The Masque of Mandragora
|Dates||Sept. 4, 1976 -
Sept. 25, 1976
With Tom Baker, Elisabeth Sladen.
Written by Louis Marks. Script-edited by Robert Holmes.
Directed by Rodney Bennet. Produced by Philip Hinchcliffe.
|Synopsis: A powerful force finds its focus in Renaissance Italy, threatening to drive the emerging Renaissance back into superstition.|
The Devils of Demnos by Carl West 20/5/98
HIERONYMOUS: Now answer me this... what does it signify when Venus is
in opposition to Saturn, and a great shadow passes over the moon?
DOCTOR: Well it depends, doesn't it, on whether the moon is made of cheese, on whether the cock crows three times before dawn and twelve hens lay addled eggs.
Despite the fact that we've probably all seen it countless times on PBS (as with the rest of the Tom Baker era), The Masque of Mandragora still stands as a fine example of mid-Seventies Doctor Who. Of course, there's no need to even mention that the BBC handled the historical setting of the story with ease and confidence. As far as the characters are concerned, Norman Jones' Hieronymous comes off quite well as the black wizard of the occult. The only other supporting character that I'll take the time to mention is Tim Pigott-Smith's Marco. Pigott-Smith strikes me as a particularly capable and interesting actor, and I would have much rather seen him in the role of Duke Giuliano (Gareth Armstrong's portrayal of the duke seems flat and rather na?e). Considering the two regulars, Elisabeth Sladen is in top form in her penultimate adventure, and her typically silly verbal interplay with Tom Baker is better than ever.
The occult scenes featuring the worshippers of Demnos are well executed, like similar scenes in Image of the Fendahl. The elements of science fiction and black magic frequently merge in Masque, such as the scene where Hieronymous seems to foresee the coming of Mandragora in the stars. The grotesquely charred victims of the helix energy is an effect that is pulled off gruesomely well. This remarkable story culminates in the artfully realized masque scene -- it almost looks like a scene from Elizabeth R. The Doctor's rather simplistic solution to the threat of Mandragora is a little disappointing, but I guess that even a story this good can't be perfect.
Ambiance is Everything by Mekel Rogers 11/1/99
The Masque of Mandragora is yet another staple in the Doctor Who series. Not only does the story have a good historical basis, an excellent guest cast, and a well-written script, but, most importantly for me, it very effectively captures the period feel of Renaissance Italy through excellent location work and superb costuming.
I believe that the most successful Doctor Who serials are those that manage to recreate a believable setting in which to tell a story. As a result, many of my favorite episodes are those which are filmed on location as opposed to in the studio. In this case, the crew very effectively used an Italianate village in Wales named Portmeirion. Likewise, many of the costumes used in the story were flown in from Italy especially for the story. These details added an authentic look to the story and made it much more believable.
Tom Baker and Liz Sladen do some of their best work together in this story. A highlight of the series is the exploration of the "Science vs. Mysticism" topic which both the Doctor and Sarah address without getting too judgmental.
I really can only find two faults with this story (and they're both minor problems). First, the Doctor's final solution to defeating Mandragora seems a little simplistic given the large build-up. Second, the Doctor's explanation of the "Time Lord's gift" which allows Sarah to understand Italian seems a bit silly. Does this mean the Time Lords also morph everyone's lips as they speak to avoid Sarah seeing Giuliano speak in English but mouth the words in Italian? I think everyone in the audience just accepts that all characters must speak English so we can understand the story and that addressing the language problem was just awkward. Given the other strengths of the serial, however, it becomes easy to forgive these aspects of the story.
Quite simply, this is a fast-paced, well-written, thought-provoking story with lots of eye-catching visual touches. What more could anyone ask for? 9/10
A Review by Daniel Spelner 2/5/00
Robert Holmes reluctantly agreed to this historical flavoured story that his producer was keen on, though he needn't have worried. Enlisting Louis Marks as writer, the production team were provided with a sound script - well written and cleverly plotted. Some will dismiss this story unjustly, as it lacks action. However, to appreciate this you need to listen to the pointed, rich dialogue which gives us character motivations and so forth. Bennett isn't required to do much as it's more a character driven piece. Prime performances from everyone with Jon Laurimore's scheming, sneering Count getting top marks, and Tom Baker also warrants mention for his flippant, charismatic intellectual - the Fourth Doctor - on particular form. So remember, you need to be attentive to fully profit from this elegantly crafted story.
