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The Masque of Mandragora (TV story)

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The Masque of Mandragora
Mandragora title
Novelised as: Doctor Who and the Masque of Mandragora
Doctor: Fourth Doctor
Companion(s): Sarah
Featuring: Giuliano
Main enemy: The Mandragora Helix
Hieronymous
Count Federico
Main setting: San Martino, 1492
Key crew
Writer: Louis Marks
Director: Rodney Bennett
Producer: Philip Hinchcliffe
Release details
Story number: 86
Number of episodes: 4
Season/series: Season 14
Premiere broadcast: 4 September - 25 September 1976
Premiere network: BBC1
Format: 4x25-minute episodes
Production code: 4M
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The Masque of Mandragora was the first story of the 14th season of Doctor Who. It was notable for being the first historical or pseudo-historical story since TV: The Gunfighters not to be principally set in Great Britain.

It also introduced the first radical redesign of the TARDIS control room, and offered the first explanation of how both the Doctor and his companions were able to understand and communicate in languages other than English.

Synopsis Edit

An encounter with the living energy structure known as the Mandragora Helix leads the TARDIS to 15th century Italy. Between palace intrigue, the machinations of a sinister cult and a rogue fragment of Helix energy, the Fourth Doctor and Sarah have their hands full. There is not much time, for when Mandragora swallows The Moon, it will be time to strike.

Plot Edit

Part one Edit

The Fourth Doctor shows Sarah some of the other parts of the TARDIS interior. They come across the older console room which, unlike the primary room, is decorated with wood-panelling and has a more archaic feel. Activating the viewscreen, the Doctor sees a swirl of living energy in the time vortex — the Mandragora Helix — which starts to draw them in. The intelligence within the Helix starts to psychically attack them as the Doctor tries to pilot the TARDIS through it. The ship ends up inside the Helix itself. The Doctor and Sarah go outside, but have to duck behind the TARDIS as a fragment of glowing Helix energy flies by. They escape in the TARDIS, not knowing that the fragment has entered with them.

TARDISMandragora
The Mandragora energy exits the TARDIS in San Martino.
CzechOutAdded by CzechOut

In 15th century San Martino, Italy, a peasant revolt is violently put down by Count Federico and his men, led by Captain Rossini. In a palace, Federico's brother, the Duke of San Martino, lays dying. He is attended by his son Giuliano and Giuliano's companion, Marco. The Duke's death had been foretold by Hieronymous, the court astrologer. Giuliano, a man of science, does not believe in such superstition. In fact, Hieronymous is working for Federico, and the horoscope's prediction of the Duke's death was helped along by poison. Hieronymous tells the Count that he feels his powers are growing, but all Federico wants is for the astrologer to foretell Giuliano's death next, and he will take care of the rest.

The TARDIS materialises in a field near San Martino. The Doctor and Sarah go out to explore. Unseen, the energy fragment flies out of the TARDIS as well. Sarah wanders off and is kidnapped by a group of men in hooded robes. The Doctor tries to rescue her, but is knocked unconscious. When he awakes, he witnesses the energy fragment fly towards and kill a peasant. Searching for Sarah, the Doctor is confronted by the Count's men and arrested.

BrotherhoodTakeSarah
The Brotherhood of Demnos take Sarah.
CzechOutAdded by CzechOut

At the court, the Doctor tries to tell Federico that the energy fragment could spell the end of the world. The Count at first thinks the Doctor is a seer, like Hieronymous. When the astrologer quizzes the Doctor, it becomes clear that the Doctor does not believe in any of it. Federico orders the Doctor to be executed as a spy. Meanwhile, Sarah is brought before a priest. He tells her that she is the foretold sacrifice to Demnos, the Roman god of moonlight and solstice. She is dressed in a white robe and told that she will be sacrificed when the moon rises over the southern obelisk. Back at the palace courtyard, the Doctor is led to the executioner and forced to his knees for decapitation.

