Snakedance: Doctor Who: Season 20
Tegan has been having nightmares about the Mara and has somehow set the Tardis controls for the Mara's originating planet Manussa. There Lon the Federator's son is staying with his mother Lady Tanha to be part of the current festival commemorating 500 years since the banishment of the Mara.
The Doctor attempts to help Tegan with an anti dreaming device but the Mara's will eventually takes her over and she hides from them. The Doctor and Nyssa attempt to warn Lon and the director Ambril about the Mara's impending return but are dismissed as cranks.
Ambril's assistant Chela aids them giving the Doctor a small blue crystal called the minds eye. Tegan, now marked with the Snake brings first a showman and then Lon himself under her power and they both fall under the influence of the Mara. The Doctor and Nyssa are locked up for indirectly threatening Lon's authority and are later released by Chela and taken to Dojjen, last of the snakedancers. They all perform the Snakedance ritual.
Lon demands the great crystal be placed in it's original socket and bribes Ambril to organize it though it's forbidden by law. WIth this in place the Mara can now use it as a direct path back to the physical world through Tegan and the Doctor must use the wisdom of the Snakedance and his own crystal to prevent it happening.
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Snakedance CAST & CREW
Peter Davison (Fifth Doctor)
Sarah Sutton (Nyssa)
Janet Fielding (Tegan Jovanka)
Martin Clunes — Lon
Colette O'Neil — Tanha
John Carson — Ambril
Preston Lockwood— Dojjen
Jonathon Morris — Chela
Brian Miller — Dugdale
George Ballantine — Hawker
Brian Grellis — Megaphone Man
Barry Smith — Puppeteer
Hilary Sesta — Fortune Teller
Production Staff for Serial 6D:
Writer - Christopher Bailey
Director - Fiona Cumming
Script editor - Eric Saward
Producer - John Nathan-Turner
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Snakedance is the sequel to Kinda.
The Mara's back! As an idea it's not that bad as it's an enemy only the 5th doctor will face and there's the chance that more people will actually remember the Mara from the previous year. Nice that Snakedance is set on the Mara's home world so it gives us something of it's origins and what it is rather than just being another disembodied evil intelligence floating around the universe. How many have their been churned out over the course of the series? But I still prefer Kinda to this story as maybe Snakedance goes too weird in a few ways and seems to lack something in others, it seems slightly unbalanced.
Maybe this is down to the fact you never really get over the fact that the marketplace / carnival scenes & cave scenes look like they were filmed in a studio. Maybe all outside scenes should have also been shot in a film studio like they did the bits with the old Snakedancer Dojjen would have made it look more authentic. It could also be that the Mara this time round is even creepier than before, it reeks creepiness from the skeletal snakes head to the eerie voice (is that Janet Fielding doing the voice?).
It's really a good ensemble cast of characters, Martin Clunes being the stand out going from a spoiled toff with red lips to an manipulative, creepy and possessed Toff with redder lips. Whoever the other actors are Clunes' dotting mother is played well and she compliments Clunes, especially refusing to believe that her son is in any way 'bad' or 'possessed' The stuffy, crawly and self important director Ambril is also very good despite looking and acting like someone from the Liberal party and Jonathon Morris is understated as Chela his loyalties divided and gently being persuaded to help out.
Fielding does really well in this one, from being scared , to slowly being taken over and becoming dominating and commanding (is this what's she's like at home?) once the Mara takes her over fully, though the red skin effect does look odd it does add to the weirdness. Yes well can only guess the anti dreaming device was set for constant repeats of cricket and footy scores and we know girls just aren't into sports stats on the whole so that's probably why she looks so dazed trying to block them out. Nyssa is finally shedding her Traken outfit but wish she could've gone straight to the mini we have only two stories left with her, she doesn't get much to do, despite being at the Dr.'s side the whole time. Davison is perfectly subtle as the Doctor, Love the little bits like shoving Nyssa out of the way when she's trying to get outfit approval and where he shows old Ambril that his face is the sixth face of deception to provoke a nasty response. As honest looking as he is everyone in this story wants to treat him as a harmless crank despite of his desperation.
