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The second Mara tale is ‘Snakedance’ and is set during Peter Davison’s second season as the Doctor.
This four-part story is a sequel to ‘Kinda’ by Christopher Bailey. This is the Mara story I enjoyed most, as Sarah Sutton’s Nyssa is in it. The story and characters were also easier to follow and understand.
I’ve had the DVD cover of ‘Snakedance’ signed by Peter Davison at the at the ‘York Unleashed’ event at the York Racecourse, York, August 2017; the lovely Sarah Sutton at the ‘Fantom Films at Memorabilia 2016’ event in March 2016 and Brian Miller at the ‘London Comic Con Spring’, March 2019. I told Sarah that I liked her as Nyssa in both this story and in ‘Kinda’. I also had a photo of Nyssa in ‘Snakedance’ signed by Sarah at the ‘London Film and Comic Con 2011’ in July 2011.
Tegan has been having terrible nightmares that are connected to her previous possession by the Mara in ‘Kinda’. The Doctor and Nyssa help Tegan as the TARDIS takes them to the planet Manussa.
Manussa is where the Mara once ruled and terrorised many years go. The Mara attempts to take over Manussa by using Tegan when it takes possession of her again. Will the Doctor and Nyssa save Tegan?
‘Snakedance’ has a society that is run down, since Manussa is an empire that has forgotten its morals; ethics; values and principles. The people of the planet commercialise on the fear factor of the Mara.
Manussa is a very interesting society, woven together by Christopher Bailey. Its people aren’t aware the Mara’s evil is approaching. The Doctor tries to warn them about it, but they think that he is mad.
This is Janet Fielding’s show as Tegan, since she gets to do her Mara-performance again and plays a really evil Tegan! Tegan is frightened initially, before she loses control and becomes the Mara again.
Sarah Sutton shines as Nyssa and she wears a new blue stripy dress. Not many people like this dress. I like it, as blue’s my favourite colour. Nyssa gets to help the Doctor to solve the mystery in this story.
Peter Davison is great as the Doctor and Chris Bailey writes well for him. The Doctor knows there is something wrong with Tegan and is determined to save her, as well as save the people of Manussa.
The story features a superb guest cast. I’ve met some of the guest cast at the ‘celebrate 50 – The Peter Davison Years’ convention in Chiswick, London in April 2013. I’ve met Colette O’Neil as Tanha; John Carson as Ambril and Brain Miller as Dugdale. I’ve also had a photo of Ambril and Tanha signed by John Carson and Colette O’Neil at that same convention.
Martin Clunes (who I’ve seen in ‘Jeeves and Wooster’) also guest stars as Lon, Tanha’s son. There’s also Johnathon Morris as Chela, who helps the Doctor and Nyssa and there’s Preston Lockwood as Dojjen.
The Mara appears as a giant snake again in this. It looks more convincing than the one in ‘Kinda’ and is terrifying and horrible to see. It was disturbing when seeing Tegan’s face inside the Mara’s mouth.
The DVD special features are as follows. There’s a making-of documentary called ‘Snake Charmer’ with cast and crew interviews; a deleted scene that is an extended ending of the story; ‘In Studio’ behind-the-scenes footage of the story and a ‘Saturday Superstore’ interview with Peter Davison. There’s also a photo gallery of the story; a commentary with Peter Davison, Janet Fielding and Sarah Sutton and an isolated music option by Peter Howell. There’s also an info-text commentary option to enjoy as well as a ‘Radio Times Listing’ PDF of the story. There’s also an ‘Easter Egg’ to look out for on this DVD. There’s also a ‘coming soon’ trailer for the ‘Revisitations 2’ DVD box set. It contains ‘The Seeds of Death’ with Patrick Troughton, Frazer Hines and Wendy Padbury; ‘Carnival of Monsters’ with Jon Pertwee and Katy Manning and ‘Resurrection of the Daleks’ with Peter Davison, Janet Fielding and Mark Strickson.
I’ve enjoyed ‘Snakedance’. It was lovely to see Sarah Sutton as Nyssa and Janet Fielding is great as the Mara-possessed Tegan. It features a good guest cast and is a pretty gripping story to watch on DVD.
The Mara returned for a third ‘Doctor Who’ adventure by Big Finish called ‘The Cradle of the Snake’.
The ‘Mara Tales’ DVD box was a very good birthday present for me in May, 2011. I enjoyed both ‘Kinda’ and ‘Snakedance’. It was lovely to see Sarah Sutton as Nyssa in these stories and they are two intriguing tales from the Peter Davison era of ‘Doctor Who’. I’m sure you’ll enjoy these two stories.
‘Snakedance’ rating – 8/10
ALIEN ATTAX TRADING CARD – NYSSA OF TRAKEN
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This is a lovely Nyssa trading card!
