Monday, November 2, 2009

4M2 - The Masque of Mandragora 2

Two episodes into the Season 14 opener, and I can barely think of anything else to write about this story apart from how good it looks. The costumes are elegant, the sets by Barry Newbery are exquisite, and everyone seems to be doing a good job holding it all together.

There's just no oomph to the storyline, though, and The Doctor's involvement is minimal. A good chunk of the scenes are spent in those most boring of scenes - ceremonial rituals held by men in masks. Sure, their identity is supposed to be kept secret from...well, themselves, but Heironymous is identified as the leader of the Cult of Mandragora early on. The masks not only muffle the voices of the actors somewhat, but it's also tough sometimes to see which member of the cult is speaking. And since they're usually only just reciting passages used in their rituals, these scenes tend to seem very long indeed.

Plus, in keeping with the onset of the jelly baby offering Fourth Doctor of the seasons to come, The Doctor gets out of his supposedly precarious situation on the execution block by stopping the axeman, casually removing his scarf, then whipping said scarf around the axeman's legs to trip him and proceed with his escape. What self respecting 15th-century axeman would allow his doomed victim to stop him from chopping the victim's head off? If he did that to everyone on the block, he wouldn't get any work done at all. I get the feeling that this sequence, like the football rattle scene in Episode One, was worked out in rehearsal by Tom Baker and somehow managed to make it through the various stages of production to be included in the final broadcast episodes.


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