Chapter 84. Doctor Who – Snakedance (1984)

Synopsis: The Doctor allows Tegan to choose their next destination to cheer her up after a series of bad dreams. A seemingly random selection takes them to Manussa, which was once home to a great empire. Little of it survives, except in ritual, the true meaning of which has long been forgotten. As the Doctor and his friends explore, a realisation dawns on them. Their arrival at this time and place is no coincidence. Manussa was once home to the Mara – and through Tegan it will return.

Chapter Titles

  • 1. Nightmare
  • 2. Cave of the Snake
  • 3. Voice of the Mara
  • 4. Hall of Mirrors
  • 5. The Sign of the Mara
  • 6. Dinner with Ambril
  • 7. Dojjen’s Journal
  • 8. The Origin of Evil
  • 9. Death Sentence
  • 10. The Escape
  • 11. Dojjen
  • 12. The Becoming of the Mara

Background: Terrance Dicks adapts scripts from 1983 by Christopher Bailey.

Notes: Nyssa claims she can’t remember who read out the coordinates to the Doctor, but she actually remembers very clearly that it was Tegan and doesn’t want to get her into trouble. The Fortune Teller is named ‘Zara’. On counting the Faces of Delusion, Chela realises the Doctor’s point before it’s spelled out to Ambril. Finding herself alone with Chela in Ambril’s study, Lady Tanha feels his presence is ‘very soothing’ and soon begins to confide in him in a way that is politically indiscrete and which makes Chela ‘petrified with fear and embarrassment’. She later chats with Ambril and learns that the scholar has no family of his own; ‘Children can be very disappointing,’ she confesses. Wanting to avoid explanations, the Doctor guides his friends back to the TARDIS and departs, while in his mind’s eye, he sees Dojjen waving goodbye to him.

Cover: A pearl-like planet hovers between the jaws of a snake, its tail tightly coiled. An eerie concept from Andrew Skilleter somewhat spoiled by the photo of a smiling Peter Davison that’s been shoved into the logo at the top of the frame, making it read ‘Do-or Who’. Hmm…

Final Analysis: Just a reminder that my mission here is to review the books, not the stories, and this is another difficult Terrance Dicks adaptation that leaves us with very little to examine that isn’t on TV. Again, I can’t help but wish that Christopher Bailey had written this one, just to give us more than the enticing myths and half-truths we learn about the old Manussan empire. Still, Terrance Dicks gives us the solid, steady approach and I know this is one of the stories he didn’t feel he wanted to embellish because it’s so very good. It’s the sign of a good yarn if we’re left wanting more.

Chapter 83. Doctor Who – Kinda (1984)

Synopsis: A small survey team has set up a base on a jungle planet to review it for possible colonisation. But when the Doctor and Adric are brought to the survey dome, they can already sense a tension in the air. Some of the survey team’s number have disappeared and another is clearly on the brink of a breakdown. Left alone in the jungle, Tegan falls into a deep sleep and finds herself trapped in a nightmare with a terrifying evil force. Her only chance of freedom will also release the Mara!

Chapter Titles

  • 1. Dangerous Paradise
  • 2. The Kinda
  • 3. Ghosts
  • 4. The Box of Jhana
  • 5. The Mara
  • 6. The Change
  • 7. The Vision
  • 8. The Dream Cave
  • 9. The Wheel Turns
  • 10. The Path of the Mara
  • 11. The Attack
  • 12. The Face of the Mara

Background: Terrance Dicks adapts scripts from 1983 by Christopher Bailey. Publication for this was delayed to give Dicks time to finish The Five Doctors.

Notes: Deva Loka is a planet of ‘rich sub-tropical jungles, and warm blue seas’. Tegan has close cropped hair and her stewardess uniform, so a combination of her looks from Seasons 19 and 20. Sanders notes that falling asleep on duty usually carries a death sentence but as Hindle’s overnight watch is voluntary, he can’t be punished. The TSS machine looks like ‘a kind of squared-off parody of the human form’. Todd is referred to as ‘Doctor Todd’ throughout. Hearing the names of the inhabitants of the dome, the Doctor identifies the expedition as being of Earth origin (as in many novels set during Earth’s expansion across the universe, the homeworld is said to be overcrowded). Only one of the missing survey team – Roberts – is named on screen, but here we learn that the other two were Stone and Carter. The three people in Tegan’s dream are not named. Doctor Todd identifies the Kinda jester as ‘Trickster’, a ‘symbolic figure from Kinda ritual’. 

Cover: A slight step up in the photographic covers as there are two elements from the story that aren’t the most boring they could possibly be (the Doctor and a TSS Machine) – they finally learn how to do a decent montage just as the photographic covers are dropped for good [but see Time and the Rani]. We’ll have to wait until the 1991 reprint for Alister Pearson’s composition showing the bleached-out features of Dukkha, the Doctor, the Mara wrapped around a Kinda necklace and a sinister leering Tegan.

Final Analysis: I love Terrance Dicks – really I do – but this is a story that really needed to have been novelised by the original author. I’d have adored that extra insight into Christopher Bailey’s vision because, like many fans, I didn’t appreciate just how majestic this story was on first viewing (incredibly, it came bottom of the Doctor Who Magazine season poll, in a season that contains Four to Doomsday and Time Flight!). As ever, Dicks kindly improves on elements that didn’t quite work on TV: As the Mara detaches itself from Aris he ‘seize[s] it in a passion of hatred, as if determined to throttle it with his bare hands’ (as opposed to wiggling a rubber snake to make it look animated); while the Mara itself is larger than ‘any natural animal, it lashed about the clearing in a furious writhing coil. Its markings were red and black and white, and the fierce yellow eyes glowed with hatred’.