The Cradle of the Snake

Serpents have been a powerful symbol for centuries, the very word serpent meaning “something that creeps” and the reptiles two pronged forked tongues were said to be a symbol in itself of deceitful speech. These and other factors plus the added common phobia of the snake throughout man’s history gave it a perfect design to be used as a creation of horror in fiction and legends.

The Cradle of the Snake uses an alien force of the mind first seen in the serial Kinda from the Peter Davison era of the show in the early eighties where it invaded the mind of the Doctor’s companion Tegan and also the natives of the planet Deva Loka and the visiting survey before being banished, only to return in the season twenty story Snakedance, both easily two of the best episodes of their respective era and also one of the more creative otherworldly monstrosities to come across our screens at that time as well.

Where this new audio play does indeed invoke the hateful Mara back into our minds throughout, it also has some great acting by the main cast as the fifth Doctor is taken with the Mark of the Mara and Davison does a great job of acting the villain of the play for most of the tale, not something I was expecting at all and it was a great joy to hear a Doctor Who‘s fifth incarnation was not the boyish faced innocent that is now the tone and calling card of that particular actor’s take on the part, something you have to hear yourself to really get the full depth of entirely.

Supporting actors for this journey  into the Mara’s origins are also strong, and I still cannot get over the fact that the entire TARDIS crew of the Fifth Doctor, Tegan, Nyssa and Turlough were put back together, which like Big Finish’s other big reunion of the Doctor, Jamie and Zoe Heriot in the Sixth Doctor audio series is reason enough to give these plays a listen if you are a fan of the series, this is something you cannot miss as despite sometimes sounding like they are no longer the same age they were on television the personalities their characters are still fully functioning and intact meaning Turlough still seems just a step away from endulging his evil side while Tegan still can get angry with the best of them, waiting for Nyssa to be the voice of reason.

Writing this adventure is Marc Platt, who wrote both televised Doctor Who in it’s final year of the classic series in the good but confusing on first viewing Ghost Light and also has contributed some of the best of the best of the Big Finish audio works such as the Cybermen origin tale Spare Parts and the Doctor Who Unbound play Auld Morality. Here Marc does his usual fine job of crafting a tale full of suspense, drama and enough interest in the show’s past to keep anybody listening, but some elements seem a bit out of place, such as the Mara starting on an advanced technological planet in a setting that although very different from the settings of the two previous Mara adventures does not seem to fit the kind of terror and disturbed sense of mood that one would expect from a tale that heavily involves such mental creatures of chaos.

These factors combined make for a great trip into the history one the marquee Doctor Who monsters and a great audio for anyone wanting to relive the eighties style and feel of the show, just don’t dress like they did back then, the Mara is only one version of chaos, there are many others including fashion.

Cradle of the Snake is available now on CD or MP3 direct from Big Finish!


Tom has been a Doctor Who fan since the early eighties and has developed a deep love and admiration for the show and its universe in that time.

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