The Cradle of the Snake was the one hundred and thirty-eighth story in Big Finish's monthly range. It was written by Marc Platt and featured Peter Davison as the Fifth Doctor, Sarah Sutton as Nyssa, Janet Fielding as Tegan Jovanka and Mark Strickson as Turlough.
It was the third and final Big Finish audio story in the 2010 Fifth Doctor season. It continued a series of stories starring Davison, Sutton, Fielding and Strickson, who were reunited as a TARDIS team for their first new Doctor Who stories since 1983. It was further notable for including the return of the Mara, a recurring enemy of the Fifth Doctor's era on television.
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. But the TARDIS arrives instead in 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.
Tegan has locked herself in her room, and the Doctor is worried. He tries to speak with her, but with no luck. Nyssa wants to try, so she sends the Doctor and Turlough away so she can talk to Tegan in private. They discuss the possibility of the Mara having come back into her. Tegan shows Nyssa the mark of the Mara on her arm, so Nyssa tells the Doctor.
The Doctor believes that the Mara has come back into Tegan, so he uses the Mind's Eye to delve into the depths of her mind with the intention of driving out the Mara. He gives Nyssa and Turlough orders not to wake him while he is sleeping. Just as the Doctor is at the climax of drawing the Mara from Tegan into himself, Nyssa wakes the Doctor, scared at the fitfulness of his sleep. He reprimands her and goes with her and Turlough for breakfast while Tegan gets some more sleep. He plans to go to Manussa, the once-great planet before the Mara took hold of it, to see if he really succeeded at driving the Mara from Tegan.
The four of them step out onto the planet, and discover that it is not the Manussa they remember: there are high-rise buildings and a more advanced society from the last time. Nyssa comments that they must be in the future, but the Doctor rebuffs this, noting that this is past, before the Mara took over. The Doctor asks which of them had touched the controls; they all deny it. He takes Tegan to a specialist to run some tests, leaving Nyssa and Turlough to wait for them in a park.
Meanwhile, an officer is set to come and inspect Sunset Studios, the broadcasting studio of one Rick AusGarten, a scientist who uses crystals to make dreams a reality. He tells his assistant Baalaka - Barla, for short - to stop feeding the livestock and get on with cleaning the studio for them to pass inspection. He returns that it upsets the animals when their schedules are disturbed. AusGarten takes the officer - a woman by the name of Yoanna Rayluss who is inspecting his facility - on a tour around the studio, to show her that everything is in order, for the demonstration later tonight. She nods and tells him that the people he uses for the demonstration will need thorough background and medical checks. He tells her that it is impossible; the people are chosen live.
He offers to let her try it out, let her mind fixate on an object, and the crystals will make the vision a reality - "think into existence" AusGarten calls it. As she images, the figure of a rose forms in the dream tank. "But that's not what I was imagining," she tells AusGarten. She then notices something in the petals, writhing, trying to get free. It's a tall, fair-haired man, she whispers.
Tegan gets settled in the chair and the specialist runs his tests, using crystals that Tegan notes are "like the Minds' Eye." He calls the Doctor back into the room - who had been sitting in a corner, muttering to himself - and tells them that Tegan's scans had come back clean. There was some scarring on the hypocampus, but that should be of no bother. The Doctor tells Tegan to wait outside, while he settles with the specialist. "You have money?" Tegan asks, bemused. "I'm sure we can come to some agreement," he says. Tegan leaves. The Doctor begins rooting around in the specialist's desk, all the while talking about having a recent affliction of his checked out. He then shows the specialist something on his arm: the mark of the Mara!
Nyssa and Turlough are looking for the Doctor, since he hasn't returned, when suddenly they both doze off and reawaken. They are approached by a strange hunter who gives them a warning and walks off. Meanwhile, Doctor Kerren laughs off the Doctor's intimidating "Mara" speech but the Doctor asks him about Rick and tasks him with bringing together Manussan intellectuals and gets money from him. He and an unsuspecting Tegan leave. Nyssa and Turlough run into a distraught Yoanna Rayluss who explained what has just happened to her. They are eventually joined by Tegan but are startled when they are approached by a snake. Tegan, under the instruction of Turlough, manages to stop get away from it but they discover it belongs to Dadda Desaka, the hunter they encountered earlier. He gives an ominous prediction and goes into a trance when Tegan suddenly remembers her dream and tells the others they have to go tell the Doctor, who didn't follow them. Turlough finds him but the Doctor is acting strange.
