Snakedance

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This article is about the Doctor Who serial. For the American school homecoming tradition, see Snake dance. For other uses, see Snake dance (disambiguation).
124[1]Snakedance
Doctor Who serial
Snakedance.jpg
Dugdale and Lon watch as the possessed Tegan opens a secret room in the cave of the Mara.
Cast
Others
Production
Writer Christopher Bailey
Director Fiona Cumming
Script editor Eric Saward
Producer John Nathan-Turner
Executive producer(s) None
Incidental music composer Peter Howell
Production code 6D
Series Season 20
Length 4 episodes, 25 minutes each
Originally broadcast 18 January–26 January 1983
Chronology
← Preceded by Followed by →
Arc of Infinity Mawdryn Undead

Snakedance is the second serial of the 20th season in the British science fiction television series Doctor Who, which was first broadcast in four twice-weekly parts from 18 January to 26 January 1983.

Plot[edit]

The arrival of the TARDIS on Manussa, formerly homeworld of both the Manussan Empire and Sumaran Empire, triggers nightmares in Tegan, who dreams of a snake-shaped cave mouth. It is evident to the Fifth Doctor that the Mara is reasserting itself on her mind following her possession by the entity while on the Kinda planet of Deva Loka (Kinda). He attempts to calm her by taking her and Nyssa in search of the cave but Tegan is too scared to enter when they find it, and runs away. Alone and confused Tegan lapses under the control of the Mara once more, revelling in horror and destruction. The emblem of the snake soon returns to her arm.

Manussa is in the grip of a festival of celebration of the banishment of the Mara from the civilisation five hundred years earlier. In the absence of the Federator, who rules over the three-planet Federation, his indolent son Lon is to have a major role in the celebration, supported by his mother the Lady Tanha and the archaeologist Ambril, who is an expert in the Sumaran period. Lon is intrigued with the notion that the Mara might one day return as prophesied, but Ambril is unconvinced and believes such talk is the product of cranks. When the Doctor tries to get Ambril to take the threat seriously he too is dismissed as a maverick, though the young deputy curator Chela is more sympathetic to the Doctor and gives him a small blue crystal called a Little Mind's Eye, which is used by the Snakedancers, a mystical cult, in their ceremonies to repel the Mara. The Doctor realises the small crystal and its large counterpart, the Great Mind's Eye, can be used as focal points for mental energy and can turn thought into matter. This, he determines, is how the Mara will transfer from Tegan's mind to corporeal existence. He realises that the Manussans must once have been a very advanced people who could use molecular engineering in a zero-gravity environment. They created the Great Mind's Eye without realising its full potential, and the crystal drew the fear, hatred, and evil from their minds, amplified it and fed it back to them. Thus the Mara was born into Manussa and the reign of the Sumaran Empire began.

Meanwhile Tegan makes contact with Lon and passes the snake mark of the Mara to him too. They visit the cave from Tegan's dream, which contains a wall pattern, which could accommodate the Great Crystal. Lon is sent back to the Palace while she causes more havoc and takes control of a showman, Dugdale, who is used for her pleasure. Lon meanwhile covers his arm and goes about trying to persuade Ambril to use the real Great crystal in the ceremony, placing it in a position in a wall carving that will evidently enable the Mara to return as the Doctor predicted. To persuade him to comply, Ambril is shown a secret cave of Sumaran archaeological treasures and warned they will all be destroyed if he does not help him. Ambril thus agrees to the change in format.