He's the most watchable one of this story despite being chucked in a prison for the whole of episode 3. Why the director chose to film him and Nyssa from outside the cell is just stupid as you can barely see them. But part 3 drags a bit, making part 4 rushed. But seeing him as the only person who dares to try and take on something as evil as the Mara by focusing on his inner peace and goodness seems really like only a task the 5th Doctor could have done.
Chris Bailey's Buddhist theme's are well explored but maybe not executed in this story and at least they made more effort with the big snake this time. Tried to make it scarier even with drool from the fangs better but well... still pox. Oh and we get to see the bloke who's been lucky enough to be shagging Elisabeth Sladen for years in Brian Miller who plays the showman. Yeah agree with you both the costumes are dumb for the most part, looks like a really bad theme party based on Pirates of the Carribean. Snakedance isn't a perfect sequel but good and different at the same time. 7.2/10
The Doctor has to return a blue crystal to its point of origin in a cave on a distant planet where an evil entity has taken the form of a creature most people have a phobia about by which the Doctor is able to defeat it by overcoming his fear. But enough of Planet of the Spiders, lets talk about Snakedance. Oh, we are.
I really loved Kinda. It had some great ideas and concepts plus some very memorable characters, scary situations, a very evil alien and great, taught direction. So a follow up should work just as well right? Yes. And no. The positives first. It does add a lot more to the back story of the Mara and it is just as evil as before. Also, writer Christopher Bailey continues with his Buddhism themes in a very accessible style.
A few stand-out performances here. Martin Clunes does a stellar performance here as the spoiled brat Lon. You instantly want to smack him hard across his spoiled little chops but that is turned around when you feel sympathy for him when he reverts back to normal after being possessed by the Mara (which in itself is a great performance too!) You have to pity Martin Clunes when he puts on THAT costume with the silly dress and sillier hat. The poor bastard has had that footage of him dug out on every version of "Before They Were Famous" on BBC. Incidentally, Martin's co star of Men Behaving Badly, Neil Morrisey, was asked to play the Eighth Doctor for the TV Movie but turned it down. Jonathon Morris as Chela also turns in a very nice performance.
Dear little Janet Fielding does try doesn't she? She was good in Kinda as a possessed air hostess but here she seems to really ham it up. She isn't helped by some very atrocious lines and a lot of evil cackling (the staple diet of all bad forces). Plus she is wearing a lot of red makeup that makes her look.....weird. And I don't mean alien weird I mean REALLY weird. Maybe its the naff haircut and the white boob tube that does it.
Sadly, it just seems to fall a bit flat for me and think a lot of it comes down to Fiona Cumming's direction. It doesn't really create any sort of tension and its (again) very "point and shoot". There is no sense of urgency particularly towards the end where we have the whole Mara ceremony happening and the creature threatening to return. Another thing that stood out for me (which is strange cos it didn't bother me in Kinda) was the lighting is very flat. It never escapes the "filmed in studio B" feel to it.
Another failing is that Christopher Bailey seemed to forgo characterization for big concepts. Many characters just seemed to blend into one another and lacked any real purpose, although the main exception would be Lon which is obviously due to Martin Clunes' performance. Also, no one seemed to have changed much as a result of the return of the Mara, or the intervention by the Doctor. People just went back to, well, being themselves really.
Oh, gotta mention that whole prison cell scene - or scenes - with the Doctor locked up. How boring were they??? C'mon man YOU"RE THE DOCTOR!!! DO SOMETHING!!!! Once more we are infected with the Mara's true physical form; a fake snake. Maybe this is how the Mara is SUPPOSED to be? He was a giant rubber snake on a wire last time we saw him and here he is of the inflatable variety (followed by ye olde dodgy CSO variety). This series has a bit of a snake problem cos it pops up again in Battlefield (yes Tim, that story is a piece of crap! Thanks for asking yesterday) and later again when the series returns in the TV Movie and its rubbish again both times.
