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Audio Drama Review


Doctor Who
The Cradle of the Snake


Starring: Peter Davison
Big Finish Productions
RRP: £14.99 (CD), £12.99 (download)
ISBN: 978 1 84435 474 0
Available 30 September 2010

The Mara is in all of us, deep in our minds, in our darkest thoughts. That’s where it started. Some people call it a demon, but that’s too simple. It’s about temptation.” Tegan’s nightmares have returned. Seeking to banish the snake-like Mara from his companion’s psyche, the Doctor sets course for Manussa, the creature’s point of origin. However, the TARDIS arrives instead during the heyday of the Manussan Empire, where infotainment impresario Rick ausGarten is preparing to turn dreams into reality. The sun is setting on the Manussan Empire, and it’s all the Doctor’s fault...


When I was a burgeoning Doctor Who fan in the mid-1980s, obsessed with facts, figures, order and symmetry, I considered it very important that each of the Doctors had at least one recurring enemy to his name: a returning adversary that had been introduced during his era of the show. William Hartnell gave us the iconic Daleks and Cybermen; Patrick Troughton introduced the Yeti and the Ice Warriors; Jon Pertwee ushered in the Silurians/Eocenes/whatever, the Master and the Sontarans; Tom Baker offered us Davros and the Black Guardian; and, of course, Peter Davison had the Mara.

The Mara is very much the Fifth Doctor’s foe, having made two memorable appearances, in Kinda and Snakedance, both of them during Peter Davison’s tenure. It would have been hard for Big Finish to bring back the Mara without Tegan to act as a conduit. Fortunately, the presence of Janet Fielding in the current trilogy of adventures facilitates that.

Though the Mara returns, its original writer, Christopher Bailey, does not. Nor does musician Peter Howell, who created the memorable shrieking “sting” for whenever the mark of the Mara is revealed or takes someone over. However, Marc Platt is a more than adequate stand-in for Bailey’s idiosyncratic style, capturing the essence of both the surreal dreamscapes of Kinda (with some bizarre and amusing manifestations of Nyssa and Turlough) and the sardonic Manussans of Snakedance. Meanwhile, composer Andy Hardwick creates a Mara signature of his own, which provides a useful bit of musical shorthand in this audio adventure.

Unlike previous Mara serials, Tegan isn’t possessed by the creature for long. That is a bit of a shame, since a major part of the appeal of those stories is to experience Janet Fielding playing a villain who is very different from Tegan. Instead, the Mara widens its scheme and possesses the Doctor, and later Nyssa (allowing Davison and Sarah Sutton to act evil again, after doing it so well in The Eternal Summer) and eventually Turlough (Mark Strickson). Turlough is a bit slow on the uptake about the Doctor’s odd behaviour, even given his lack of knowledge about the Mara.

Though this is the end of a trilogy, there is no resolution of the Nyssa/Richter’s Syndrome arc. Happily, this means at least three more adventures with the same TARDIS crew next year.

This two-disc release also contains seven minutes of Andy Hardwick’s incidental music and fifteen minutes of interviews with the cast and production team, including a rather cheeky comment from Strickson about Davison’s acting style!

The Cradle of the Snake isn’t quite what I had been expecting. One thing’s for certain, though: the Mara looks a lot less like a rubber snake on audio!


Richard McGinlay

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