Reviewed By: JMChurch25
Review Date: 1/30/19 4:54 pm
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In rewatching Season 19, "Kinda" represented the only story of the season I hadn't actually seen before. It's widely regarded as the first real classic of the Davison era by fans but it's an adventure that I had never watched before or even knew that much about outside of that it featured a snake demon called the Mara. So after making it through the disaster that was "Four to Doomsday", I honestly was not sure what to expect of this story going in. What I ended up getting however was an absolutely superb story, the biggest surprise of the season for me, and a new strong favorite for the Fifth Doctor.
With Nyssa not feeling well after the events of the previous story, the TARDIS lands on the jungle planet of Deva Loka to let her rest and recalibrate while the Doctor, Tegan, and Adric explore the surrounding jungle landscapes. But the trio ends up being pulled into several interconnected plots involving a group of colonists being terrorized by a megalomaniacal team member, a tribe of telepathic natives, and a dark demonic presence that has grabbed on to Tegan as a doorway into the real world. It's a darkly experimental story with some very subtle elements to it that make it stand out from your usual Doctor Who fare. The cinematography and shots used in rendering this world are very well done and the subconscious parts of the mind are some of the trippiest visuals ever seen in the show. The whole plot and premise also give off a very unsettling vibe to it that keeps you on edge the whole way through. This feeling extends not only to the main plot but also in the side elements involving the character of Hindle (played by Simon Rouse) who feels like a strange version of "Silence of the Lambs"'s Buffalo Bill. Every moment he's on screen really winds you up and you are never quite sure what exactly he's going to do or how he's going to react in regards to a given provocation especially when he's put in charge of the base. It's a great example of how to make a side threat work really well and not feel like filler in conjunction with the main plot and it's very well handled.
The main threat of the Mara is also a good one even if the special effects regarding it's external form are a little cheesy nowadays. The way in which it manifests inside your mind is unsettling, the external signs of possession are really creepy, and the lore surrounding it in how it channels darker impulses such as fear and greed are all interesting. It's a nice contrast especially to this specific Doctor's external goodness and white knight persona and the confrontation between the two at the end is fantastic giving Davison an actual "I Am The Doctor" moment. The cast is also much better here than the past two stories even if it still struggles in giving each character something to do. Nyssa is left out of the picture and isn't worth talking about here, Adric still continues to be an insufferable idiot even if his character is handled considerably better, and Tegan spends most of the episode unconscious or possessed though Janet Fielding is also much better here compared to 'Doomsday'. Really this is the Fifth Doctor's story through and through and this is easily one of Davison's best episodes thus far. It really feels like Five has officially arrived and the Doctor not only gets plenty to do but also a ton of strong interactions with various characters that continue to define him. One in particular in the form of the colonial scientist Todd was especially good and I could've easily seen her going with him at the end and becoming a future companion.
It's certainly not a perfect story as some of the colonial aspects are a little heavy-handed and the production values don't look much better now than they did when first broadcast. Most of the problems with previous stories are also still here albeit to a lesser degree particularly ones with a yellow costume and a gold star. But on the whole, "Kinda" is still a great little story and easily one of the best Fifth Doctor stories we have. It took chances, upped the quality level, and finally saw the Fifth Doctor truly arrive in style. Now if we could say the same for his companions in a balanced and likable way, I think we would be set.