Getting to know Who: Snakedance

By Christopher Allen

In Doctor Who’s twentieth season, producer John Nathan-Turner wanted to celebrate the show’s history by featuring an element from the past in all the adventures. In Snakedance it was a monster of pure greed and hatred from the previous year – the Mara.


Fifth, in his second season.


Tegan, who has just rejoined the TARDIS crew after a brief hiatus, and Nyssa.


Tegan pilots the TARDIS to the Mara’s homeworld on the 500th anniversary of its banishment. As the celebrations gather pace, Tegan is overwhelmed by the Mara once more, and no one believes anything the Doctor has to say…

The story so far…

  • The Mara was first encountered the in previous year’s Kinda. Set on the paradise planet Deva Loka, the Mara infiltrates the mind of the sleeping Tegan, and through a series of disturbing visions, took her body over. The Doctor was able to trap the creature once it took corporeal form as a snake, in a circle of mirrors.
  • As we learn in Snakedance, the Mara was accidentally created on Manussa hundreds of years previously, as a creature synthesized from the pure greed and hatred in people.
  • Watch out for Elisabeth Sladen’s husband Brian Miller as Dugdale the showman, and a young Martin Clunes as Lon.

Best bit:



Key quote:

The Doctor: What is the Snake Dance?
Dojjen: This is. Here and now. The dance goes on. It is all the dance, everywhere and always. So, find the still point. Only then can the Mara be defeated.

Why it’s worth a watch

Often overshadowed by its big sister, Snakedance is actually a better Doctor Who adventure than Kinda. Where Kinda is tour de force of disturbing images, let down by a rubber snake, a confusing story and a plastic forest in Television Centre, Snakedance manages to construct a believable alien culture, political system and religion. It’s populated by interesting characters and finds a menace in the Mara that outshines many other threats of the era. Writer Christopher Bailey builds on the theological ideas from Kinda and refines them, retaining their magic but not at the expense of plot. Janet Fielding once more turns in a fabulous performance as the possessed Tegan, especially in the cliffhangers to episodes 1 and 3. And as stated in The Discontinuity Guide, it’s refreshing to “see the Doctor as others see him, a raving idiot with no justification for his wild claims of world destruction”.


Read more about Snakedance at the BBC Doctor Who website, or get to know more key Doctor Who adventures.

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