Sunday, January 21, 2007

The Masque of Mandragora

As promised ....

Hurrah! Other rooms in the TARDIS! And the wooden paneled console room. I always really liked this look. Sarah Jane is wearing a horrific dress .... but do have pictures of my mother in similar outfits, they were all the rage. We have some actually quite nice effects for its day here as we are drawn into the helix. And suddenly we are back in a very English looking forest, masquerading as Italy. Still, at least it isn't a quarry in Bristol. There is some very Shakespearean acting to set up the plot .. family feud, evil wizard, the usual. And after the arrival of the TARDIS, our Sarah Jane is soon wandering off causing trouble. And then a rather mysterious bolt of energy leaves the TARDIS ... ok, so its not a blow by blow account you are after, but I need to get the set up right.

Gosh, these Italians are so awfully awfully well spoken.
Sarah Jane is brought before a priest type geezer who seems to be wearing the seal of Rassilon on his chain .... my my she was much feistier than I recall. Intelligent, yes ... but I still always thought of her as a bit of a screamer ...
The sets and costumes are very detailed. Effects may not have been much cop back then, but they spared no detail on interiors.
I always remember Doctor Who as being very sci fi and a bit scary ... but watching now I am finding it a tad wordy ... I keep wanting to skip bits and get to the scraps and explosions!
So we now have Sarah Jane about to be sacrificed by pagan types while The Doctor is going to be be-headed elsewhere .. a glance at the clock reveals we are at almost 24 mins as the all familiar scream comes in telling me I can skip to part 2......

Oh goody .... a chase. And some hasty dialogue from some dodgy cockney extras (remember, this is Italy....) gives us a bit of background on Sarah Janes captors. The suspense in this ep is done very well, but there is an almost panto feel to the majority of it. I am waiting for a member of the carry on team to appear .... especially when the worshippers of demnoss start doing the hokey cokey. That all said, I recall that scenes like this gave me sleepless nights as a nipper and may a trip back down the stairs, Panda under one arm, asking if I can stay up as I was scared on my own. A quick threat of never being allowed to watch Who again if gave me nightmares would send me scurrying back to my room, eyes tight shut, diving under the blankets to safety. Because, of course, no aliens can get you under a sheet. Bedclothes are stronger than a forcefield, titanium .... anything!

The further in we go ... the more that scenes with The Doctor and Sarah Jane are brilliant. Perfectly played and pitched. The scenes with the Merlin type chap and his 'master' are so 'acted' its easy to see where countless Who parodies came from. I can almost see them in the dressing rooms now ... doing the same naff warm ups that I endured daily during three years of drama school ..... all together, breathe in ....... breathe out to ooh ....... If they chew the scenery any more, there will be none left.

what becomes very apparent, is the similarities with our latest series of Who. I can wholly believe this Doctor and DT's Doctor are the same man. The way he talks over scenarios to find a solution. The pauses and exclamations as he makes discoveries. Then in Sarah Jane we have a young lady, trendy to her own time, up for the adventure, as much part of the action as our titular hero ... not unlike a certain Rose Tyler. If you haven't been back to these stories, or are new to the Whoniverse with the last few years ... this story isn't a bad place to start.

On the whole: Slow start, I suspect these four parts would very easily be squished into one adventure in these faster paced times. But it has everything you can want from classic Who (you have to love villains who spit out lines like 'you craven gutted cur'). A guilty pleasure indeed. Go on, indulge yourself. I loved it!
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