Written by Lexidenton
Since Doctor Who’s revival in 2005, many of the show’s iconic enemies of the classic era have returned with it over the years. While the holy trinity of villainy – the Daleks, Cybermen, and The Master – have all featured heavily throughout with multiple appearances and major story arcs, others too include the Autons, Sontatans, Davros, Time Lords, the Great Intelligence, Ice Warriors, Zygons, the Sisterhood of Karn, etc. Most recently we have had the Eternals: immortal beings related to the Black & White Guardians and the Celestial Toymaker. Even the Macra made a small return after their one-off (and frankly quite brilliant) story, 1967’s The Macra Terror.
At this point, there’s admittedly only a small handful of the big Classic Who villains left to bring back. Some fan favorites include Omega (A founder of Time Lord society and creator of time travel) and the Sea Devils (A cousin race of the Silurians). There is one in particular however that I desperately want above all others, one whom I believe is perfect for some delicious storytelling potential……
For those unaware, the Mara is a Classic Who villain with only two televised stories, both of which being in the Fifth Doctor’s era. These are 1982’s Kinda and 1983’s Snakedance. On top of these, it has also appeared in some external media like novels and Big Finish audios. It is an entity of evil whose true form is that of a giant devilish snake. While the show has featured and explored Devil figures before – most notably Sutekh in The Pyramids of Mars, the Scratchman in Tom Baker’s proposed film-turned-novel, and of course the Beast from The Impossible Planet– the Mara takes less of a direct Luciferian and Satanic approach, and is inspired by buddhist and generally more Eastern concepts. Though that said, the Paradise Lost symbolism remains clear within Kinda. It comes from the dark places of the inside and reflects the balance of the light and darkness within us all.
In Kinda, we see it drawn towards the Fifth Doctor’s companion Tegan. As she sleeps, it psychologically torments her with twisted visions and surreal imagery for days, turning her own dreams against her until she yields and willingly lets the Mara become a part of her. While the story does not stay with Tegan much after this, it does set things up for future stories. At the end, when Tegan sees its true serpentine form, she’s concerned and asks the Doctor if it’s definitely out of her- to which he doesn’t answer.
In the next season’s Snakedance, Tegan continues to have trauma and haunting dreams from her experience. The Doctor knows the Mara is still a part of her, and so takes her to a planet called Manusa, once ruled over by the Mara in a decadent empire. Its power and influence are too much however, and Tegan becomes corrupted once more, trying to bring about a new empire and physical form for her devilish companion.
There is also a Big Finish audio story called Cradle of the Snake, which I believe continues Tegan’s story with the Mara, though I personally cannot speak on it as I have not yet listened to it.
Overall, the moral is that Tegan will never fully escape her experience with the Mara, that trauma will always be with her.
Why They Should Return
I personally love both Mara stories of the Fifth Doctor era for what they are, though I do feel more connected to Kinda and its themes and ideas more than Snakedance. Whereas Kinda feels like a writer passionately and creating trying something new and different, adding to the definition of what Doctor Who can be, Snakedance feels like the writer was reigned in to make something that feels like what Doctor Who already is. This would account for some of the divergences between the two stories.
What makes the Mara interesting, to me, is that it’s not as simple as something evil possessing you. While it has a level of control and does things that you may typically disapprove of, it’s still ultimately you.
The Mara cannot do anything unless you willingly agree to be a part of it, and it a part of you. And so it tortures, tempts and seduces you into the worst version of yourself.
It’s the power fantasy of being free from all moral chains. It is the dark mirror to all of our souls, and the whisper in our ear that it’s ok. That’s both powerful, and scary. Because deep down, there’s a part in all of us that wants to embrace the Mara, even though we know we shouldn’t.
It’s also a rarity within the show in that it’s a villain with zero interest in the Doctor, but more attracted towards the companion, which makes it ripe for some character development potential.
I feel the Mara is a perfect antagonist to return to the show, particularly for the current Chibnall/Whittaker era, because it’s an era that has particularly reveled in exploring the darker sides of humanity and society, reflecting our current real world times where things are intense and worrying right now, the Mara makes sense.
It would be nice to be able to say ‘Look the Mara made me do it!!’ That there’s a big devil snake responsible for all the evil and harshness we must endure in life, but the sad truth is, it’s not as easy as that. There is no Mara without us.
In Kinda, the priestess Panna shows a surreal vision and tells the Doctor of how the clock starts ticking again, the clock of civilisation’s destruction, as it always has and will, when one makes the choice to kill. To quote Battlestar Galactica, “This has all happened before and it will all happen again”. It all begins when someone embraces the Mara. Embraces their own darkness.
While the Hindle plotline within Kinda doesn’t outright tie into the Mara plot directly, thematically they compliment one another, along with his manic yells of “You can’t mend people”.
We have to acknowledge and accept the darkness of our own insides, for only then can we move on and hope to be better.
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