Doctor Who Presents The Masque of Mandragora, Now In Only 30 Minutes!

Here's something new. "The Masque of Mandragora", one of the serials from the 1970s era of Doctor Who, has been edited down to a half-hour version and posted on the official BBC Doctor Who Channel on Youtube. The story is from producer Philip Hinchcliffe's tenure on the show, which drew on many gothic horror novels and movies. Fans like to think the Hinchcliffe era was a creative peak for the show. Tom Baker was still fresh and fun, and the late, great Elizabeth Sladen's Sarah Jane Smith is still considered the Best Companion.

Doctor Who
Doctor Who: The Masque of Mandragora from BBC Studios

It's interesting to consider the different pacing of shows in the 1970s where they had to fill 4 half-hour serials. Cutting the whole story down to a 30-minute cliff notes version makes one think about how much fat can be cut out of a story while keeping it coherent. Granted, a lot of scenes that had fun writing and acting were cut out, and no writer would ever be happy to see their hard work sliced down like this. A peasant revolt is reduced to just one character representing it. The pointed commentary about class and exploitation is largely gone.

The script is by Louis Marks, a prolific TV writer with an extensive academic background in Philosophy and expertise in Renaissance Italy. It was the latter that led to the producers hiring him to write this 4-part serial. His script is rich in historical detail and nuance, including a peasant revolt against a corrupt Count and talk of scientific advancement such as Astronomy in 15th Century Italy. There are moments of literate classy writing that have to jostle with moments of sheer cheesiness that detractors of the show like to point out as silly schlock.

Doctor Who: A Throwback to 1970s Attitudes

The devil-worshipping Deimos cult looks like a nod to Roger Corman's Edgar Allan Poe movies and Hammer Horror films, and by today's standards as cheesy as it sounds. The gender politics of the story are of course terrible and typical of the 1970s. Sarah Jane is not much more than the damsel-in-distress throughout the story, constantly captured and recaptured to serve as a sacrifice to Deimos, and also hypnotized to attempt to kill The Doctor until he snaps her out of it. But hey, it had the alternate TARDIS control room, which looked like something the production team slapped together in a day and still looked cool.

Doctor Who
Still from Doctor Who: The Masque of Mandragora, BBC Studios

This serial is part of the new remastered Series 14 Blu-ray and DVD set that's coming out, so this condensed version is a promotion – if you want to watch the full story, you should throw money at the BBC and buy the boxset.

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About Adi Tantimedh

Adi Tantimedh is a filmmaker, screenwriter and novelist who just likes to writer. He wrote radio plays for the BBC Radio, “JLA: Age of Wonder” for DC Comics, “Blackshirt” for Moonstone Books, and “La Muse” for Big Head Press. Most recently, he wrote “Her Nightly Embrace”, “Her Beautiful Monster” and “Her Fugitive Heart”, a trilogy of novels featuring a British-Indian private eye published by Atria Books, a division Simon & Schuster.
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