THE DOCTOR WHO RATINGS GUIDE: BY FANS, FOR FANS

Cold Fusion
The Return of the Master Trilogy
BBC
Castrovalva
The Return of the Master Trilogy Part Three

Episodes 4 The start of the beginning
Story No# 117
Production Code 5Z
Season 19
Dates Jan. 4, 1982 -
Jan. 12, 1982

With Tom Baker, Peter Davison,
Matthew Waterhouse, Janet Fielding, Sarah Sutton.
Written by Christopher H. Bidmead.
Script-edited by Eric Saward. Directed by Fiona Cumming.
Produced by John Nathan-Turner.

Synopsis: The regeneration of the fifth Doctor will fail unless he reaches the city of Castrovalva. But the Master has devised a plan that will ensure the Doctor's final destruction with aid of Adric's mathematical genius.


Reviews

A Review by Jen Kokoski 27/3/97

An amusing tale and one of the better "still surviving" regeneration stories. Peter Davison established himself early on as an accomplished actor and pleasing Doctor. I particularly enjoyed episode one (which takes place within the TARDIS) for Peter's zany impersonation of past incarnations as well as the glimpse of life aboard the TARDIS. However, the remaining episodes taking place on the fictional world of Castrovalva involved a subplot more convoluted and complex than the average viewer could enjoy. I often found myself struggling to understand the basic mathematical premise on which the plot was based rather than being drawn into the usual simplified epic world of the Doctor.


A Review by John Riordan 21/8/97

The inter-Doctor, inter-Master trilogy of The Keeper of Traken, Logopolis and Castrovalva is one of Doctor Who's masterpieces. The stakes are high, the matters are urgent and things are rarely what they seem.

Castrovalva is, in my opinion, the best debut story of any Doctor (granted that I, of course, haven't seen Power of the Daleks). The continuity between Doctors is stronger than ever before, since the new regeneration is essentially carrying on the same adventure in which the previous one was involved. The fact that we do not know this until well into the story makes the revelation all the more effective.

Jen Kokoski is right in pointing out that there is a lot of technobabble, but the idea of the Master creating a whole world out of mathematical calculation just to trap the Doctor is haunting and inspired. Even Adric is good in this one!


A Review by Sheilagh Vance 14/1/98

As the first story of the Fifth Doctor, Castrovalva was the most important new Doctor story since The Power of the Daleks. Tom Baker had been viewed by more than 16 million people during his reign and was impressed on the public's mind as the Doctor. Peter Davison had an advantage as he was already well known from All Creatures Great and Small. This story gets a mixed reaction from Doctor Who fans, but I like it.

The best thing about it is the way how the companions are co-ordinated so that Nyssa and Tegan are off with a very weak Doctor in the physical sense. But the bad part of this is that Matthew Waterhouse does not get a large role. In fact, he gets the smallest role of the companions. The Master, played by Anthony Ainley, is simply excellent, but I feel the web which Adric was caught in could have been better.

Although the plot is excellent, I imagine that i would be hard to write a script from it. Christopher H. Bidmead and Eric Saward nonetheless produce a superior story and well-written script. The direction was brilliant and the special effects were generally very good.

The Castrovalvans are well-played and scripted, but the Costume Department did poorly on this front. The tapestry in the Portreeve's house is a nice touch. Shardovan's role is perhaps not as major as it should have been. Ainley was a little below par as the Portreeve, but to be fair, the script's use of the Portreeve was less effective than it could have been. Possibly, the set of Castrovalva could have been bigger, but the budget may not have been able to achieve this.

This is probably the best story the Fifth Doctor could have had to start off his first season. 10/10


A Review by Cody Salis 3/4/98

While everyone was saying goodbye to Tom Baker at the end of Logopolis, I saw this story for the first time in December 1986. From the pre-title sequence trailer, I am going to see something special. I was impressed with the regeneration of Tom Baker melding into Peter Davison, and then the rest of the story began...

Interestingly enough Adric was hardly in Castrovalva. He took the secondary companion role and became a puppet of the Master. What supprised me was the fact that Adric would usually go against the Doctor with his own type of plan, (i.e. Four to Doomsday and State of Decay) but here he vows to fight the Master. Matthew Waterhouse does an excellent job in trying to help the newly regenerated Doctor, but is always being forced to help the Master defeat the Doctor. But what was the purpose of having an image of Adric roam the corridors, (early in the story) when he really was a prisoner of the Master? I never quite understood that.

