During an aimless tour of the endless depths of the TARDIS, the Doctor introduces Sarah to the ornately wood-paneled secondary control room, which duplicates the functions of the master console room. When he fires up the secondary control room’s instruments, the Doctor discovers that the TARDIS is headed for the Mandragora Helix, a spaceborne vortex of malevolent energy. Forced to the land within it briefly, the Doctor is helpless to prevent a fragment of the Helix’s energy from boarding the TARDIS. After escaping from the vortex, the Doctor is surprised when the TARDIS brings them to late 1600s Italy, where Sarah is promptly kidnapped by a band of hooded figures. While trying to find her, the Doctor realizes that the Mandragora Helix has come to Earth. The local Duke has died, and his young, idealistic son Giuliano now holds his power, though the local population is under the tyrannical thumb of the boy’s uncle, Count Federico. And Sarah is about to be sacrificed by a murderous cult which will find a great ally in the unearthly newcomer which the Doctor has unwittingly brought with him.
Season 14 Regular Cast: Tom Baker (The Doctor), Elisabeth Sladen (Sarah Jane Smith), Louise Jameson (Leela)
written by Louis Marks
directed by Rodney Bennett
music by Dudley Simpson
Guest Cast: John Laurimore (Count Federico), Gareth Armstrong (Giuliano), Tim Piggott-Smith (Marco), Norman Jones (Hieronymous), Antony Carrick (Captain Rossini), Robert James (High Priest), Pat Gorman, James Appleby, John Clamp (Guards), Peter Walshe, Jay Neill (Pikemen), Brian Ellis (Brother), Peter Tuddenham (Mandragora voice), Peggy Dixon, Jack Edwards, Alistair Fullarton, Michael Reid, Kathy Wilfit (Dancers), Stuart Fell (Entertainer)
Broadcast from September 4 through 25, 1976
LogBook entry & review by Earl Green
Review: Possibly the most fun one can have in watching The Masque Of Mandragora is in spotting the elements used from other shows. Peter Tuddenham, later the voice of Zen, Orac and Slave in Blake’s 7, provides the voice of the Mandragora Helix (well, maybe more of a throaty laugh than an actual voice) for this four-parter. And though the local foliage has grown considerably and the buildings are visibly more aged, sharp-eyed viewers will note that many of the location scenes were shot in Portmeiron, also known as the inescapable Village from The Prisoner; this is most obvious early in episode two, as the Doctor runs from the Count’s guards.
The setting and the atmosphere of the superstitious middle ages does a lot to help along a story which is, at best, standard-issue. There are a lot of chases, captures, escapes, and more chases, accompanied by the old action series standby of people being repeatedly knocked unconscious with little or no ill effects when they wake up. I’ve never been able to maintain much interest in this story, but even I will admit that the setting and the costumes are above par.