Doctor Doctor Who Guide


14 Jun 2003Kinda, by Alex Wilcock
31 Dec 2003Kinda, by Paul Clarke
29 Oct 2005Kinda, by Ed Martin

“You will agree to being me… This side of madness or the other.”

Few Doctor Who stories have raised such wild passions for and against them as Kinda. Yes, I was one of those ten-year-olds who helped vote it bottom of Peter Davison’s first season for DWM back in 1982, largely through a vivid last memory of ‘that snake’; at the other end of the spectrum, some fans have announced that anyone who disagrees with their assertion that this is the best Who story ever is an emotional Nazi. I shall leave it to your own judgement any irony involved in people who use ‘Nazi’ to decry those whose precise tastes do not absolutely accord to theirs…

I started a re-evaluation of Kinda through my wobbly audio copy, in those days before video. The old wise woman’s “Wheel turns” speech was quite hypnotic, and so I gradually found myself thinking Kinda was rather interesting – despite one of Uncle Tewwance’s least lively books trying to convince me otherwise. Nowadays, with repeated video viewings, I’ll admit that I can’t see how I ever thought the story worse than Four to Doomsday or Time-Flight, and I’ve got a lot closer to the adoring end of the spectrum than the embarrassed end I used to sit at. But will I go all the way? Well, I don’t think so, though I’ll waver between eight and nine out of ten. Let me explain.

On the whole, Kinda is interesting and refreshing, one of the Who stories with the most ideas, married to one of the Who stories that looks most like a pop video. The Dark Places of the Inside are fantastically imagined and realised, and the ‘time’ sequence is hardly less impressive. Resonantly, the subversive ‘menaces’ of the trees, the ‘primitives’, Hindle, Dukkha and The Dark Places of the Inside or wherever, all combine tantalisingly to disrupt expectations and are carried off brilliantly. 

In the story’s second half, however, and especially after the main hallucinatory effects sequences end, the action-based director and thoughtful script start to work against each other (notably from the blown cliffhanger to part 3 on), particularly as the author’s ideas become less successful. The fourth episode is definitely the weakest, despite quite a strong scene with Hindle’s toy madness and Panna’s consciousness passing on to demonstrate that no-one actually dies in the story (albeit the three ones who went missing…?). Studio floors, technobabble and ‘that snake’ summing up a glib and dull resolution – not to mention interminable Adric / Tegan bitching scenes - make it a curiously uninventive and unimpressive ending. This story is probably best watched as a whole, rather than an episodic let-down. 

I’ve recently taken to watching Who again on an episodic basis. Yes, that’s right – as god intended! As you might expect, with all stories written that way, most of them work much better that way. And it’s become clear that a key reason so many of us disliked Kinda on first watching – other than the shame of (all together now) “that snake” at school the next day – was that this story didn’t. For a few stories where not all the episodes work, the resolution is the killer. Watch a rather good story with a poor part 4 (Paradise Towers or The Creature From the Pit spring to mind to tease you with, or perhaps The Leisure Hive if you want one that fewer people hate so much), and it’s plain that only watching ‘the bad bit’ in one sitting leaves you with a nasty taste in your mouth that wouldn’t be so strong if you’d watched it as a ‘movie’. Watch Kinda episodically, rather than all of a bundle as video encourages you to, and it’s striking that it wasn’t just the increasing sophistication of the viewing fans that has led to Kinda’s shocking turnaround. It was the ‘poor part 4’ effect at work in a devastating way when we first watched it.

Oddly, watching Kinda episodically, I’m also struck that it isn’t a Tegan story at all – more of an Adric story. He has quite a lot to do throughout the whole story (though achieving little, at least he only pretends to side with the villain this time. Clearly Hindle responds to another boy to play with), while her strong role in the first two parts vanishes almost completely later. She is superb when oppressed and then possessed by Dukkha (though an effective ‘rape’ scene apparently unlocking her sensuality is an unpleasantly disturbing message), but her appearance in part 3 is just that. Aris merely steps over her unconscious body at one point, and she neither moves nor speaks in a ‘blink and you’ll miss her’ cameo. As all the companions are buried way down in the cast list to start with, it seems particularly unfair on Matthew Waterhouse that he still gets later (and shared) billing than Janet Fielding for part 3, and that Sarah Sutton gets no billing at all for the middle episodes.