Anthony Ainley does an excellent job in the duel role of the Master and the Portreeve. Part four was the best, especially when to the horror of both Tegan and Nyssa, the Master reveals his identity and then tries to kill the Doctor, and ends up being defeated once again. The Master is especally sneaky when he uses the drug to make the Doctor forget about Adric.

Peter Davison does a good job in his first adventure. He also interestingly copies the mannerisms of the first four Doctors, and it was especially amazing when on Castrovalva, he forgets about Adric, but when the little girl reminds him that three follows two and he exclaims to her about getting her a badge for mathematic excellence!

I liked this story, and I think that it made a pretty good conclusion to the trilogy of the Master. I would give it 7.5/10 because in my opinion they should have concentrated more on the fued between the Doctor and the Master rather than use a puppet to create an image to trap the Doctor.


A Review by Leo Vance 7/11/98

Christopher H. Bidmead generally wrote great Doctor Who for fans, and not so great for the general audience. If you can believe the viewing figures, then he managed to succeed this time.

The only down side to this story is its lack of pace. This is a shame, and it seems to me that this is mostly mitigated by the sheer beauty of the locations and sets where this happens. As well as that, the Castrovalvan woman provide some reasons for disappointment, considering this was 1982, not 1972.

The good sides are headed off by the TARDIS section of the story. This is the stronger period in my view, definitely worth watching. Peter Davison shines throughout the story, as does Sarah Sutton. The highlight is Anthony Ainley, a superb portrayal of the Master. Janet Fielding, not yet entering her 'whinging' phase, is worth watching, and Matthew Waterhouse, despite not having much to do, is effective.

The sets of Castrovalva are superb, and the beautiful location work is truly wonderful. Ainleys portrayal of his disguise is excellent, and Shardovan is also superbly played. Mergrave and Ruther are both also well played, and the direction couldn't be better. Effects, while rare, seem to work well, and the costumes are well thought-out.

All in all, a very special story, worth a great deal of attention. One of the classics of the Nathan-Turner era. 9.5/10


A Review by Stuart Gutteridge 14/4/99

Castrovalva is something of a mixed bag. As a tale aimed to introduce a new Doctor, it partially succeeds due largely to the fact that it was the concluding part of a story arc, which had begun in Season 18. This is where Castrovalva fails: at the end of Logopolis, The Master had no way of telling that The Doctor would survive his fall, yet has not one but two traps set for him. The word convoluted springs to mind.

This aside, the plot of a world created by mathematics is an interesting one and builds on the themes that Logopolis used. Castrovalva itself is quite impressive to look at and is further enhanced by the excellent location work. So too the acting, despite having an established face from television as The Doctor in the person of Peter Davison. Equal focus is also given to the companions (to Tegan and Nyssa particularly, as Adric remained a captive.)

Peter Davison`s Doctor brings a much more "human" appeal to the character, in stark contrast to Tom Baker`s outlandish portrayal. The fact that he remains incapacitated in the TARDIS, for nearly half the story doesn`t help much however, and the second half is much more interesting. Anthony Ainley is also a lot better as The Portreeve than as The Master, who at times veered into a comic strip villain.

Overall, Castrovalva is a satisfying conclusion to the story arc nand shows promise for the Fifth incarnation of The Doctor.


Oh no, not him again by Ken Wrable 1/3/00

Castrovalva has a lot to recommend it. It's intelligent, original, deals accessibly with some potentially offputting mathematical concepts and has an unusually well-written script. There's also some welcome exposition on the nature of the TARDIS. Normally the inclusion of extended scenes set in the TARDIS is a symptom of a story with not enough substance to fill its episode allocation, but here it seems appropriate. This is after all something of a watershed for a series, the first story in seven and a half years to feature somebody other than Tom Baker playing the Doctor, and these scenes with an unfamiliar Doctor in a very familiar setting work very well.

Talking of the Doctor, Peter Davison makes a very promising debut here. The traditional trick of the Doctor being confused and unstable after a regeneration is milked to the hilt here, albeit all as part of the plot, and Davison makes good use of his much-noted "vulnerable" qualities. It makes a nice change to have the Doctor being completely at the mercy of events and this factor lends Castrovalva a fairly unique dramatic charge. There are also good performances from the other regulars and it's nice to see Nyssa and Tegan getting the character development that was notably missing in Logopolis.

