Doctor Who: Snakedance (parts one and two)

Even while I’ve grumbled about the last two Doctor Who stories, our son has been loving this run of adventures, and really enjoys Peter Davison’s Doctor. So naturally, we get to my favorite Davison story and he’s utterly miserable. “Snakedance,” which was written by Christopher Bailey and directed by Fiona Cumming, features the return of the Mara and an early TV appearance by future sitcom megastar Martin Clunes as a bored young aristocrat. I think it’s a tremendously entertaining story that moves at a much faster pace than a typical Who adventure, but our son protests that it’s too creepy and too scary. It’s full of dark caves and possessions and Tegan acting malicious and evil.

Of course, another reason our son may be less than thrilled is because he saw right through a visual effect again. This doesn’t happen often, in part because he’s perfectly happy to suspend disbelief, but when it happens, he’s disappointed. In “Kinda,” the first story with the Mara, the creature manifests itself as a snake tattoo on its victims’ arms. In this story, the makeup and costume department evidently decided to save a little time and slap a big decal on the actors’ forearms rather than drawing and painting something. “That looks like a sticker,” he snorted.

I chose the picture above because “Snakedance” has a pretty unique point of view for the show: the Doctor comes across as an unhinged lunatic. Imagine the mayor of a big city working with the local archbishop to plan the annual Easter celebrations, and now dump in some loudmouthed nut in a cricket uniform bellowing that the ceremonies must be cancelled because Satan’s coming back. That’s kind of what the Doctor’s doing here, crashing dinner parties and yelling at everybody that the devil’s real before he gets dragged away by the cops. And the local dignitaries are perfectly reasonable and rational people; they’re not depicted as the typical meatheads who need to pay attention to our sensible hero. Hopefully the Doctor can take it down a notch so he can save the day. Maybe a night cooling off in the local jail’s drunk tank will help?

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