Man, my scifi intake has really suffered since I stopped being unemployed / ran out of all the stuff I'd previously cued up for watching / had my Netflix cancelled for non-ability to pay. But we've gotten back on track with the Classic Who, and I, for one, am much greatful. I love this watching-through of the history-- I grew up with the show, but we moved around alot and lived all over the place, and it was never consistent. Even when I watched it every day on PBS when we were back in the states and didn't have cable yet, sometimes they didn't show episodes together, even when they showed lots in a row. I mean, really. What's that all about?
So here we have the Masque of Mandragora, Sarah-Jane's second-to-last story. It starts out with them wandering around the massive interior, full of hallways that all look the same, and doors that lead to greenscreens, and they come across the Old Console, which is delightfully steampunky and wood-crafted. They find that they're being swept into a power vortex that's semisentient-- the Mandragora Helix (pronounced man-DRA-gora, not man-dra-GORA as might be assumed). There's a ball of energy that buzzes the Tardis, and the Doctor literally swings Sarah Jane out of the way in a delightful show of how little she is, then they evacuate the weird.
The Doctor lands in Renaissance Italy, drawn in by some weirdness (as per usual), and they immediately stumble upon a Plot. Sarah Jane is kidnapped (also as per usual), and the Doctor is waylaid trying to save her-- so Sarah Jane is taken to be a fortold sacrifice to Demnos, an ancient god worshipped by a secret cult that was thought to be long gone, because she was found at the right place at the right time, and meanwhile, the Doctor is taken to the Prince and his court, and the uncle and Hieronymous the Creepy-Bearded Advisor sentance him to death as a traitor. Because there's civil unrest, you see, though that doesn't really matter all that much. Also, there's the Helix Fragment, flying around and turning people into blue jello.
They send the Doctor to the block, but he escapes with the help of shi clever scarf, and hides in the catacombs under the city, where he finds and rescues Sarah Jane just before she's to be killed (I guess they couldn't see all that well in their fancy roman masks), and just in time to miss the Helix Fragment arriving and creating a link between it's home-self and the cult. Or, more specifically, with Hieronymous-- annother of his prophesies fulfilled, since he was sure he'd get unlimited power.
The Doctor and Sarah are captured and think they're going back to the block, but are taken to the Prince (Guiliano) instead, and he's willing to listen to reason and isn't happy that his uncle won't. He's decided to have a party for his succession, and Frederico, the uncle, isn't happy about it. He wants a horoscope that declares Guiliano's death, with the death following before the morning, and Hieronymous isn't too into that-- he's got a cult to lead and a massive extradimensional power to unleash.
From here, it gets even busier. They go back to the catacombs and Sarah is taken hostage again, hypnotized and told that the Doctor is an evil sorcerer that needs to be destroyed with this poison needle they give her, and she's left for them to find. She almost does it, but the Doctor snaps her out of it just in time for them all to get thrown into prison. The Doctor talks Frederico into letting him show them what's going on, which results in Frederico getting pretty suddenly offed by Force lightning, after they witness Hieronymous becoming all glowy with Helix energy. He announces that their attack will happen tomorrow, when Mandragora swallows the moon and changes history; the guards switch allegiance and everyone is freed, and Guiliano takes over, deciding to keep the party on, since cancelling it would look like he can't control his own people.
The Doctor comes up with a clever plan involving a metal breastplate and alot of wire, and sneaks into the temple where there's apparently not even one guard to stop him from setting stuff up over the course of hours. When things go to crap, the Doctor tricks the cult into grounding out all it's energy, and then there's nothing left to cause trouble.
This one... it alternated between kind of dull when it was all palace intrigue, and needlessly complicated when that intrigue bumped into the plot, and I wasn't terribly fond of it. It wasn't bad, but it was confusing, and it felt just a little off... the Doctor's still being kind of a jerk, and the plot points all came too quickly to make much sense. There's been much better historicals. And it all seemed kind of contrived in a way that left me without much opinion of the story one way or another. It's not a great way to start a season, and I liked the last ep better.