But with all these good points I still find this story unsatisfying and something of a missed opportunity. Why? Because of the decision to include the Master. Again. For the third time in a row. This is nothing against Anthony Ainley, who does his best with a character that by this point is becoming shockingly one-dimensional, but doesn't your heart just sink when you hear him start doing that chuckle? And worse, in Castrovalva he's there right from the start! At least in Logopolis they held him back until Episode Three and let some kind of suspense build up.

And what are my objections against this particular incarnation of the Master, who is after all one of the most popular recurring characters in Dr Who? Well, on the one hand he seems to be omnipotent and infinitely resourceful in a way that completely saps any situation he's in of credibility straight away. Here for example, mere minutes after having his grand Universe-blackmailing scheme foiled at the end of Logopolis, he's already hatched a scheme to send the TARDIS back in time to the Big Bang using a handy instant-hynotism trick on Adric. And of course he's also got a back-up plan involving a pretend haven of tranquility (complete with invented inhabitants) in case that doesn't work. If he's that all-powerful couldn't he just kill the Doctor by remote control, and save himself an awful lot of bother? On the other hand, the man's clearly an incompetent buffoon who can't even open a coffin-sized box.

My contention is that this story would have worked much better if the Master had just been omitted entirely. The trip back to the Big Bang could have easily have been caused by an error by the newly-regenerated Doctor, or by one of the crew. Castrovalva could have been pretty much what it seemed to be, and the climactic breaking-up of the environment could have just been caused by one of the Castrovalvans. Or just by a bug in the system somewhere. Wouldn't it have been refreshing to have had a story with no villain just for once?


What an Egotistical Man by Adrian Loder 26/9/00

Much has been written here already concerning Castrovalva, so points regarding the acting, etc, will be passed over, save to briefly say that I found Peter Davison to be wonderful in his first role as the Doctor, Tegan to be annoyingly high-strung, Nyssa and Adric to be sufficient, and The Master to be reasonably well portrayed, though the scene where he reveals himself in Episode Four tastes slightly of pork.

What I really want to focus on are some of the reservations a few people have had about the story, the first being that the complex mathematical basis for much of the story's plot is too much for a casual fan to deal with. Frankly I never really have found it to be all that complicated. Using powerful mental energy, computations in the head (or chanted aloud, as in Logopolis) can be used to create actual physical matter. Castrovalva is a large-scale (relatively) example of this.

Secondly, as I understand it, the 'image' of Adric is not an image at all, but is actually Adric. The Master briefly hypnotizes or otherwise takes Adric over for a moment and has him set the coordinates for the Big Bang, and then later The Master takes Adric from The Tardis.

Lastly, The Master, or, at the very least, Ainley's Master, is a pompous, egotistical man; as such, I was not in the least surprised that he set not one, not two, but three traps (counting the betrayal at the end of Logopolis) for The Doctor, as after being bested so often before he would want to be absolutely sure of his victory this time. Furthermore, being as full-of-it as he is, he wouldn't simply destroy the Doctor by remote control; he found even the Big Bang demise to be "too easy"; only something huge, grand, and clever, a tribute to his own cunning, would be satisfying enough. Add in the fact that he desperately wants to see The Doctor squirm, and we have a good justification for The Master's behavior.

Having addressed most of the loose ends, I feel confident in saying that this is a classic piece of Doctor Who. I never tire of seeing it, and it is definitely among my five or six favorite stories.


A Review by Richard Radcliffe 25/2/02

Watching this story recently brought a tidal wave of memories flooding back. Back in 1980 my interest in Doctor Who was not as strong as it once was. Season 19 started with the dire Leisure Hive, and Scientific Gobbledygook seemed to a bit too in my face. On the other side was the glitzy glamour of Buck Rogers. For a Hormone infested pre-teen the allure was too great. It was only when Tom Baker announced he was leaving at the end of the season I returned. Oh how fickle!!!

I watched the rest of the season after that, and when the 5th Doctor was announced, my interest soared. I was a great fan of James Herriott. My Mum loved the books and ensured her children enjoyed it too. I watched All Creatures Great and Small every week, and my favourite character was Tristran, James' brother. And this fellow was to be the next Doctor! If I had to handpick an actor myself, it would have been Peter Davison. My obsession had begun. I began to buy DWM, I filled in the gaps in my TARGET book collection. I devoured everything to do with the Doctor (The Five Faces Season helped), I was ready for the next chapter of this wonderful adventure that was Doctor Who.

