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30 January 2017 @ 08:05 pm
The Randomiser: Kinda  
I'm sure I must have seen Kinda since it was first broadcast but I don't recall when and my memories of it were distinctly hazy. At the time of broadcast it came bottom of the season poll in DWM but shortly thereafter it was placed front and centre in Doctor Who: The Unfolding Text which attempted* to apply academic media criticism to Doctor Who. It would be tempting to say that Kinda is an interesting failure but I'm not sure it is a failure. It's more something completely to one side of main stream Doctor Who and isn't really even attempting to play by Doctor Who's normal rules.

Almost everything (quite possibly everything apart from Nyssa's quiet sidelining at the beginning) that happens in Kinda is laced with symbolism and, to be honest, occurs more to convey some idea or concept than it does to advance a coherent plot. That said, the plot coherence, once you strip aside a lot of the bizarre trappings is no worse than a lot of Doctor Who. This is a story that has things to say about colonialism, concepts of primitive versus civilised, the military, gender and communication. It does so with, well, not quite the earnestness of a thirteen year-old on Tumblr who has just discovered social justice but its ideas look, I suspect, a lot more obvious now than they did then. Possibly one of the reasons it seems quite so puzzling is that it refuses to actually make a neat preachy statement about what is right and wrong but just throws a lot things at the screen with a definite lean towards a position but one it doesn't actually clarify.

Episode 2 is both particularly bizarre and possibly the best of the four focusing, as it does, on the survey base under the control of the dangerously unhinged Hindle. Doctor Who often seeks to explain the erratic behaviour of its miscellaneous base commanders on the grounds that they've gone mad, but this is the only one I recall where the character is quite so unhinged and his high level of unpredictability both makes him seem more dangerous while, at the same time, giving the Doctor, Adric and Todd more room for maneouvre. I can see why the childish mayhem of the episode was viewed with puzzled incomprehension by much of the audience.

Hindle's madness is one of the plot points that is less well explained (Sanders' is explained by his exposure to the the Box of Jhana). Similarly the actual fate of the missing base members is never really explained, nor is Hindle's control of the Kinda on the base. But Kinda gives the impression that it doesn't really care about this.

The snake at the end is somewhat naff and was widely derided at the time but, to be honest, I don't think it is much naffer than a lot of Doctor Who monsters and I wonder if it was such a focus of opprobrium simply because it was easy and straightforward to criticise where everything else here is simply a little baffling and, in some cases, a little poorly acted, but delivered with a kind strange conviction that make the flaws hard to get a grip on.

I actually really enjoyed this and was surprised that I did. It is like nothing else Doctor Who has ever attempted before or since. In Doctor Who terms it is mostly a mixture of over-earnest, naff and silly, but on its own terms it is grippingly frightening in places, surreal and rather beautiful.

*I've not read it so, for all I know, the attempt was a success even if it was regarded with bemusement by most Who fans of the time.

This entry was originally posted at http://purplecat.dreamwidth.org/234066.html.
philmophlegm: dalekphilmophlegm on January 30th, 2017 09:02 pm (UTC)
It's actually one of my favourite stories. Yes the Mara at the end is crap, and yes there's sod all for the companions to do, but Nerys Hughes is good and Simon Rouse is superb. (He's one of my favourite actors, mostly because of The Bill.) Looking back, it's strange that this one wasn't rated by fans at the time while its sequel, Snakedance, was.
louisedennis: Doctor Wholouisedennis on January 31st, 2017 11:37 am (UTC)
I think Snakedance is much more straightforward. There is an ancient evil that has awoken, it finds its way into the upper echelons of society from whence it can manipulate its takeover, the Doctor has to puzzle out what is happening, out-smart both the ancient evil and the petty bureaucrats and save the day. Kinda, on the other hand, has a lot more dream sequences and visions, the Mara's aims are unclear and its methods of control obscure since the society of the Kinda is much more alien to our own, pretty much everyone with the exception of the Doctor, Adric and Todd is behaving in a largely incomprehensible fashion.

I don't think any of that is necessarily a negative, but I can see why, at the time people were just bemused and, as a result, didn't rate it much.
liadtbunny: DW Fiveliadtbunny on January 31st, 2017 02:57 pm (UTC)
I have read the 'Unfolding Text'! In about 2002. All I can recall is that as a piece of textual analysis it wasn't that good.

I really like 'Kinda' and 'Snakedance'. I appreciate 'Kinda' more as 'Snakedance' being simpler doesn't stand up to as many re-watchings. The snake is OK, usual DW quality! The CGI snake on the DVD looks iffy itself now. 'Kinda' is a bit 'I've been reading books and I now I'm going to put it all into a script' which is what I think happened. I do have the DWM with the interview with the writer around somewhere.
louisedennis: Doctor Wholouisedennis on February 1st, 2017 08:59 pm (UTC)
Snakedance is oddly both more accomplished and more pedestrian than Kinda. I recalled there had been a rumour for years that Kate Bush had written Kinda. I mentioned this to Tame Layman who spent a happy few minutes googling it and was thus able to tell me that Tom Stoppard hadn't written it either. The mind boggles at little that anyone thought he had!!!
liadtbunny: DW Fiveliadtbunny on February 2nd, 2017 04:13 pm (UTC)
I know I had trouble understanding 'Jumpers', but, no I wouldn't put Stoppard down for 'Kinda' either. Kate Bush however had a cyber man jumpsuit.
louisedennislouisedennis on February 3rd, 2017 11:20 am (UTC)
Kate Bush was vaguely plausible in that she's sufficiently eccentric but with no significant career as an author or playwright or so on so it's not out of all possibility she might secretly write an interesting but slightly clumsy Doctor Who episode. Stoppard though - I can't think why he would write anonymously, for a show where he would lose a lot of control over the final product (I mean I know he did a lot of TV work, but not for series television as far as I know) and it would have been better, I think.