Tuesday 24 January 2012

428 The Masque of Mandragora Part One

EPISODE: The Masque of Mandragora Part One
TRANSMITTED: 04 September 1976
WRITER: Louis Marks
DIRECTOR: Rodney Bennett
SCRIPT EDITOR: Robert Holmes
PRODUCER: Philip Hinchcliffe
FORMAT: DVD: Doctor Who - The Masque Of Mandragora

The Tardis is invaded by the Mandragora Helix which uses it to take it to late 15th century Italy. Giuliano has just succeeded his father Duke, who died exactly when astrologer Hieronymous predicted it. Hieronymous is working for Giuliano's uncle, Count Federico, who has poisoned his brother & seeks to kill the new Duke. Sarah is abducted by black robed cultists who knock the Doctor out. When he comes round he sees Mandragora energy which has escaped the Tardis and has gone on a rampage. Federico & Hieronymous bring Giuliano the prediction of his death. The Doctor searches for Sarah but guards take him captive. Sarah is taken to the hidden temple of the cult of Demnos where the high priest makes preparations to sacrifice here while the Doctor is taken to Federico who tries to interrogate him. Federico doesn't believe the Doctor's story and orders him executed, but Giuliano is intrigued by him. Sarah is drugged prior to sacrifice while the Doctor is taken to the executioner's block.

Ah Masque of Mandragora. Stuck between several much loved stories it's a bit ignored. I've always had a bit of a problem with it as a TV story...... I've never stayed awake watching all 4 episodes right the way through. Ooops. This first episode isn't bad, if a little slow in place. But there's some splendid stuff in it, especially the magnificent Tardis secondary control room seen at the start of the story which has a very Jules Verne feel with lots of wood panelling plus some throwbacks to the show's past with the second Doctor's recorder and the third Doctor's shirt & jacket on display. I think this is one of the first times we've seen a mass of Tardis corridors. We saw some extra rooms in the early stories, especially in Edge of Destruction, but this really starts our exploration of the ship beyond the control room. I spent an lot of Seeds of Doom commenting on the physical violence: here the Doctor uses his Venusian Akido to defend himself when attacked by the Cultists and that looks much better.

Playing Count Federico is John Laurimore who's had a long TV Carer generally avoiding science fiction apart from in 1976 when he was in this and Space 1999 Black Sun. Hieronymous is played fabulously by Norman Jones (fantastic wide staring eyes) who previously was Khrisong in The Abominable Snowmen and Major Baker in the Silurians. The High Priest is Robert James who we heard as Lesterson in The Power of the Daleks. One of the Brothers is played by Brian Ellis who was the Prisoner in The Sontaran Experiment. The Titan Voice heard in this episode is Peter Tuddenham who provided voices for The Ark in Space and Time and the Rani as well as Orac, Zen & Slave in Blake's 7. Gareth Armstrong playing Giuliano, was also in Blake's 7 as Parton in Star One while his friend Marco is Tim Piggott-Smith who was Captain Harker in The Claws of Axos. Pat Gorman is credited as a Soldier and I'm pretty sure that it's him playing the guard that gets fried by the Mandragora Energy towards the end of the episode!

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