The One With The Snake is a story that is hugely over-rated, rather dull and uneventful, and has another crap one word title. Quite why fandom raves about the bloody thing I’ll never know, as I can’t see the attraction. Maybe I’m just a philistine, but to me it’s a load of pretentious pseudo-buddhist bollocks. Metaphor and imagery are all very good and well in novels but on telly we want action, incident and threat, and we get far too little of any of that on Deva Loka.
If only there had been someone around with enough script writing experience to tell Bailey & Bidmead that you don’t set out to explore a theme and then build a story around it, you construct your story in order to explore your theme… Still, on the plus side it does have proper actors like Mary Morris and Richard Todd as well as former Liver Bird Nerys Milf-Hughes, and Simon Rouse acting his socks off as the unhinged Hindle, and even Janet Fielding gets to do some acting for a change.
So how to navigate through this muddle of the complexities of eastern mysticism overlaid with the simplistic imagery of British Imperialism and viewed through a Biblical prism? Well, to begin with we open with the end of the previous story, Four To Doomsday, with Nyssa having her funny turn so the start of this one makes a bit more sense. We lose the opening with Sanders spooking Hindle and come out of the titles to the scene with the Tardis, to tie in with the pre-credits stuff. Once Tegan starts tripping by the chimes we stick with her as much as possible. Not only is all that stuff in her head nice and spooky, it also helps us avoid, as much as possible, both Adric and the narrative tedium that is Hindle cracking up and losing his marbles. Yawn.
With a lot of re-ordering of the material, something I had to do throughout the edit, we exit Tegan’s dreamscape after eighteen minutes and six minutes later Five and Nerys leg it into the jungle to meet up with the bloke from That’s Life and Grannie Gandalf, allowing us to completely ignore the stuff going on in the dome for ages, only cutting back to it when we absolutely have to.
The psychadelic trip montage that ends part three gets cut right back and we hit part four just after half an hour in. After that, it’s a case of re-ordering the material so we can get to the end as quickly as we can, and we all know what’s waiting there for us, don’t we…
The fake snake isn’t actually as bad as your cheating memory would have you believe. It would probably have worked better if they had turned the bloody lights down and made it green instead of scarlet. I did toy with the idea of using the CG replacement but in the end I decided that the story wasn’t really worth the effort and so I resorted to bunging copious amounts of motion blur on the thing from the off. The Beeb themselves did that towards the end but I felt it was better to go with it from the start since, quite aside from the obvious benefits, it gives better continuity to the sequence.
It’s easy to knock the poor fx in Who, such as this one, but it’s not the snake itself that’s the problem so much as the way it was shot. The final thing to do was a fade to black just before the final scene to make it clear, as indicated by the dialogue, that some time has passed since the fake snake, either that or Todd’s recommendation was accepted PDQ. And yes, I do think Five and the Milferrific Todd did the dirty deed in the jungle!
Finally, I had to come up with an alternate title as Kinda is just crap. And anyway, it’s just a mispronunciation of “Kind-a” as in “It’s A Kinda Magic”, whereas this is kinda tragic. So that gets binned and instead this penultimate Peter Davison Era fan edit gets the much more Doctor Who-y title of Serpent of Evil. Mwahahaha!