The Masque of Mandragora, Image of the Fendahl

The Masque of Mandragora was a Tom Baker story I hadn’t seen before, and yet it seemed strangely familiar: Welsh location filming pretending to be somewhere much more exotic, alien disembodied intelligence trying to take over the world via a local religious cult, Norman Jones playing a deranged cleric with a loony beard – yes, it is in fact The Abominable Snowmen, but set in Renaisance Italy rather than Tibet with the Yeti taken out and a great many more silly haircuts. Somehow despite the silly haircuts it just fails to look like Italy rather than a wet weekend in Wales, and I understand why this is not regarded as one of the high points of the Hinchcliffe/Holmes era. Having said which there are as always some lovely lines, and Elisabeth Sladen doing the Renaissance dancing at the masque in the last episode is a beautifully charming moment.

I remember being a bit underwhelmed by Image of the Fendahl when it was first broadcast, but I really liked it this time round. Having mourned the disruption of the Doctor/Leela partnership by K9’s arrival in my write-up of The Invisible Enemy, actually we’re back to business as before here as the tin dog is out of action for plot purposes. Odd to think that this was the first story with a contemporary setting since The Hand of Fear a year previously (they averaged about one a season in those days). Yet again I find reinforcement for my view that the Leela/Four pairing is the Best Evar, with the contrast between the two quirky regulars sharpened by the crazy Earthlings they are dealing with; Louise Jameson is so expressive even without saying anything. Also my memories of first time round are tempered by the attempt to do much the same thing again a few years later but far less successfully in K9 and Company. Having said that, there are some surprising lapses of direction: the prolonged scenes of the Fendahl manifesting in the cellar lack a certain something, and there is a peculiar shot in episode 3 where we are treated to a prolonged close-up of the Tardis console. But in general it was rather good fun.

One thought on “The Masque of Mandragora, Image of the Fendahl

  1. Are you posting this again and again and again, or is there some other reason it keeps showing up at the top of the F-list postings?

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