Kinda was the third story of season 19 of Doctor Who. It featured mainly Tegan and Adric alongside the Fifth Doctor. Narratively, it was an especially important story for Tegan, as it established a villain, the Mara, particularly interested in her. The Mara would later return to plague Tegan in other performed Doctor Who stories. (TV: Snakedance and AUDIO: The Cradle of the Snake)
In 1982, it was a serial that wasn’t well liked among the Doctor Who fans who participated in the Doctor Who Monthly (later known as Doctor Who Magazine) season poll. It ranked dead last amongst the season’s stories, although the Mara, Dukkha, Hindle, and Todd were all well liked enough to be runners-up in their respective “favorite character” categories. It has gradually seen its status rise over the years, and has vocal champions like Steven Moffat and Robert Shearman amongst the BBC Wales production team, and 2010s writer of DWM, Big Finish and BBC Books Jonathan Morris. In a larger poll done in 2009, respondents to DWM placed it 69th out of the then-200 Doctor Who stories that had been made — almost a full 60 positions higher than its sequel, Snakedance. A similar DWM poll in 2014 ranked it 63rd out of the 241 Doctor Who stories from the show’s first fifty years and the second most popular season 19 story barring Earthshock. Whatever the fan opinion, Kinda was something contemporary British critics appreciated. The National Film Archive purchased it soon after its broadcast as “an example of the program at its best”.
Kinda, however, was remarkable for reasons other than its reception.
Kinda was the first occasion since the show had started filming in color that a companion was absent from the narrative for an entire episode. Generally, this happened in the monochromatic era because an actor needed to take a holiday from the nearly year-long production schedule that was then the norm. In this instance, however, Nyssa’s absence was more akin to Jamie’s in The Moonbase: the scripts had simply been completed by the writer before the new companion had been cast. Thus, just as Jamie McCrimmon was “ill” for large parts of The Moonbase, Nyssa fainted in episode 1 of Kinda and re-emerged after a restorative TARDIS nap in episode 4.
Kinda was also responsible for a bit of a revolution in the way that Doctor Who was made. On the positive side, it featured some of the then-latest Quantel effects for the trip through Tegan’s eye. On the negative, it was plagued by studio problems with camera flare that eroded the five-day studio schedule to the point that there was no time left for some of director Peter Grimwade’s more innovative shots. The chief casualty was the depiction of the Mara’s snake form in episode four. This was originally to have been achieved in a completely different manner, but the time crunch meant that Grimwade had to resort to a less-than-convincing puppet. Still, this disaster would allow the program to push for, and get, a six-day recording block in future.
A small human expedition has established a domed base on the tranquil jungle planet of Deva Loka to determine its suitability for colonization, but all is not well. Four members of the team have disappeared, leaving only the overbearing commander Sanders, his second Hindle, and the scientist Todd. Todd’s warning to Sanders that he’s pushing Hindle to the point of a nervous breakdown go unheeded. Hindle suspects that the native humanoid population, the apparently peaceful and primitive Kinda, are responsible for the disappearances, and is holding two males as hostages.
The TARDIS arrives on Deva Loka. Nyssa is still unsteady after recent events aboard the Urbankan ship (in TV: Four to Doomsday), and the Fifth Doctor builds her a delta wave augmenter to help her relax. He, Adric and Tegan explore the jungle and discover a clearing lined with crystalline wind chimes. The Doctor is surprised; the chimes are set up in harmonics, suggesting the presence of intelligent life. While Tegan rests under the wind chimes, Adric and the Doctor find an empty Total Survival Suit (TSS) nearby, a machine built for a standing human to travel. The door to the machine is open but its operator is nowhere to be found. When Adric impulsively closes the machine’s door, it activates and marches the Doctor and Adric to the dome.
Tegan, meanwhile, falls into a deep sleep as the chimes appear to have a hypnotic effect. Her consciousness is transported to a black void. She encounters an elderly couple playing a board game. They refuse to acknowledge that she exists. She encounters Dukkha, who appears to be the spokesman for a sinister entity. All three have the same mark of a snake on their forearms. Dukkha confronts her with paradoxes of existence; he splits her into two beings and orders them to argue which one is real.
At the Dome, the Doctor and Adric are treated with suspicion. Todd brings the Doctor to see the two Kinda hostages. The males are mute, but while Sanders and Hindle see this as evidence of primitive minds, Todd sees evidence of deeper intelligence. She muses that the Kinda are telepathic, and the ornaments they wear around their necks resemble a DNA double-helix. Outside the window, a lone Kinda male, Aris, watches.
Hindle, left alone with the two Kinda, holds up a mirror. Seeing their own faces in the reflection, they appear to believe that he has captured their souls and submit to his will.
Todd is appalled when Sanders announces his intention to explore the jungle in the TSS, leaving Hindle in command. Not only does she believe that Hindle is unstable, but all four of the missing expedition members disappeared the same way. Her fears about Hindle are immediately confirmed once Sanders leaves; flanked by his two armed Kinda servants, Hindle announces that he has the power of life and death over all of them.