I rarely get a chance to review any ‘Doctor Who’ merchandise, but for me this is a very special item. Nyssa is my favourite ‘Doctor Who’ companion, as I’m sure you know by now. I love Sarah Sutton who plays Nyssa, as she gives lovely performances with her character in those TV and audio stories.
In my opinion, Nyssa is the best companion of ‘Doctor Who’ from the Fifth Doctor/Peter Davison era. It’s pretty clear though that Nyssa is this pretty underrated companion. She often gets overlooked by the majority of ‘Doctor Who’ fandom with companions like Sarah Jane, Rose, Donna, Amy and Clara.
Through no fault of her own, Nyssa tends to get left out a lot in ‘Doctor Who’ circles. Nyssa deserves her own Top Trump trading card and it’s rather sad her character wasn’t included in the 45th anniversary collection of ‘Doctor Who’ Top Trump trading cards which I purchased in Cardiff in 2008.
I recall Sarah Sutton saying on the ‘Four to Doomsday’ DVD commentary that she wished for her own trading card. How lucky I was to find this rare item on Amazon.co.uk that is a collector’s item for definite Nyssa and ‘Doctor Who’ fans in general. This trading card is part of an ‘Alien Attax’ series by Topps in 2013.
The ‘Alien Attax’ card series was to celebrate the 50th anniversary of ‘Doctor Who’. Nyssa’s trading card is #196 and was part of the ‘Companions’ card collection. Being a Nyssa/Sarah Sutton fan and that I love collecting any memorabilia and photos of her, I couldn’t resist purchasing this lovely card.
It’s a really nice collector’s item and one that I treasure keeping in my scrapbook of Nyssa items over the years from conventions and photos purchased for me over Christmas from Amazon or eBay. The card is good, as there is a picture of Sarah as Nyssa in her blue and white stripy ‘Snakedance’ outfit.
It’s a very complimentary picture of Nyssa who looks nice in her ‘Snakedance’ outfit, despite it being the least favourite costume of the fans. Nyssa’s name is placed well in a blue box on a vertical angle. According to the card, Nyssa has a ‘defence’ of 42 and an ‘attack’ of 38, which was…intriguing to see.
Now I don’t know much about statistics and how to use trading cards in this game, but those statistics for Nyssa in ‘defence’ and ‘attack’ seem about right for her character. When I received the Nyssa trading card in the post, it came with two non-related ‘Top Gear’ trading cards in a slim casing.
Now I didn’t want these ‘Top Gear’ cards, but the supplier who sent the item must have put them in order to protect the Nyssa trading card from being damaged or scratched. It was very good of the supper to do that, especially as the Nyssa card looks perfect in every detail when it came in the post.
So if you’re a Nyssa fan like me, you should add this trading card to your collection of ‘Doctor Who’ memorabilia. It features a complimentary picture of Nyssa in her ‘Snakedance’ costume and it is a worthy purchase that I’m pleased to receive from Amazon during the 50th anniversary of ‘Doctor Who’.
I need to show this Nyssa trading card to Sarah Sutton next time I see her at a convention!
‘Alien Attax’ Trading Card – Nyssa of Traken’ rating – 10/10
‘DOCTOR WHO – SNAKEDANCE’
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Mara Tale in Book – The Snakedancers
‘Doctor Who – Snakedance’ by Terrance Dicks has been a great book to read!
This book is a novelization of the TV story by Christopher Bailey that was shown in 1983. Terrance Dicks had novelized Chris Bailey’s first Mara tale ‘Kinda’ for the Target novelization range of ‘Doctor Who’ books. So it seems fair that Terrance should continue the story with novelizing ‘Snakedance’.
‘Snakedance’ is my favourite out of the two TV stories in the ‘Mara Tales’ DVD box set when I had it for my birthday in May 2011. I was able to enjoy that story, due to the fact Nyssa was mostly in it and that it was a clearer story to follow than ‘Kinda’. I wondered what the ‘Snakedance’ book would be like.
I purchased this novelization of ‘Snakedance’ at the ‘H-Con’ event in Eastleigh, Hampshire, July 2015, where I met Peter Davison and Sarah Sutton at the same time. Since I had read ‘Doctor Who – Kinda’ already, I felt it wouldn’t do to complete the Mara experience without reading ‘Snakedance’.
It took a while for me to get round to reading ‘Snakedance’ in February 2016, but I enjoyed the experience. I felt that Terrance Dicks got a firmer grasp of the Mara and the world it inhabited. This was a better effort by Terrance in describing the Mara for prose compared to how he approached ‘Kinda’.
This book was published in 1984; a year after the story was shown in 1983. It’s divided into 12 chapters with 3 chapters making one of the four episodes – 3 chapters; times 4; equals 12 chapters.
Terrance Dicks doesn’t change much to the plot in what was originally shown in the TV story by Christopher Bailey. But what Terrance does do splendidly is describe the world of Manussa to greater detail. This includes the people living on Manussa and the depth to the market place scenes.
