Tuesday, 24 May 2011


"I offer you fear in a handful of dust."

Snakedance is a sequel to Kinda in the best way possible. The two stories complement each other perfectly. Where Snakedance follows the format of traditional Doctor Who, Kinda is wildly experimental. Where in Kinda, Davison was a bit of a wet fish, in Snakedance he is breathtaking. Where Kinda left the regulars on the periphery, Snakedance puts them at the centre. Where Snakedance is heavy on expository material, Kinda leaves the reader to figure it all out. Where Kinda is somewhat heavy, Snakedance has many light-hearted moments. The complementary nature of the two stories demonstrates the wisdom of packaging the two DVDs together. Opinions divide on which story is the better. I have tended to say Kinda is the stronger, but I think my opinion has changed and I now feel that Snakedance is just a little better in the balance.

The production of Snakedance is really handsome. The sets are not massively realistic and look theatrical, but they are very well designed. The costumes are quite glorious. Best of all, the aesthetics contribute to a sense of history and the feeling that Manussa is a real place. It is the small aesthetic details that make such a difference- the puppet show with the Mara, the big Mara prop, the Attendant Demons, the delightful ritualistic language used in the festival. As was pointed out in the DVD commentary, it would have been nice to have had the serpent skull be seen in some of the ancient artefacts, but this is a small omission. Incidentally, it is haqrd not to be reminded of Faction Paradox when one sees that serpent skull appearing! The Six Faces of Delusion is a very nice aesthetic touch, though it is quite unbelievable that nobody had figured out the deal with the sixth face. The reader is left to think about how The Six Faces of Delusion fits into the themes of the serial.

Nobody gives a bad performance in Snakedance. Sarah Sutton is not quite as dull as usual, even if she does give a terrible scream at the end of one episode. Thankfully, she is out of those awful, unflattering velvet trousers from this story onwards. Janet Fielding gave a wonderful performance as the Mara-posessed Tegan in Kinda, but it was cut a bit short and the Mara moved on the less impressive Aris. In Snakedance, Tegan is under the Mara's influence from the beginning until the end. I think Tegan's Mara voice in Kinda was not so deep and more naturalistic. I preferred that, but Mara-Tegan in Snakedance is still excellent. Janet Fielding also got to demonstrate her versatility by playing a child-like Tegan during the excellent hypnosis scene. For much of Season 20, Peter Davison continued to give performance that was similarly lukewarm to that of Season 19. Nevertheless, in Snakedance, he really is quite amazing. He is so full of energy. Just watch him interrupt the dinner party! His reaction is also quite delightful when Ambril sarcastically pretends to believe him.

The guest cast are all excellent. Of particular note is Collette O'Neil as Tanha. Tanha's son Lon, is played by a young Martin Clunes. His television debut is quite impressive. Ambril is also quite impressive, especially his breatless excursions on the history of his Manussan collection. Even some of the smaller parts such as the fairground man are brilliant and I particularly like the megaphone man.

If you are in it for the scary monsters or you want hard science fiction, you probably won't like Snakedance. However, if you want great drama, an intelligent script and an aesthetically perfect production, you will be captivated by Snakedance.

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