Part two Edit

HeironGetsMandragora
The Mandragora Helix communicates with Hieronymous.
CzechOutAdded by CzechOut

Before the executioner's sword lands, the Doctor unfurls his scarf and hooks it around the executioner's ankle, throwing him off balance. The Doctor escapes out of the palace grounds and finds his way into some catacombs beneath the city. The guards, fearing the Brethren of Demnos who reside in those passages, stop their pursuit. Inside, Sarah is laid out on an altar. A purple-robed figure wearing a golden mask is about to stab her with a silver dagger when the Doctor snatches Sarah away. The fragment appears in the chamber, suffusing it with a red glow and providing a distraction for the two to escape.

Giuliano examines the body of a guard that was killed earlier by the passage of the fragment, and while he does not know the cause of the guard's death, he dismisses ideas that it was some kind of fire demon. The Doctor and Sarah are found by some palace guards. In the temple, the Helix manifests itself as a pillar of red light and tells the purple-robed figure that he alone will be given undreamed-of powers to carry out its will on Earth and become the planet's supreme ruler. After the Helix vanishes, the figure removes the golden mask, revealing the face of Hieronymous.

DocSarahCaves
The Fourth Doctor explains Mandragora energy to Sarah.
CzechOutAdded by CzechOut

The guards bring the Doctor and Sarah, not to Federico, but to Giuliano, who shows him the dead guard's body and tells the Doctor of fears that if Federico rules San Martino, all knowledge and learning will be suppressed. Elsewhere, Federico discovers that Giuliano has invited several nobles to San Martino to celebrate his succession to the Dukedom. Angered, Federico demands Hieronymous make up a new horoscope and poison Giuliano before the next evening.

The Doctor deduces that the Helix chose San Martino because the Brethren provided a ready-made power base. The 15th century was the transition between the Dark Ages and the dawn of the Renaissance — the Helix could gain control of the Earth now through a new religion. The Doctor tells Giuliano the temple must be destroyed. They go to the temple, and the Doctor enters the catacombs alone, but as he enters the main chamber the Helix attacks him psychically. Rossini informs Federico of Giuliano's trip to the temple, and the Count decides to take his guards to the temple to kill his "pagan" nephew. The guards corner Giuliano with their swords. Sarah runs into the catacombs calling for the Doctor, but is caught by the Brethren.

Part three Edit

SarahDoesSums
Sarah helps the Doctor with some basic arithmetic.
CzechOutAdded by CzechOut

The Helix attack stops, but the Doctor is prevented from venturing further into the temple. He leaves to find Giuliano fighting off the guards and joins in with a sword of his own. Giuliano is wounded, and suddenly, the Brethren emerge from the forest armed with staves and force the guards to retreat. The Doctor and Giuliano go into the catacombs. Sarah is brought back to the astrologer's chambers where she is left gagged as the Priest and Heironymous talk. The priest is eager to sacrifice Sarah, but Hieronymous decides to use her as bait for the Doctor. Hieronymous allowed the Brethren to save Giuliano because the young prince may still have value. Sarah is brought back to the astrologer's chambers, and is drugged and hypnotised to believe the Doctor is an evil sorcerer. Hieronymous gives her a poisoned needle to kill the Doctor.

At the palace, the invited nobles begin to arrive, and Federico realises he does not have much time to eliminate Giuliano, but Rossini is unable to find Giuliano in San Martino. Hieronymous warns Federico that his life is in danger. Federico scoffs, believing Hieronymous to be a fraud, but is suspicious enough to tell Rossini to banish Hieronymous from the city.

In the catacombs, Giuliano and the Doctor find Sarah, who cannot remember anything after her capture by the cult. They make their way into the palace dungeons through a secret passage. The Doctor goes to confront Hieronymous, whom he has deduced is the leader of the Brethren, in his rooms. Sarah secretly follows, trying to carry out her post-hypnotic orders. When the Doctor speaks to Hieronymous, Sarah sneaks up behind with the needle, but the Doctor manages to snap her out of the trance, just as the guards come for Hieronymous. The astrologer escapes, but the guards capture the Doctor and Sarah as well as Giuliano.