My other reason for recently re-evaluating Kinda is that I’ve now read the book that’s said to be one of its main sources, Ursula Le Guin’s The Word for World is Forest. Now, this isn’t a story that can simply be explained by reference to any one of the mountain of references it makes, whether Judaeo-Christian Garden of Eden symbolism, Buddhist analogies or Vietnam-era sci-fi. However, as the Buddhism’s been written about in great detail, I found comparisons with Le Guin’s book intriguing, and they helped crystallise why I don’t think Kinda is quite as clever as many take it to be – or quite as enjoyable.

Despite some clear similarities in the setup, including a sophisticated sexual division of labour in the ‘primitives’, idiot (‘insane’) colonial military leavened by a sympathetic anthropologist, and dreaming, sophisticated ‘primitives’ (as well as blatant nods like Planet S14 in Kinda for World 41 in the book, Aris’ captive brother for Selver’s enslaved and murdered wife, or ILF – ‘Intelligent Life Form’ – for ‘hilf’ – ‘High Intelligence Life Form’), the story itself has remarkably little in common with The Word For World is Forest. Quite funny that the villain of the book is Captain Davidson, though, as it’s of course the Doctor who enables the snake to enter Eden! Kinda is far less successful in getting across an idea of the local people as sophisticated – with the dubious exception of Panna and the double helix jewellery, it’s merely told, rather than shown. How do they have access to molecular biology? On the face of it, nicking the necklaces from an alien spaceship crashed in the jungle would be more logical an explanation. Shouldn’t we have had some shared dreaming, or something to put the Box of Jhana in context? Instead, *these* ‘primitives’ are really telepathic, which even the Mara correctly notes is a very boring way to communicate. 

Instead of evidence of intelligent thought, the Kinda (surely everyone in this story bar the Doctor, Todd and Panna are just that – ‘children’?) follow Aris like sheep, and flee after a ludicrous attack on the Dome using a TSS-style ‘wicker man’ (instead, Selver’s attacks on the Terrans use their own bombs against them, as well as showing the lethal effectiveness of ‘primitive’ weapons. The Kinda merely appear stupid). Of course, the whole effect is engineered by the Mara to bring about their misery, but instead of a powerful, co-dependent, co-defending (“the dreaming of an unshared mind”) group intelligence, they merely combine into a herd. This is especially obvious in contrast with Aris and Panna / Karuna, who are intelligent and resourceful because they are individuals. The extremely collectivist ideological slant of the story is objectionable both because it isn’t to my personal taste anyway, and because the author’s clear wish to impose it on us has not led him to consider whether it works – in the context of the story, it doesn’t, and it fails even to make an attractive case. It seems not only philosophically disagreeable, but artistically unsuccessful. 

The message that progress is horrid and only leads to destruction, and that people are much better off as happy sheep, is despairingly poor. Even the ‘dangers of progress and exploration’ message of The Green Death, for example (which I rather like), is leavened by the saving grace of individuality. Even that other anti-questioning Buddhist parable, Planet of the Spiders, notices the danger of not having a mind of your own as well as of unrestrained ego. Again unlike The Word For World is Forest, which shows the destructive effect of progress on the Athshean culture, Kinda is a zero-sum game – there has been no effect on the tribe by the end; again, intelligent life is changed by experience, while the Kinda appear like drones. 

Perhaps Christopher Bailey should have read the author’s Introductions to The Word for World is Forest. Le Guin talks of art as the pursuit of liberty, ‘escapist’ from reality into the freedom of imagination. She also warns of the power an artist has over their characters leaching into desire for the power to influence other people. “The desire for power, in the sense of power over others, is what pulls most people off the path of the pursuit of liberty,” she warns, and notes that when artists believe they can do good to other people, they forget about liberty and start to preach. Bailey has failed to heed her warning, and has been “inextricably confusing ideas with opinions”.

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'Kinda' looks awful. The sets are horribly cheap looking and obviously studio bound, the jungle set being arguably the worst to appear in the series since 'Planet of the Daleks', with the actual studio floor painfully in evidence throughout. The sets used for the Dome are no better, composed of tacky looking plastic and metal components that appear to have been bought on the cheap from a DIY store. The costumes are even worse; the Kinda costumes seem to have been cobbled together from spare curtains and table cloth, and Sanders' colonial outfit, complete with pith helmet, is woefully unsubtle, as though trying to beat the viewer over the head with the colonial aspect of the script. The snake is positively notorious, an enormous inflatable toy that is the low point of the already cheap production; The Discontinuity Guide tries to excuse it by suggesting that since the Mara is a creature of false fears, its realization as a poor origami monster is appropriate, but this smacks somewhat of desperate optimism. But 'Kinda' is unique; it is the only story in Doctor Who's entire run where the production values are so poor that I am constantly aware of them throughout, but still manage to become utterly engrossed in the story. Because 'Kinda' has an astonishing script, and the full promise of this is delivered upon superbly by an astonishing cast. 

