purplecat: The Tardis (Doctor Who)
[personal profile] purplecat
I'm sure I must have seen Kinda since it was first broadcast but I don't recall when and my memories of it were distinctly hazy. At the time of broadcast it came bottom of the season poll in DWM but shortly thereafter it was placed front and centre in Doctor Who: The Unfolding Text which attempted* to apply academic media criticism to Doctor Who. It would be tempting to say that Kinda is an interesting failure but I'm not sure it is a failure. It's more something completely to one side of main stream Doctor Who and isn't really even attempting to play by Doctor Who's normal rules.

Almost everything (quite possibly everything apart from Nyssa's quiet sidelining at the beginning) that happens in Kinda is laced with symbolism and, to be honest, occurs more to convey some idea or concept than it does to advance a coherent plot. That said, the plot coherence, once you strip aside a lot of the bizarre trappings is no worse than a lot of Doctor Who. This is a story that has things to say about colonialism, concepts of primitive versus civilised, the military, gender and communication. It does so with, well, not quite the earnestness of a thirteen year-old on Tumblr who has just discovered social justice but its ideas look, I suspect, a lot more obvious now than they did then. Possibly one of the reasons it seems quite so puzzling is that it refuses to actually make a neat preachy statement about what is right and wrong but just throws a lot things at the screen with a definite lean towards a position but one it doesn't actually clarify.

Episode 2 is both particularly bizarre and possibly the best of the four focusing, as it does, on the survey base under the control of the dangerously unhinged Hindle. Doctor Who often seeks to explain the erratic behaviour of its miscellaneous base commanders on the grounds that they've gone mad, but this is the only one I recall where the character is quite so unhinged and his high level of unpredictability both makes him seem more dangerous while, at the same time, giving the Doctor, Adric and Todd more room for maneouvre. I can see why the childish mayhem of the episode was viewed with puzzled incomprehension by much of the audience.

Hindle's madness is one of the plot points that is less well explained (Sanders' is explained by his exposure to the the Box of Jhana). Similarly the actual fate of the missing base members is never really explained, nor is Hindle's control of the Kinda on the base. But Kinda gives the impression that it doesn't really care about this.

The snake at the end is somewhat naff and was widely derided at the time but, to be honest, I don't think it is much naffer than a lot of Doctor Who monsters and I wonder if it was such a focus of opprobrium simply because it was easy and straightforward to criticise where everything else here is simply a little baffling and, in some cases, a little poorly acted, but delivered with a kind strange conviction that make the flaws hard to get a grip on.

I actually really enjoyed this and was surprised that I did. It is like nothing else Doctor Who has ever attempted before or since. In Doctor Who terms it is mostly a mixture of over-earnest, naff and silly, but on its own terms it is grippingly frightening in places, surreal and rather beautiful.

*I've not read it so, for all I know, the attempt was a success even if it was regarded with bemusement by most Who fans of the time.
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