The TARDIS is temporarily captured by the Mandragora Helix, a spiral of energy with a controlling influence, at the centre of which the ship is infiltrated by a sparkling ball of energy.
DVD extras for THE MASQUE OF MANDRAGORA:
- Studio commentary: Tom Baker, Philip Hinchcliffe, Gareth Armstrong, Chris D'Oyly-John
- THE SECRET OF THE LABYRINTH - THE MAKING OF... the story
- BIGGER ON THE INSIDE - The history of the TARDIS
- NOW AND THEN - locations visit
- BENEATH THE MASQUE - Gareth Roberts take the MASQUE to task
- RADIO TIME + PRODUCTION NOTES + PHOTO GALLERY
- COMING SOON - THE CHASE & THE SPACE MUSEUM
COMMENT - SPOILERS AHEAD
Following the festive period, January is always a tiresome month but has been lifted by BBC DVD's release of such gems including THE PELADON TALES and NEW SERIES SPECIALS and February continues in the same enlightened fashion with Tom Baker's 1976 THE MASQUE OF THE MANDRAGORA.
A sumptuous adventure that distills all the very best of the BBC's skills and ambitions at the time; coherent storytelling, thrilling action, consummate acting, creative design work and the partnership between Baker & Sladen being at its zenith.
An ideal companion to the NEW SERIES historical based adventures of THE GIRL IN THE FIREPLACE or TOOTH AND CLAW.
The only issue is the "cleaning" of the original "film print". In some scenes there is a great a "splotch" of black dirt in the same place on the screen - a "splotch" so big even Mr Sheen could have wipe it off.
Otherwise, as perfect as a DOCTOR WHO DVD could be.
The commentary is wonderfully entertaining - with thanks to Tom Baker - and professionally insightful due to the balance of its contributors involvement in the original production.
Here's the commentary choice cuts:
Philip Hinchcliffe on the change of the TARDIS Console Room design: I don't know why we did that. I think it was Barry Newbery's idea.
Philip Hinchcliffe on Tom Baker as the Doctor: A relaxed quality about you at the time.
Tom Baker on slowly losing his eyesight: Now my eyesight is getting worse I seem to get on better with people, as I can't see them.
Tom Baker on re-seeing Tim Piggott-Smith in character: Tim looks like my first girlfriend called Monica - when she kissed me I blacked-out.
Philip Hinchcliffe: Can you remember any of this, Tom?
Tom Baker: I can always remember everything. Life after DOCTOR WHO was a bit of a downer.
Tom Baker on John Laurimore's Count Federico's wig: In the old days, some actors would autograph the inside of their wig.
Philip Hinchcliffe discusses the pleasure of having two cliff-hangers in MASQUE: A double whammy.
Chris D'Oyly-John: Dudley Simpson's music "glues" the scenes together.
Philip Hinchcliffe: He "got" the series.
Tom Baker laments the introduction of High Definition (HD) television and how it is wasted. Philip Hinchcliffe affirms his comment as he then discusses the number of television series are "treated" from HD to look more "grainy".
Tom Baker on being the Doctor at public events: It was against all my vulgarity, everything was modified. No smoking, no dancing about, no drinking. I loved this part. It was a great privilege. I've never forgotten it.
Tom Baker on David Tennant as an actor: I greatly admire him.
Gareth Armstrong on his first television role: I think my legs are the best of my performance.
Tom Baker on seeing Sarah Jane Smith chained to the prison wall: There's a pretty picture.
Philip Hinchcliffe on working with Tom Baker: I'm going to make you blush. How lucky I was; I really liked working with you. I was very lucky to have a leading actor that I got on so well with.
Gareth Armstrong on his work after WHO: I was in The Archers for 25 years.
Tom Baker: I was muted for The Archers but they gave it to John Woodnutt.
Tom Baker and his predecessor, and the case for mistaken identity: I often sign autographs for him. "Yours cordially, Jon Pertwee".
Tom Baker on seeing the delightful Lis Sladen with a new "hairdo" for the Masque scene: I love hairy women.
Tom Baker on the final scenes: I was born to the purple. Oh, happy times. I've still got that salami!
THE DVD EXTRAS:
The DVD extras are the usual fayre and range from the "fascinating" to the "embarrassing", with the most exciting the "Coming Soon." preview of William Hartnell's THE SPACE MUSEUM & THE CHASE double DVD release.
THE SECRET OF THE LABYRINTH is, like THE MASQUE OF THE MANDRAGORA, beautifully shot on location - complete with fold-up camping chairs - with contributions from Hinchcliffe, director Rodney Bennett, production unit manager Chris D'Oyly-John and actor John Laurimore. The documentary is professionally insightful, detailing the expense of the production (at the cost of stories within that season), the development of the script and the level of accuracy of the design work.
BIGGER ON THE INSIDE finally focuses on the breadth & depth of the "character of the TARDIS" and how it has been utilised (and grown) as a storytelling device. Contributions from NEW SERIES' designer Matthew Savage and CLASSIC SERIES' designer (and icon) Barry Newbery are invaluable in documenting the history of the time/space ship, as are Robert Shearman's (equating the TARDIS to the vastness of the internet) & Christopher H Bidmead's. The most interesting is to see 1963's Barbara Wright's first glimpse of the NEW SERIES Console Room with Susan Foreman standing amid the buttresses and eclectic hotchpotch of the jumble sale-styled dais. Nice piece of CGI.
Oh, dear. Dear, oh, dear. What were they thinking of when BBC DVD employed the production team behind BENEATH THE MASQUE? With none of the pastiche of the gloriously witty GLOBAL CONSPIRACY! "mockummentary" (see BBC DVD's DOCTOR WHO - THE GREEN DEATH), this spoof should have met the tip of Count Federico's rapier. A timely despatch would have been humane. The titles state that it was produced by "That'll Do Production" but sadly it should have been "Should Have Not Done Production". Funny parody? Plain crap. Bring back Mark Gatiss not these amateurs.
The remaining features are "regulars" but nonetheless highly watchable. Photo gallery, RADIO TIMES, and the informative (and addictive) production notes.
THE MASQUE OF THE MANDRAGORA is a production of its time yet exists outside it. Watch it afresh as a NEW SERIES viewer - you'll love it; Baker at his very best - or re-watch it as if you were meeting old friend after 25 years - embrace in its richness and sartorial elegance.
The word "classic" is frequently over used (yes, I am guilty as charged) but in Louis Marks' story it is truly deserved.