Shame about the Pseudo by Andrew Wixon 5/2/02
Judged solely in terms of its production designs, Masque of Mandragora is a singular DW story. A lot of the time it looks almost identical to an episode of The Borgias or another renaissance-set quality drama. The costumes are particular good. Portmeirion is passable at best as a stand-in for Italy, but you can't have everything - on the whole this is one of the best looking visits to history the series ever made.
But there are other things to consider besides the purely aesthetic and this is where Masque of Mandragora disappoints slightly. This is a pseudo-historical, in the sense that a SF-themed menace is on the loose somewhere in history, but as SF menaces go the Helix is about as un-Who-ish as you can get. There are no monsters, or SF devices like Linx's robot knight or Sutekh's time tunnel, anywhere to be seen in this story. Until the end of episode three the only presence in the story of the Helix is a wobbly SFX fireball. The only reason we know it isn't, in fact, a magic fire demon is because the Doctor tells us so. (And this just sounds like semantics to me, anyway.) The threat to free will discussed in the last episode is a bit cerebral anyway for a series so accustomed to visceral horror and threats. The evil of astrology? I find it hard to be stirred by that.
So it's a real pity that the story has to focus on the Helix as its main threat, or even include it at all. Federico and Hieronymous would've made a great pair of villains without plasmic reinforcement (Norman Jones is particularly good). Pity Tim Pigott-Smith wasn't cast as Giuliano (Gareth Armstrong is much too wimpy in the role), but even so this could have been a memorably different excursion into the wholly historical world of Italian power politics. It wouldn't have been so purely and obviously gothic, but I'm sure they could've worked the masque of the red death cues into it somehow. As it stands, Masque of Mandragora's most typical DW elements are the ones which stop the story from really being something special. Shame.
Nice production values, shame about the story by Tim Roll-Pickering 8/9/02
A historical setting for a Doctor Who story is rare in this period of the show's history, so it's essential that when such settings are used they are not only done with a strong degree of accuracy but are also enhance the story and do not merely function as a pleasant looking backdrop for the tale. Whilst the Renaissance Italy setting for The Masque of Mandragora is undoubtedly constructed well, it is nevertheless an extremely dull and uninteresting period and the various movements in court politics make the story drag on whilst contributing little memorable to the story. The period may be one that had elaborate costumes but it is also one about which little is known by the common viewer and so it could be any court struggle. The battle between Giuliano and Frederico is a traditional "young new ruler must fend off ambitions of wicked uncle" clich?that has been told in so many other areas of storytelling that it is immediately obviously dull. Virtually all of the Italian characters are dull clich? animated by poor performances and so consequently much of the story drags.
The concept of the Mandragora Helix is never properly explained and this is of even further detriment for the story. The result is that it is extremely confusing just what is going on at times, especially at the story's climax where it is impossible to tell just precisely what is happening or who is who up to the point where it is revealed that the Doctor is impersonating Hieronymous. This confused and unclear climax just adds to the general confusion surrounding this tale. The motivations of Giuliano, Frederico and Hieronymous are relatively easy to understand, but the Mandragora's aims could use much greater explaining at times to explain just what is going on. As a result the story is extremely confused and fails to deliver at times. In addition the references to individuals such as Leonardo Da Vinci who never actually appear just mean that once again the story fails to deliver what it teases the viewer with.
On the production side this story does have some extremely good production values, most obviously the new TARDIS control room which makes for a good contrast with the more futuristic elements of the ship. The Italian setting is brought to life vividly, especially through the use of location work, whilst the void at the start of the story is handled well given the limitations of technology in the mid-1970s. Tom Baker and Elisabeth Sladen both give their usual strong performances and they are helped by some good direction from Rodney Bennett. However none of this is enough to rescue the story from the weaknesses of the script and so it is a tale that does not leave the viewer wishing to see it again. 2/10
A Review by Terrence Keenan 17/12/02
The first thing that stood out for me in The Masque of Mandragora was the relationship between Sarah and the Doctor. People can make arguments for the 7th Doc & Ace, and I can make a good case for 4th Doc/Romana 2, but the best team of all time was Tom and Lis. The Masque of Mandragora is a classic example. I can't think of another TARDIS team that play off itself so well. And not only in the big moments, but in the small scenes as well. Sarah knows the Doctor all too well, and the Doctor knows Sarah just as much. This is a tag team that looks out for each other and cares.
Oh, by the way, Tom and Lis are brilliant in this one. But you knew that I was going to say that, right?