Castrovalva benefits tremendously from focusing on the new Doctor. Davison throws himself into the role. The erratic personality that features at the beginning of every Doctor, is played to the hilt by Davison. He gleefully goes through impressions of previous Doctors, namechecks lots of companions - The Five Faces Season had made more people aware of Doctor Who History more than ever before, and blasts from the past would feature heavily from now on. The previous Doctor is literally unravelled, as his scarf is taken apart, and his clothes strewn around. There's the wonderful scene where the Doctor finds some Cricketing Whites, and a Pavilion-like room - and doesn't the new Doctor LOOK great! Peter Davison's performance is excellent - he is instantly likeable, and you really feel that his time on the show will be "splendid", as he radiantly states at the stories conclusion.

The focus is squarely on the new Doctor, the first 2 episodes fairly fly by. The TARDIS interiors are the most unexplored aspect of DW, and finally we get to spend some time there. Nyssa and Tegan get to bond. Adric is taken away by the Master, and shows up his acting liability to the show. The TARDIS was crowded back then, there was 1 Adric too many, thankfully he isn't in this one too much.

Following the cosy atmosphere of the TARDIS, we move to the Castrovalvan planet. It's an English wood, and there is no prettier place in the universe. This is where the need to go on an adventure finally kicks in. Trouble is "Nothing much happens there", you really fancy spending a couple of days there yourself - the nice, little stress-free break that is needed once in a while. That's the idea, the Doctor is brought there to recuperate. The realization of Castrovalva is one of the little triumphs of DW Set Design - it really is a very nice, tranquil place. It's a bit strange to encounter a Hunting Party complete with elaborate costumes, based on what we learn later, but I suppose even the most laid back civilizations need some way to escape.

The story itself is a little strange to work out. The Master leads the Doctor to his own make believe world, so he can finally destroy him. His attempts to open the Zero Cabinet are laughable, his impersonation of the Portreeve nice, but irrelevant. Doesn't the Master look weird in White? After a pretty good introduction in Logopolis, Ainley's Master is already slapstick rather than sinister. The Web is a nice idea though, combined with the mixed realities of Castrovalva. The rest of the Castrovalvan population are nicely understated, which is the idea - only the Librarian stands out. Nobody and nothing deflects the attention away from the main focus - the new 5th Doctor.

Castrovalva eases the new Doctor in gently, the focus is clear - you really feel the show is in good hands with Peter Davison. A wonderful beginning for the 5th Doctor, even if the story is a little weak. 7/10


Four-Point Beginning by Mike Morris 11/3/02

Who said that copying was a bad thing? I feel a bit guilty, plagiarising the style of Peter Jermey's brilliant review of Resurrection of the Daleks. With Castrovalva, though, it's a bit appropriate, as this was one of the most fragmented stories the series ever gave us. So, episode by illogical episode, here is the story of Castrovalva.

PART ONE

The pre-credit sequence is a reprise of Logopolis, although some of the dialogue has miraculously changed. Then the Doctor and his three pesky kids start are making their way to the TARDIS, chased by some terrifying security guards. Adric tries to smooth things over by telling them he's from another planet, the Doctor's saved them all from the Master, and that something may have gone wrong with his regeneration. Yeah, that'll get them on your side, kid.

Tegan, Nyssa and the Doctor escape in an ambulance kindly provided by someone, replete with keys. They understandably try to leave Adric behind, but conscience gets the better of them.

The Master's TARDIS appears from nowhere and kills all the guards with some BBC Micro lightning bolts. Why can't the Doctor's TARDIS do that? Tegan sees what's happening and runs outside, which is hardly wise but the purple-clad one has never been famed for her intelligence. Adric has been kneeling behind the TARDIS the whole time, which makes you wonder what exactly he and the Master have been getting up to.

The TARDIS takes off and the Doctor wanders around, looking for the Zero Room. Adric's suddenly being quite tolerable, so it can't be the real Adric. The Doctor's in a bit of a bad way, all shaky and uncertain with memory gaps, and tries to reassure himself by doing impressions of all his past selves. He does a good Troughton, but his Pertwee leaves a lot to be desired.

Adric then leaves while the Doctor helpfully mentions that the regeneration's failing. Still no sign of anywhere or anyone called Castrovalva, but at least something vaguely dangerous is happening; and in a real fit of drama, the Master pops up and tells Adric that he can't escape. After this we never see anything more of that particular Adric in the TARDIS. Maybe he got lost. Maybe he's still there. Maybe the Eighth Doctor will find him one day, leading to a marvellous run of EDA's with another version of Adric. Hey, it worked for Fitz.

