Doctor Who – Snakedance Review (or ‘Doctor Who Doesn’t Need Tegan’)

I’ve got a bit of a problem…

It’s been nearly two weeks since I finished watching Snakedance but now is the first chance I’ve had to write the review of it.

I did try last week, but because I was fighting against food poisoning, the thought of getting up and writing a 1,500 word piece just turned me off.

How is that a problem?

Well the truth of the matter is that because I watched this whilst ill and because it’s been so long since I finished it, I fear that many of the little things – the aspects of the story worth mentioning in any review that are supposed to provide a fresh or at least personalised perspective – have been lost to me.

My brother said “Why not watch it again”, but the answer to that would be a solid “Thanks but no thanks”.

So here’s my take on Snakedance, though I fear it will be done with rather broad strokes…

Doctor Who – Snakedance Review: What’s This One About?

Tegan’s has once again been taken over by the Mara, while Martin Clunes makes his television debut, Nyssa finally gets a change of clothes and an old guy meditates on location.

As you can see from this picture, Tegan & The Mara would have made for a fantastic Kids TV Presenter Double Act

As you can see from this picture, Tegan & The Mara would have made for a fantastic Kids TV Presenter Double Act

Thoughts – Very Much A ‘Fifth Doctor Story’.

The first thing to say about Snakedance is that is appears to me to be what the average Dr Who fan would think a Peter Davison story is.

In Snakedance, Davison is often found running around frantically, trying to explain a problem to people who don’t believe him with a certain level of fear and exasperation. This is very much a “Fifth Doctor Story”.

And that’s not a bad thing.

On the whole Snakedance is an enjoyable affair that is certainly far superior to the two stories that have come before it. Even though perhaps bringing the Mara back was unnecessary and a touch contrived, it is a story that  makes sense and – perhaps crucially after Arc of Infinity – isn’t boring.

And it’s also helped by having a very strong guest cast.

Obviously Martin Clunes stands out because he’s a top TV actor and is still very well-known to this day, but it would be unfair to extol only his virtues. Collete O’Neill, Jonathon Morris, Brian Miller and John Carson are all also very good.

Does Doctor Who Need Tegan?

The one thing that this story did leave me with – even two weeks after I finished watching it – was a sense that Tegan does not need to be in the show.

If you listen to the commentary, Peter Davison openly talks about how he had tried to have her written out and that he preferred Nyssa, and he’s absolutely right to think that.

Since her debut in Logopolis, Tegan has managed to be a member of the regular cast who doesn’t really work as a companion.

Sadly, The Mara's Personal Demons got in the way

Sadly, The Mara’s Personal Demons got in the way

At no point in the history of Doctor Who has a regular character been less involved with the Doctor.

The only story up to this point where she’s had any notable interaction with him was in Four to Doomsday.

Even in stories like Kinda, Arc of Infinity and now Snakedance, she doesn’t play much of a supporting role, but either a villain or a character who has been given a storyline to work separate from the Doctor’s one.

Maybe it’s how brash the character is, or maybe it’s just that Nyssa and even Adric worked better with Peter Davison’s Doctor, but I just don’t see the point of her.

In the next story, The Doctor will mainly be scripted alongside the Brigadier and Turlough, whilst in Terminus he’s written with Nyssa.

To me, Tegan just isn’t working as a companion, and I think it’s a shame that she was kept at the expense of the far more likeable and easy-to-write-for Nyssa.

Random Observations

  • Artistically, Snakedance is a mixed bag. On the one hand, the sets are all fairly good compared to those that we’ve seen in the Peter Davison era so far. But the jump between film and video is about as pronounced as it’s ever been in Doctor Who. The scenes with Dojjen in “The Wilderness” look like they’ve been cut into the story by an editor with terrible attention to detail.
  • And though they probably looked ok at the time, some of the ‘special effects’ look so cheap. Like something out of Knightmare.
  • The Mara looks better this time though.
  • I’m not entirely sure how the sensory headphone thing that Tegan is wearing works. For a start, why is the sound only going into one ear? And more to the point, how is it affecting her vision?

    This guy is just smug because he never had to come in to the studio for regular filming

    This guy is just smug because he never had to come in to the studio for regular filming

  • How could a renowned expert on Sumaran culture not work out that the sixth face of delusion was that of the wearer of the hat? What an idiot.
  • Do you still get Punch & Judy shows? I’d have thought political correctness would ensure they were a thing of the past?
  • Look! It’s that rubbish actor from the Invisible Enemy. Sharp haircut he’s got too.
  • Nyssa finally has a new outfit; an outfit that lasts all of one story. Listening to the commentary, it seems as though Sarah Sutton doesn’t like it, but it works a lot better than what she ends up wearing (or not wearing as the case may be) in the next two stories.
  • The cliffhanger to episode three is dreadful. All of a sudden, Lon wants to kill the Doctor, and then Nyssa lets out a theatrical scream. The resolution? His mother comes in and says “Don’t be silly”. Top, top writing…
  • The resolution to the story as a whole is poor as well. But it happens quite a lot in Doctor Who. A load of episodes that deal with the impending threat of a menace that is just about to invade somewhere, and then 10 minutes devoted to it being stopped without much fuss just as it arrives.
  • DWM Mighty 200 Ranking: #120

Doctor Who – Snakedance Review: Final Thoughts

Well in the end I wrote more than I thought I would.

Snakedance is a solid if unremarkable story.

For the time it looks good enough, and it has a strong guest cast.

But it shows once again that the show doesn’t need Tegan at this point.

It’s just a pity she is kept on at the expense of a better companion.


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2 Responses to Doctor Who – Snakedance Review (or ‘Doctor Who Doesn’t Need Tegan’)

  1. Slavin Ivanov says:

    I just noticed that Tegan in that picture looks just like Dr Judson from the Curse of Fenric when he got taken over. 🙂
    Great review as always!

  2. nickr says:

    Glad to have you back and feeling better, chap. I’ve missed your reviews! This is probably my favourite Season 20 story and, as you say, it’s pretty average. Best wishes, Nick

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