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Reviewed by Paul Scoones

Kinda is something of an anomaly in Doctor Who. It is a highly intelligent, thought-provoking, multi-layered adult script - few other Doctor Who tales can boast even one of these characteristics. It is by no means typical Doctor Who fare, apart from the usual poor performances from a portion of the cast and the totally unconvincing sets that we fans just seem to accept as part of the grand tradition of Doctor Who.

Where Kinda differs is in Christopher Bailey's contribution, namely the script. In The Unfolding Text John Tulloch and Manuel Alvarado cite Ursula Le Guin's classic novella The Word for World is Forest as a strong influence on Bailey in writing Kinda. The parallels with Le Guin's award-winning novella are, to my mind, few (for a list see p269 of The Unfolding Text). Having recently read Le Guin's work, I would argue that the similarities are only a few of the many issues raised in the course of the novella and, likewise, Bailey's script contains much that is not Le Guin, mainly his (occasionally overt) use of religious allusions and, in particular, Buddhist doctrines. Le Guin's work was a subtle statement about the Vietnam War; the Kinda replacement is British colonialism, rather rammed down our throats by Richard Todd's performance as a British military colonel stereotype, and the equally unsubtle use of pith helmets by the costume department.

The most powerful moments in Kinda came in the middle episodes with Janet Fielding's regrettably all too brief, yet superb performance as Tegan in the control of the Mara. I do feel that something may have been lost by the decision to have Fielding tone down her reportedly sensual performance here. The other scene that stood out which, despite the inconsistency of Panna's projection of time devices totally alien to the culture of Deva Loka, was still a powerful piece of imagery, and it was particularly refreshing not to have Part Three end at that point.

Having said above that poor acting was the norm in Doctor Who, Kinda at least did go some way towards being the exception. Peter Davison seems to be cementing a persona for the Doctor by this, the third recorded story of his era. This was undoubtedly helped by being the first story in which he wasn't being kept constantly on the move from one problem/crisis to the next. Unusually his role was largely constricted to theoretical discussions with Dr Todd, a great performance from Nerys Hughes, who should have been made a companion. There was an overwhelming feeling that, if the Doctor's stay on Deva Loka had been longer, that the two would have become close. As it was there was strong pathos between Todd and the Doctor, countermanded only by the Doctor not asking her to go with him.

Janet Fielding made a complete success of a challenging script for her role, and the other cast member worthy of mention is Simon Rouse, whose portrayal of the schizophrenic Hindle was a grand interpretation of the part laid down by Bailey, once again another challenging role. The much-maligned snake wasn't as bad as I thought it would be, although a physical manifestation was rather unnecessary, especially on the arms. It could well have been done by implication alone. All in all, an excellent story, but possibly more than a little out of place in a show aimed primarily at a young teenage audience; most of it was too deep for that section of the viewership; even I hated it the first time round, but now respect it as one of the truly greatest Doctor Who tales ever to grace our screens.

Bring back Bailey, JNT!

This item appeared in TSV 10 (December 1988).

Index nodes: Kinda