"No, the Kinda are not important. They're just the servants." "Of?" "Of the plants. The plants feed them. Did you know that?"
IN THIS ONE... The Mara possesses Tegan for a few minutes, Sanders looks into a box and loses his mind, and back in the dome, Adric fake-joins the even madder Hindle.
REVIEW: If the Devil exists in the Whoniverse, then it is the Mara. After a lot of nice video effects and Tegan merging with her other self, subconsciously accepting, as it were, that her dark side is a part of her, she succumbs to the Mara's power. It's the fear of non-existence that pushes her over the edge in the end, which for a loud, brash character must be untenable. The one effect that lets the sequence down is the transfer of of the snake tattoo to her arm, a terrible-looking rubber worm superimposed on the screen. But don't let that put you off. When Tegan wakes up in the forest, she's no longer Tegan, she's the Mara (or as the symbolism could lead us to believe, she IS Tegan, but what Tegan would be if she gave in to her darkest impulses). Mara-Tegan is a sensual creature with a throaty voice, reveling in having a body (presumably, the Mara hasn't had a host in a long time), seducing a Kinda through touch after playing the snake in the apple tree, throwing fruit down on him. She plays both Satan and Eve and when the tattoo transfers to the Kinda, he is corrupted not unlike Adam was by that fateful apple. Will paradise be lost next? It's too bad we don't get more of Mara-Tegan because not only is she darkly sexy, her performance is such that the tell-tale pink make-up on eyes, lips and teeth is completely unnecessary. It's as good a reason as any to start writing the sequel, Mr. Bailey.
Back at the dome, Hindle has gone completely around the bend, playing soldier with Kinda dressed in colonial uniforms like a little boy. Is there some kind of telepathic network on this planet that has pushed the visiting humans off the edge? Is Hindle talking to himself when he has conversations with his primitives, as if they were dolls? Or does he hear them in his head? Could all these voices be at the source of his paranoia and his absurd belief that the plants are hostile? Or is there truth to that assertion, seeing as the Kinda are a passive people truly part of this natural world, and that Tegan was attacked by the Mara after they put some leaves around her neck? Whatever the case may be, Simon Rouse gives a memorable mercurial and properly over-the-top performance, and when Sanders returns, we get an insight into his broken mind. He starts screaming for his mommy, as if Sanders were an abusive father figure. That's the root of the darkness in Hindle. The man is so unhinged that, for once, we can tell Adric is faking his alliance with the villain (but not from Waterhouse's acting alone). Does Adric have any other strategy when faced with madmen?
And what do we make of Sanders, who has looked into a mysterious box and returned either addled or at peace? The screamtastic cliffhanger where the box is opened doesn't yet reveal the truth, so I won't either, but their fear that it's some venomous snake is surely unfounded. The snake in this story is otherwise occupied. From the look on Sanders' face, what they fear is some kind of enlightenment - he's happy and no longer feels the need to DO SOMETHING! - but an enlightenment that may well destroy one's self, sublimate it into the over-soul/collectivity/nature. Adric's magic trick takes on a metaphorical meaning in this context, an image of things not necessarily being in one place/state or the other, but simply being. The coin isn't in either hand, open your mind to other possibilities. Think outside the box, if you will. The box is, after all, presented as a gift by the Kinda's wise-women (doesn't Mary Morris have a great old face?), though it seems such knowledge is dangerous to the male mindset. Maybe women have greater access to the planet's telepathic web, and maybe that's why the Mara needed a woman, caught unawares, to release it from the Dreamtime.
VERSIONS: The DVD contains deleted material from this episode, a few lines here and there, Tegan climbing the tree, nothing major.
REWATCHABILITY: High - Usually, when I ask a lot of questions, I want them answered. In this case, I'm quite enjoying the ambiguity and feel no need for proper SF explanations.