The Doctor and Nyssa have meanwhile been aided by Chela, who shares with them the journal of Dojjen, a snakedancer who was Ambril's predecessor. All three venture to the Palace to persuade the authorities to do something about the situation, but soon see Lon is in the grip of the Mara and orchestrating a very dangerous situation. All three escape and the Doctor now uses the Little Mind's Eye to contact Dojjen, who lives in sandy dunes beyond the city. They venture there and the Doctor communes with Dojjen by opening his mind after being bitten by a poisonous snake. He is told by the wise old snakedancer that the Mara may only be defeated by finding a still point in the mind. All three now head back to the city to prevent the ceremony of defeating the Mara using the real Great Crystal. The festivities are now at a peak, with a procession taking place which culminates in a ceremony at the cave. Lon plays the role of his ancestor Federator in rejecting the Mara. After a series of verbal challenges he seizes the real Great Crystal and places it in the appropriate place on the wall. Tegan and Dugdale arrive and she displays the Mara mark on her arm, which is now becoming flesh having fed on the fear in Dugdale's mind. With the crystal in place, the Mara is able to create itself in the cave, becoming a vast and deadly snake. However, the Doctor arrives in time and refuses to look at the snake or recognise its evil, relying instead on the still place he finds through mental commune with Dojjen via the Little Mind's Eye. This resistance interrupts the manifestation of the Mara and its three slaves are freed while the snake itself dies and rots. The Doctor comforts a distraught Tegan, sure that the Mara has at last been destroyed.

Continuity[edit]

Every story during Season 20 had the Doctor face an enemy from the past. For this story, the enemy was the Mara, who was featured in the previous season's story Kinda (1982).

Production[edit]

Serial details by episode
Episode Broadcast date Run time Viewers
(in millions)
"Part One" 18 January 1983 (1983-01-18) 24:26 6.7
"Part Two" 19 January 1983 (1983-01-19) 24:35 7.7
"Part Three" 25 January 1983 (1983-01-25) 24:29 6.6
"Part Four" 26 January 1983 (1983-01-26) 24:29 7.4
[2][3][4]

The success of Kinda and this story prompted Script Editor Eric Saward to commission Bailey to write a third and final story to feature the Mara: May Time. However, the story was abandoned due to production problems. In post-production, episode four of this story overran very badly. As a result, it had to be completely restructured. Originally the door for a third Mara adventure was to be left open, with closing scenes discussing the ultimate fate of the Great Crystal. Furthermore, a sequence in which the Doctor comforts Tegan had to be removed. The scene was reincorporated into the beginning of the subsequent serial, Mawdryn Undead (1983).

Cast notes[edit]

Brian Miller was the husband of Elisabeth Sladen who portrayed long-time companion Sarah Jane Smith. He later appeared in "Deep Breath" in Series 8, as well as playing Harry Sowersby in The Mad Woman in the Attic, an episode of The Sarah Jane Adventures, and providing Dalek voices for both Resurrection of the Daleks and Remembrance of the Daleks. Brian Grellis previously played Sheprah in Revenge of the Cybermen and Safran in The Invisible Enemy.

Commercial releases[edit]

In print[edit]

Doctor Who book
Book cover
Snakedance
Series Target novelisations
Release number 83
Writer Terrance Dicks
Publisher Target Books
Cover artist Andrew Skilleter
ISBN 0-426-19457-8
Release date 3 May 1984

A novelisation of this serial, written by Terrance Dicks, was published by Target Books in January 1984. It was the first of two (the other being Enlightenment) to feature Peter Davison's image in the logo.

Home media[edit]

Snakedance was released on VHS in December 1994. It was released on DVD on 7 March 2011 along with Kinda in a special edition boxset entitled "Mara Tales". This serial was also released as part of the Doctor Who DVD Files in Issue 103 on 12 December 2012.

References[edit]

  1. ^ From the Doctor Who Magazine series overview, in issue 407 (pp26-29). The Discontinuity Guide, which counts the unbroadcast serial Shada, lists this as story number 125. Region 1 DVD releases follow The Discontinuity Guide numbering system.
  2. ^ Shaun Lyon et al. (31 March 2007). "Snakedance". Outpost Gallifrey. Archived from the original on 31 July 2008. Retrieved 30 August 2008. 
  3. ^ "Snakedance". Doctor Who Reference Guide. Retrieved 30 August 2008. 
  4. ^ Sullivan, Shannon (7 August 2007). "Snakedance". A Brief History of Time Travel. Retrieved 30 August 2008. 

External links[edit]

Reviews[edit]

Target novelisation[edit]