Tegan, Nyssa and Yoanna see hunters from a nearby tribe enter the city and command the snakes to search out the 'shadow' (the Mara) but Tegan and Nyssa start to argue due to Tegan having been tricked by the Mara-possessed Doctor who sowed seeds of doubt in her mind regarding Nyssa's confidence in her earlier. The Doctor causes a ruckus at the festival while Yoanna tries to get the hunters cleared out, despite them saying they are only trying to get rid of the evil entity (the Mara). The Doctor traps Turlough and locks him away while the Mara-possesed Doctor is found by ausGarten and he strikes up a deal with him, claiming he has been searching for ausGarten. Tegan, Nyssa, Yoanna and Dadda discover where the Doctor may be thanks to the Tuk-tuk driver they encountered earlier whom the Doctor frightened. Dadda heals him and they go searching for the Mara/Doctor. ausGarten guides the Doctor through his studio, explaining how he uses his equipment to turn people's dreams into tangible objects and how it has been successful but doesn't always work. The Mara-possesed Doctor suddenly goes berserk, smashes the cages holding the snakes and freeing them while he claims to a frightened ausGarten that he is the Mara...
Baalaka frees Turlough but is frightened of the Doctor-possesed Mara and hides while Turlough finds Nyssa, Tegan and Yoanna just as they arrive and explains what happened. However, they are found by ausGarten. Luckily, Yoanna's back-up arrives to confiscate all the equipment after she relayed her report to the bureau informing them of the illegal activities ausGarten was performing such as keeping animals in cages without proper protection and they confiscate the equipment. The Mara-possesed Doctor appears and frightens them, then runs off while they chase him. ausGatren, in the meantime, finds Baalaka and frightens him into helping him again. Doctor Kerrem arrives, having been called in by Yoanna as an independent consultant.
Turlough worries about the Doctor as he struggles to stop the Mara from taking over the Doctor's mind while they are imprisoned in a cage on Yoanna's orders. Kerrem helps the Mara-possessed Doctor escape while Turlough is left behind and he makes a plan with Yoanna. The Mara-possesed Doctor finds that Turlough stole the TARDIS key from him. Nyssa and Tegan find the TARDIS chained up by Dadda who claims it is the coffin that brought the evil there. Turlough arrives while Dadda is captured and converted by the Mara-possessed Doctor having the snake mark transferred to his arm and he gets Nyssa and Tegan inside the TARDIS before the Mara-possessed Doctor gets them. They try look up the Mara in the TARDIS library only to find the pages missing in the book they need, as the Mara took them earlier and intends to follow through on the instructions on how to release it. They fear that the Mara taking over too early at this point will damage the web of time, which they believe the Mara gives no cares about the consequences so long as it gets what it wants, complete domination. Meanwhile, the Mara-possessed Doctor prepares to free itself but all the crystals used fail and he demands Kerrem get some more from an academic faculty. Having found the spare key, he then enters the TARDIS and ends up taking over Nyssa's mind as well. They tie up Turlough and Tegan and then start a studio broadcast using ausGarten's equipment which they recovered. They use the thought visualiser to bring the Mara back into existence right in the studio, as a giant snake appears...
ausGarten begins boasting about having brought the snake into existence out of pure thought energy on live television while Tegan and Turlough think of a way to escape. The Mara-possesed Doctor attempts to tell the viewers that the Mara is their protector and will make its first appearance at the midnight New-year festival while Tegan and Turlough try to convince Baalaka to help them as ausGarten treats him horribly and is not his friend. Turlough succeeds in getting through to him and they go off leaving Tegan behind and contact Yoanna, explaining the situation. However, they are found by ausGarten who learns of their plans and wants to put the Mara-possessed Doctor in his place for disgracing him earlier. Tegan finds a Mara-possessed Nyssa and tries to stay with her by taking advantage of the new-found possessed Nyssa's arrogance, since none of the Mara-possessed individuals seem to want to cooperate with each other and only do so under the Mara's influence. The Doctor comes in and Nyssa, surprisingly, doesn't give away that Tegan is hiding in the room, where the Mara-possessed Doctor suggests she find a more attractive outfit in the TARDIS wardrobe and that he has disabled the flight controls in case so no one can get away.
Turlough finds Tegan inside the TARDIS while Nyssa tries on outfits and they discuss their next course of action with Baalaka. She finds them and reveals that she believes the Doctor an imbecile who is not worthy to be the right-hand servant of the Mara and asks if the two will serve her instead, which they pretend to agree. Satisfied, she leaves and joins the Doctor and the others while Tegan and Turlough secretly discuss a way to get the crystal away from the Mara, which it is currently tightly wound around, and get rid of it for good to try save their friends. Yoanna finds them and tells them how the people are too terrified to reject the Mara and are about to become enslaved. Outside, the Mara-possessed Dadda prepares the crowd for the Mara's reveal, and claims that the Manussan empire will fall to make way for the Sumaran empire. The Mara begins to feast on the fear and subjugation of the gathered crowds but Tegan and Turlough try to trap the Mara-possessed Doctor in the studio and use the cameras and mirrors but to no avail. Suddenly, at the behest of Baalaka staring into the crystal, they are transported to the place of dreams where they find Dadda and an unpossessed Nyssa. They then find the Doctor and free him from the Mara's possession.