The rest of the cast is just as good. Jon Laurimore feasts on a classic villain role as Count Frederico. Norman Jones is great as Hieronymous. Gareth Armstrong and Tim Pigott-Smith hold their own as Guliano and Marco, respectively.
In terms of plot, The Masque of Mandragora is more set piece than solid story -- Inside the helix, the chase, political intrigue, the Masque, etc. As an argument between enlightenment and superstition, Masque works well, although it's definitely on the side of reason. You can also make the argument that Masque preaches tolerance over tyranny of all types (Frederico represents political tyranny, and Hieronymous is the symbol of ideological tyranny). The Doctor's advice to Guliano at the end to "keep an open mind" is a reaffirmation of the idea of tolerance and enlightenment going hand in hand, a common Doctor Who theme during the Tom Baker years.
One more thing I have to mention -- the wood control room. It's my personal favorite of all the versions, save the one in the TV Movie. Between the wood panels with the rondels, the small console with its hidden buttons, it seems more in tune with the Doctor's personality than the white, bland one.
Anyhoo, The Masque of Mandragora is good Who. It's atypical for the Hinchcliffe/Holmes era, but the stellar performances and the arguments/themes presented within its four episodes more than make up the holes in the plot.
A Review by Brett Walther 21/11/03
The Masque of Mandragora is a fantastic start to Doctor Who's most highly acclaimed season.
But where to start, when there are so many elements of this story that are worthy of praise...
A sucker for brilliant design, I absolutely adore the TARDIS' secondary console room. Having never read any Jules Verne, I'll probably be the first reviewer in Doctor Who's history who fails to mention how "Jules Verne"-ish the control room is. Instead, I'll break some new ground by saying that it's... Gorgeous. From the stained glass windows along the interior wall to the plinth on which the console is raised, this control room is a masterpiece of design, and a great way of reinventing the TARDIS. The attention to detail is incredible, with a thick layer of dust coating everything, and Sarah's rather magical discovery of (presumably) the Second Doctor's recorder.
Add to this re-design the simple, yet wonderfully disorienting camera work when the TARDIS is sucked into the Helix, and you've got one of the best TARDIS scenes ever.
Barry Newbery's palace sets are just as impressive, and his lattice-lined hallways allow for some magnificently atmospheric lighting effects. Come to think of it, Parts Three and Four have quite a few scenes of characters silently padding through hallways, but the detailed sets are such a feast for the eyes, they're never dull.
In fact, there's not a dull moment to be found in Masque. Although Sarah Jane is captured by a cult who tries twice to sacrifice her, these scenes are performed with such conviction that they're never worthy of eye rolling. The build-up of tension during the titular masque, in particular, is almost unbearable. Knowing that some of the masquerading guests are members of the Cult of Demnos (but which ones?), and that it's just a matter of time before they're going to strike makes for one of the series' scariest scenes. The massacre is made even more frightening by the eerie red lighting that sweeps the sets as the spark generator goes on overload and the crowned heads of Italy get burned to a crisp...
Although John Laurimore's Count Federico is supposed to be one of the baddies, it's impossible not to love him. He gets all of the best lines, usually in the form of verbal abuse directed at Rossini. Is it just me, or does he indeed call Rossini a "dung head" at one point? Now how can you bring yourself to hate a man with a vast repertoire of insults? Shining dialogue aside, Laurimore is simply superb in the role. In fact, just about everyone sinks their teeth into their roles.
It virtually goes without saying that Tom Baker and Elisabeth Sladen are an unbeatable team at this point. There's a lovely little scene where the Doctor is silently working out an equation in Hieronymous' study, with Sarah Jane reading away in the background, accompanied by some lovely incidental music. Even in this dialogue-free and largely static sequence, their chemistry leaps off the screen. They just seem so comfortable with each other that it comes as no surprise to hear the Doctor admit in this story that Sarah is indeed his "best friend". These two are pure magic.
In The Pocket Essentials Guide to Doctor Who, Scott Campbell makes the bizarre and completely unfounded comment that Dudley Simpson has a "rare off-day" in his musical contributions to The Masque of Mandragora. I would argue that Simpson's score is in fact even better than average. The Helix's theme is quite menacing, and the score as a whole is particularly well-suited to each scene in which it's featured, reflecting and enhancing the mood in the manner of all great Doctor Who soundtracks.
Easy on the ear, and the eye as well, but these are just the icing on the cake of a hugely exciting adventure that I appreciate a little bit more every time I watch it. The Masque of Mandragora is what comes to mind when I think of "classic" Doctor Who.