Tegan and Nyssa have got incredibly chummy. It's quite sweet actually. They chat about recursion (there's a hint folks) and about the power of the word "if". Cor, philosophy comes to Doctor Who at long last then. It turns out the word "if" can help them pilot the TARDIS. Having established that they're going back to the Big Bang they decide that there's nothing to worry about and go looking for the Doctor.

The Doctor finds the Zero Room and feels a lot better. He does a bit of levitating and starts talking with his mouth closed... ooh, spooky. Just as the Doctor's fallen asleep Adric appears in the corner of the room and starts yelling that, um, he's a trap and they're in trouble. This doesn't wake the Doctor up, oddly enough. Nyssa goes back to the console room and notices it's getting hotter. Finally she starts putting the crucial clues together and realises something might be wrong.

Tegan's lipstick is rather garish - cf. The Visitation.

The Doctor realises that something's up, at which point Tegan decides to leave him on his own again. Yup, that's a good idea; don't tell the Doctor anything, since he's the only one who can get you out of trouble.

The Doctor finally realises that leaving two curiously stupid women in control of the TARDIS is a bad idea, at much the same time as the two women realise that flying into the largest explosion in history ain't so clever. The reputation of women drivers plummets drastically. The Master then appears on the TARDIS monitor, which is a power only he and Daleks possess.

Part One is very silly indeed, but somehow manages to work thanks to good performances by everyone involved, even Matthew Waterhouse. Tegan and Nyssa's friendship is well-established.

PART TWO

The Doctor messes around with some bottles for a while before realising that he's caught in a remake of Inside The Spaceship and that the console room is the place to be. A wheelchair conveniently appears to take him there. Transport of Delight! Deus ex Machina, more like, but a witty one.

Just as conveniently, the heat means that the Doctor's brain is working properly. His first instruction is to cool the TARDIS down, which would appear to be a case of shooting oneself in the foot. He tells the girls to jettison 25% of the TARDIS architecture, which will provide Tegan with the "enormous thrust" she's looking for. Hmm.

She's a bit worried that she'll jettison the console room. It would seem reasonable that the TARDIS would have a fail-safe to combat this, but no. Maybe the circuit was designed by the same guy who came up with the fast-return switch. Thankfully, the TARDIS no longer resorts to melting all the clocks and turning everyone into a murderer when faced with imminent disaster, it just rings a bell.

Tegan's very worried about pressing the button. Nyssa, with her objective scientist's brain, helpfully explains that a 75% chance of survival is rather better than no chance at all. The TARDIS escapes - with seconds to spare, natch.

Meanwhile, the Master has Adric trapped behind some fishing lines. Adric claims to be unhappy about this, but a quick glance at his trousers would appear to indicate a definite excitement of some sort. Oh well, it's tough being a teenager.

For the next ten minutes nothing much happens. Tegan and Nyssa decide to go to Castrovalva, and the Doctor rather nastily says that an air-hostess can't fly the TARDIS. He'll be making blonde jokes next.

The 25% of the architecture jettisoned seems to consist of the Zero Room and nothing else. The TARDIS, what with its low-intensity telepathic field and all, would appear to have developed a spiteful streak. Nyssa makes the Doctor a cabinet instead.

Nyssa changes into trousers, gets rid of her jacket, has her ion bonder broken, gets soaked and loses her tiara. She looks knackered by the end of the episode, and as a result doesn't change clothes again for a year or so. The audience aren't tired, since they've had at least fifteen minutes snooze at this stage.

At the end it transpires that the Doctor's gone. He must have got bored as well.

Part Two has more nice interplay between Nyssa and Tegan, Nyssa's character being particularly well-developed. Aside from that it's five minutes worth of story stretched to twenty-five minutes, and the Doctor spends half of it inside a box. It's quite entertaining if watched on fast-forward, but otherwise it's utterly unnecessary, very boring, and almost identical to a certain Hartnell story.

PART THREE

Wait - what's this - it's a guest cast! Shock horror! Made giddy by so many new people coming out of nowhere, the Doctor forgets who he is. Still, he's able to walk now which is something.