In all, Snakedance is a good story and the Mara is a worthy addition to the Who monster folklore (almost warranting a return in the new series) but I would have liked to have seen a bit more work in the direction and a lot more tension and build up. The Mara is supposed to be a very real and evil entity and it deserved a bit more work behind the scenes to do it justice. I'll give Snakedance a 7/10.
Snakedance = meh
Remember the man who dreamt he was a frog, and when he woke he didn't know if he dreamt he was a frog, or if he was a frog dreaming he was a man? No? Me neither... but if when I fell asleep towards the end of part 3 of Snakedance, I wondered if maybe I was dreaming that it was getting a bit tedious, or if it just was a bit tedious...
Never the less, this quote is just one of many "what the fuck are they doing" moments in the first episode... like whacking a hearing aid on Tegan to mask her from her dreams... walking around the carnival in a daze, she looks more like she's listening to the races on an old trani (and I don't mean the bloke who's running the house of mirrors!). Then we get "you know, I'd forgotten how impressive the entrance to this cave was"... impressive??? Some shit papier mache stuck up on a doorway? Easily pleased the Manussans - and I don't know how big some of their other caves are, but Lon playing echoes in this "huge" one seemed amazed... even if it did look a hell of a lot smaller than his own room back in the first couple of scenes.
But all this pales into insignificance when you look at the costumes. The Doctor's beige cricket getup looks quite tame all of a sudden... actually, even his successor would have just faded into the background around here! It starts of with Nyssa - normally quite regal in her Traken magenta - all of a sudden deciding to wear something out of the TARDIS dress up box. She even asks for the Doctor's approval - just a tip, if you're looking for approval, try Tegan... look at what he's wearing... or did he say to her "Nyssa, I'd like to see you in a pair of shorts under a skirt that looks OK, but ruin it completely by sticking a pyjama top over the top of it"? Although, she fits in with Manussa - surely they're just taking the piss there! And just when you don't think it can get any worse, you get this :-
OK, I know this isn't till Part 4, but... WOW! Despite the road crash that is Part 1, Snakedance isn't too bad. The Mara was a highlight of series 19, and does probably deserve its second outing. Mind you, when we talk about the coincidences of Tegan turning up on Arc, it's even more of a coincidence that no sooner does she turn up back on the TARDIS, the Mara reappears in her dreams! Parts of Tegan's performance are pretty good here - although her childhood overly Aussie voice I'm not so sure about. I'm not quite sure that she gets the "in between" stages right, but she gives it a fair crack - some fine tuning from the Director could have helped maybe - but she was no doubt too busy designing the production too look like... well... who knows what!
While we're on performances, we get another brilliant one from the Doctor - he has "flustered" really down pat know, and it's hard not to watch him when he's on screen. Nyssa, hmmm, I'm not sure she's nailing it at the moment, but she's not given much to work with here... running around trying to find either Tegan or a key, only to be foiled at the last minute doesn't see her at her best. Martin Clunes on the other hand is excellent as Lon - despite his get up! He plays it in such an alien way that it makes you wonder whether he would have been a candidate to play the Doctor... could have been interesting! All the other guest cast are generally good too (especially Lon's Mum).
Snakedance, like it's prequel, holds together really well - it's just a pity it's so poorly realized. The ending actually reads really well - and I vaguely remember the snake bite scene, which really sums up Davison's Doctor perfectly (just like the sacrifice he makes in Androzani). Apparently the last part over ran by about 5 minutes, so they had to cut bits out - maybe they should have cut some of the tedium of part 3 out (like that bloody punch and judy scene - never liked them as kids, no place for them in Dr Who - I guess they add to the "carnival" atmosphere, but it was boring).
So yes, Snakedance is a good story, well acted, but poorly told. 6.7/10 And let's just have another look....So, can anyone name the other British sitcom that had one of its main characters start out her in Manussa?
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