The Tardis lands in paradise, a peaceful tropical planet inhabited by a docile native tribe (the Kinda). As is often the case, the planet is also being occupied by a research group headed by a brash military leader with a disregard for the local life. However, unlike previous stories, this one doesn’t quite go the way you might expect. It is, frankly, weird. Very weird. (You might even call it a Kinda Surprise – I’m sorry.) It’s as if Avatar met The Twilight Zone and they both got drunk.
Credit where it’s due, however, as the dream sequences are very creepy, using a high contrast filter and bright lights to really bring out a strong visual style. Interesting video effects continue into the latter half of the story as well, during the prophecy sequence and the reveal of the Mara snake creature. It’s a good effort to make a studio shoot look a bit more dramatic and interesting. In the case of the dream sequence, it works really well. These are some bizarre if not unsettling scenes; Janet Fielding handles these well.
Watching Hindle and Sanders go from uptight military officers to playful children is an entertaining transformation. For a while, Hindle is the sort of character you just want to punch, but he gradually becomes more and more tragic as the effects of the telepathy take hold. Adric plays the role of the suck-up again, although at least this time he’s got an agenda. Tegan spends much of the story asleep or possessed, and Nyssa spends the whole time recovering in the Tardis. The Doctor is like a teacher on a field trip, but I like him. His comment about an apple a day made me chuckle.
This story is fun and weird, visually interesting but suffers from somewhat poor plotting and drama. I think it’s because it tries to establish a lot of rules but leaves it too long and then asks you to go along with it otherwise the plot makes no sense. Suddenly there’s a psychic box that turns you into a child, oh but only if you’re a man, but actually you might be alright anyway (and it also turns the power off?), reincarnation, a demon from a dream realm and did you know evil snakes hate mirrors or something? And we never see the missing research staff – what ever happened to them?