewhere. Where?"
Dojjen: "No. The still point is within yourself, nowhere else. To destroy the Mara you must find the still point."
Two and a half out of four New Romantic bands.
Mark Greig is like a bat out of hell. He'll be gone when the morning comes. When the night is over, like a bat out of hell he'll be gone-gone-gone. Like a bat out of hell he'll be gone when the morning comes. But when the day is done, and the sun goes down, and the moonlight's shining through, then like a sinner before the gates of heaven, he'll come crawling on back to you. More Mark Greig