Friday, 31 July 2015

Snakedance





The story starts with an old man meditating on a desert plain, a blue crystal hanging around his neck.

Is that a Metebelis crystal? Thought this was supposed to be about snakes, not spiders!

Although the Mara's "evil of the mind" does have its roots in the same Buddhist thinking as the Metebelis Spiders.

A bit of larks as we join our regulars, with Nyssa trying to get the Doctor to notice her awful new outfit.


Quite rightly, he only has eyes for the TARDIS.

Nyssa should have let Tegan design her something. She did alright for the Urbankans in Four to Doomsday!

Tegan's well out of it.

Nyssa looks up their location in the A to Z, and it seems they've arrived near the planet Manussa.

Davison's hair is an absolute mess in most of season 20.

They're not where they're supposed to be, and it seems Tegan is the one who set the co-ordinates.

Tegan's having nightmares that she'll end up in an outfit worse than Nyssa's.

Not really, she's having dreams about snakes and caves. One track mind.

On the planet Manussa, young Martin Clunes has woken up on the TOTP set after a particularly heavy night. Seems Tegan's not the only one with snakes on the brain.

When the Doctor bursts into Tegan's bedroom without invitation to give her a good grilling, it turns out that she's had this dream more than once. About the snake and the cave. Not the Doctor. Maybe.

The Federator's son is bored, apparently.

The Doctor tries to joh Tegan's memory about the co-ordinates...

...and finally gets to the point - Manussa is part of the "Sumaran" empire: the Empire of the Mara.

What Federation is Manussa a part of? Fingers crossed for Servalan...

Tahna tries to chivvy Lon along for their visit to the caves, but she preferred the previous Director of the Research Institute, a crazy snakedancer called Dojjen, to the current incumbent. 

Like, so much she can't remember his name.

"Once a man fell asleep, dreamt he was a frog. When he woke up he didn't know if he was a man who dreamt he was a frog, or a frog who was now dreaming he was a man."

The Doctor's built Tegan a hypno i-Pod, but resists the urge to convince her she's a chicken that can sing like Elvis.

Ambril is a right pompous so and so.

Great little bit here as Lon pretends to throw the snake statue then does it for real once Ambril's been lulled into a sense of false security.

Tegan's hypnotherapy regresses her to childhood. "I'm in my garden, silly!"

The Doctor makes Tegan go deeper into the dream...

On Manussa, a showman, Dugdale, is trying to entice punters into his hall of mirrors.

"Dare you bare witness to what the Mara shows? Will you gaze upon the unspeakable? Dare you come face to face with the finally unfaceable? Children half price!"

When Tegan goes near the cave in the dream the Mara speaks through her: "GO AWAY!"

Dugdale puts his foot in it with Lon. "Distorting mirrors; make your ears look smaller..."

The Doctor retunes the hypno i-Pod so Tegan can go walkies.

On Manussa Lon & Tahna take Ambril's tour of the real cave.

The actual snake head cave mouth look great but the obvious studio setting lets this one down to be honest. Part of the reason I prefer Kinda of the two Mara stories.

Tegan's hypno-i-Pod makes her see with a fish eye lens.

Wonderful world building in the script with the legend of the return, the federation & the forbidden snakedancers.

Lon's not too impressed, though.

Tegan is spooked by the sight of the cave from her dream so the Doctor goes in alone.

Ambril dismisses the legend of the Mara's return as "Pure superstitious nonsense, invented by the people simply to give themselves something with which to frighten their children."

The 5th Doctor fails to convince there's danger...

...not least because Tegan's scarpered.

Tegan bumps into a fortune teller in curiously honest mood ("Between you and me...") who makes the fatal mistake of removing the hypno i-Pod.

"Then I make something up, whatever I think they want to hear. After all, they're paying."

Surprising what comes into your head sometimes...

Uh-oh, Janet's got her Mara voice on...

The Doctor and Nyssa go back to the TARDIS, for... reasons.

Tegan tells the fortune teller to look into her crystal ball once again...

...and causes the skull of a snake to appear, and smash out at her!


In the shocking cliffhanger resolution, Tegan's naffed off but the fortune teller's come to no harm. Okay then.

The Doctor decides to pump Ambril for info about the Return, and packs Nyssa off to hunt Tegan down. Totally worth going back to the TARDI, then.

Tegan's busy pissing herself at the traumatised fortune teller when Nyssa catches up with her.

She's soon doing a runner again.

Ambril isn't too surprised when the Doctor turns up...

...and nor does he want to hear any crazy theories about "the Return". If it was up to him JNT would have been invited to that lunch. You'll just have to wait till next season for it now.

When the Doctor hears there's to be a ceremony commemorating the destruction of the Mara he advises they give it a miss.

Love Ambril's sarcasm. "Oh yes, I'll cancel the whole thing at once."

Tegan dodges Nyssa by diving into the hall of mirrors.

Ambril's assistant Chela tells the legend of the Return and of the meeting of minds in the crystal known as the "Great Mind's Eye."

Of course, Ambril dismisses the legend as "Wishy, mystical mumbo jumbo!"

Meanwhile, Tegan's doing it with mirrors.

Ambril cites a ceremonial head-dress as an example of snakedancing foolishness: It's called "The 6 faces of delusion" but only has 5...

...until the Doctor makes him put it on. "The 6th face is the wearer's own."

Davison takes a rare opportunity to show some teeth. "That was probably the idea, don't you think?"
John Mark Frankland@JMFrankland One of Davison's best bits. Also demonstrates the arrogance and lack of imagination of the Federation.

Davison always wanted to add more (dry) humour but JNT was having a big backlash against Tom Baker's off-piste ad-libbing, so Davison suffered. He starts to get his way more often in season 21, & his being allowed to exhibit that dry humour is a big strength in The Caves of Androzani.

