Kinda ★★★★★

Buddhism, the Book of Genesis and gay identity... all in the subtext of this riveting psychodrama guest-starring Nerys Hughes and Richard Todd

Doctor Who Kinda 1982

Season 19 – Story 118

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“You will agree to being me, sooner or later, this side of madness or the other” – Dukkha

Storyline
An expedition has set up a base dome on the forest planet Deva Loka with plans to colonise it. The native people, telepathic Kinda, are non-hostile, but somewhere out there in paradise an evil force is waiting to cross over from the “dark places of the inside”. The serpentine Mara uses Tegan as a conduit to take possession of a Kinda male, while the Doctor and Adric are detained in the dome by Hindle, a security officer fast losing his sanity…

First transmissions 

Part 1 – Monday 1 February 1982
Part 2 – Tuesday 2 February 1982
Part 3 – Monday 8 February 1982
Part 4 – Tuesday 9 February 1982

Production
Studio recording: July/August 1981 in TC8 (November 1981, TC8)

Cast
The Doctor – Peter Davison
Tegan Jovanka – Janet Fielding
Adric – Matthew Waterhouse
Nyssa – Sarah Sutton
Sanders – Richard Todd
Todd – Nerys Hughes
Panna – Mary Morris
Hindle – Simon Rouse
Dukkha – Jeffrey Stewart
Anatta – Anna Wing
Anicca – Roger Milner
Aris – Adrian Mills
Karuna – Sarah Prince
Trickster – Lee Cornes

Crew
Writer – Christopher Bailey
Incidental music – Peter Howell
Designer – Malcolm Thornton
Script editor – Eric Saward
Producer – John Nathan-Turner
Director – Peter Grimwade

RT Review by Patrick Mulkern
A gigantic plastic snake… Overlit forest sets… Dry leaves sparsely scattered over a concrete studio floor… The lettuce-limp Kinda male, Aris… The jarring close-up of Hindle snarling at the end of part one… All woeful – but such blemishes can be and should be overlooked, for Kinda is an imperfect gem. And like an unpolished diamond, the harder you work at it, the longer you gaze into it, the more Kinda will reveal its inner beauty.

Even now, after multiple viewings, I don’t fully understand the story, but I always get something new and worthwhile from watching it. Without a doubt it’s my favourite Peter Davison serial, and one of the highlights of 1980s Doctor Who.

Director Peter Grimwade may allow too much artificiality onto the screen, but he’s in control of the drama (especially thrilling are the Kinda’s dance of time and the cliffhanger when the mysterious box of Jhana has to be opened). He has also assembled a superb guest cast.

Richard Todd, a biggish name in 50s British cinema, is expedition leader Sanders, a swaggering martinet who’s transformed into a beaming simpleton – or rather a man utterly at peace, spiritually cleansed by the box of Jhana. Simon Rouse (then relatively unknown, but later in ITV’s The Bill for 20 years) is riveting as the unhinged Hindle rapidly descending into madness.

Perhaps most impressive is Nerys Hughes, whose warm, understated portrayal of scientist Todd is one of the quiet joys of Kinda. Todd feels like a rare, real human being who’s strolled into the programme, and it’s a pleasure to see her dovetailing with the fifth Doctor, especially in an era when the companions are under par. Am I alone in wishing that the Doctor had dumped Adric, Nyssa and Tegan and invited Todd aboard the Tardis at the end?

That said, Kinda does offer Janet Fielding her juiciest material so far. Left beside the wind chimes at “the place of great dreamings”, Tegan succumbs to the power of the Mara. We enter her mind’s eye via a digital zoom (an impressive effect in its day) as she becomes trapped in a black void – “the dark places of the inside”.

In an unusually adult psychodrama, she is tormented by the Mara, embodied in Dukkha and two elderly chess players – who can be interpreted as warped versions of the Doctor, Nyssa and Adric. Fielding is sensational as the Mara-possessed Tegan who emerges to taunt Aris, in a scene bordering on erotic.

Three subsequent script editors chopped and changed Christopher Bailey’s narrative and dialogue, but his original themes are not lost: colonialism, paradise, evolution, insanity, spirituality. Buddhism is an obvious influence: the story is all about attaining altered states of mind; the Kinda are beholden to the Wheel of Life, and many of the their names (Mara, Panna, Jhana) have important meanings in Buddhist philosophy.

The Book of Genesis isn’t buried too deeply either. Tegan, like Eve, is influenced by a serpent and uses an apple to lure Aris onto a sinful path. Todd also offers the Doctor an apple, and he remarks, “I thought the native produce was forbidden.” So Deva Loka represents the Garden of Eden. “Paradise he called it,” says Todd. “Perhaps [Sanders] said more than he knew.”

Bailey’s writing is so opaque that the viewer can infer all sorts of subtexts. In a drama where women are so strong and the men emasculated, often voiceless, it’s also not a stretch to suggest a homosexual undercurrent.

In more enlightened times, Hindle might be more overtly gay. Here he’s portrayed as a jobsworth, anally retentive, screwed up; a bullied lad turned bully (“When I was a boy I was beaten every day”); and a deranged mummy’s boy (“Mummy! Mummy, make him go away!”). He seeks camaraderie in Adric (nuff said), but the dead giveaway is a tiny moment, after Hindle has trashed Todd’s plants, when he finds a mirror and prissily rearranges his forelock.

Gloriously butch meanwhile is the blind old wise woman, Panna. To her, men are “male fools”; the Doctor is dismissed as an idiot. Hauntingly haggard, never once blinking, Mary Morris plays the part without a shred of vanity and with unwavering command. It can be no coincidence that Grimwade and producer John Nathan-Turner cast Morris, who’d been an outspoken lesbian activist long before Gay Pride came into being.

The Russell T Davies era was later targeted for its gay agenda, but in JN-T’s day two decades earlier barely a story goes by without the inclusion of a senior gay icon and a “pretty boy” in the guest cast. Such was JN-T’s taste. Rarely seen outside of a Hawaiian chemise, Brighton resident JN-T revelled in end-of-the-pier entertainment; he had a thirst for camp and panto, a sensibility that occasionally enhanced, sometimes damaged, a production.

And, if for nothing else, Kinda will be remembered for its gigantic pink plastic snake waving without shame at the viewing public. It could be a symbol for the entire JN-T era.

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[Available on BBC DVD]