5 December 2018: It Takes You Away review added.
26 November 2018: The Witchfinders review added.
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"You've disappointed me, Doctor."
Buy this Dr Who DVD: UK US
Men In Black II. The Matrix Reloaded. The Monster Of Peladon. Getting the idea yet?
Kinda wasn't too bad at all - and for a Fifth Doctor story, it was a masterpiece. Beyond the rubber snake was a story with depth and complexity that left us pondering the meaning of life, not to mention what the hell Christopher Bailey was getting at. So if one's good, two must be better, right?
Admittedly Snakedance is not without its good points. Whoops. Let's make that good point, a stellar supporting cast with some magnificent perfomances. As one of us uncharitably remarked while we were marvelling over the quality, "Don't forget the cream of British acting and Janet Fielding's been through Doctor Who." Martin Clunes is fantastic as the spoiled brat Lon, his mother's equally good, Elisabeth Sladen's hubby impresses as the showman, and John Carson as the Director blows the Doctor out of the water in every scene they're in. Nyssa, too, is reliably good, even if she's wearing an outfit that makes some of Jo's look understated.
But as for the rest of it, sigh. First of all, what's the point? What does Snakedance do that Kinda hasn't done already? Answers on the back of a stamp please. Tegan being possessed, mysterious snake thing, evil laughter - it's all been done before and done better. In fact, we think Snakedance actually takes away from Kinda by removing the uncertainty about what the Mara is. So it's the evil lurking in the heart of every human, is it? How very, very boring of it.
Then there's the nightmare that is Janet Fielding's performance. It could be used to reforest the entire Amazonian basin. From the toe-curling "I will never agree to what you ask!", delivered with a stunned-mullet look meant to convey she's dreaming but actually identical to her usual, er, expressiveness, she segues into what's apparently meant to be menacing. This initially involves hide and seek and a lot of giggling, then the giggling becomes full-blown Evil Laughter (TM). And watch out! That all-purpose just-been-cracked-over-the-head-with-a-two-by-four expression's back. Yes, she's bloody possessed again. All the demonaical cackling's clearly meant to be scaring our socks off, but all we can say is that expecting us to be terrified by a girl in a boob tube and shorts with a snake skull for a head is just taking the piss. Quite why they suddenly slather her face in blusher mystifies us as well. The production crew obviously fondly imagine this makes her look even eviller, but she just looks as if she fell asleep on the beach.
And the Doctor. Dear oh dear oh dear. The Disco Guide pegs Snakedance as a great story because of the way we get to see the Doctor as outsiders see him, as a wild-eyed nutcase spouting a load of cobblers about doom and disaster. Well, yeah, but as far as we're concerned this gets the thing backwards. The point is that every other Doctor has enough heft and charisma to make people believe him despite the odds. This Doctor, though, is so ineffectual we're not surprised he's dismissed as soon as he opens his mouth. Can you believe he actually sits there in a jail cell hoping someone will come along and let him out? Faugh.
The story, too, is seriously lacking. Basically, virtually nothing happens, and when it does it's telegraphed so heavily that when actually arrives it has all the impact of a wet sock. The cliffhangers are a telling indicator of how little's going on: a whole two out of three of them are about bit-part players being menaced. Gripping? Hardly. Then there's all the laborious stuff with the Five Faces of Delusion - if you couldn't see the end of that coming from the first view of the artifact, you must have sent your brain out for dry cleaning. And don't forget the bits of the script simply nicked from elsewhere, like the "I offer you fear in a handful of dust" line which is lifted almost word for word from The Waste Land.
We can tell exactly how much a story's grabbed us by the pile of notes we finish up with at the end. With really good - and really bad - stories, we never stop madly scribbling, but with Snakedance, all we ended up with was a few scrawls on the back of a chocolate wrapper. It's not very good; it's not very interesting; it's not very anything except a waste of an hour and a half. Shrug.
MORAL: Don’t let evil entities possess you. And always use an SPF15.
Isn't Nyssa trying hard to attract the Doctor's attention in her "how do I look?" scene? Hmm. Is this the closest to flirting a companion ever gets with a Doctor?
CHARMED, I’M SURE
Why does the Doctor want to drag the Manussans off to meet Tegan? What's that going to prove?
YOU’VE DROPPED YOUR WALKMAN
Why do they present it as a big moment when Nyssa finds the anti-dreaming device? She already knows Tegan isn't wearing it.
AND OTHER BRILLIANT INSIGHTS
"It must be the Mara." Well, duh! Is everybody in this story afflicted with serial amnesia?
OR REASONABLE FACSIMILE
Nyssa says to the Doctor that the crystals are attuned to the "exact wavelengths of the human mind" - a bit eyebrow-raising given that they’re not human and neither are the Manussans.
I THINK THE MINI WITH THE CLOUDS TODAY, JEEVES
Two scenes are guaranteed to make us howl with laughter in this - Tegan's inflatable snake and Lon's ceremonial outfit. Priceless. Stop, our ribs are hurting.
AND BY THE WAY, WHO’S YOUR TAILOR?
After hanging around in prison pathetically for what seems like forever, the Doctor stops on the threshold of his cell to earnestly ask his liberator: "What made you change your mind?" Who cares?
THANK YOU, PEDIGREE CHUM
After Lon says "...my eyes are bright", we keep expecting him to add "my nose is moist and my coat is glossy".
Another terrible fake snake, of course, but it says a lot about Snakedance that this is so far from being the worst thing about it that it's barely worth mentioning.
INSERT OWN JOKE HERE
"It was awful!" "It's all right. It's over now."
Buy this Dr Who DVD: UK US