Created to form part of Doctor Who’s gothic period, The Masque Of Mandragora hits DVD with a wonderful splash of colour and melodrama. It also gave one of the show’s most iconic props a bit of a face-lift, sort of!
After an encounter with the deadly Mandragora Helix, the Doctor and Sarah Jane land in 15th Century San Martino. In the midst of danger, secrecy and intrigue, they witness the flowering of the Italian Renaissance. As the masque to celebrate the accession of the new Duke approaches, the Doctor realises that a third visitor has arrived with him in the TARDIS. It is a force with the power to wipe out human civilisation forever. The Doctor has brought it to Earth – and only the Doctor can stop it…
Sharp, witty and played perfectly straight The Masque Of Madragora is prime Doctor Who, culled from one of its most wonderfully creative periods. Tom Baker is on fire here, at his Doctor Who peak just before he made the character too distant and “zany” for the viewer to connect with. Sladen is given plenty of tight dialogue to contend with asking forthright and serious questions to help the narrative along. Strip the story down and it’s a basic invasion plot set in the 15th Century but with Robert Holmes script editing and Louis Marks on writing duties it becomes far more than that. It reminded me of those TV serials the BBC used to broadcast on Sunday tea times during my youth. Lovely stuff.
Supporting cast members Jon Laurimore, Gareth Armstrong and a young Tim Pigott-Smith seem at home here giving weight to their roles, never over stepping the acting line no matter how bizarre things get.
But it’s the beauty of the production that captures the viewer’s attention. The costumes are lavish, the sets bold and the location photography way beyond what you’d expect.
Commentary – Tom Baker, Gareth Armstrong, Philip Hinchcliffe and Production Unit Manager Chris D’Oyly-John all contribute to a fun gag track. Baker does go off in tangents at times but is so amusing that you forget he’s not talking about the serial. Wonderful stuff.
The Secret Of The Labyrinth – The cast and crew look back at the making of The Masque Of Mandragora, its locations and how the filming was shifted from other stories to help shoot this one. Mostly shot at Portmeirion this is an honest account with some wonderful contributions from director Rodney Bennett, Chris D’Oyly-John and actor Jon Laurimore to name a few.
Bigger On The Inside – This history of the TARDIS interior is a cracker of an extra which looks behind the changing face of one of the shows most wonderful icons. Culturally it also points out that visions and designs of the future are always locked in the present.
Now And Then – A return visit to the locations used for The Masque Of Mandragora mainly the beautiful place known as Portmeirion. This could be used as a video to help sell holidays to this Village and will only appeal to those with an interest in the location shoot.
Beneath The Masque – This spoof documentary from Gareth Roberts and Clayton Hickman is an unexpected gem of an extra. With tongue planted firmly in cheek(s) it looks at the time when this serial was shown and its production and will have fans chuckling away at the references they pick up on. Mad and bizarre, even surreal this is fan-boy humour at its finest.
Trailers And Continuity – Exactly what it says, a compendium of intros and promotions for the story. Nostalgic these little pieces of TV history always send shivers up my spine.
Production Information Subtitles – Always worth checking out, these pieces concerning the production are always good value.
PDF Materials – Radio Times Billings can be read if you insert this DVD into a PC or Mac
Photo Gallery – A cupboard load of snaps from the production of the story complete with spaced-out effects.
Coming Soon Trailer – An action packed trailer for the release of The Space Museum & The Chase.
Being such a classic story this DVD was a winner from the start and with a wealth of wonderful extras it’s the first “must have” release of 2010.
Originally broadcast in 1976, The Masque of Mandragora is out on DVD next week on February 8th and is already available to preorder from Amazon at just Â£12.88!