‘THE CRADLE OF THE SNAKE’
Please feel free to comment on my review.
The third Mara tale is ‘The Cradle of the Snake’, set during Peter Davison’s audio adventures.
Believe it or not, this was the first Mara story I came across in ‘Doctor Who’. I listened to this story before I watched ‘Kinda’ and ‘Snakedance’ on DVD. This was because the ‘Mara Tales’ DVD box set wasn’t out yet. Thus I got to experience listening to a Mara story on audio first time from Big Finish!
I’ve had the CD cover of ‘The Cradle of the Snake’ signed by Peter Davison and Sarah Sutton at the ‘York Unleashed’ event at the York Racecourse, York, August 2017. I enjoyed sharing with Peter and Sarah how much I enjoyed the Mara-possession versions of the Doctor and Nyssa when I heard this.
This audio adventure follows on from ‘The Whispering Forest’, where Tegan is possessed by the Mara again. The Doctor is determined to save Tegan’s life and to set her free from the Mara’s influence. Eventually, the TARDIS ends up on the planet Manussa, where the Doctor came to before.
But it’s not the same Manussa that the Doctor knew, since this story is set hundreds of years before ‘Snakedance’. The Mara takes an opportunity to commence its reign of chaos and disorder early and this starts with the Doctor, as he gets infected and possessed with the mark of the snake on his arm.
Since Janet Fielding returned as Tegan in ‘Doctor Who’ for Big Finish in 2010, it was inevitable that a third Mara story was on the cards. This third Mara adventure is by Marc Platt. With kind permission from Christopher Bailey, he comes up with an extraordinary sequel to both ‘Kinda’ and ‘Snakedance’.
I liked how Marc depicts the Mara with the themes of possession and temptation in this story. I also liked how the world of Manussa is depicted. The planet is more futuristic; has high-rise buildings and is an advanced society compared to the bogged down version of Manussa shown from ‘Snakedance’.
The question is raised on who is possessed by the Mara once it has left Tegan. I liked how in the story, Marc Platt plays on who it could be as it could be either Turlough or Nyssa. It’s a shocking cliff-hanger moment for me in ‘Part One’ when it’s revealed it’s the Doctor who’s possessed by the Mara.
Janet Fielding as Tegan has a third encounter with the Mara. Tegan’s frightened, as she’s having nightmares again. She slips into her Mara persona, when she tries to tempt Nyssa. Tegan’s dreams are explored as the Doctor goes in to save her, flying on her plane and at her sheep farm in Australia.
Tegan’s not possessed a lot by the Mara, which is a nice change and it provides the twist in the story. Tegan sees what happens when her friends get taken over by the Mara. There’s an inconsistency with Tegan, as she says she likes ice cream. I thought in ‘Kinda’ that she hated it when she was three.
Peter Davison delivers a superb performance as the Doctor, who tries to save Tegan’s life by going into her dreams. But at a cost to himself, the Doctor gets taken over by the Mara. Here we have a naughty, playful, evil Doctor who’s so out of control and really malicious when the Mara is in control.
Both Peter and Sarah Sutton did evil versions of themselves in ‘The Eternal Summer’. I was terrified to hear my favourite Doctor being the bad guy and being malicious. He lies to Tegan about Nyssa’s opinion of her and also tricks Turlough when they’re in a cell together which I found very unnerving.
Mark Strickson is great as Turlough. This is the first time Turlough encounters the Mara, as he never heard of it before. I liked that scene in the TARDIS where the Doctor explains to Turlough about what the Mara is and he tells him of the adventures he, Nyssa and Tegan had facing the Mara beforehand.
Turlough’s dark side gets explored which I liked, as the story questions whether he’s possessed by the Mara or not. Mark Strickson gets to put his experience of snakes into practice, as I like that scene where Turlough instructs Tegan to put her jacket on the ground to deal with the snake in ‘Part Two’.
Sarah Sutton excels as the older Nyssa. She manages to get through to Tegan when she locks herself in her room. It was scary when Tegan as the Mara tries to tempt Nyssa. I liked the scenes where Nyssa; Tegan and Turlough are in the TARDIS library and they try to save the Doctor from the Mara.
The scariest part of this story for me was when Nyssa gets infected by the Doctor as the Mara with the mark of the snake on her arm and she becomes evil. Sarah enjoyed playing a seductive and evil Nyssa and sounds sexy and flirtatious. I couldn’t help be attracted to the evil Nyssa in a strange way.
There’s a dream sequence that Tegan has where the Doctor finds that Nyssa and Turlough are sheep on her dad’s farm. I found it rather funny and interesting to hear Nyssa and Turlough as sheep. They sound really good as sheep, since they do a lot bleating when talking to the Doctor in Tegan’s dream.
The guest cast are very good in this. There’s Dan Stevens as Rick ausGarten, a TV presenter on Manussa; Toby Sawyer as Baalaka, one of ausGarten’s workers; Madeline Potter as Yoanna Rayluss; Hugh Fraser as Dr Honri Kerrem and Vernon Dobtcheff (from ‘The War Games’) as Dadda Desaka.
The Mara appears again as a giant snake. This time however, the Mara appears and wins when taking over Manussa! Hearing the Mara on audio was so terrifying. It sounds like an infection of evil that easily spreads especially when the Doctor touches people like Nyssa with the mark of the snake.
I’ve chatted to new series writer Robert Shearman, who is a fan of the Mara tales at the ‘Regenerations 2011’ convention in Swansea, September 2011. We chatted about ‘Doctor Who’; writing and sharing how impressed we were on how Marc Platt depicted the Mara in this adventure.
‘The Cradle of the Snake’ was my first encounter with the Mara and it is one I will remember for years to come. I was pretty terrified after listening to this story, especially with Nyssa and the Doctor becoming evil as the Mara. I also enjoyed how Marc Platt depicted the Mara in this audio adventure.
The CD extras are as follows. On Disc 1, there’s a trailer for ‘Project: Destiny’ with Sylvester McCoy, Sophie Aldred and Phillip Olivier. At the end of Disc 1, there are two tracks of incidental music to enjoy. At the end of Disc 2, there are behind-the-scenes interviews with the cast and crew including Peter Davison; Sarah Sutton; Janet Fielding; Mark Strickson; etc.
If you subscribe to Big Finish for ‘The Cradle of the Snake’ via a 6 or 12 CD/Download subscription, you’ll get the following extras. There is a PDF script and extended extras of ‘The Cradle of the Snake’. There’s also a bonus Short Trip called ‘Lepidoptery for Beginners’ with the Second Doctor, read by Duncan Wibsey.
‘The Cradle of the Snake’ rating – 8/10
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