Snakedance : Part 4
Broadcast on January 26th 1983 @ 6.45pm (7.4 million viewers)
Continuing the trend for the celebratory Twentieth season of Doctor Who, another villainous entity would return to do battle with the Doctor and in this instance come back to haunt one of his companions in particular. Following the success of the stunningly surreal ‘Kinda’ writer Christopher Bailey was commissioned to write a sequel. Building on similar themes, Bailey relocated the adventure to the planet Manussa with a great crystal providing the key to the Mara’s attempts to return to the physical universe.
This episode opens with a replay of the previous cliffhanger with Sarah Sutton delivering an astonishing scream, unsuited to her character on the mere sight of a guard drawing his sword and being an occasion where the break between episodes proved to be an inconvenience to the drama. Janet Fielding on the other hand shines in the dual roles of Tegan and the same character when under the control of the Mara. Another actor dominating the screen is Martin Clunes, long before the fame he would acquire with roles in ‘Men Behaving Badly’ and ‘Doc Martin’, although sadly inflicted with a truly astonishing costume seen in this episode. Other notable actor appearances include Johnathon Morris who would appear in Scouse comedy ‘Bread’ and Brian Miller, husband of iconic Doctor Who companion Elisabeth Sladen. The strength of the cast and their consistent performances achieved under the direction of Fiona Cumming, demonstrate her solid casting skills and ability to work with actors.
‘Snakedance’ is a particularly rich story visually with lush marketplaces, dimly lit caves and desert plains. The snake imagery is also more successful and convincing than the previous year, particularly with the snake at the climax which had been somewhat of a let down in ‘Kinda’, and also the scene in which a snake bites Dojjen and the Doctor feels very real, achieved by facial reactions instead of gratuitous shots of teeth sinking into the skin.
It is not often that the Doctor was allowed to put his arm around one of his companions for fear of critics and tabloid writers alluding to a sexual relationship on board the TARDIS but this episode provides one such occasion. After another harrowing ordeal of being controlled by the Mara once again Tegan is reduced to tears, clearly shaken by the experience. The final line of the story “The Mara has been destroyed”, could easily have been a triumphant declaration of another victory for the Time Lord. Instead, viewers are left reeling by seeing a much-loved companion sobbing and it breaks our hearts.
Also first aired On This Day…
- Invasion of the Dinosaurs : Part 3
- Four to Doomsday : Part 4
- Frontios : Part 1
- Vengeance on Varos : Part 2