In the dungeons, Federico accuses the prisoners of being followers of Demnos. Rossini rushes in, informing the Count that members of the Brethren are gathering on the streets and moving towards the temple. The Doctor tries to convince Federico that Hieronymous is the real threat. Federico wants to see for himself, and takes the Doctor with him and some guards, leaving the others as hostages. In the temple, Hieronymous summons the Helix, which begins infusing him and his followers with power. Disguised in hoods, the Doctor, Federico and the guards enter and witness the ceremony. Federico steps forward, calls Hieronymous a traitor, and rips off the golden mask, only to reveal glowing energy in the place of a face. Hieronymous raises a finger, and electrical energy stabs out at the Count, reducing him to ashes.

Part four Edit

Hieronymous then fires at and kills the two guards as well, but does not seem to have seen the Doctor. The Doctor joins the circle around the Helix as Hieronymous announces that Mandragora will swallow the Moon the next evening and then the Brethren will strike. The Doctor slips away unnoticed. Back in the palace dungeons, Rossini is about to kill the prisoners when the Doctor arrives and reveals that Federico is dead. With that, the guards change their allegiance to Giuliano, and take Rossini into custody. The Doctor observes that the Brethren are still a danger. He tells Giuliano to fortify the palace in preparation for their attack.

DocGetsBreastplate
The Doctor gets fitted for the final confrontation with Hieronymous.
CzechOutAdded by CzechOut

In the meantime, the Brethren are driving people out of the city, killing those who refuse with bolts of fire, isolating the palace. Giuliano wants to cancel the masque that will celebrate his accession, but Marco is confident they can defend the palace against the Brethren, and that to cancel the masque would be a sign of weakness. The Doctor does some astronomical observations and calculates there will be a lunar eclipse that evening — Mandragora swallowing the Moon — and when the Helix takes over, it will remove all sense of purpose from mankind. Right now, however, the Helix energy is spread thinly over all the Brethren, and it could be exhausted. He asks Giuliano for a breastplate and a length of wire. Wearing the breastplate under his coat, if he has guessed right about the nature of Helix energy, he could drain it off.

Hieronymous knows of a secret way into the palace, and he intends to infiltrate his men under cover of the masque. The Doctor makes his way into the temple, and grounds the altar with wire. Hieronymous addresses the Doctor as "Time Lord", and says that Earth has to be possessed; if mankind's ambition is not checked, it will eventually spread into the galaxy and the powers of Mandragora will not allow a rival within their domain. Hieronymous fires a bolt of energy into the Doctor's chest, knocking him back painfully, but the Doctor survives. More bolts fire into the Doctor, but he continues to egg Hieronymous on.

FourthSarahCiaoSanMartino
Sarah and the Doctor say goodbye to San Martino.
CzechOutAdded by CzechOut

At the masque, the Brethren make their appearance, with the masqueraders running about in panic, as they fire into the crowd, killing two. Hieronymous then appears and tells the Brethren to take the others down into the temple for the final sacrifice. The Moon goes into eclipse, and the Brethren place their hands on the altar as a ball of Helix energy descends. However, it consumes the Brethren instead, expanding and then fading away. "Hieronymous" removes his mask — revealing the Doctor, who was imitating the cult leader's voice. The Doctor explains it as a case of "energy squared", putting the Mandragora Helix back where it came from.

The Doctor and Sarah say their goodbyes to Giuliano. Just before they leave in the TARDIS, the Doctor tells Sarah that while Giuliano will not have any more trouble with Mandragora, humanity will. The constellation will be in position again in 500 years, at about the end of the 20th century…

Cast Edit

Crew Edit

References Edit

The Doctor Edit

  • The Doctor was given pointers in swordsmanship from a captain in Cleopatra's bodyguard.
  • While staunching the bleeding from Giuliano's wound, the Doctor makes reference to Florence Nightingale.
  • The astrologer has a telescope, and the Doctor doesn't like it very much: "A pity, in another fifty years we could've used Galileo's".
  • The Doctor looks forward to meeting Leonardo da Vinci, implying that he either had not met him previously or is eager to meet up with him again.