Tegan and Nyssa are trying desperately to get into Castrovalva. They see the Doctor approaching this problem by walking towards the door, but decide this is a bit too simple and go rock climbing. The poor dears are resigning themselves to sleeping rough for the night, until Nyssa shows more of that superior alien intelligence by recognising a rope-ladder.

The Doctor meanwhile gets given some celery and a bed for the night. The Castrovalvans seem like a nice enough bunch except for one bloke who dresses in black and glowers a lot. Don't trust him whatever you do. The other two principle Castrovalvans are a geek with a high-pitched voice and Michael Sheard, who appears to exist throughout the universe as an evolutionary standard. The Doctor's memory is still gone, so he doesn't say "do you know you look just like Laurence Scarman?"

The Castrovalvans are a simple people. They read, hunt, eat, and have an ongoing silly hat competition. Their leader is called the Portreeve, who knows who the Doctor is, seems like a genuinely nice chap, and presumably acquired his position by having the silliest hat of all. Can't be a bad place then. In other words, the Doctor has stumbled on a utopian world where everyone is happy. I'm willing to bet that everything is exactly as it seems.

Tegan and Nyssa show up and kick up a bit of a fuss until they're allowed to see the Doctor. They absolutely refuse to tell him that Adric's missing, just in case he worries. They go and look at the history of Castrovalva instead, on the off-chance that it should turn out to be relevant. It's difficult to see why it would be, but you never know. Nyssa knows so little about telebiogenesis; don't you just hate that?

Someone's nicked the Doctor's cabinet and Adric pops up once or twice, just to reassure us that there's still a bit of danger somewhere. The Master's plans are maturing, apparently, which is nice to know. It'd be even nicer if we knew what his plan was, but you can't have everything. Bugger, says Chris Bidmead somewhere, I'm writing the world's greatest Part One, only it's happening in Part Three...

The Doctor meets the Portreeve again, and discovers that Castrovalva is sustained and protected by a giant carpet. As we all suspected, then. The Portreeve is starting to look a bit familiar all of a sudden, as though the make-up department have taken a day off. Curiouser and curiouser.

A little girl talks the Doctor through the complexity of counting, a scene I could mock further but it's so wonderful I'm not going to. He finally works out that Adric isn't here, and decides to get the hell out of Castrovalva. Shardovan doesn't like it. Hmm.

Wait a minute... something's wrong. They keep coming back to the main square whichever way they go. It's a very complex spatial disturbance. It can only be...

Recursive Occlusion! Someone's manipulating Castrovalva! We're caught in a space-time trap!

Part Three picks up impetus again, although the actual level of plotting remains minimal. Nice design and performances, and the cliffhanger at the end is beautifully crafted. The only problem are the occasional appearances by Adric and the Master, which don't add anything except an out-of-place comic book feel.

PART FOUR

Things just keep getting better. Having been introduced to other characters in Part Three, Part Four goes completely all-out and actually gives them some plot to engage with.

The Doctor wants his cabinet again. Great; the first sign of trouble and he wants to hide in a cupboard. Tom wouldn't have done that, I'll wager. The Doctor demonstrates that Mergrave can't see the occlusion, at about the same time as we find out that Ruther can't either. These scenes are damn good, actually, particularly that "How do I know you're telling the truth?" bit. Ruther, however, has got to be the stupidest character I've ever seen. He looks stupid. He has a stupid voice. His make up is stupid, and he doesn't even have a proper silly hat, just a stupid turban-thing; perhaps that's the Castrovalvan badge of stupidity.

Tegan and Nyssa have decided that the Castrovalvans are all part of a conspiracy, based on the evidence that they're doing some knitting in the Zero Cabinet. What they would have made of the JFK assassination, God only knows.

Mergrave and Ruther draw some maps for a while, hammering home the fact that they're stuck in a giant Escher painting. The Doctor has also read the entire history of Castrovalva. I can just about believe this, but I refuse to credit that Tegan and Nyssa could read three dozen books in an hour or two. I'm sceptical that Tegan can read at all.

Shardovan is behind it all, surely? As a clever ruse, the Castrovalvans are made to carry their official history to the Portreeve. Which seems a tad mean.

Wait a minute! Shardovan isn't behind it after all, he's the only one who can see that Castrovalva doesn't make sense. He can't see it with his eyes, but in his philosophy... which is one of the dozen most stupendous lines to grace our lovely series.

