Doctor Who #431: The Masque of Mandragora Part 2

"We seem to have an awful lot of questions. It's about time we started finding some answers."
TECHNICAL SPECS: First aired Sep.11 1976.

IN THIS ONE... The Helix promises Hieronymous rulership of Earth. The Doctor and Sarah escape and gain the friendship of Duke Giuliano.

REVIEW: Obviously, our heroes have to get out of that twin cliffhanger. Sadly, the results are variable. The Doctor's escape is definitely cool - he's calm and funny, and uses his scarf in a neat way. The mechanics of his tripping up his executioner were worked out well enough that the moment works. Not so Sarah Jane's rescue from the Cult of Demnos. For THAT moment to work, the cultists all need to close their eyes in prayer at the moment of sacrifice so the Doctor can slide her off the altar. I don't buy the moment that follows either. Was the High Priest (Hieronymous, as it turns out) really aiming for her face? His orders to get the Doctor and Sarah come too quickly, as if rehearsed. He doesn't really have time to look around and spot them. I also wish they'd addressed what had Sarah in that trance. She's in and out of it without explanation.

While I'm interested in the Court intrigue, Federico's plans for Giuliano and all that, Hieronymous strikes me as a particularly one-note villain. Staring into the distance with mad eyes, he dreams of ruling the world through the power of the... slow... talking... Mandragora... Helix... He never strikes me as a real person, and the silly beard certainly isn't helping. Somehow, the other San Martinians overcome their bad wigs, but not Hieronymous. It's perhaps telling that the Helix/Demnos tells him to be discreet, as if sensing his megalomania. Already, in the castle, Hieronymous is getting above his position. It's like Polonius suddenly telling off Claudius. At this point, he's insulted to be asked to cast a false horoscope, which is either an about-face, or the older Duke's death really was ordained, a sort of self-fulfilling prophecy. He was fated to die at the hands of his astrologer.

There's a lot more location shooting in this episode, and it's gorgeous, looking like nothing the show's previously been able to achieve outside. Again, *I* know it's Portmerion, but it never looks like The Village to me. A strange and wonderful place that agreeably plays the role of Renaissance Italy and the surrounding forest where a Roman cult past its due date by about 12 centuries might lurk. The latter makes a nice setting for sword battles and horse chases, as well as quieter, sweeter moments like Sarah Jane being charmed by Giuliano's scientific awakening. She knows the Earth is round, but there's something special about someone enthusiastic about that (new!) idea. Her reation is what makes it special for us. Oh Lis, never leave this show!

REWATCHABILITY: Medium - An odd mix of things that annoy me (a poorly choreographed rescue, a couple of cardboard villains, lots of lurking about) and things I love (great location work, sweet human moments, the Doctor being clever and witty). So the episode falls right in the middle, watchable but flawed.



Blog Archive


5 Things to Like Activities Advice Alien Nation Aliens Say the Darndest Things Alpha Flight Amalgam Ambush Bug Animal Man anime Aquaman Archetypes Archie Heroes Arrowed Asterix Atom Avengers Awards Babylon 5 Batman Battle Shovel Battlestar Galactica Black Canary BnB 2-in1 Books Booster Gold Buffy Canada Captain America Captain Marvel Cat CCGs Charlton Circles of Hell Comics Comics Code Approved Conan Contest Cooking Crisis Daredevil Dating Kara Zor-El Dating Lois Lane Dating Lucy Lane Dating Princess Diana DCAU Deadman Dial H Dice Dinosaur Island Dinosaurs Director Profiles Doctor Who Doom Patrol Down the Rabbit Hole Dr. Strange Encyclopedia Fantastic Four Fashion Nightmares Fiasco Films Within Films Flash Flushpoint Foldees French Friday Night Fights Fun with Covers Galleries Game design Gaming Geekly roundup Geeks Anonymous Geekwear Gimme That Star Trek Godzilla Golden Age Grant Morrison Great Match-Ups of Science Fiction Green Arrow Green Lantern Hawkman Hero Points Podcast Holidays House of Mystery Hulk Human Target Improv Inspiration Intersect Invasion Invasion Podcast Iron Man Jack Kirby Jimmy Olsen JLA JSA Judge Dredd K9 the Series Kirby Motivationals Krypto Kung Fu Learning to Fly Legion Letters pages Liveblog Lonely Hearts Podcast Lord of the Rings Machine Man Motivationals Man-Thing Marquee Masters of the Universe Memes Memorable Moments Metal Men Metamorpho Micronauts Millennium Mini-Comics Monday Morning Macking Movies Mr. Terrific Music Nelvana of the Northern Lights Nightmare Fuel Number Ones Obituaries oHOTmu OR NOT? Old52 One Panel Outsiders Panels from Sheena Paper Dolls Play Podcast Polls Questionable Fridays Radio Rants Reaganocomics Recollected Red Bee Red Tornado Reign Retro-Comics Reviews Rom RPGs Sandman Sapphire & Steel Sarah Jane Adventures Saturday Morning Cartoons SBG for Girls Seasons of DWAITAS Secret Origins Podcast Secret Wars SF Silver Age Siskoid as Editor Siskoid's Mailbox Space 1999 Spectre Spider-Man Spring Cleaning ST non-fiction ST novels: DS9 ST novels: S.C.E. ST novels: The Shat ST novels: TNG ST novels: TOS Star Trek Suicide Squad Supergirl Superman Supershill Swamp Thing Tales from Earth-Prime Team Horrible Teen Titans That Franchise I Never Talk About The Prisoner The Thing Then and Now Theory Thor Thursdays of Two Worlds Time Capsule Timeslip Tintin Torchwood Tourist Traps of the Forgotten Realms Toys Turnarounds TV V Waking Life Warehouse 13 Websites What If? Who's This? Whoniverse-B Wikileaked Wonder Woman X-Files X-Men Zine