There is much to enjoy in 'Kinda'. I know next to nothing about Buddhism, but it is well known that 'Kinda' is full of Buddhist references. I am informed that one of the most significant of these is the Wheel of Life, a concept deployed skillfully to show that supposedly primitive Kinda are in fact far more sophisticated than they seem to be. The sequence at the end of Episode Three in which Panna gives the Doctor and Todd a vision of what will happen if the Mara is not defeated is a captivating scene that director Peter Grimwade handles with great skill. Panna's talk of the Wheel turning and civilizations rising and falling demonstrates an understanding of time that impresses even the Doctor, and brings home to him the real danger on Deva Loka. Also used throughout are references to Christianity; Deva Loka is an obvious parallel to the Garden of Eden, with the Mara as the serpent in paradise. The script doesn't particularly comment on either Buddhism or Christianity, it simply draws upon them to add colour and depth to the plot. And of course there are other issues explored perhaps more familiar to Doctor Who, most notably colonialism; the patronizing attitude of the human survey team and the arrogance inherent in their intention to colonize a planet already inhabited is an old issue. The "standard procedure" of taking hostages is abominable, especially given the peaceful nature of the Kinda prior to that point, and Christopher Bailey quietly condemns this without drawing excessive attention to it. The well-meaning Todd, who has made vocal objections about this policy to Sanders, is given far more insight into how wrong it is when she herself is imprisoned by Hindle, to her obvious discomfort. Rather than having the Doctor point out that this is how the Kinda must have felt, the viewer is instead left to draw this conclusion him or herself. 

These sources and issues are, perhaps surprisingly, mere background however. The two main foci of the story are Hindle and the Mara. As Hindle, Simon Rouse is incredible. Hindle is not a villain; he is a man driven by a stressful situation to the very edge of his sanity, and over the edge into mental illness. Rouse plays the part utterly seriously, making for a captivating performance, as Hindle, rather than being some clichéd and unconvincing stock nutter, is by turns terrifying and pathetic. Whether telling the Doctor, Adric and Todd that he has the power of life and death over them all, or crying for his mummy when Sanders returns, or screaming for the lights to be turned back on when the Doctor opens the Box of Jhana, he commands the viewer's attention. The high point of the entire performance his is stricken "You can't mend people!" in Episode Four, just before he attempts to detonate the Dome, a scene so intense that it is difficult not to be unsettled by his anguish. The entire role could have been horribly over the top or silly in the hands of a lesser actor, but Rouse makes it live up to the promise of Bailey's script. Even more interesting though, is the effect Hindle has on the Doctor.

Lawrence Miles' controversial 'Interference' features a lengthy sequence in which the Doctor is imprisoned and tortured in a Saudi prison cell; he is unable to escape, or reason with his captors. It has been argued that one purpose of this sequence is to demonstrate why the Doctor is not used to battle real life evils, because he is ineffective in doing so. In the world of Doctor Who, it is possible to escape from a prison cell by tricking the guard into entering and then knocking him out with some handy crockery, whereas in real life it is not; place the Doctor into a gritty situation where he is for example trying to stop terrorists with no fantastical element thrown into the mix, and you are on very dodgy ground. This is of course largely a matter of opinion, but what interests me about this argument is that 'Kinda' goes some way to exploring it. Hindle is not some moustache twirling megalomaniac, but a man suffering from mental illness with all the unpredictability that that can bring. And the Doctor can't cope with him. He confesses to Todd that Hindle scares him, and whenever he tries to either humour or outwit Hindle he fails, because he can't second-guess him. Hindle swings from one attitude to another in the space of a heartbeat, and whenever the Doctor tries to relate to him he becomes frustrated at Hindle's unpredictability. In short, he proves unable to deal properly with a genuinely mad human. The Mara on the other hand is a creation purely of fantasy with no grounding in reality, and the Doctor deals with it relatively easily once he knows about it. He deals with the Mara with no sign of fear or discomfort, quickly identifying this foe and working out how to deal with it. Thus, as in 'Interference', he proves ineffective in dealing with a realistic human problem, but proves that he can always beat the monsters. 

