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30 March 2017 @ 09:50 pm
The Randomiser: Snakedance  
Snakedance, the sequel to Kinda, is one of my favourite Davidson stories. It doesn't have Kinda's single-minded focus on its themes and is prepared to be much more traditional in form, but that has the advantage of making it a great deal more accessible to the average viewer.

One of Snakedance's successes is in trying to depict a complex society in which a space-faring federation is interacting with a still superstitious but far from primitive local populace. Budgetary (one assumes) considerations mean this is only really reflected in the bustling market place of Manussa, but the production team are clearly working hard to evoke a sense of place through both costume and music. Doctor Who doesn't often attempt to give its alien societies much by way of history and tradition, let alone attempt to portray them as particularly complex, so it is nice to see that here.

One could argue that actually explaining the Mara's origins somewhat diminishes it, but I actually really like the way Snakedance works with Kinda. In the former both the Kinda and the survey team are working from a place of ignorance with no real mechanism available to learn how the Mara came about. As such, it remains a mystical force of a nature - a thing that simply is and must be accepted - most of the story is about the break down of understanding and then acceptance. On Manussa, where the Mara originated, far more information is available and the mechanisms for uncovering it are far more familiar to the Doctor although even here he ultimately has to interpret Dojjen's cryptic pronouncements (delivered via telepathy in a set which, one feels, has suffered from the money spent on the market place and cave). Taken as a pair Kinda can be see as setting up a mystery and Snakedance as resolving it.

All that said, shortly after watching Snakedance we watching Nightmare of Eden (not as part of The Randomiser, Tame Layman just randomly picked it). Halfway through Tame Layman pronounced Nightmare of Eden much better than Snakedance* so I suppose you can't win them all.

*No, I've no idea why.

This entry was originally posted at http://purplecat.dreamwidth.org/242297.html.
daniel_saunders: Leekleydaniel_saunders on March 30th, 2017 09:09 pm (UTC)
Snakedance is a story that has grown on me a lot over the years, and I'm even coming around to the heretical view that it might be better than Kinda. I agree that it's one of the best world-building Doctor Who stories (along with The Ribos Operation and The Deadly Assassin).

Mind you, I like Nightmare of Eden too!
philmophlegm: cyberleaderphilmophlegm on March 30th, 2017 10:53 pm (UTC)
I prefer Kinda. Is preferring Snakedance heretical now? Clearly opinions change but my memory of DWM 30 years ago is that Snakedance topped the readers poll for its season, whereas Kinda had only been middling, and _I_ felt heretical at the time for thinking that Snakedance was good but Kinda was ace.
daniel_saunders: Leekleydaniel_saunders on March 30th, 2017 10:59 pm (UTC)
I thought Kinda was the story of preference for pseuds and intellectual fans! You're right about the polls, Sankedance topped the season twenty poll and Kinda I think came last in the season nineteen poll (people preferred Time-Flight...). But I recall an article in DWM about thirteen years ago saying that Kinda was awful (which I don't agree with!) and Snakedance much better and this was presented as iconoclastic, so I was probably basing myself on that.
louisedennis: Doctor Wholouisedennis on March 31st, 2017 08:30 am (UTC)
I think the consensus has morphed to a feeling that Kinda is interesting and has merits not appreciated at the time - and indeed that its poor reception stemmed from the same sort of fan-reaction as the condemnations of The Deadly Assassin when it was shown. I'm not sure that has generally led to it being viewed as a classic though, but you are right that fans who are (or like to consider themselves to be) intellectual probably feel obligated to sing its praises to some extent.
louisedennis: Doctor Wholouisedennis on March 31st, 2017 08:27 am (UTC)
My memory of the time is being vaguely bemused by Kinda (but I think I only saw a couple of the episodes which can't have helped) while actively enjoying Snakedance. I think I bought my first issue of DWM halfway through the The Visitation so I will have missed any of the run up to Kinda (and possibly the review, not sure).

Watching it recently, I did think it had a lot going for it, but also had some dodgy bits (a lot of the Kinda actors seem a bit bemused and half-hearted too) and it is very different from all the Doctor Who stories around it (and most Doctor Who in general). But it is clearly far more ambitious than Snakedance is.

I find it hard to know how I'd rate the two were I to come to them for the first time today, because I have such nostalgic fondness for Snakedance.
louisedennis: Doctor Wholouisedennis on March 31st, 2017 08:23 am (UTC)
Nightmare of Eden was much better than its reputation would suggest. I thought the first episode particularly strong and there are some nice ideas. I don't think it is as interesting as Snakedance though and while I think you could argue the case about acting and production values, I'm hard pressed to view Snakedance's as obviously worse (and, to be honest, think they are better in Snakedance).
daniel_saunders: Leekleydaniel_saunders on March 31st, 2017 11:52 am (UTC)
It may be relevant that I seem to have turned into one of those weird people who actually enjoys all Doctor Who (with the exception of a bit of RTD stuff). I even watched/listened to The Celestial Toymaker recently, which was my least favourite sixties story, and found myself enjoying at least bits of it. If I stop disliking those last few stories, I may have to surrender my fandom card for being too positive...
louisedennis: Doctor Wholouisedennis on April 1st, 2017 01:04 pm (UTC)
There aren't many I actively dislike, though there are plenty I think are bit dull and boring.
lost_spook: dw - individual dalekslost_spook on March 31st, 2017 07:51 am (UTC)
I love Snakedance (well, and Kinda). As you say, they both work in different ways and work well together.

Halfway through Tame Layman pronounced Nightmare of Eden much better than Snakedance* so I suppose you can't win them all.

LOL, there's never any accounting for the Not-We! NoE does have a really fun and interesting concept with some witty dialogue in there, but it got relentlessly kicked to death in production, which is somehow harder for me to forgive than something that was just dull all along. (Which was a nightmare indeed that involved having to get rid of the director partway through, I seem to remember.)
louisedennis: Doctor Wholouisedennis on March 31st, 2017 08:31 am (UTC)
I thought Nightmare much better than its reputation, but I was struggling to find anything I thought it was clearly and obviously doing better than Snakedance - maybe it was a bit more obviously having fun at being witty in places but that was about it.
liadtbunny: DW Fiveliadtbunny on March 31st, 2017 03:22 pm (UTC)
I like that Kinda and Snakedance are linked and the effort put into the (interior) market. Dojjen's non-set works for me as he's meant to be in a waste and he's a mystic so the set doesn't have to be realistic.

Did Martin Clunes' outfit cloud tame layman's judgement?
louisedennis: Doctor Wholouisedennis on April 1st, 2017 01:06 pm (UTC)
Clunes' outfit is pretty bad - though even it works within the context of a ceremony most involved consider to be kind of cheesy.

As for Dojjen's set is the painted plywood pretending to be rocks (or possibly ruins) that I think makes it look cheap - not so much that there isn't much there.