Languages Edit

  • At one point Sarah questions why she can understand 15th century Italian. The Doctor doesn't explain, saying only that this is "a Time Lord gift I allow you to share" – and he realises that she has been hypnotised since she has been taken to a number of extraordinary places but has never thought to ask before.

Species Edit

TARDIS Edit

Story notes Edit

  • This story had working titles of Catacombs of Death, Doom of Destiny (unconfirmed), Secret of the Labyrinth and The Curse of Mandragora.
  • Elisabeth Sladen is credited as 'Sarah Jane' in Radio Times.
  • The title of the story is given in Radio Times as Masque of Mandragora (with no 'The') for all four episodes.
  • The Radio Times programme listing for part one was accompanied by an artwork illustration depicting Hieronymous, swirling Mandragora energy, the Doctor and the masked axe-wielding figure of the executioner, with the accompanying caption "'Mandragora energy! Get down! Quick!' It's the start of a new Dr. Who adventure, and the Doctor (Tom Baker) finds himself involved in more strange happenings, this time in 15th-century Italy. Part 1: 6.10 p.m.".
  • With the start of the new season, the previous police box exterior was replaced, as the old one had deteriorated due to wear and tear. A new serif font is introduced for the episode titles as well.
  • This serial also marks the first appearance of the TARDIS' secondary console room, designed by Barry Newbery, which continued to be used until the end of this season, making its final appearance in The Robots of Death. Depending on the account of information, either the set got damp and warped in storage between seasons, thereby becoming unusable, or new producer Graham Williams was not very fond of the wooden set; therefore the original, futuristic interior was restored.
  • Elizabeth Sladen stayed contracted to Doctor Who for an additional seven months just because she had heard about this upcoming serial and wanted to make it. Without this serial, she would have left in season 13. (INFO: The Seeds of Doom)

Ratings Edit

  • Part One - 8.3 million viewers
  • Part Two - 9.8 million viewers
  • Part Three - 9.2 million viewers
  • Part Four - 10.6 million viewers

Myths Edit

  • Many of the period costumes seen in this story were first used in Franco Zeffirelli's 1968 feature film production of Romeo and Juliet. (Only one costume in the story comes from Zeffirelli's film: Captain Rossini's red and white tabard, which was worn by Robert Stephens as the Prince. Many of the other costumes were used in Renato Castellani's 1954 feature film production of Romeo and Juliet.)[1]
  • Tom Baker fluffs a line at one point during part four, in which he calls Elisabeth Sladen "Lis" instead of "Sarah" — i.e. "It isn't nonsense, Lis." (Baker delivers the line correctly, which is actually "It isn't nonsense, Miss.")

Filming locations Edit

Portmeirion is best known as the filming location for the classic 1960s TV series The Prisoner. The Village was later used to film a scene in The Five Doctors.

Production errors Edit

  • In part one, Marco and Giuliano discuss a man who has used ground glass lenses to make the stars appear larger — an obvious reference to Galileo. A telescope rests on the window sill behind them.

Continuity Edit

If you'd like to talk about narrative problems with this story — like plot holes and things that seem to contradict other stories — please go to this episode's discontinuity discussion.

Comic strip adaptation Edit

  • The opening scenes of part one were adapted as a one-page comic strip in Doctor Who Magazine #161, published in June 1990, as part of a larger article on the production of the story.

Home video and audio releases Edit

DVD releases Edit

  • This story was first released on DVD in the UK on 8 February 2010. The one disc set includes a restored version of the story, as well as the following special features:
  • Commentary by Tom Baker (the Doctor), Gareth Armstrong (Giuliano), Philip Hinchcliffe (Producer) and Chris D’Oyly-John (Production Unit Manager).
  • The Secret Of The Labyrinth
  • Bigger On The Inside
  • Now And Then
  • Beneath The Masque
  • Trailers And Continuity
  • Coming Soon Trailer
  • Radio Times Billings
  • Production Subtitles
  • Photo Gallery

Video releases Edit

  • This story was released on VHS in August of 1991.

Footnotes Edit

  1. Production notes, The Masque of Mandragora DVD

External links Edit


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