Sanders, in his TSS, draws near to the Kinda village. Panna, the female shaman of the tribe, hears his approach and directs her acolyte Karuna to give him a small box she is holding – the male Kinda are mute but females can speak. Before Sanders comes near, Aris returns to his village in anguish. Panna instructs Karuna to read him telepathically. She senses great pain and anger in Aris, as one of the captured Kinda is his brother.
The Doctor, Adric, and Todd are locked in a cell while Hindle dresses his Kinda hostages in colonial uniforms. Meanwhile, Sanders draws nearer to Panna and Karuna. Karuna protests that it is dangerous for a male to take the box, but Panna is resolute. Karuna presents him with the box; Sanders takes it and is overcome by a psychic force.
Hindle, now even more unhinged, announces his intention to sterilize an area fifty miles around the dome, using fire and acid, believing the plant life of Deva Loka to be an enemy. Adric manages to persuade Hindle he’s on his side, then swipes the cell key. Unfortunately, his attempt to smuggle the key to the Doctor in the cell fails.
Tegan, still trapped in the void, is literally arguing with herself. Dukkha returns to taunt her, adding dozens more Tegans. Dukkha makes it clear what he wants: her physical form. When Tegan demands that he leave her alone, he grants her wish: she is left completely alone. Tegan submits to his will. Taking his hand, the mark of the snake moves from his forearm to hers. She wakes in the clearing with a malevolent grin, now possessed by the Mara.
Hindle’s plan to punish Adric’s treason is interrupted when Sanders returns to the Dome in the TSS. His demeanor is entirely changed, playful and childlike. He offers the box to Hindle, who is terrified at what may lurk inside.
Tegan encounters Aris in the jungle. She senses his anguish and taunts him with promises of power. On taking her arm, he receives the mark of the snake and becomes the new host of the Mara.
Hindle imprisons the Doctor, Todd, and Sanders in the cell, and orders them to open the box or else he’ll have them shot. The Doctor opens it; Todd screams…
A jester’s puppet pops out of the box. The tension is broken with laughter; the Doctor observes that the Kinda have a sense of humor. Hindle is not amused. However, staring into the box, the Doctor and Todd have a shared psychic experience in which they receive a summons from Panna and Karuna. The dome’s power flickers out and the door to the cell opens. Todd and the Doctor take their cue to exit, seeking out the Kinda. Sanders is left in a daze from the box, however, and is left behind.
While Hindle decides that the only recourse is to destroy the dome with explosives, the Doctor and Todd encounter the Kinda, led by a jester. The Doctor builds a rapport with the jester with sleight of hand, only to be interrupted by Aris bellowing, “Seize the Not-We!”
With the mark of the snake on his arm hidden, Aris invokes a Kinda prophecy that when the tribe is confronted with outsiders (the “Not-We”), a male “with voice” would become the tribe’s leader. In the confusion, Karuna leads the Doctor and Todd away from the stunned Kinda.
Hindle has rigged the dome to blow, taking a chunk of the jungle with it, ensuring their perpetual safety through death. Adric attempts to play along with the unhinged Sanders and Hindle who are constructing an elaborate model city out of cardboard boxes.
The Doctor and Todd meet Panna and Karuna in their mountaintop cave. Aris follows and confronts them. Despite Panna’s protests, the Kinda submit themselves to Aris’ will, and Karuna joins them to attack the Not-We in the Dome.
The Doctor notices the mark of the Mara on Aris’ arm; despite her blindness, Panna is aware of it as well. She insists that they must understand. Together they have a shared psychic vision of the Kinda in a circle of timekeeping devices. As the timepieces count down, the jester dances in the circle until the clocks stop: the end of the cycle. Emerging from the trance, they find that Panna is dead.
Karuna receives Panna’s spirit and is snapped out of her obedience to Aris. She returns to the cave and takes Panna’s staff. They realise that the Mara entered Tegan’s mind from the Dark Places of the Inside, and is now present on Deva Loka in Aris.
Adric seeks shelter from Sanders and Hindle in the TSS, but it activates and he can’t control it. At the same time, Aris and the Kinda launch a futile attack on the Dome. Adric in the TSS accidentally opens fire, wounding Aris and making the others flee. The Doctor arrives and calms Adric, freeing him from the machine.
Todd and the Doctor confront Hindle and Sanders. Hindle reveals how he is controlling the Kinda hostages: they believe the mirror he held to their faces captured their souls. When the Doctor accidentally steps on one of the cardboard people in Hindle’s city, Hindle becomes violent and attempts to detonate the dome. The Doctor restrains him, and in the ensuing struggle the mirror is shattered. Todd persuades Hindle to open the box, and his sanity is restored.
The Doctor realizes that the Mara may be repelled by its own reflection. They trap Aris in a circle of reflective solar panels, and the Mara separates itself from him. The Mara enlarges itself into a giant snake, but its power is reflected on itself by the mirrors and it dissipates. Aris is free, the Mara is expelled back to the Dark Places of the Inside, and Hindle and Sanders are restored to mental stability. The expedition members all agree that Deva Loka will be reported as unsuitable for colonization. Adric, Tegan and the Doctor return to the TARDIS, finding Nyssa well-rested and recovered, and they depart.