"There's always something to look at if you open your eyes."
IN THIS ONE... The TARDIS lands in paradise, Tegan visits the Dreamtime where her existence is questioned, and the Doctor and Adric meet some rather quirky colonials.
REVIEW: A brilliant start to a very literate story that borrows from Buddhism, Genesis and Heart of Darkness in equal parts, Kinda (which, I'm sorry, I always want to read as "kind of") doesn't just sound great, it's looks great too. The lush forest can sustain a variety of angles and the colonial dome has several functional rooms, but the blown-out look of Tegan's dream sequences, while minimalistic, are pleasantly surreal and creepy. It's a clash of worlds. The natural paradise, the dark hell underneath, and flawed, technological humanity in the middle. And humanity really is caught in the middle. The zen of it all is that in the apparent absence of outward evil (there is no hunger, fear or war on Deva Loka), one has no choice but to face the evil inside. The way people react to Paradise is to let out their demons, perhaps in an effort to become worthy of the place, perhaps in bitter anger when realizing one is not. There's something wickedly funny about Todd biting into an apple as she talks about Paradise. The Doctor doesn't invite a karmic backlash by doing the same.
The guest characters have been on this planet a while now, and it's turned them into a fun trio of eccentrics. Todd is the most normal, though perhaps too eager to throw caution to the winds. She's our guide, laying out the rules of this world and detailing its mysteries. Are the Kinda telepathic mutes? Is their group mind becoming tainted by the colonials? Is that a DNA helix around the necks of so-called primitives? Her exasperation at her colleagues' extreme behavior is part of the fun. Sanders, the almost anachronistic colonial type, is hilarious as the leader who goes by the book no matter what. His rigidity makes him say things like "I never think twice about anything. Wastes too much time." It's the kind of character humor we haven't seen enough of since Bob Holmes left. That Adric immediately plays the sycophant to this guy is part of an ongoing pattern that makes me hate the character, but at least it's consistent (as is his delight at the forest - he did grow up in such an environment). The last member of the trio is Hindle, the soldier who is clearly cracking up. He's edgy, jumpy and paranoid, and rather prone to destructive tantrums. And though dangerous, he's also kind of pathetic. I love the bit where Sanders closes the door on him and leaves while he's still talking. He is human weakness personified, and may well already be part of whatever force is trying to corrupt Tegan.
Entertaining as the Doctor/Adric thread is, the real core of the story is Tegan's encounter with snake-tattooed Elizabethan types in the Dreamtime (what I'm calling it, purely because she's Australian). Though they're all veiled in zen riddles, her experiences in the dark void are quite clearly an assault on her identity. Gamers debate whether she's real or an illusion, and the guy who looks like a cross between Jeoffrey Lannister all grown up and Christopher Eccleston talks of making her part of him/them before introducing a second Tegan. Her replacement? Which Tegan will wake up with a lei around her neck? Or is there a difference? Our dark side is still a part of ourselves. It's an excellent showcase for the character, quite far from the perpetually traumatized Tegan in Four to Doomsday. The Doctor gets a few witticism out (the bit about the apple, for example), and shows he's let go of his former self's insolence in favor of disarming words and smiles. Adric is an appetite on legs, stuffing his face with pink porridge, a good way to shut him up - I approve. It's Nyssa that gets the shortest end of all sticks, put to sleep for a few episodes to recover from a fainting spell. Some scripts were obviously written before the production decided to keep her on. The episode is better for it, frankly. There's never enough time to properly cater to four characters in these things.
VERSIONS: A lot of material was trimmed from this episode and is included as deleted/extended scenes on the DVD. The only sequence more than a couple of lines long is one where Tegan slaps the draught players in the face to get a reaction while they continue their game.
REWATCHABILITY: High - A beautiful Buddhist/Christian parable about the dark side of the soul begins. Well-executed, crisply written and full of memorable characters.