The Cause: Early Eighties Doctor Who
Those who venture abroad for a nice seaside holiday in the sun will be used to seeing the kiddies splash around with all manner of inflatable objects and lilos. It may sound like an escapist heaven to some, but if any of those inflatables resemble any kind of serpent then it could well prove to be purgatory for old school Whovians reared in the Peter Davison era!
In the 1982 Fifth Doctor story 'Kinda', our intrepid Time Lord did battle with an evil snake called The Mara. To avoid any confusion, this isn't a reference to actress Kate O'Mara, who didn't hiss her way onto the show until Colin Baker came along. In 'Kinda', the venomous villain figuratively slithered its way into companion Tegan's mind on the idyllic planet Deva Loka and caused various creepy dream sequences. However, The Mara's true form was revealed in its full glory at the end of the story. It has to be seen to be believed.
Despite attempts to distort the image and the implementation of eerie sound effects, one had the distinct impression that it had taken several BBC prop men their lunch break to take it in turns to blow up an inflatable snake bought for 99p at Woolworths. "Look, it's starting to weaken," shrieked The Doctor when The Mara seemingly perishes, having been forced to stare at its own reflection. This death scene appears to have been created by someone simply letting the air out of the poor thing. It just goes to show that not all malevolent forces carry their own puncture repair kit. Of course, for the less cynical generation of younger viewers at the time, it was still enough to strike terror through their hearts - and instil a lifelong fear of sinister inflatables.
The Mara returned in the following season's 'Snakedance' with a slightly pimped-up skin, presumably to justify a rise in the licence fee, but most eyes were too busy shuddering at the garish outfits worn by a young Martin Clunes to pay any attention to the serpent.
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