A Review by Stuart Gutteridge 7/12/03
The Masque Of Mandragora is not necessarily representative of the Hinchcliffe era, in that it doesn`t feature a villain hellbent on universal domination. Instead it features a different tack of energy being the cause of the problems and also puts the blame at the Doctor`s feet. This is refreshing plotwise, as is the use of a historical setting, with few sci-fi elements. Not only does it give Elisabeth Sladen`s Sarah Jane a bit of character development, it marks a change in tone for the series, as Tom Baker`s Doctor is less intense (though just as serious - one of the few lighter moments involves him placing an orange on a sword). This doesn`t detract from the story which boasts some great performances notably from Norman Jones as Hieronymous and Tim Piggot-Smith as Marco, plus a fair deal of action (the swordplay harks back to the Pertwee era) and excellent location filming. This all adds to the atmosphere greatly, making for an enjoyable but perhaps overlooked romp for the Doctor and Sarah.
Grossly underrated... by Joe Ford 28/5/04
It's astonishing what hindsight can do for your opinion. I have always loved Masque of Mandragora for a variety of reasons and judge it as one of the most entertaining and thoughtful pieces TV Doctor Who offered up. After re-watching season fourteen over a couple of weeks my opinion has changed somewhat, it is now my favourite story of that season, just edging out Talons of Weng-Chiang and easily the best historical (or psudeo historical) Doctor Who had a stab at. There is so much on offer in this story, such a rich balance of glamorous visuals and potent ideas it reminds me how fickle fandom can be the way they (including myself in the past) push it to the sidelines in favour of outwardly more interesting stories (Robots of Death).
This is Sarah-Jane's penultimate story and I am glad of that fact. It is marvellous to see her going out so strong and Lis Sladen had the right idea to skidaddle before her character was resented. Sarah rocks in Mandragora, ripping oranges from trees and tucking in, glamming up in ball gowns and dancing a jig, falling under a hypnotic spell and attempting to kill the Doctor and taking the honoured place of almost being sacrificed to the great God Demnos. What's more she seems to be loving her time with the Doctor, my dear friend Matt recently pointed out Sarah's main strength was her willingness to jump into the TARDIS at the end of each adventure and hunger for another. She's infectious to be around, laughing and joking with her best friend, their domestic life very relaxed and rushing to his side the second she fears for his life. Plus Elisabeth Sladen looks a million dollars, a truly hot babe, especially in the dance scenes.
The story is blessed with some of the best visuals and much of this is down to the idyllic location Portmerion that fits the scripts requirements ideally. This mock Italian town, sunny and vibrant, beams with atmosphere and adds a touch of reality to the production. There are loads of quality location scenes, the Doctor on the run from the guards and chasing about on horses, Juliano showing Sarah and the Doc to the ruins, the impressive swordsmanship in the woodland, even simpler moments such as the guy gathering his straw by the lake and being burnt to death by the Mandragora helix. Everything looks so lush and gorgeous and expensive it makes you ache to think that the expenditure here will cause other stories to look cheap (Hand of Fear, The Face of Evil) but it just goes to show that if Doctor had been blessed with a higher budget it would have looked sumptuous and not at the expense of the scripting or performances...
Because both of these are of the high quality we have come to expect from the Hinchcliffe era by this point. The story is actually a very simple one, the sweet idea of the Mandragora stowing a lift in the TARDIS to Earth to stop their development into intelligent creatures so they have no chance of conquering space and threatening their supremacy. It gives an ideal excuse to visit the Italian Renaissance period, one of a handful of times during the Earth's history that our development could have gone one of two ways, intelligent reasoning or superstitious superstition. There is talk of Leonardo's experiments with submarines and questioning the shape of the Earth and the Doctor and Sarah gravely represent how dangerous it would be for the human race to stumble at this stage in its development. There is nothing I LOVE more than looking into history and studying the science and myths of that era and Masque of Mandragora gives you a fascinating account of the Renaissance.
Through Hieronymous we explore the astrological 'science' of the era, looking up at the stars and predicting events of the future. Anyone who is unfortunate enough to be familiar with the works of Russell Grant and Mystic Meg know how far that has gotten out of control. It is clear that he abuses his 'gift', creating false predictions for the Count, people who happen to die just when he said they would with the aid of poison. Despite his false prophecies it becomes clear the man genuinely believes in astrology and his relationship with the Mandragora Helix, offering him power and dominion over the Earth seems proof enough that his faith was justified. Mandragora offers the story a good metaphor for the scientific ignorance of the time and a good excuse to turn away from facts in the face of 'divine' answers. I love a story that asks intelligent questions and the science vs mysticism is an old dilemma that is still debated today.