The Mara itself makes for an interesting opponent, because it is so ill defined. We are told that the Mara inhabit the Dark Places of the Inside, that there are more than one of them, and that the Doctor has heard of the legend of them. We also learn that they can cross into the material universe through a solitary dreaming mind, in this case Tegan. This is actually very little information, which succeeds in making the Mara more mysterious and thus more disturbing. To this end, Bailey also leaves questions unanswered. When Tegan dreams in Episodes One and Two and becomes possessed, she meets Dukkha, Anicca, and Anatta, but exactly who or what they are is not explained. They could simply be three Mara, or they could be creations of the Mara to allow it to communicate with Tegan via a form that she might more easily interact with. On the other hand, there are other possibilities; The Television Companion cites a theory that they are products of Tegan's mind, presumably utilized by the Mara, and actually dark reflections of the Doctor, Nyssa, and Adric. Perhaps in support of this, when Tegan meets Anicca and Anatta, they are playing a board game, as where Nyssa and Adric in Episode One. Ultimately, this doesn't matter however. What is far more significant about these scenes is that they give Janet Fielding another opportunity to shine, as she is tormented by Dukkha until she reaches a point where she is so terrified that she agrees to let him use her body for a while. The allusion is obvious, and the scene powerful; Tegan's characteristic strong character is gradually whittled away by Dukkha's mind games, until she is simply terrified and surrenders to her captor, and Fielding portrays this extremely well. 

Tegan's dream sequences are also visually striking, and a great example of how Grimwade's direction helps the story to rise above the mediocrity of other aspects of the production. The effect of opening the Box of Jhana, the sequence with the clocks at the end of Episode Three, and the harshly lit dream sequences all drag the attention away from the cheap jungle set and into the story proper. The first-rate acting on display is also responsible for this. Richard Todd as Sanders and Nerys Hughes as Todd both put in excellent performances, and Sanders' transformation from belligerent military cliché to child-like wonder is especially well realized. Also worthy of particular note is the late, great Mary Morris, a figure familiar to fans of British telefantasy for her roles as Madeleine Dawnay in the legendary science fiction series A For Andromeda and its sequel The Andromeda Breakthrough, as well as Number Two in the Prisoner episode 'Dance of the Dead'. Her performance as Panna conveys an air of ancient wisdom, although is perhaps more memorable for constantly describing the Doctor as an idiot. Speaking of the Doctor, Davison is great here, capturing the Doctor's discomfort with Hindle and his confidence in defeating the Mara with equal skill. 

With Sarah Sutton virtually absent from 'Kinda' due to Nyssa being sidelined by a contrived illness, Adric and Tegan are again given more to do. Tegan I've already discussed, Adric I can hardly bear to. The character degenerates still further, becoming less and less likeable with each passing story, especially in Episode Four when he and Tegan argue outside the Dome. It doesn't help that it is difficult to distinguish between disliking Adric and disliking Waterhouse, whose ham-fisted performance throughout makes the character even more irritating than he might otherwise be. He's positively ghastly when Adric is trying to humour Hindle, although the fact that Adric's refusal to play Hindle's game nearly gets the Dome blown up before Sanders intercedes contributes to making the character equally ghastly. Given that Adric is a member of the TARDIS crew at this period however, his utterly loathsome presence cannot be blamed on Christopher Bailey and the fact remains that 'Kinda' is a remarkable Doctor Who story.

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Kinda is remembered as, in a nutshell, “that story everyone used to think was rubbish in 1982 and now thinks is brilliant”. Well, I wasn’t born in 1982 and my first memory of it is watching it after having had some teeth extracted when I was eleven. It’s rather a strange story anyway: imagine what it’s like under the effect of laughing gas. Ten years later I can safely say that all traces of the anaesthetic has worn off and so I can say that Kinda is one of my very favourite stories. Christopher Bailey has gone for the interesting but risky option of presenting the subtexts as what are important rather than the surface details, while refraining from explaining these subtexts in too much detail. This style of storytelling requires a very active viewer; it has taken me a couple of dozen viewings over the last decade for me to really get to grips with it. While then if I just want to pig out with a slice of cake I’ll watch The Androids Of Tara, when I can be bothered to put the effort in it is completely worth it.

