Mara Tales is one of the more obvious box set releases from the BBC, containing two stories centering on the snake-like Mara which feeds on its victimâ€™s fear. As this is a two story set the review will broken into two.
First up is Kinda which has been slightly tweaked and contains the option to view the effects from part 4 with new CGI effects. But I have to ask, do we really need them?
On a beautiful planet, Deva Loka, the inhabitants, the Kinda are a gentle and seemingly primitive people. On the surface, a perfect place to colonise. But if it is so perfect, why are the colonisation team disappearing one by one? Unaware of this, the Doctor and his companions choose to rest on Deva Loka. Enchanted by the beautiful chimes, â€œthe place of dreamsâ€, Tegan sleeps and falls prey to the Mara, a malevolent force out to steal her mind. But just what are its ultimate evil intentions?
Kinda was one of the strongest stories from Davisonâ€™s reign and benefits from a tight ensemble cast and a director who really does give the story the dramatic care its needs, even if it is slightly confusing at times. The strong Buddhist theme is gradually played throughout but also look out for nods to Christianity too. The Doctor takes a backseat as Tegan becomes the focal point for the story. As Tegan is taken over, Fielding for the first time gets the chance to really get her teeth into a script and although her original more sensual take on the characterâ€™s possession was toned down for transmission you still get a hint of what they were aiming at.
The Kinda race rise above the normal Doctor Who â€œpeople with a dark secretâ€ clichÃ©d existence and have an air of mystery to them thatâ€™s less predictable than usual.
The supporting cast are just superb. Nerys Hughes overcomes her sit-com origins and gives Todd a real human touch. Hereâ€™s a woman who is smart and educated yet open to ideas and alone on an alien planet. Richard Todd as stuffy Sanders plays, at first, his usual stiff-upper-lip sort of chap but as the story progresses he becomes unpredictable and childish. A brilliant performance. Star turn comes from Simon Rouse who plays Hindle, his â€œyou canâ€™t mend peopleâ€ rant is stirring and his descent into madness is emotional and compelling.
The story is let down slightly by the set which is over lit and the Mara itself which instead of being menacing is just an obvious puppet. This edition has the option to watch a CGI version of the Mara and for once this is a welcome addition and enhances the climax of the story.
Extras Disc 1:
Commentary â€“ Peter Davison, Janet Fielding, Matthew Waterhouse and Nerys Hughes all contribute to a rather fun gag-track. Davison is always value for money and Fielding is very open about the recording of the story but Hughes and Waterhouse also contribute much to this.
Dream Time â€“ Most of the cast and crew and new series writer Robert Sherman reflect on the making of this stand-out story from the Davison era. All three script writers that were attached to it along its production speak out and itâ€™s interesting to learn of the working relationship between Eric Saward and writer Christopher Bailey. The infamous tale of Waterhouse and the advice he gave to screen legend Richard Todd is stuff of TV legend and great to hear it again.
Peter Grimwade: Directing With Attitude â€“ Now hereâ€™s a warm celebration of the work of one of the shows finest directors. Presented by Mark Strickson and using archive interview footage of Grimwade, it charts his work on Z Cars and how, as a matter of routine he ended up doing various jobs on Doctor Who. Best bit is learning that Tom Baker put a line in Robots Of Death in celebration of him, can you guess which one? But this is about his directing work on Doctor Who and his wonderful first adventure as director on Full Circle signalled just how much he â€œgotâ€ the show. A fantastic extra that could have easily been much longer.
Deleted And Extended Scenes â€“ Now hereâ€™s one for the hardcore fans, a collection of sequences taken from time-coded domestic videotape copies from the early edits of the story. A great selection
Optional CGI Effects Sequence â€“ The option to view new CGI effects for the Mara on episode 4 can be chosen here. Now Iâ€™m not usually a fan of such things but here itâ€™s done so sensitively that it really does work and is far better then the puppet used in the original version.
CGI Effects Comparison – As the original effects play as default on this disc hereâ€™s the chance to view them both side-by-side. Itâ€™s an excellent effect and well worth watching.
Trails & Continuity â€“ Retro heaven as we view the original announcements from when the serial was originally broadcast. Was the BBC really this posh in 1982?
Photo Gallery â€“ A selection of production snaps from the story. One for fans curious to see what goes on behind the scenes.
Isolated Music â€“ The option to listen to Peter Howellâ€™s score without interference of dialogue and sound effects is here. It is, at times, slightly hypnotic, littered with strange chimes and echoing musical stabs.
Subtitle Production Notes – Always worth a look, these gems of information are that bit of extra value that make the Doctor Who range so worthy to fans.
Coming Soon â€“ A cracking trailer for the Revisitations 2 box-set which is due in a few months. This really is a work of art and needs to be watched a number of times to fully appreciate the care thatâ€™s gone into it.
So then, Kinda still stands up as one of the highlights of Davisonâ€™s tenure, letâ€™s hope disc 2 – which contains the sequel Snakedance - can do the same.
Set for release on March 7th 2011 and with an RRP of Â£29.99, Mara Tales can be preordered from Amazon for just Â£17.93!