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Doctor Who: Kinda

(BBC; US DVD: 12 Apr 2011)

Colonization and possession are both forms of the same thing, each seeking to take physical and spiritual control of a person or place. The difference between the two is the colonizer often takes a negative view of its colony, as atrocities are committed with a parental “it’s for their own good” attitude, and the possessor simply drains its host completely before moving on to the next one.


“Kinda” is a story about both a world caught in an endless cycle of colonization and possession. The story opens on the planet Deva Loka, where a human expedition is studying the planet’s suitability for colonization. The explorers live in a geodesic dome, travel around the lush jungle in an armored suit and refer to the natives, the Kinda, as ILF (intelligent life forms). This designation signals the expedition’s attitude toward the Kinda: distant, cold, clinical. When the issue of the Kinda’s intelligence is brought up, mission leader Sanders (Richard Todd) says, “If they’re so clever why didn’t they come and colonize us?”


When the Doctor (Peter Davison) and his companions arrive, he and Adric (Matthew Waterhouse) find themselves prisoners of the human expedition as Tegan (Janet Fielding) becomes hypnotized by chimes hanging in the jungle. The story cuts back and forth between scenes inside the expedition’s dome and a dark nightmare world where Tegan encounters a series of nightmarish people dressed in Victorian garb. There’s an unsettling tension between these two settings, as Tegan’s scenes appear in quick bursts. They’re enigmatic and totally removed from the Doctor’s scenes, and their intrusion creates a wonderful atmosphere of dread in the story.


When Tegan emerges from this nightmare realm she is possessed by the Mara, an evil force that inhabits Deva Loka and moves from host to host. Soon Tegan is little more than a lump in the forest and the Mara possesses the Kinda Aris (Adrian Mills) to try and drive out the human expedition.


Peter Davison was the fifth actor to play the Doctor, and the first to seem more like a cool older brother rather than a grandfather or, at best, a crazy uncle. Unfortunately the Doctor doesn’t have much to do in this story beside run around, but at least he’s there at the end to make sure the evil of the Mara is put to rest. 


There’s a lot of “meanwhile” in this story, with the narrative bouncing from the Doctor and the human scientist Todd (Nerys Hughes) learning about the Mara to Tegan’s possession to Adric’s attempts to stop the human security chief Hindle (Simon Rouse) from blowing up the dome. All three stories spin out on their own with little interaction before finally coming together through much exposition at the end. “Kinda” is a good story with a lot to offer, but a satisfying ending isn’t not one of them.


Bonus features include “Dream Time”, a detailed making-of which explores writer Christopher Bailey’s Buddhist influences and his disappointment at the filmed result of his script. The honesty seen here is refreshing, as most behind the scenes featurettes are filled with the same “this was the best experience I ever had” lines that never ring true.


An ongoing narrative is threaded throughout all the recent BBC releases of classic Doctor Who stories,  and it’s one that spans the show’s entire twenty-six year run. In nearly every making-of or behind the scenes featurette there’s the inevitable mention of time. There was never enough of it to fully realize the scripts being commissioned for the show. Time and space were never issues for the Doctor, but they were for the people who brought him to life. New worlds, creatures and cultures were created on shoestring budgets, sometimes with disappointing results.


This disappointment isn’t unique to the viewer, it extends to everyone with a hand in making the piece. One detects a collective sigh when an effect isn’t quite convincing, and that sound nearly drowns out “Kinda”‘s climax when the Mara is confronted with its own image and it sees a giant snake puppet. This DVD includes a CGI-redo of the climactic scene that can be optionally inserted into the story, giving viewers George Lucas-like powers to change the past, but just because it can be done doesn’t mean it should be.

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Jeremy Estes lives in Nashville, Tennessee.


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