Manufacturer: BBC DVD / 2|Entertain
Written By: Louis Marks
Release Date: 8th February 2010
Reviewed by: Doctor Who Online
Review Posted: 14th February 2010
The Masque of Mandragora takes us to 15th Century Italy, where part of the Mandragora Helix (unbeknownst to The Doctor) has hitched a lift aboard the TARDIS and poses a threat to human civilisation. It's a great story that takes the deadly cult plot device to a new level, whilst incorporating history and a simple, yet, terrifying alien menace.
The features included on the disc, are quite varied, and even though not all are specific to the story, they fit right in and offer excellent value to the release.
The 'Commentary' features Tom Baker (The 4th Doctor), Chris D'Oyly-John (Production Unit Manager), Philip Hinchcliffe (Producer) and Gareth Armstrong (Giuliano). Unusually, Tom seems to take a bit of a back seat, allowing for Philip to take the role of moderator for the commentary. There's a great juxtaposition between Philip and John's informative take on the story, with Tom's hilarious observations and side stories.
'The Secret of the Labyrinth' is an informative and vibrant behind-the-scenes look at the making of The Masque of Mandragora. Set in the Welsh village of Portmeirion, which doubled for the filming of the story, it starts off with Philip Hinchcliffe (Producer) explaining his reasons for the filming at the location.
All aspects of the production are covered, from casting and costumes to set design, giving a well-rounded understanding for the serial. It's backed up with interviews from Gareth Armstrong (Giuliano), Rodney Bennett (Director), Antony Carrick (Captain Rossini), Chris D'Oyly-John (Production Unit Manager), Jon Laurimore (Count Federico), Barry Newbery (Production Designer), Tim Piggott-Smith (Marco), Steve O'Brien (Writer, SFX Magazine) and Jim Sangster (Film and TV Historian). Kudos to Rob Semenoff for the fantastic CGI introduction to the feature.
'Bigger on the inside' is totally unconnected to The Masque of Mandragora, but provides a thoroughly detailed, yet concise history of the TARDIS. Featuring interviews with Tom Baker (The 4th Doctor), Robert Shearman (New Series Writer), Francesca Gavin (Art Writer & Editor), Matthew Savage (New Series Designer), Barry Newbury (Classic Series Designer) and Christopher H Bidmead (Writer & Script Editor 1980-81).
'Now and Then' looks at the locations of The Masque of Mandragora, showing original shots to the modern day comparisons. It feels a little different to previous Now and Then documentaries, as this time, we follow the locations through a map of Portmeirion. As a result of the style and nature of the location, there are very few actual changes that can be noticed, but it's interesting to see where all the action happened in context.
'Beneath the Masque' offers Clayton Hickman (Ex Doctor Who Magazine Editor) and Gareth Roberts' (New Series Writer), rather amusing take of the events surrounding and including the production of The Masque of Mandragora. The pair are clearly a double-act to be reckoned with. Even Hickman's Cathy come home impersonation which also resembled a 1980's Dot Branning, can't fail to resound a palpable hit amongst the hugely entertaining feature. It's pretty much utter nonsense, but who cares? It's produced with such sheer brilliance, and will have you chuckling away at the subtle and not-so-subtle digs at the show. Oh, and Gareth Roberts as a Blue Peter presenter was...priceless. Here's to future offerings from the pair!
The 'Coming Soon' trailer is for The Space Museum / The Chase DVD release, and is a clever twist on the usual trailers by incorporating a viewscreen from one of the episodes to promote the box-set. Definitely one of the most original trailers to date.
As with previous DVD releases, there are the usual 'Trails and Continuity', 'PDF Material', 'Photo Gallery' and 'Production Subtitles' included.
Overall, it's another tidy and well-thought-out package from 2|Entertain, and although there could have been room for one or two more extras, you can't help but feel totally satisfied with the finished package.