The first aspect of the story that’s immediately obvious is the much-criticised set design. To be honest, I never had too much of a problem with it. I admit that the jungle set never looks like a real jungle but I think it serves its purpose, mainly because set designer Malcolm Thornton has stuck to standard plant designs and hasn’t been over-ambitious and presented pedal-bins with eyes like in Planet Of The Daleks. That and I’ve always been rather partial to the colour green, so I’m biased. The studio sets also get criticised for being too plain, but in every case there’s always a splash of colour somewhere to provide some kind of interest, like the jungle out of a window or the psychedelic equipment in the control room. It works well, and I’ll take it over the garish studios of many other 1980s stories.

The introductory scenes are a problem for a lot of stories, as the writers struggle to sustain them without the benefit of their plot to centre them around. The dialogue in the base in these early scenes is slightly stilted, with Todd explaining to Sanders what he already knows – a scene rescued by Sanders’s anger at being told useless information. What helps though is that Simon Rouse, Richard Todd and Nerys Hughes (apparently she gets more fan-mail for this than she does for The Liver Birds) are three terrific actors, and in fact quite show up the regulars when they arrive. Tegan, Nyssa and Adric are possibly the worst combination of companions ever (although I never hated Sarah Sutton), and in this story all three of them are sidelined to an extent: Sutton is written out almost entirely, Janet Fielding gets no lines for an episode and a half despite it being “her story”, and Matthew Waterhouse spends the whole time moping about getting screamed at by Rouse. Also, it’s funny this season watching Eric Saward write out the sonic screwdriver at every available opportunity.

Well, yes, the costumes are a commentary on colonialism. Is it possible to be too obvious simply through the medium of clothes? While it’s hardly subtle though the subtext is never dwelt upon; there are no “blobs” speeches, and the natives aren’t named after a parody of the colonial word for Africans (The Mutants). As far as I’m concerned, that’s the right kind of subtext. The only thing that threatens to push it over the edge is the stereotypical blustering leader – although he soon changes. There is a good dynamic here, in that the expedition is falling to pieces and only Todd can see this properly.

The chimes are enigmatic and assisted by some beautiful sound effects and one of the most hauntingly effective scores of the decade, and electronic music has to be very special to earn praise from me. I would like no know though how they were made, especially since this question is asked in the script but never actually answered. 

The TSS is rather comical on its first appearance, lurching about all by itself, but it does lead to a good scene where the Doctor and Adric are introduced to the colonists. Sanders’s casual mention of “the hostages” is a very effective commentary on the 19th British attitude to the foreign other, but in a time where social concerns are very much rooted in the here and now it is strange to think that Bailey would pass comment on ideas then a century out of date. Also, Sanders’s constant repetition of “they’re just ignorant savages” is overdoing it. The Helix design is very interesting, with this episode effectively building tension by first introducing the Kinda as what they appear to be on the surface and then gradually introducing elements that don’t fit Sanders’s simplistic pattern.

The scenes set in the dark places of the inside are some of my favourites ever (seriously, nitrous oxide is the only way to see this story). The chess scene in particular is one of my favourites; it is the scene I immediately think of when asked to come up with an example of how well written the programme can be, and it is helped by the spooky, macabre performances of Anna Wing and Roger Milner. Also, the sudden appearance of Dukkha is one of the show’s few genuine jump-moments, while demonstrating how well lit these scenes are: the lighting is deliberately contrast-heavy so that some parts of the picture are overlit while others are in shadow, creating a very surreal ambience. Also, because it’s the kind of story that allows for it, unexplained elements such as the strange structure and the possibility that the Mara might be a representation of something else give rise to some serious possibilities for in-depth analysis that I won’t go into here, this being an evaluative review.

Mary Morris as Panna is also a good actress, although Sarah Prince as Karuna is a real weak link; her characterisation as a whiner, coupled with the tooth-bursting pitch of her voice, is something I find intensely annoying. Hindle’s final rant at the end of the first episode seems like a ham-overdose, and it is only now that the very sophisticated writing allows Rouse to show just how good an actor he is. His madness is very subtle: not in acting terms, but in its writing. Small details like his desire to see the Kinda’s fingernails, and his blending of serious issues such as the base’s destruction with minor issues such as the need to hold a rolled-up chart in place of a cane, make this some of the best written insanity characterisation that I can immediately think of. The indications of his paranoia are very convincing, and his sudden bouts of childlike ranting are very frightening to watch.

The Box of Jhana is introduced well: the immediate implication is that it was responsible for the expedition’s previous disappearances, so that Sander’s subsequent reappearance is a real surprise.

