Doctor Who – Mara Tales: Snakedance

Mara Tales is one of the more obvious box set releases from the BBC, containing two stories centering on the snake-like Mara which feeds on its victim’s fear. As this is a two story set the review will broken into two. This time its Snakedance and after the success of Kinda, this one has a lot to live up to.

Doctor Who - Mara TalesTegan has set the TARDIS’ co-ordinates and lands on Manussa and the Doctor realises that this is no accident and her actions orchestrated by a hostile force. By fist infiltrating Tegan’s subconscious mind, through strange and disturbing dream dominated by the image of a huge snake’s skull, this force – the Mara – is planning on as a vehicle for its return to power on the planet Manussa.

Season 20 of Doctor Who had a recurring theme, that was that each story would contain and enemy from the past. Snakedance being the follow up to Kinda sees the return of the Mara and like its predecessor is Doctor Who at its best. It has a script that is rich in ideas and theology, a cast that gives so much in bringing their characters to life without ever dipping into pantomime and a director who knows how to get a story across to not only fans of the show but casual viewers too.

Snakedance is more than a piece of TV fantasy; it has something to say about the commercialisation of celebrated events, the subtle influences of different religions is in tact and even for a story with low production values retains a great atmosphere.

I can’t review this without mentioning Martin Clunes who stars as Lon. This was his first piece of TV and gives as great performance of what is basically a brat. His costume at the end is often used in “Before They Were Famous” shows and it’s a shame he didn’t contribute to this release.

One thing confuses me about this release though, why create a CGI snake for Kinda and not Snakedance? The end sequences would have been improved with the same sort of effects seen in Kinda. I don’t normally say this but if done as well as that story it would have given the ending more impact rather than a slightly soggy feel. Seems a bit of a wasted opportunity to me.

Extras Disc 2

Doctor Who - Mara TalesCommentary – Peter Davison, Janet Fielding and Sarah Sutton give a fabulous gag-track to the story and is as much fun as you’d expect from this trio. Well worth investing your time in.

Snake Charmer – Cast and crew reflect on the making of Snakedance with new series writer Robert Sherman once again popping up to add his thoughts. As with the making of Kinda, this one touches on the working relationship between Eric Saward and writer Christopher Bailey. Their mutual respect is great to learn of and that Bailey found it an enjoyable story to write. Shame the third story from him never materialised.

Deleted Scenes – Just over three minutes from the original ending of episode four of Snakedance. This is made possible from a time-coded recording that was kept by producer John Nathan-Turner. It’s a longer edit with how the people of the Manussa react to the events of the story.

In Studio – A collection of outtakes from the production of the story and it’s a fun compilation of clips that will have fans laughing at the silliness of TV production.

Saturday Superstore – Sequences from the classic 1980s kids show which features Peter Davison playing cricket with host Mike Read and reporter John Craven as well as taking calls from viewers and choosing winners from various competitions. The calls are wonderfully polite, even when discussing if Peter ever argues with John Nathan-Turner about what the Doctor should do! I wonder who won the prizes he gave away…?

Photo Gallery – More snaps from the production of the story.

Isolated Score – Peter Howell’s soundtrack without dialogue or sound effect intrusion. This is more epic in scope than Kinda but and reflects the dark edge that the story possess.

Coming Soon – The same trailer as on disc 1 for the Revisitations 2 set.

PDF Materials – You can, if you wish, place this DVD into your PC or Mac and read at leisure the original Radio Times listings from the story’s original transmission.

Mara Tales is one of the strongest box sets from the classic Doctor Who range and without sounding too much like a cliché, should form part of everyone’s collection. Yes, I am gushing but this is a great set of stories with Davison at the top of his game.

Released on March 7th 2011 and with an RRP of £29.99, Mara Tales can be preordered from Amazon for just £17.93!


James has been a Doctor Who fan for as long as he can recall. A child of the 70s and 80s, he weathered all the storms and controversies the show encountered, though he didn’t buy the “Doctor In Distress” single.

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