Count Federico is technically the villain of the piece but he is murdered at the end of episode three where it is revealed he was but a pawn. Still can you think of a nastier bastard to have appeared in the show? What a piece of work... he wants to slaughter his nephew and seize the throne and to achieve this he 'predicts' his death, tortures his lover, sends his guards to slice him to pieces, etc. John Laurimore gives a powerhouse performance, is never interested in being liked and spends his time insulting, slapping, screaming and feeding his ego. He's too much for some people but personally I find this wanker a joy to watch, plotting and scheming like a little schoolboy and revelling in his own self importance right up to his death.
Federico is cleverly counterpointed by Guiliano and Marco, the only gay couple to have graced a Doctor Who story on TV. No they don't hold hands (well they do at one point) or get down to the nitty gritty, this is a sensitive, intimate relationship between two men. It pleases me to see this sort of historical realism injected into the story, the gentler scenes between them very relaxed and convincing. Tim Piggott-Smith and Gareth Armstrong deserve plaudits for carrying their roles with such dignity, never sensationalising their roles and portraying their feeling for each other powerfully without ever overdoing it.
The visual stimulation extends to the sets, which are vast and detailed, befitting a historical story. The bubbling jars and telescopes of Hieronymous' quarters was a treat and the candle lit catacombs and sacrificial altar adding some real menace to the proceedings. Even the damn corridors have detail, shadowy silhouettes and rich tapestries. The story almost looks TOO good to be Doctor Who.
The script is a fountain of wit and intelligence and the quotable lines never stop. "Well that depends doesn't it! Whether the moon is made of cheese, whether the cock crows three times before dawn and twelve hens lay addled eggs!" the Doctor scoffs at the superstitious Hieronymous. "It's alright he's just thinking... I think!" Sarah startles, as the Doctor appears to have fallen asleep standing up. "What is there to know about the stars except for how they move in the heavens and we've know that for hundreds of years" says Marco to which Guiliano replies "Maybe it isn't the stars who move, maybe it's we who move."
I love all the plots that overlap, Hieronymous and his quest for power, using Sarah as a weapon and secretly hording his brethren. Federico is just as bad, seeking the death of his nephew and trying to kill him before the neighbouring powers arrive and accept Guiliano as the ruler. Into this web of intrigue comes the Mandragora Helix, an alien intelligence with plots of its own. Only in Doctor Who could you get such a bizarre mix of the supernatural and the historical. How people can call this story dull with so much of interest in play is beyond me.
The Masque of Mandragora is visually and intellectually stimulating but it's also a hell of a lot of fun. The musical score is deliriously atmospheric and gives the final result that extra sparkle that rivals the very best of Doctor Who. One of Hinchcliffe's all time best.
A Review by Brian May 18/5/07
The Masque of Mandragora is not the best Doctor Who story ever, nor is it the choice pick of the Robert Holmes/Philip Hinchcliffe years, but it's perhaps the closest to a textbook example of how to do the programme right.
It has every feature Hinchcliffe and Holmes applied to make their production tenure so memorable. The neo-gothic moodiness which occasionally drifted into all-out horror, the under-lighting, and a professional cast taking their work seriously. Being a period piece is also a great advantage, for this is perhaps the BBC's greatest strength, so the design and costumes are all pleasing to the eye. The location filming around Portmeirion is incredibly striking; indeed, it seems made for such a story. So it's visually satisfying, atmospheric, engaging and well acted: a veritable textbook example if ever there was one.
But let's go a bit further. Louis Marks's script is quite good: a simple tale pitting learning against superstition. It~'s more than just another alien invasion; what's at stake is humanity's capacity for knowledge; as the Doctor says, its "sense of purpose". The historical setting becomes a battleground as the dawn of the Renaissance is compromised by the forces of Mandragora. The subplot concerning Count Federico is a nice parallel. He's a lesser version of Mandragora, a microcosm as it were; as Guiliano attests, under his uncle's rule "all attempt at learning would be suppressed". The two storylines travel neatly alongside each other, making sure a good pace is maintained. The Count being dispatched at the end of part three, thus devoting the final episode solely to defeating Mandragora, is a sensible move that doesn't slow things down.
