This serial surprised me in a number of ways.
The pronunciation is “man DRA gora” not “mandra GORa” as I had foolishly assumed. Is it a British thing?
The opening scene reminded me of an image my sister once constructed, imposing Captain Kirk on a background of wine crystals shot with a macro lens. The shape of the crystals is roughly the same in both, though the colors are somewhat different.
This is the first appearance of the lovely wood-paneled console room!
The alien planet, and the alien itself, don’t look great. They look like what you get when you draw on photonegatives. Maybe that is what happened. Still, what brought out the howlers in the MST:3K crowd was the repeated burning of hay. What did the thing have against hay?
THE FACE ACTING. The three primary guest actors in the serial all have wonderful faces, and that Shakespearean stage magic that makes the ridiculous seem so natural. Federico, Guiliano, and Hieronymous are solid, believable characters. I enjoyed the practically-text subtext between Guiliano and his pretty ginger companion Marco – and I have to wonder, given the era, if such things could possibly have been intentional. We’re firmly in Hinchcliffe-Holmes territory here, not yet into the seething realm of JNT.
The story itself is remarkably gripping and well-paced. The MST:3K crowd had little to offer, and consequently I had no difficulty following the story – a nice shift, after “Spearhead from Space” was so roundly shouted down last time. A lot of it does have to do with the story, and possibly the lack of Pertwee’s clownishness. Baker’s clowning seems oddly sincere in comparison.
The Meetup organizer told me that he chose this story to accompany “The End of the World” because it (supposedly) includes the first mention – however off-hand – of the TARDIS translation circuit, which makes such a splash with Rose in the newer story. However, he’d have done just as well to pair them by Mysterious Dudes in Black Cloaks, which feature prominently in both.
Next time we’ll see “The Unquiet Dead” and “The King’s Demons,” a two-part story featuring Five, Tegan, Turlough, and the Master, and introducing the short-lived Kamelion. I can’t wait to find out what they have in common.