They return to reality with the Doctor and Nyssa freed from the Mara's possession, however the Mara is still alive and still has ausGarten and now Yoanna under its control. They go inside the TARDIS but the Mara swallows them whole, and Nyssa mockingly reveals she is still under the Mara's control and converts Turlough. Tegan attempts to sacrifice herself by taking the crystal out into the beast's belly but Baalaka stops her, explaining that he now realises that he is the reason the Mara is still alive, as they are one and the same (earlier Turlough and Tegan were wondering where he came from and where his family was, however he mentioned he had no memory of them or his birthplace and that he just sort of 'came-to-be'). He takes the crystal from an unwilling Tegan and sacrifices himself to destroy the Mara.
All returns to normal, despite the sad loss of Baalaka and the Mara is defeated. The Doctor is offered a chance to become a television presenter, with ausGarten insisting he's a natural, but he politely declines and he, Tegan, Turlough and a recovering Nyssa depart and Tegan asks if the Mara is finally gone for good, however the Doctor laments that it never will be, as it dwells within everyone deep down. It is also revealed Yoanna, who has also returned to normal, has started a "Mara helpline".
- The Doctor - Peter Davison
- Tegan Jovanka - Janet Fielding
- Nyssa - Sarah Sutton
- Turlough - Mark Strickson
- Rick ausGarten - Dan Stevens
- Dr. Hanri Kerrem - Hugh Fraser
- Yoanna Rayluss - Madeleine Potter
- Dadda Desaka - Vernon Dobtcheff
- Baalaka - Toby Sawyer
- The Doctor wants tea and a slice of toast for breakfast.
- Doctor Kerrem has the most advanced techniques in neural probes and crystal scanning, or so he claims.
- The Doctor wins a stuffed animal at the New year's festival.
- There are cars on Manussa in this time period.
- The TARDIS library is used to find books on demons and legends.
- "An Universal history of Fable and Daemenology, Written at the End of All Time" is a book in the TARDIS library detailing all kinds of legends and fantasies. The page on the Mara was torn out by the Mara-possessed Doctor, however.
- The web of time is mentioned, but Nyssa, Tegan and Turlough theorise that the Mara doesn't care for it, even though it's still too early to take over Manussa.
- The Mara-possessed Nyssa drinks alcohol and tries being funnier, contrary to her regular self.
- The Mara-possessed Doctor suggests Nyssa find some far more attractive clothes in the TARDIS wardrobe such as a red or black dress.
- Tegan's father owned a sheep farm with two thousand head of merino. He flew a Cessna Skyhawk.
- The Manussan Empire is at its height in 2215; according to the TARDIS data banks, the rise of the Sumaran regime will occur in the Manussan year 2326, over a hundred years later.
- Nyssa says the goodness on Traken is more robust and less forced than on some other worlds.
- This story marks the first and, so far, only appearance of the Mara in an audio story.
- This audio drama was recorded on 6 and 8 January 2010 at the Moat Studios.
- The story was broadcast on BBC Radio 4 Extra between 26-27 and 30-31 May 2011, forming a radio season with the previous two stories.
- Subscribers whose subscriptions included this story also received the audiobook version of the short story Lepidoptery for Beginners.
- Marc Platt previously wrote another Mara story: the short story Encounter on Burnt Snake Flat.
- This story is set between Enlightenment and The King's Demons.
- This story was originally released on CD and download on 13 September 2010.. It is now available as a download only.
- The Doctor, Nyssa and Tegan encountered the Mara on two previous occasions. (TV: Kinda, Snakedance)
- The Doctor mentions that he plans to catch up with Dojjen at a later date. (TV: Snakedance)
- The Doctor reminds Turlough of his past coercion under the Black Guardian. (TV: Mawdryn Undead, Enlightenment et al.)
- Tegan complains that the Doctor is always winding her up but then bringing her to the wrong place, when they land on Manussa in the wrong time period. He was often, often unsuccessfully, trying to get her back to Heathrow airport in their earlier travels.(TV: Logopolis, The Visitation et al.)
- Turlough reminds the Doctor of their many adventures including Helheim and the Cractids as well as their oter adventures. (AUDIO: Cobwebs et al.)
- The Mara-possessed Doctor curses bureaucracy. The Doctor often made jokes about bureaucracy. (TV: Castrovalva et al.)
- Nyssa reminds Tegan, while under the Mara's influence, that she was born into royalty. She is a princess. (TV: The Keeper of Traken)
- Tegan recognises the place of dreams from when they were on the Kinda world. (TV: Kinda)
- Official The Cradle of the Snake page at bigfinish.com
- DisContinuity for The Cradle of the Snake at Tetrapyriarbus - The DisContinuity Guide