Shock! Horror! The Portreeve was the Master all along! But... but why would the Master create an entire city just to trap the Doctor in it? Why didn't he kill the Doctor when he was asleep and helpless for the past day or so? Why did he bother appearing as the Portreeve at all? Why can't he open a simple cabinet? Why has the story's credibility fallen apart in the space of ten seconds? Why? Why? Why?

Adric and the real means of creating Castrovalva is cunningly hidden, um, in the same place as the pretend one. The Master switches Ruther off, which doesn't upset anyone that much. This does deprive the story of a thrilling dénouement, in which Adric and Ruther battle for the title of Most Annoying Geek In The Universe. Shardovan sacrifices himself in another rather fabulous scene, and the Master then does a bit of wailing in a less fabulous scene. He escapes in his TARDIS... oh, no he doesn't. He can't take off from inside the occlusion. Wow, looks like the Master is actually really and truly doomed.

Castrovalva falls apart. Cue some natty visual effects. Cue some more scenes of the Master wailing "My web!", which is hardly a great villainous line. He gets stuck. Destroyed forever. Our heroes, though, see the escape route, cleverly disguised as a door. And no, Tegan didn't fly the TARDIS after all.

On to pastures new, leaving behind only a deserted planet. Er, with a fence on it.

The TARDIS leaves, and moments later the fence also dematerialises accompanied by a villainous chuckle. It was the Master's TARDIS all along! That scene is only on the special edition video, by the way.

Part Four is downright magnificent, with the partial exception of the Master. The audience may have had to sit through three plotless episodes but it's worth it for this, a heady mix of wonderful scenes, wonderful lines, great design and a cracking pace.

OVERALL: It's often portrayed as a great story with a few sneaking faults. Actually, the reverse is true; Castrovalva manages to be pretty good even though it should be a load of codswallop. Floating around in a not exactly linear script are stunted ideas about recursion, block transfer projections, post-regenerative confusion and that usual Chris Bidmead fascination with the TARDIS - none of which are adequately developed, and most of which make no sense at all when examined with any care. Throw in a fair amount of characterisation for Tegan, Nyssa and the Doctor and you have what should be a mess and yet isn't. The early TARDIS-based plot is diverting, Part Two is a meandering bore that could be easily cut out, and then the final two episodes are a wonderful story let down only by the Master.

The story has a million-and-one faults - many of which it shares with Logopolis. Unstructured, illogical, and the TARDIS takes an age to arrive at wherever it's going. Relatively rational in Logopolis (hey, his plan made some sort of sense) the Master's diabolical scheme doesn't stand up to much scrutiny this time. In the first episode he's a cartoon villain in a cartoon plot, in the last two episodes he's a pain in the arse. One wonders what Chris Bidmead would have made of Castrovalva if he didn't have to include the Master in it - although, having said that, as a finale to the Master "trilogy" his end works very well, and the scene where the doomed Castrovalvans pull him back into the city is genuinely disturbing.

As it is, Castrovalva is badly put together, half-baked... and yet curiously enjoyable because the ingredients themselves are interesting and there's a nice energy to the whole thing. One can't say it's good, but it's utterly compelling. It is a four-in-the-morning doner kebab from a dodgy takeaway, with Tristan Farnon in it.


The Escher Hive by Andrew Wixon 10/5/02

Rather fittingly, an awful lot of story elements from Logopolis recur in Castrovalva: the Master, the concept of block transfer maths, a weird fascination with the workings of the TARDIS, and an emphasis on abstract mathematical concepts. And like Logopolis, the story proper doesn't really get going until well into episode 2, although the key theme - recursion, on this occasion - is name-checked early on.

It shares solid designs and guest performances with its predecessor too, but for all this it isn't in the same league. This is only partly Castrovalva's fault - Logopolis had a huge inherent emotional punch simply because it was Tom's swansong, and was also a story on the most epic scale imaginable.

Castrovalva is a much smaller, more personal story. And already the Master is sliding into self-parody: from his decision to wave goodbye to the regulars via the monitor screen, to his ridiculous assault on the zero cabinet with a poker, it's difficult to take him seriously. And this is only Anthony Ainley's second outing in the role.

But Davison's debut performance is nice, many of his character traits already in place. It is, of course, a shock to find the Doctor so passive and oft-times lacking in natural authority, and his attempts to be polite to everyone he meets seem positively weird in the circumstances, but it's a consistent portrayal.

