5 December 2018: It Takes You Away review added.
26 November 2018: The Witchfinders review added.
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THE MASQUE OF MANDRAGORA
"You know, the worse the situation gets, the worse your jokes get."
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Hmmm. A bit of a mixture, this one.
There's certainly a lot that's good about Masque Of Mandragora. It looks gorgeous, both in the Portmeirion setting and in the sumptuous costuming. The supporting cast's absolutely dazzling, with particularly notable performances from the magnificently scenery-chewing evil uncle and from a young Tim Pigott-Smith as Marco. There are some wonderful lines of dialogue reminiscent of The Time Warrior ("That fox-faced old blowhard..."). The science versus superstition plotline's probably a good thing. Even the alternative control room is well fun.
On the other hand, though, there are great swathes of stuff in Masque Of Mandragora that just make us groan. Companion sacrifice again? Sigh. The Daemons much, not to mention Death To the Daleks. And yet another fantastically boring dark religious cult, complete with cloaks and admittedly-rather-impressive masks. Is it over yet?
The evil uncle plot device's hardly startlingly original either, although we suppose if it was good enough for Shakespeare... Hieronymus is presumably meant to be a scary villain, but even the small badger attached to his chin can't make him anything but dull, dull, dull. Toss in a bunch of captures and escapes, someone being possessed and immediately going all bug-eyed, and seriously damp squib of an ending, not to mention some ripe old rubbish about astrology, Denmos et al, and you've got an adventure that's less than the sum of its parts.
As for the Doctor and Sarah, there's something decidedly off about their dialogue. In the brilliant Seeds of Doom which this follows, the two of them throw quips back and forth very successfully, the sharp humour illustrating both their characters. Here, in contrast, the Doctor's humour is a lot broader and, considering his compassion, often seems jarring ("Let's say he gave him a blank stare"). And the Doctor at times treats Sarah in a way more reminiscent of the Third Doctor and Jo - he says "stay here" at least three times by our count.
Despite the prettiness, forgettable.
MORAL: It's probably not because your rising sign's in the seventh house.
THIS TIME YOU CAN BE IT
Although it's vital for the plot, it'd be more logical that to avoid the helix energy the Doctor and Sarah jump into the TARDIS, rather than hiding behind it.
TAKING THE PITH
Sarah bizarrely bites directly into the orange, skin and all.
AND DAMN THE CONSEQUENCES
We love the way the Doctor says "Stop!" without any fear for himself to the men carrying Sarah off. It's very typical of him that he does the right thing without concern for himself - and it's also very typical that he ends up being clonked on the head as a result.
HI HO SILVER
That rider so isn't Tom.
I KNEW THOSE BUILDERS WERE COWBOYS
When the stone door in the tunnel swings back behind the priest, the stone panel to the right of the door wobbles, which somewhat undoes the effect of the nice stone grating noise.
THE LINE THAT LAUNCHED A THOUSAND EROTIC FANFICS
"If you make sport with us, Doctor, we will make sport with your body." Phwooar!
GENERAL PROTECTION FAULT
Like the Doctor before her in Genesis, why can't Sarah understand the Latin?
WITH EXTRA CHEESE
"There's nothing now that will stop me"? Oh, please.
I WAS BUSY
The Doctor says he knows Sarah's mind's being taken over because she suddenly noticed that she could understand Italian. More to the point, how come this is the first time it's ever occurred to her? Wouldn't it be one of the first things you'd notice?
MARCO OF THE RANI
The powers that be obviously liked the idea of gathered-together scientists being threatened, because they used it again with the Sixth Doctor.
WHAT A WAY TO GO
And another dazzling exit from the Doctor, this time after his line "I love a knees-up".
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