Doctor Who: Snakedance (with & w/o Commentary)

I can’t remember the first time I watched Snakedance.  Although I suppose I could say that about any classic Who story.  I started watching in 1982, so most of my introduction to the Doctor came during that murkily-remembered period of early-elementary school.  Snakedance always stood out for me though.  Despite having re-watched Davison’s entire run a couple times in high school, many of his stories have simply eroded from my memory.  Snakedance seems to have stuck.  The ubiquitous snakes, the garish costumes, the brightly-lit marketplace scenes contrasting with the dim cave interiors, the Doctor being trapped in a cage from which he couldn’t escape, the creepy half-naked old guy who (infuriatingly) didn’t speak out loud…  All those things cooperated to keep Snakedance at the forefront of my mind.  Or at least, not in the back with so many of the others.

In re-watching it, I discovered that I still enjoyed all the things I remembered so fondly.  In addition, I noticed that the acting was pretty superb compared to some of the other stories of that era.  Colette O’Neil, who played Tanha, was almost note-perfect as the semi-exasperated but doting mother of Federator-to-be Lon (played by Martin Clunes).  Clunes too, was nearly spot-on as the whiny, sarcastic, overindulged heir.  It would have been so easy for either of them to slide into caricatures of their roles, but they walked that line admirably.  John Carson (as the archaeologist Ambril) tended to teeter a bit more than the other two, but still turned in a solid performance.

I haven’t seen Kinda in many years, and I know lots of folks see it as the superior of the two Mara stories, but I always remember liking Snakedance better.  I should probably check out Kinda again one of these days to see if that still holds true.  For now, I’m just pleased to have re-experienced Snakedance.

I also re-re-watched it with commentary provided by (you guessed it) those Radio Free Skaro rapscallions.  Exceedingly good times, that.  In addition to all the fun, I was reassured on one count.  I hadn’t seen any Davison episodes in nigh-on two decades, and I really hadn’t remembered him being so energetic.  My first viewing this weekend had me thinking the same thing Chris mentioned in the commentary, that Davison was “channeling his future son-in-law” (David Tennant).  I was rather relieved when the boys pointed out that this story was an outlier in terms of Davison’s energy-level.  I’d been doubting my precious mental picture of the fifth Doctor, but apparently my fears were unwarranted.  Character-wise, I suppose it did make sense for him to be so worked up.  He felt it was his own fault that Tegan was still suffering the effects of the Mara’s possession, thus he was extra-motivated to get to the bottom of things and save his irksome/beloved companion.

In addition to assuaging my fears about one of my favorite Doctors, the fellows also entertained me with the following “off-topicery” and “on-topic BS-ing”:

  • Seagulls!
  • Singing!  (Even more than in the last couple episodes—this time ‘round including a rendition of the theme to The Polka Dot Door, which pretty much made my day.)
  • Warren brilliantly describing Chris’ ability to create a “do-it-yourself dirty joke table.”
  • Chris setting up scads of dirty jokes.
  • Steven disappearing for a bit.
  • A Thompson Twin named Miranda.
  • Chris saying “It’s not misogyny, it’s just general sadism.”
  • Discussion of 70s porn guitar.
  • And possibly my favorite moment of all: Chris’ intense reaction to a guard in a really cool helmet.  It was sudden, explosive, totally genuine, and highly amusing.

And lest you think I was slacking in the knitting department, I got oodles done.  Oodles.  I’m now only about 60 rows away from being a quarter of the way finished.  Hrm.  Now that I type that out, it doesn’t seem like so much.  It felt like a lot though.  And at least I’m trucking along!

Knitting-with-commentary pro tip: Start the DVD a wee bit after you start the commentary.  When the commentary is slightly ahead of the action, you’ll be warned when something important happens on screen, and you can look up from your knitting in time to see it.  (Note that this doesn’t apply to “real” knitters who don’t have to look at their knitting most of the time like I do.  So I guess that makes this an “amateur tip” rather than a pro tip.)

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