I’d like to think Terrance understood ‘Snakedance’ as a story more than he understood ‘Kinda’. This is probably due to the fact that ‘Snakedance’ is more straight-forward than ‘Kinda’ and doesn’t have too many dream-like sequences that must have been mind-boggling for him to translate into prose.
I liked it that Terrance emphasises the threat of the Mara and how dangerous it is as a force and an entity inhabiting Tegan. He emphasises how it could bring the downfall of Manussa. This book allowed me to understand Manussa’s history and how the Mara was defeated, compared to how it was told on TV.
Terrance does well in not having too many interconnecting scenes in the book, as sometimes that was distracting in the TV version. The scene where the Doctor asks for information from Ambril and Chela in Chapter 4 was clearer in the book than on TV, as it is in one scene and not four/five scenes.
In the book, Terrance does well on enhancing the characters as he clearly understands them when novelizing ‘Snakedance’ into a book. The characters of Lon; Tanha and Ambril are enhanced in terms of their histories and personalities. Lon’s selfishness and boredom are clearly illustrated in the book.
The fortune teller that Tegan meets in Chapters 3 and 4 of the story is given a name by Terrance Dicks, which is great. Her name is Madame Zara. I like it that Terrance Dicks looks after characters in ‘Doctor Who’ such as giving them names, even though he didn’t create them in the first place.
There’s one point in the book where the Doctor tells Tegan about the Sumaran Empire in Chapter 1. The Doctor translates ‘Sumaran Empire’ to ‘Empire of the Mara’. This wasn’t mentioned in the TV version of ‘Snakedance’ and it’s great that Terrance adds this new bit of information in the book which was interesting.
I liked it when Terrance adds in the Doctor reflecting on how the people of Manussa didn’t listen to him about his warnings of the Mara, until it was too late. It was noticeable in the TV version, but it’s so interesting the Doctor’s warnings of danger are often ignored and come too late in these stories.
I’m pleased with how Terrance writes for Nyssa in this novelization of ‘Snakedance’. She’s more or less the same as she was in the TV version. But I like how Terrance makes her worthy as a companion to the Doctor in the book, especially as Tegan is not around when they have to save her.
There was a little difference in the book from the TV story that I noticed. When Nyssa visits the Doctor in his prison cell in Chapter 7, she doesn’t hide from Chela as she did in the TV story. Chela sees her but doesn’t raise the alarm, allowing her to slip away quietly when going to fetch the keys.
Tegan’s possession by the Mara is well-handled by Terrance in the book. Sometimes it’s not clear whether Tegan is herself with the Mara inside her or whether the Mara’s talking through her all the time. Either way, Tegan is clearly influenced by the Mara’s evil and expresses her darker; bad nature.
As I said before, I liked how Terrance depicts the world of Manussa and how he describes the culture; people and market-place scenes in detail. The scenes of the Ceremony of the Mara taking place are well-detailed, especially as the crowds cheer when following the papier-mâché snake Mara.
The megaphone speaker for the Ceremony of the Mara isn’t given a name as Madame Zara the fortune teller was. But he is simply referred to as the Voice of the Mara during the ceremony. This was interesting, as it seems like the Mara is speaking during the farcical ceremony for Lon to take part in.
The climax was pretty gripping to read, especially as Tegan unleashes the Mara snake from her arm and it grows. Terrance doesn’t make the scene as weird as it was in the TV version, but it was gripping when the Doctor was tempted to look at the Mara and he was nearly deceived at one point.
Terrance provides a different ending for ‘Snakedance’. I was expecting to find the extended ending from the ‘Snakedance’ DVD extras in the book. But Terrance simply mentions what happened to Lon; Tanha; Ambril; Chela and Dojjen afterwards and how the Doctor, Nyssa and Tegan leave in the TARDIS.
Before this book was published, Terrance wrote for the Fifth Doctor and Tegan on TV in ‘The Five Doctors’ for the 20th anniversary of ‘Doctor Who’. Terrance also wrote for the Fifth Doctor, Nyssa and Tegan in Target novelizations beforehand. So it was interesting to find how far he had come to write for them.
I don’t know whether there will be an audiobook for ‘Snakedance’ someday. I hope there will be and I would like the reader of the audiobook to be either Peter Davison, Janet Fielding or Sarah Sutton. I’m not sure if Christopher Bailey would write a brand-new novelization of ‘Snakedance’ for audio.
‘Doctor Who – Snakedance’ has been a great book to read. I enjoyed this Mara tale in book form far better than I enjoyed ‘Doctor Who – Kinda’. It felt like seeing the TV version of the story again. I was able to delve further into the characters and get a clearer idea about what the story was all about.
‘Doctor Who – Snakedance’ rating – 8/10
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