“Kinda” is an incredibly dense and layered story, and one that offers more meaty parts for women than we had been seeing in Doctor Who in the late seventies. With Nyssa and Tegan both out of the action, the role of asking questions falls to one of the colonial inspectors, Dr. Todd, played by Nerys Hughes. She had co-starred in the sitcom The Liver Birds throughout the 1970s, another case of the producer looking for very recognizable faces from popular entertainment and casting them against type, as we saw with Stratford Johns in the previous story and will see with Michael Robbins in the next.
Hughes gets one of my favorite moments of the story. Since Dr. Todd is filling the companion role, she peppers the Doctor with questions until he actually comments on it. As soon as they run into one of the Kinda who can speak, it’s he who has all the questions, leading her to rib him on his own curiosity.
The evil Mara finally reveals itself at the end as a giant, colorful snake, which surprised and delighted our son. It’s one of those visual effects that has caused so much grumbling, but it honestly doesn’t look egregiously more fake or plastic than any other alien being from this era of the series to me. It seemed to convince our kid, who says that he enjoyed this story even more than “Four to Doomsday,” so the show’s definitely on a high for him right now.
Just one more note, because I could certainly talk about this one all day, about the interesting lack of deaths in this adventure. The only confirmed death among the characters is that of the old, blind wise woman, Panna. Three of the colonists had vanished before the story opens, and it’s explained that opening a magical, mind-cleansing box that the Kinda use had driven them each mad. Considering that the end of the story sees the other two men from the expedition healed and relaxed, I’d like to think that the other three had thrown off their uniforms and been eating fruits and climbing mountains until the mental stress of the “wheel-turning” Mara had been exorcised and are making their way back to camp as our heroes depart. I think that makes the ending even nicer.