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 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 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.
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”.