Doctor Who: Kinda
(4 episodes, s19e09-e12, 1982)
After the last story, this was probably not the best time to shelve my favorite companion of these three.
At the outset, Nyssa’s not feeling well, so the TARDIS has settled on a jungle planet to evaluate her. Based on the results, the Doctor puts her into a coma to recover from not being included in the script. The planet is currently home to a team of explorers. They’ve taken captives and several of their own are missing. They are the perfect model of military tropes in fiction.
The Doctor, Tegan, and Adric explore the planet and come across a set of well-designed wind chimes, prompting the Doctor to consider intelligent life and civilization in the area. The chimes place Tegan into a hypnotic trance, and the Doctor is pulled away by Adric who stumbles into an armored suit. After Adric fiddles with device – and, thankfully, the Doctor chastises the impulsive boy – it takes them hostage and leads them to the explorer camp.
The Kinda – pronounced like the German for child, not the slang short-form for kind of – decorate Tegan with flowers while she sleeps, and her trance leads her to two figures playing chess. She fearfully explores the black void, noting that all of the inhabitants have the same snake tattoo on their arms. Meanwhile, the Doctor gets the backstory from the explorers and examines the hostages. The expedition scientist, Todd, believes them to be primitive but telepathic, and she explains their plans for the paradise world. They are interrupted by Hindle, current second in command, who tears apart the lab in a temper tantrum before playing Narcissus in the mirror.
The expedition commander, Sanders, makes plans to look for the missing team members. In the lab, Hindle has somehow taken leadership over the two Kinda, and as Sanders departs, Hindle and his new friends take over the outpost by force. Sanders takes the powered armor to the Kinda village, where a blind shaman named Panna and her acolyte Karuna plan to give a box to the approaching colonial soldier. They are visited by a Kinda male named Aris, the brother of one of the captives, and we learn that the males are mute and the women are not. The Kinda male leaves as Sanders approaches, and the gift of the box overcomes the commander with psychic force.
In the outpost control room, Hindle has dressed the Kinda captives in colonial uniforms. The captives release the Doctor, Adric, and Todd, who then have a ridiculous discussion with an unhinged Hindle. Hindle wants to sterilize a fifty-mile radius around their camp, using acid and fire to protect themselves from hostile plants. Adric has some sort of epiphany and volunteers to help Hindle, but since the Doctor and Todd won’t join him, they are sent back to their cell. To his benefit, Adric begins a plan to double-cross Hindle, but he is caught.
Are we in the throes of another story about the evils of colonialism? Looks like. I’m also picking up shades of Apocalypse Now.
On the other side of the looking glass, Tegan continues her mental breakdown in the void. She argues with duplicates of herself, then with the mysterious taunting figure, before agreeing to give the figure material form to be released from captivity. She awakens in the real world with the snake tattoo on her arm, a mischievous grin on her face, and about 10,000 more skill points in Charisma.
Hindle deliberates how to punish Adric for the boy’s treachery, but is interrupted by Sanders, who has returned with a completely different, almost childlike character. Sanders offers the box to Hindle, but Hindle refuses to open it. Out in the forest, Aris encounters Tegan. Tegan introduces herself as Mara, and in a moment of Star Trek V Sybok psychology, she transfers the snake and consciousness to Aris.
Hindle puts the Doctor and Todd back in the cell, this time with Sanders and the box. Hindle orders the Doctor to open the box, and when he does, Todd screams. It’s an overly-dramatic gesture as the box only contains a spring loaded puppet. Well, that and a psychic encounter for the captive group, in which the Doctor and Todd commune with the Kinda. The Doctor and Todd leave the compound and head for the source of the summons. They are met by the Kinda and develop a rapport with the easy-going people, but are soon interrupted by Mara-Aris who proclaims that the “Not-We” must be taken captive. Karuna attempts to read his mind and is convinced by an ancient prophecy that Mara-Aris is their new leader. Karuna defies the prophecy and takes the Doctor and Todd to Panna.
In the compound, Hindle plots to destroy the dome and surrounding jungle to protect themselves through death. Adric bides his time by playing along, but finds it difficult due to Hindle’s increasing instability. He eventually defies Hindle and takes the armor for a walk. At her cave, Panna examines Todd, but is surprised by the Doctor’s presence. Apparently, a male cannot open the box without being driven insane unless he is an idiot. Thus, the Doctor is an idiot (with a box, and a screwdriver).
Mara-Aris arrives with his enthralled gaggle of Kinda, and after taking control of Karuna, he takes the group to destroy the dome and the Not-We. Panna and the Doctor discuss the snake tattoo and the Mara, and they join with Todd in a psychic link. After their vision of the destruction of the Kinda and everything, they awaken to find Panna dead. Karuna senses this and breaks from the rushing Kinda to return to the cave. Once there, she reveals that Panna’s spirit has been transferred to Karuna. Together, the trio sets out to stop Mara-Aris. En route, they find Tegan and discover what she did to free the Mara.
Everyone converges at the entrance to the dome. The Kinda gaggle attack Adric in the armor, but Adric inadvertently drives them away with a panicked operation of the machine. The Doctor frees Adric from the machine, and Mara-Aris takes the opportunity to run away. The protagonists enter the dome and confront Hindle, who has constructed a city out of cardboard boxes. The madman reveals that he controls the Kinda with mirrors, which they believe steal their souls. The Doctor takes a wrong step and Hindle snaps, nearly destroying the dome, but in the fracas, the mirror is broken, Todd gains control of the explosive trigger, and Hindle gets the box and an awakening.
Of course, Adric takes the opportunity to blame Tegan for all of this. One step forward with his attempt to stop Hindle, and now one step back again. I mean, this was a “Shut up, Wesley” moment, and I actually liked Wesley Crusher.
With Hindle’s threat disarmed, the Doctor sets a trap for Mara-Aris using large mirrors, forcing the Mara free the Kinda. The snake grows in size and nearly takes control of Tegan before finally dissipates, dispelled back to its prison. Hindle and Sanders are returned to their former states, and Todd submits a recommendation that the planet is unsuitable for colonization. The travelers (including Nyssa, who has recovered from her bout of being forgotten in the script) bid farewell to a too-green paradise.
On its face, this was a story of the evils of imperial colonization mixed with a strong pinch of the supernatural, which would have been just about average given how often Doctor Who dips into that particular well. The dragging anchor on this boat is the character issues. Adric got somewhat better, save for his need to touch everything and chastise Tegan. Tegan spent the majority of the story spinning her wheels in character impotence. And Nyssa? Poor Nyssa got caught between a poorly timed script and the character problems of the Nineteenth Series so far.
This story even has a large dose of mythology, ranging from Buddhist and Old Testament Biblical to superstitions shared by tribal cultures around the world, and science fiction that opens audiences to the myths that shaped humanity usually wins me over. I’m just so irritated with how the writer’s room is wronging the companions in these opening salvos of the Fifth Doctor’s run.
The thing that helps buoy it back up is the Doctor. He’s selflessly compassionate and innocent like a couple of incarnations before him, but he’s not as duplicitous as past lives. Instead of trying to pass off the failed sleight-of-hand with Adric and the computer card, which the Third and Fourth Doctors would have used to lure Hindle into a trap, the Fifth Doctor realizes that he cannot win and abandons the effort, saving himself for a better chance.
The Fifth is also far more patient and fatherly. It’s taken a few serials to see that, but now that he’s mostly baked, it’s easy to see a paternal hand guiding Tegan’s temper and Adric’s impulsiveness.
The Doctor himself may be what saves his fifth incarnation’s run for me.
Rating: 3/5 – “Reverse the polarity of the neutron flow.”
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