The Masque of Mandragora
“The worse the situation, the worse your jokes get.”
Sarah to the Doctor, episode 4
While the Doctor is giving Sarah a tour of the TARDIS, the ship is drawn into the heart of the Mandragora Helix: a spiral of space energy with a malevolent intelligence rooted in astrology that can influence the fate and fortunes of those who give in to its power. Infiltrating the TARDIS, part of the Helix covertly diverts the ship to Renaissance Italy, where scientific reason is just beginning to overcome primitive superstition.
Tom as the Doctor with his mask for the ball. Picture © BBC
Helix energy insinuates itself into the walls of a ruined temple in the dukedom of San Martino, communicating with a coven of magic worshippers, and promising to imbue them with great power if they will do its bidding. Heironymous (Norman Jones), high priest of the cult, is instructed to lead his followers in attacking a masked ball being hosted by Duke Guiliano (Gareth Armstrong). Guests include many great thinkers and patrons of the Renaissance. Mandragora’s intention is to suppress human free thought, the first step in making mankind dependent on astrological guidance.
But thanks to the Doctor, science conquers superstition. A length of copper wire connecting the Doctor to the ground earths the energy of the Helix when it attacks him in the temple, and simultaneously draws off its power from the cult members as they gather to kill the party-goers.