Doctor Who #574: Kinda Part 4

"You can't mend people!"
TECHNICAL SPECS: First aired Feb.9 1982.

IN THIS ONE... Surrounded by mirrors, the Mara becomes a giant pink snake.

REVIEW: The answers we get in the final installment of Kinda follow a strange pseudo-mystical logic, but when we think of the Kinda as the end product of a civilization, magic merely becomes the technology of the gods. Think of the Mara as a kind of bio/psychological computer virus infecting the shared matrix of Kinda thought. Tegan accesses the Dreamtime, but she's not running a viral defense program and the Mara gets out into the physical world. The old woman dies, but all her experience and memories are uploaded to the younger model. And the empty box, well, the empty box is like a reboot and restore signal for the brain. Absent Christopher Bidmead, none of this is explicitly said. Computer talk is so boring in his hands, and in any case, I'm just making a comparison; this is psychic phenomena. Of course, the simile breaks down when we're dealing with a giant snake that is destroyed by surrounding it with mirrors. Though in the material world, the Mara still behaves according to the rules of the psychological, and "evil recoils from itself". And may I say? There's a wonderfully prescient moment at the end when Tegan is mesmerized by the monster, and snapping out of it, she asks the Doctor if the Mara is really out of her mind and gets no answer. Nice of writer Christopher Bailey to set himself up for a sequel, and even nicer of the script editor, director, et al. to keep it in the finished program.

So okay, let's talk about the papier maché snake. Yes, it's complete rubbish. Yes, the director ran out of time and wanted to do something else. Yes, it very nearly ruins the climax of this superlative story. You can avoid all that with the DVD's CGI option (see Versions). However, I think there IS merit in the effect as originally achieved. There is something quite ritualistic about the Kinda, mostly evidenced through their clown figure who tumbles about with a great big headdress on, but in other ways as well. They build an exoskeleton with branches to have their own "guardian" when they attack the dome, which is full of meaning, the first of which is a cargo cult-like ritualistic representativity. Their guardian is complete rubbish, but they know what it represents, and in their minds, that gives it power. Like the twig guardian, the Mara snake is representative of an effect that can't actually be created, and in that moment, ritual and reality become one and the same. See how the Kinda applaud at the end when the snake is banished? Taken out of context, couldn't the sequence be an annual ritual to keep evil spirits at bay, prevent the wheel of history from turning? The Kinda look like the kind of people who bring out their snakes every festival season and put on a show. Only this time, it also actually happened.

The other meaning behind the twig exoskeleton is as a symbol of the evil technology represents. Controlled by the Mara, the Kinda are in danger of starting the cycle of ambition and technology that threatens the downfall of every civilization. Their imitation of human artifacts - humans being at a middle spoke on their own wheel - is natural, and connected to another idea the serial plays with, the concept of the colonial white man as god to the primitive natives. Hindle plays at being God, in fact, making a city out of boxes and people out of cardboard. His distress at the "person" that gets its head ripped off is proven wrong at the end when Hindle IS mended by the box reboot. A possible condemnation of Western philosophy and religion as compared to Asian ones? Hindle's world is merely a gross parody of the Kinda's where HE'S masquerading as enlightenment, where HE'S the one jumping out of a box, ineffectually. So who's the Doctor in this grand allegory? A man out of place, an idiot, one who cannot abide this green paradise. After all, what's a Time Lord to do in a place where time has stopped?

VERSIONS: The CGI option on the DVD turns the giant snake sequence into something great, surprisingly well composited into the shots. The snake is realistic and animated, even looks in Tegan's direction at one point, and certainly moves like a real snake. I don't know of any notable difference between the Target novelization and the televised story.

- An ending as wonderful as the three episodes that preceded it, where the one flaw isn't really a flaw at all. And if you think it is, the DVD offers a great alternative.

STORY REWATCHABILITY: High - The first true classic of the 80s, Kinda is worth revisiting again and again, and discussing with friends. Plus it has a sequel down the line, and you don't want to be confused when that file fragment in Tegan's head is reinitialized, do you?



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