The possession of Tegan is a good scene although let down by poor acting, and much as I would defend the set design in this story I have to say that tree is abominable, like part of an adventure playground. It may be an old joke, but if you asked me to point to something wooden it wouldn’t be the tree that springs to mind. Oh, and you can also see Adrian Mills’s fillings, which made me laugh.

The second episode’s cliffhanger is an absolute knockout, although it does turn out to be a deliberate false scare; while appropriate to the narrative it does come as a bit of a let down. That said, if it didn’t get people watching next week then nothing would, and I suppose that was the point. After this however we get to see the Box of Jhana’s full properties: let’s face it, it’s a massive piece of deus ex machina, one of my pet hates in any kind of fiction. It is responsible for the shift in the character dynamic that is so important to the story, it allows the Doctor and Todd to escape (and even gives them a place to escape to) and thereby drive the story into its second half, and is even part responsible for the resolution of the story. Thankfully the extremely impressive presentation, a half-proper explanation for it and the fact that it is introduced gradually rather than thrust upon us at the end stays off the otherwise huge sense of disappointment that I usually feel about this sort of thing. In fact, I quite like it, and all is forgiven at the end (I’ll explain later*).

The Trickster scene is actually quite grotesque and spooky in the very unsettling concept of this story. The Mara-possessed Aris turns up at this point and is frankly a bit of a let down. He rants and raves with the best of them, and is a very ordinary villain in this most extraordinary of stories. The set falls down again here too, as the crinkles and creases in the painted backdrop are clearly visible.

The exposition in this episode is hard to spot, as the plot elements are left to speak for themselves. Even as a nipper, although I had to think quite hard, I never really had too much of a problem with the plot. At this stage only the fine details require filling in. Even the explanation of the Mara doesn't say anything too obvious; it doesn't need to.

The dream sequence is truly amazing, and shows what an innovative director Peter Grimwade was. However, they picked the wrong moment for the cliffhanger: the “it’s the end of everything line” would have been perfect, but instead they bisect the following scene thus requiring a gigantic reprise for episode four. This provides the story’s only really confusing moment where the balance between adequate explanations and subtlety is misjudged; how will attacking the dome help the Mara? After wracking my brain I came up with the theory that the Mara would feed of the ensuing negative emotions, which would seem to fit with Snakedance, but I feel it should have been made clearer here. Mary Morris provides the story’s only casualty here (the missing members of the expedition are only referred to): you’d think that in such a creepy story a 10% mortality rate would seem odd, but it doesn’t as it isn’t creepy in that way.

The crushing of the doll is a surprisingly poignant moment – it’s heartbreaking to watch the Trickster drop to his knees – and I wonder if it’s significant to the Kinda’s eventual revolt against Aris. The attack on the TSS isn’t brilliantly executed, although it is very interesting to watch the Kinda’s attempts to match this alien technology. When the Doctor tries to reassure Adric, it is funny to watch Adrian Mills in the background watching that tiny flame on his wooden frame with an expression of intense anxiety. Also, Matthew Waterhouse is terrible; it’s disappointing to say that as he’d spent the story in a kind of low-grade naffness that he might just have got away with.

The “you can’t mend people” scene is probably the season’s most iconic outside of Earthshock, and deservedly so as it shows Rouse on absolute full throttle. Here is where the contrivance of the Box of Jhana is forgiven, as Todd has to work hard to convince Hindle to open it. What I love about it is that the solution has been present all this time, but nobody’s been able to actually implement it. A contrivance that can’t be used puts a very interesting spin on the whole idea.

The mirror finale, however, treads some seriously dodgy ground. Conceptually speaking the Mara is one of the best monsters ever (a shame I can’t say that about the visuals), but the idea that it soils itself at its own reaction undermines its power somewhat. The Mara’s relationship with mirrors had to be altered fairly significantly for the sequel, as well. The snake prop does look stupid, in fact almost indefensible, but in a story with so much going for it it’s a drop in the ocean. Plus, I think Grimwade deserves respect for not getting any piece of studio equipment reflected in the mirrors. The final scene is also good, with a pleasant goodbye scene that contains some real life-affirming comments while going easy on the sentiment.

Kinda is a stunning story, to the extent that the rumour that it was written by Tom Stoppard actually sounds half believable (the one about Kate Bush is a bit more of a stretch, however). Its rich themes and narrative depths reach levels other stories can only aspire to, especially given that they are delivered with such style and , on the whole, shrewdness. I consider it the best Davison and one of the half-dozen best stories of the 1980s; it sits comfortably in my all time top ten, in fact. 

*I’ve waited so long to say that.

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