Tegan talks to a skull headed Mara reflection in the fairground mirror. As you do.


When Tegan turns to look, the Mara takes possession and the mark of the snake appears on her arm.

Chela gives the Doctor a blue crystal used by the snakedancers, called a "little mind's eye."

"Who are the snakedancers?" *tumbleweed*

Dugdale's "I was a humble student of life's mysteries. A treader of the secret pathways, a delver into the darker corners and so forth." doesn't half sound like line's from Pertwee's "I am the Doctor"!

Here he is, waiting with his hand out... but the Mara's only interested in someone else.

The Doctor and Nyssa are reunited, and decide to investigate the cave further.


Lon cries off Ambril's pre-Ceremony shindig on account of he can't be arsed.

Nyssa figures out that it's mental energy meeting in the crystal before the Doctor does.

Dugdale visits Lon at Tegan's behest but gets a frosty reception. "Of course I remember you. Go away."

But he's intrigued to learn that he's "summoned"!

John Mark Frankland@JMFrankland Why does Lon go down to the cave? The promise of sex. What happens? He gets a tattoo and is controlled by an evil snake. They knew what they were doing!

Mobeena Khan@mobeenakhan We've all been there.

Ambril describes how the previous civilisation suffered a cultural catastrophe...

Clunes has a right old chuckle at his temporary snake tattoo.

The Doctor goes to the TARDIS to experiment with blue crystals. Been watching too much Breaking Bad. 

"Tegan" is none too happy to find the great crystal missing...

...but knows the way to a secret chamber filled with dusty treasures.

After an initial duck, the Doctor's able to use the hypno i-Pod to eliminate background noise, and makes the crystal glow.

This means his theory is correct and the Great Mind's Eye, in Ambril's possession, is a threat to them all.

No one wants to listen to the Doctor's warnings of doom when he interrupts the dinner party.

Dugdale is no longer necessary...

Really freaky when Janet Fielding's Mara voice comes out of Martin Clunes.

"Look at me..."

That's two cliffhangers in a row where neither the Doctor nor (technically) the companion(s) are the one in danger... The Cliffhanger's have both been the shock of the companion doing something evil...

Davison's been locked up. Ah, part 3, time to tread water.

The music's not up to much in this one. 

Snake Yoda's not up to much, is he?

Tahna's a bit happier thinking Lon's off for a night on the tiles.

While Chela worries about Dojjen's diaries...

...the Doctor languishes in the cells, though at least he's got Nyssa for company now.

Lon chats up Ambril to get at the Great Mind's Eye: "With time on one's hands, one pokes around."

Chela takes his concerns to the Doctor...

...and puts Nyssa onto pilfering Ambril's secrets.

She's soon caught in the act by Tahna, though.

Always good to see a Punch & Judy show. Maybe they should remake the Box of Delights with Matt Smith. 

It's a lovely touch that the crocodile is replaced by the snake. Clever writing from that Kate Bush, or something.

For once in his life, the Doctor isn't very pleased to see Nyssa.


Access to Lon's booty is subject to wearing a blindfold, apparently.

Nyssa is worried about Tegan but the Doctor has his head buried in Dojjen's diary. 

He doesn't have the answer to Nyssa's question though: "Why didn't he simply destroy the Great Crystal when it was in his charge?"

Lon shows Ambril his booty. "I trust you're not disappointed."

Ambril demands the lost treasures, but Lon refuses to allow their return. 


"You can 'discover' them again after the ceremony..."

In return, Ambril agrees that the genuine Great Mind's Eye can be used in the ceremony instead of the traditional prop.

This goes down well with the Mara.

Chela makes himself useful at last and helps the Doctor & Nyssa escape.

Lon: "Kill them!"
Nyssa: "SCREAM!"


Tahna clams things down a bit and decides the prisoners should answer some questions in a different bit of the set.

Lon manipulates Tahna's motherly instincts...

...but the Doctor & Nyssa are able to escape.

With Chela'shelp they give the palace guards the slip in the marketplace...

...but Lon isn't so concerned now the Great Mind's Eye is in his clutches.

Worst. Batman. Ever.

Oh, it's a ruddy chugger.

The ceremonial fake snake is actually not as bad as the one in Kinda.

The Doctor decides it's time to seek Dojjen's help and heads for the desert.

Lon dresses up as the Founder of the Federation, in a costume that seems to have been designed by a very young child.

The Doctor's surrounded by film as he tries to send good vibrations to summon Dojjen.

Dojjen you old snakecharmer, you.

The ceremony begins...

...as the Doctor starts to hear trippy messages from Dojjen. "To destroy the Mara you must find the still point."

"Are you ready to face the triple temptation?"

The Doctor thanks Dojjen and races back to the cave.

The crowd are astounded as Lon suddenly goes off script.

He reveals the mark of the Mara, and the crowd finally gets it.

The Doctor gets by with a little help from his friend.

Not sure why Clunes has gone tango'd at this point. 

He shoves the crystal in and Mara's everyone up.

Tegan starts stroking the snake. It gets bigger. (What? That's what happened.)

Tegan's still in there somewhere - right in the jaws of the snake in fact.

The Doctor does yoga at her and the Mara dies. And something about a crystal? Er... pass.

"The Mara has been destroyed." Choked on its own vomit, it looks like. It led the rock'n'roll lifestyle to the end.
John Mark Frankland@JMFrankland The ending is perfect. The Doctor saves the universe as usual, but it was never about that. It was about saving Tegan.

Yes, although it's a very rushed ending!

TTFN! K.
Coming Soon... The Creature from the Pit

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