Doctor Who: Kinda – Written by Terrance Dicks & Read by Janet Fielding (BBC Audio)

There were seldom occasions in Classic Doctor Who when a companion was so thoroughly front and centre of the storytelling as Janet Fielding’s Tegan Jovanka was in Kinda, originally written for the screen by Christopher Bailey.

Perhaps The Green Death for Jo Grant and The Hand of Fear for Sarah Jane Smith would qualify, but both of those were valedictory final stories for beloved companions.

Kinda was just the third story to feature Peter Davison’s Fifth Doctor in the series – Fielding’s Tegan would continue in the show for another two seasons, till very nearly the end of Davison’s own time on Doctor Who.

But Kinda was remarkable not only for the amount of focus it put on Tegan, but also for its surprisingly dark themes and its sense of visual esotericism. 

The story is set on what is explicitly described as a “paradise” world, Deva Loka. On the surface, Deva Loka is entirely benevolent – its climate is perfect and stable, its fruit trees are endlessly replenishing, and its local inhabitants, the Kinda, are both unassuming and mostly mute.

Mostly, that is, because most of them are male, and the tribe communicates by telepathy and shared dreaming (one almost dreads to think of the life of the largely unseen Kinda women…). They’re a mostly idealised indigenous population, with a couple of wise women – one old, one young – who “have voice,” the mark of authority and wisdom among the tribe.

Into such a world has come a bunch of Earthlings on a mission to find a new colony world to alleviate the overcrowding on their own planet.

And some of them have gone unaccountably missing.

When the Tardis team turn up, only three survive – Sanders, a gruff older military man, Hindle, a desperately nervy young soldier on the very edge of a nervous breakdown, and Todd, an entirely stable medic and scientist – notably the only surviving woman on the team. It’s standard procedure for the colonists to take a handful of hostages when they set up a base anywhere, so these three are served by a couple of mute Kinda. 

Into all this potential colonial drama wander The Doctor, Nyssa, Tegan, and Adric. Bailey, in fairness to the fullness of his script, immediately retires Nyssa with nervous exhaustion, and she literally sleeps the adventure away in induced delta-wave unconsciousness.

One down…

Ironically, considering she’s a large part of the focus of the story, Tegan spends a good portion of it asleep too – around two days, we’re later told. But in Tegan’s dreams, she finds herself in a black and white nightmare realm, ruled over by a handful of Mara, with one in particular keen to taunt and torment her.

The Mara, it turns out, are creatures of the dark places of the mind, marked out by a tattoo of a snake. Through Tegan’s adventures in the dreamstate, she agrees to let her particular Mara (Dhukka, played on-screen with marvellous malice by Jeff Stewart, later of The Bill) possess her body for a while in return for letting her wake up.

She returns to the world of the wakeful, fully possessed, and soon transfers her Mara tattoo to an angry young man of the Kinda, Arris, who leads a futile attack on the colonists’ dome.

Meanwhile, Sanders has been turned into a childlike simpleton by a kind of Kinda “magic,” and Hindle’s mind has absolutely snapped, leading him to wire up the colonists’ dome to explode and kill them all if anything tries to break in. By which he means “Spores. Seeds. Elements of propagation…” – let alone a bunch of hairy-arsed local blokes whipped up for war by Arris – who now “has voice” and authority, albeit the authority and the voice of the Mara within.

Did we mention Bailey’s plot was a lot?

That’s barely half of it – there’s a whole sub-plot about the circular wheel of time and adventures with a wearable robot, too. And probably the least said about the climax with a giant Eighties BBC Budget inflatable snake the better.

The point is, there’s a lot of layering and depth to Kinda – which makes it almost a shame that the novelization was given to Terrance Dicks.

Dicks was by all means one of the most faithful and workmanlike of Target novelizers, and it’s not as if at any point he fails to render the complexity of what appeared on screen. It’s just that, with a script like Kinda, that’s all he feels empowered to do. There would have been ways of enriching the piece, but they would have belonged to Chrisopher Bailey, and in the absence of his own version of the Kinda novelization, Dicks is left to simply print the legend. 

He does of course do that in a spectacularly competent style – the deeply ropey snake effect, for instance, is rendered with exactly as much terror as it should have had, rather than as much terror as it did have, which was none at all.

And having access to the script, he renders the dialogue more or less faithfully. Which in a story like Kinda is important, because it was a story absolutely crammed with acting talent. Richard Todd, Neys Hughes, Jeff Stewart, Simon Rouse, Mary Morris and more helped bring the story to life on screen, and Stewart and Rouse in particular excelled themselves, bringing both the danger of an unhinged mind in the case of Rouse’s Hindle and the desperate longing for chaos in the case of Stewart’s Mara.


That’s where the audiobook struggles.

We said at the start that there was only rarely a story in Classic Who that focused so sincerely on one companion as Kinda does. That means it’s only right that Janet Fielding should get reading duties on the audio.

But when you have a cast as vocally varied as the one that made up Kinda, you’re always going to struggle to bring them to life unless, for instance, you give the reading gig to a professional impressionist. Jon Culshaw, to name but one, could have done quite a job on the key roles here, including Hindle, Arris and the Mara. His Tegan wouldn’t have been half bad either, as listeners to the novelization of The Five Doctors could attest.

Janet Fielding is perfectly brilliant at her job. But the variety of voices that really made Kinda work on screen is too tall an order here, meaning that her Mara sounds more like a sulky teenager than an ultimate power of mental malice. Her Arris too turns more wheedling than roaring. She does, in fairness, deliver reasonable versions of Todd, Pana and Karuna (the wise women of the Kinda), but in terms of delivering Simon Rouse’s powerhouse performance as Hindle, it’s not there.

To be again absolutely fair, Rouse’s Hindle is almost insanely good in the TV version – brittle, broken, and barking mad by turns, he’s an absolute dynamo that powers the story through what, in the wrong hands, could be a fairly dull-feeling environment.

His power as a performer makes sure it’s never dull, but in the reading, Fielding can’t get there (largely because the original performance is so powerful as to be extraordinary).

That leaves the audiobook of Kinda feeling a more patchy and disconnected affair than the TV version ever does – despite the TV version having a slightly less firm grip on its narrative push from start to finish.

Does that mean you shouldn’t listen to it?

Dear gods, no – Kinda will always be a high point of Fifth Doctor adventuring, and one of the key realizations you get from it is quite how different Peter Davison’s incarnation is from what went immediately before it. The Mara remains a deeply creep concept, and the audiobook at least spares you the deflation point of the BBC blow-up snake at the end, so you can enjoy the adventure all the way through with Fielding’s guidance.

All it means is that the vocal and performative range that made the on-screen version come alive is a touch muted in the audiobook version, which is very much a reading, rather than a performance as such.

You might wonder about the version that would have been possible in the hands (and throat) of a Jon Culshaw, but ultimately, the audiobook of Kinda stands up well to memory and pulls you firmly through its narrative all the way to its bizarre but interesting conclusion.

That’s worth an audio credit of anyone’s money. Tony Fyler

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