The Masque of Mandragora - DVD

2010's second release in the UK is the season fourteen opener, 'The Masque of Mandragora'. Set in 15th century Italy, the story features extensive location filming in Portmeirion, the faux Italianate resort built on the North Wales coast by Sir Clough Williams-Ellis.


'The Masque of Mandragora' was shot in the traditional Doctor Who way, with studio video recorded onto 2" videotape and location inserts on 16mm film. The original film inserts no longer exist, which is unfortunate as they were transferred to tape in 1976 using a polygon prism telecine. This produces quite soft and smeary pictures, which provided a challenge for Peter Crocker when he came to clean up this inserts as part of the remastering process...

"The film inserts for all four episodes were grainy and soft, with above average amounts of dirt and scratches. These problems were compounded by an out-of-phase telecine transfer. This meant that each video frame had its two fields derived from different consecutive film frames. Normally film could be deinterlaced or the fields re-ordered to bring the film into phase, but this was not possible with 'Masque' because the original transfer was done using a polygonal prism telecine. One field consisted of a clean top half and blended (double-imaged) bottom half, and the next field had the reverse. To correct this, the film sections were deinterlaced twice to provide image sequences from each field, which were then recombined using only the clean sections. A soft wipe covered the join, where considerable retouching was needed to remove most residual double imaging. Finally, the normal processes of stabilising and dirt & scratch removal could be done on the resulting sequences."

Otherwise clean-up was relatively straightforward, with the only notable fault being a bad offlock at the end of episode three between the cliffhanger and the start of the credits. An off-air recording from 1976 proved that this was always on the master tape, but we have fixed it for the DVD.

Extras for this release include:

Commentary with actors Tom Baker and Gareth Armstrong, producer Philip Hinchcliffe and production unit manager Chris D’Oyly-John.

The Secret of the Labyrinth (dur. 26’ 24”) – cast and crew look back at the making of the story in this documentary shot on location in Portmeirion. With actors Tim Pigott-Smith, Antony Carrick, John Laurimore and Gareth Armstrong, director Rodney Bennett, producer Philip Hinchcliffe, production unit manager Chris D’Oyly-John, designer Barry Newbery, TV historian Jim Sangster and SFX magazine’s Steve O’Brien.

Bigger on the Inside (dur. 19’ 00”) – the history and design of the Doctor’s iconic space and time machine, the TARDIS. With actor Tom Baker, designers Barry Newbery and Matthew Savage, writers Robert Shearman, Christopher H. Bidmead and Francesca Gavin.

Now and Then (dur. 8’ 39”) – the latest in the ongoing series visits Portmeirion to see how various parts of the village we used by the Doctor Who production team to represent renaissance Italy.

Beneath the Masque (dur. 9’ 39”) – a spoof look at the historical impact of ‘The Masque of Mandragora’, written and performed by Gareth Roberts and Clayton Hickman.

Plus of course the usual Photo Gallery, Subtitle Production Notes, PDF material and Coming Soon trailer.

Copyright Steve Roberts / Peter Crocker,  14 January 2010. No reproduction allowed without written permission.