the Little Red Reviewer

Doctor Who and the Masque of Mandragora

Posted on: September 22, 2011

Doctor Who and the Masque of Mandragora by Philip Hinchcliffe

published in 1977

where I got it: purchased used

why I read it: I is a novice Whovian

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I love it when I pop into my local family owned bookstore and they say “we just got in a ton of classic scifi, come take a look!”  So up to the attic I went,  startled a sleeping cat (every bookstore should have a cat. or two), and found an entire shelf of classic Doctor Who books.  But which to choose? my first Doctor was Eccleston, and these books predated him by about 30 years.

They all looked great, and were in like-new condition, so I randomly chose Doctor Who and the Masque of Mandragora.  How could I say no that dazzling smile?  Now that I’ve read it, I can’t wait to go back this weekend and get another one. or two.

This book is based on one of the TV serials, but I’ve only ever seen a few minutes here and there of the older Doctor Who tv shows.  How can I call myself a Doctor Who fan if I haven’t seen the originals?  Eh, as far as I’m concerned there were only three Star Wars movies ever made.
The back of the book gave the basics of the plot,  The Doctor and Sarah Jane (what a wonderful surprise, I love her!!) get sucked into the Mandragora Helix, fly the TARDIS right through it, and accidentally take some of the Helix energy with them.  The TARDIS lands them in the middle of a beautiful orchard in 15th century Italy. On the property of a family going through a power struggle. As an uncle and nephew fight to rule, a court astrologer is trying to take power for himself through the local pagan cult. Throw in some very hungry and mildly intelligent Mandragoran energy, and you’ve got yourself a recipe for a disaster that only the Doctor can fix.

Elizabeth Sladen, 1946-2011

Ok, so the plot isn’t super deep and the book isn’t real long. But sometimes that is exactly what I want, and this was one of those times. Well, it’s not that the plot isn’t deep, it’s that it doesn’t dwell on the dangers of the Mandragoran energy and how if the energy gets loose on Earth, humanity would become mental slaves to it, and we’d quite literally never know what hit us. There is danger, and knives, and bad guys and exploding people, and the barest touch of Sarah Jane’s relationship with the Doctor and his true relationship with the universe,  but this is a family friendly adventure. After my not so hot experience with a recent Michael Moorcock Doctor Who book, I was beyond delighted to get so much enjoyment out of this one. The entire book is just adorable.

And finally, the Doctor as I believe he was meant to be.  Like I said, my first Doctor was Eccleston.  I enjoyed him immensely, fell head over heels in love with Tennant, and Smith is very very slowly growing on me. But I saw those guys playing The Doctor the same as I saw Connery and Dalton (my favorite) and Brosnan and Craig play James Bond. it was different actors playing the same character. . .  not the character inhabiting different bodies.

While I was reading The Masque of Mandragora I could hear The Doctor’s voice in my head while he was talking to Sarah Jane. Sometimes it was Eccleston’s voice. Sometimes it was Tennant’s. Sometimes it was even Smith’s.  For the first time, all those people suddenly were the Doctor for me, instead of just playing him on tv. I think I’m one step closer to getting it, and that was the best part of reading Doctor Who and the Masque of Mandragora.

and this line had me laughing my ass off for no particular reason:

“A Time Lord has to do what a Time Lord has to do”.

doesn’t that sound just so gangsta?

And I do believe there’s a lot more classic and old skool SF & classic Doctor Who in my future.

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7 Responses to "Doctor Who and the Masque of Mandragora"

Yeah, the classic Who-books are great. I’m pleased they’ve just released a bunch of old ones with new forwards (one by Neil Gaiman!) with new covers.

It’s also great when Sarah Jane is involved in anything. I’m a die-hard Rose Tyler fan, she’s my fave recent companion…but Sarah Jane will ALWAYS hold a special place in my heart as my old old-school Who companion.

If you haven’t read them yet Red, ALL the David Tennant Who books are really good (Faves being FEAST OF THE DROWNED, THE STONE ROSE and PRISONER OF THE DALEKS). I’m not too fond of the recent Matt Smith 11th Doctor ones, including my lackluster experience with the Moorcock one as well…that one was NOT a DW book, it was more like a Moorcock Space book with the Doctor and Amy in it.

I’ve got a bunch of the Classic Who books on my Christmas list!

Rose and Donna are my favorite “new” companions, and I’m with you that Sarah Jane will always be special.

I’m thrilled to hear they are reprinting the old ones, but I can’t say no to some of this terrible old school cover art. It’s cheesy delicious!

I’ve seen the audiobook versions of those Tennant books. . . shall have to look for the book-book versions. with the disappointment that was the 11th doctor book that shall not be named, I’m happy to hear there are some new ones that are good.

I haven’t really read or watched Dr Who at all, so I can see this being a fun experience. I keep telling myself I need to check it out because so many people I know love the show, but it hasn’t happened yet…

I may have mentioned it before, but prior to watching (almost catching up with) the new series, Tom Baker was my favorite Doctor. I discovered his Doctor Who episodes as a kid and loved them. Still do. I am determined to one day go back and watch those all again because there are so many of his reign that I haven’t seen. When K-9 was featured on episodes of the new Doctor Who I went wild with joy because that goofy robot dog was so fun in the old Tom Baker episodes.

Finally purchased the DVD of the first half of the current Doctor Who season. Will be nice to touch base with Amy and the Doctor again.

I love Dr. Who but have not read any of the fiction yet.

Glad you enjoyed “The Masque of Mandragora” novelization. That one was written by the show’s producer Philip Hinchcliffe (who was in charge of the series from 1974-77; basically Tom Baker’s first three seasons, often refered to as Who’s ‘gothic’ era…think small screen Hammer Horror in space and you get the idea. This is probably why TV watchdogs like Mary Whitehouse had issues with the series in the mid ’70s, as it looked very scary (and often was, with such sumptuous style as well, although you always had the odd story let the side down).
Tom Baker became the definitive Doctor for many (particularly for American fans), but here in Britain we’d already enjoyed great actors like William Hartnell, Patrick Troughton and Jon Pertwee…all very good actors and all quite different.
As mentioned, Baker’s first few years are recommended…particularly ‘Genesis of the Daleks’, ‘Pyramids of Mars’, ‘The Brain of Morbius’, ‘The Seeds of Doom’ and ‘The Talons of Weng-Chiang’). I had lots of the Target book novelizations as a kid, and some are better than th eTV versions (‘The Invisible Enemy’, I’m looking at you!) Many were written by Terrance Dicks, a one time script editor on the show and writer of several notable TV stories.
The novelizations were a good way to ‘see’ old Who episodes in the pre-video days as well…I just missed Sarah-Jane’s tenure and never saw key characters like Brigadier Lethbridge -Stewart until Peter Davison’s era in the early ’80s (as actor Nicolas Courtney took a break from the show early in Tom Baker’s reign).

thank you so much for your comment! I’m rather new to Doctor Who, so this was very information. Really makes me wish I was born 30 years earlier so I could have grown up with Doctor Who. The Invisible Enemy is a really good novelization you say? I shall keep my eye out for that one.

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About this redhead, etc.

Redhead is a snarky, non-politically correct 30-something who reviews mostly science fiction and fantasy and talks about all sorts of other fun scifi and fantasy geekery. She once wrote a haiku that included the word triskaidekaphobia.

This blog contains adult language and strong opinions. The best way to contact her outside of this blog is twitter, where she is @redhead5318 .

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