DOCTOR WHO and the Masque of MandragoraPhilip Hinchcliffe
Target Books / Pinnacle Books
1979 / 1979

It is the Italian Renaissance during the corrupt reign of the powerful Medicis. The Doctor, angry because he was forced to land on Earth by the incredible Mandragora Helix, walks right into a Machiavellion plot. The unscrupulous Count Frederico plans to usurp the rightful rule of his naïve nephew. This, with the help of Hieronymous, influential court astrologer and secret cult member. Intent on righting all wrongs, the Doctor studies their political maneuvers. He uncovers a larger, even more malevolent plot—a plot to rule not only San Martino Province, but the entire world! Hieronymous has been taken over—both in mind and body—by the Mandragora energy ball, an alien, but all-powerful intelligence. Using Hieronymous and his cult members as a bridgehead, the Mandragora Helix intends to conquer Earth and dominate its people! The question is, will the Doctor prove a true Renaissance man? Will he be able to drain the Mandragora of its power and foil the Count as well?

Doctor Who and the Masque of Mandragora is the novelization of the 14th season serial of the classic Doctor Who series, this one featuring the Fourth Doctor and longtime companion Sarah Jane Smith. The original Target Books novelization was published in 1977; my copy, however, is from a Pinnacle reprint from 1979, of which I found at the Half Price Books while perusing their vast stacks of paperbacks. The cover art and lettering style is quite different, as is the series numbering. I wasn’t able to find a decent representation of the Pinnacle version for inclusion on here, mainly due to my lack of image resizing program at the moment. Anyway, moving on to the review part…

The story of Doctor Who and the Masque of Mandragora finds The Doctor and Sarah Jane running across a living energy structure called the Mandragora Helix and accidentally picking up an unauthorized hitchhiker. They then arrive in 15th Century Italy, on the cusp of the Renaissance, where the Mandragora energy escapes and makes plans for WORLD DOMINATION! He does so by taking over the local mystic astrologer, who has an interesting way of remaining fairly accurate with his predictions of DOOM! and DEATH! Of course, The Doctor catches wind of the plan of WORLD DOMINATION!, and tries to stop the plan from coming to fruition…only problem is, he and Sarah Jane have been captured and are prisoners of the Duke. Wackiness doth ensues, yay verily.

Like a lot of the Fourth Doctor’s tales, The Masque of Mandragora was rather Gothic in scope and style, featuring a 15th Century setting, castles, a mystic entity of evil (which has more of a sci-fi origin, but this is a Doctor Who tale, after all) and plenty of mystery and intrigue along with the imagry. Having read this novelization before getting around to watching the TV serial, I’m curious as to what the visuals are going to be like, compared to what was going on in my head as I read this. Probably going to be second-rate, like when I read The Brain of Morbius before getting around to watching that serial. Regardless, as a stand-alone book, it was an enjoyable read. Very much a Gothic tale with a Sci-Fi underpinning. If you find this copy, pick it up. Not too bad.