Paradoxically, there are slow individual moments which bring out the one real weakness in this story: Rodney Bennett's direction. It's competent enough, but there are quite a few static, talky moments that make for glitches in an otherwise smoothly running adventure. There's Heironymous talking to the Mandragora Helix for example, and also the Brethren leader conversing with his priest in the final episode. Indeed this latter scene is rather dull; the camera simply cuts back and forth between the two men statically for what seems like ages. There's not much camera movement at other points - once again, primarily talking scenes - and the sword fight between Guiliano and the Count's guards is rather awkward. All those men being unable take the Duke down is difficult to swallow.
But thanks to the aforementioned assets - costumes, location scenery and above all atmosphere - the faults in the direction don't stand out as much as they normally would. I'll concentrate a bit more on the atmosphere; Hinchcliffe and Holmes were always out to make viewers feel uneasy when watching Doctor Who, whether to unnerve us slightly or just scare us outright. The Brethren masks are freakish; the scenes in the dungeon as Marco is tortured are unsettling, the unseen and implied being far more disturbing, which also applies to the unease that prevails during the masque. Marco's comments that the Brethren are hiding "in the shadows" of the city are convincingly disconcerting. The hooded figures are off-screen, but we know they're lurking about. But Hinchcliffe and Holmes do allow a sudden, in-your-face shock moment when the Brethren attack the revellers; black robed, goat-headed figures are always a guaranteed fright!
There's one more aspect that warrants discussion: the science, or rather the pseudo-science. Or rather, the bollocks that passes itself off as science. Scientific accuracy was never that important a priority in Doctor Who, and when it was - for example during the Bidmead era - the results were mixed. Accordingly in this tale the Doctor's explanation for defeating the Mandragora Helix is nonsense and, to be honest, unsatisfying (although it's been much worse; Time-Flight for example). But because it's disguised in an impressive production, at the end of the day the story, to quote The Discontinuity Guide's final analysis, "looks and sounds great". So forget about the dodgy explanations, just enjoy the gorgeously filmed and costumed adventure. There are a couple of silly moments - the "salami sandwich" line and Peter Walshe's hilarious Cockney Italian - but overall this is very enjoyable. 8/10
A Review by Michael Hickerson 14/6/07
When I first saw Masque of Mandragora twenty-plus years ago, I have to admit the resolution of the story confused me a bit. Part of it was the week before I hadn't set my tape long enough and I'd underrun taping Seeds of Doom so I was suddenly vitally aware that Doctor Who stories could run up to six-parts and was always on the look out for the next six-part story. (This was pre-Internet and before I'd found my copy of The Programme Guide).
So, I have to admit as I watched episode four and the scene shifted to Mandragora consuming the moon, I figured we were in for another six-part story because I had no idea how the Doctor could disperse the Helix energy and defeat the cult in just six minutes. I watched it all unfold and when it wrapped up with the Doctor revealing he'd taken Hironymous's place, I was a bit confused. But I was much younger than I am now and figured I'd just missed something.
Twenty years later, I'm still looking for that something.
Watching Masque again, I'm always impressed by how good the first three episodes are, but how rushed and disappointing the final episode turns out to be. The story is an interesting blend of historical drama with sci-fi elements. It's at its best when concentrating on the period elements, especially the court drama of Guiliani and his uncle. The struggle for power and the back and forth is nicely done over the course of the first three episodes. As usual, Doctor Who shines when its re-creating an historical period.
The elements that don't work are the Helix energy's plan and why it's chosen this time in history. The script tries to give us some idea as to why this time and place were chosen, but it never seems authentic. It feels almost forced at times and like the writing staff couldn't find a good way to tie this whole thing together, so here's the best explanation we could come up with. And from a script editor of Robert Holmes' calibre, this gaping plot hole is too huge to overlook.
Also, the fourth episode makes little sense in how the energy is defeated. The Doctor uses some wire to do... what exactly? He uses the armor because...? He defeats Hironymous how exactly? And then the final scene with the energy... huh?
Like I said, a shame really. Because before all of this, the story was quite good.
It's interesting to see Masque as the start to what is (arguably) one of the greatest seasons in Who's run and probably the greatest season by this production staff. The show is finding a stride here and it's obvious in Mandragora. Looking back, this is the start of a ramp-up to greatness the show will experience in the later stages of the season. It's not a stumble, but you can see the show slowly getting up to speed.
So, taken for what it's worth Masque is good but not great. It's worth seeing and it's got the production crew working like a well-oiled machine. It's just the script itself that is lacking...