And so you'd have to judge Castrovalva a success in the end. Although... the previous post-regeneration stories all opted to stick the new Doctor into a full-on, business-as-usual adventure, reestablishing the character. Doing a whole story based around the regenerative process, with the new Doctor's style not really discernable until the climax, just speaks to me of too-much self-regard - maybe even self-indulgence. It's not really a problem here, but it's a portent of things to come.


"Whoever I feel like... it's absolutely splendid!" by Joe Ford 27/1/03

Okay, I'm going to tell you something that is going to stun you rigid. The bookends of the Davison era (that's Castrovalva and Caves of Androzani for those less informed members of the audience) are the best begining and last story for any Doctor. Davison shot into Doctor Who in true style and catapulted out with equal pizazz. It's just the never ending boredom in between that I object to. Castrovalva is different to any other Doctor Who story and that to its merit is its greatest strength...

Fan reaction to Tom Baker's departure was a mixture of sadness and joy. He was compelling to the bitter end but by god we needed a change! In steps Peter Davison, a shocking contrast to Mr Baker's Godly portrayl. Based on this story alone it is impoissible to grasp how Davison is going to play the Doctor, he spends a lot of the story unconscious or out of his mind but it is quite fun to watch the earlier incarnations edge into reality for the first two episodes. Davison's Troughton impression is a particular joy and I think it would have been hysterical to see more of this frightened, edgy Doctor than the one we eventually got. There are some lovely scenes as the Doctor tries to grab hold of a personality for his latest face, his exploration of the pavillion in the TARDIS is wonderful. If only the fifth Doctor could have stayed as unpredicatable as he is here ("Unless you let everyone of them go NOW!", "That's definately civilisation", "Trim time ship and a ship shape team!") we would have had some interesting work.

Even better is the time and attention lavished on the companions which is not only welcome but vital in these transitional stories. If the Doctor is acting doo-lally-squat then we need somebody familiar to guide us through the shake up. Tegan and Nyssa fullfil this role perfectly and despite his detractors even Adric has a few moments worth savouring.

Tegan is not one of my favourite companions but my feelings towards her character aren't borne out of anything in Castrovalva which treats her sensitively and intelligently. Her protection of the Doctor is admirable considering they only met in the previous story. I love the bits where she is trying to 'fly' the TARDIS like an aeroplane, a nice link to Logopolis and something funny to base her character on ("Not up to CAA standards but a landing's a landing!"). Her irritating temper flares from time to time but under Fiona Cummings fine direction it always seems nessecary and palpable rather than tacked on to create drama where there is none (like she would in later stories). Her chemistry with Nyssa is astonishing, together they make an enjoyable team and you really are cheering them on as they escape Event One, reach Castrovalva and discover the just where the Zero cabinet is gone!

Sarah Sutton gets some considerable time in the limelight and her charming performance is particularly noteworthy. She reminds me of Anji from the books, always thinking instead of (Tegan) just reacting. Christopher H Bidmead would probably have found lots of great things for Nyssa to do this season had he remained script editor but at least we can cherish her snappiness ("I said IF!" "You taught me about if remember?"), her intelligence ("We don't want to jetisson the console room!") and her tenderness (the scene where she watched Tegan sleep is gorgeous).

Since this is the final part of the Master's 'trilogy of terror' it is fitting that his scheme as suitably awe insprining. Castrovalva is a fascinating place and Mr Bidmead has lavished it with his usual attention to detail. Lots of little touches help to make it seem more 'real' than other Who planets (the gossipy women who do all the dirty work, the intelligent little girl, the library with no factual works, only fiction, the pharmasist who abhors hunting...) and the sets (although clearly indoors) help create a sense of ease and tranquility. Of course excellent sound effects (the birds twittering) helps. It makes it all the more frightening when it all turns out to be a trap set by that fiendishly fiend, the Master! The last episode is brilliant drama and very, very intelligent. It is fascinating to watch as the Master's creations discover free will and turn against their creator ("You made us man of evil... but we are free..."). The horror of Castrovalva dissolving is beautifully captured in Michael Sheard's astonishing performance as Mergrave ("There is nothing but confusion in my eyes now!" he screams as we hear a thousand screams of a disentigrating world). The 'puzzle' FX of Castrovalva breaking up and folding in on itself maybe daft compared to todays CGI but it still effectively conveys the magic and drama of such a hard SF concept.

The location work is gorgeous, the struggle with the policemen in episode one feels fresh and exciting (needed after the boring speeches of Logopolis) and all the stuff with Tegan and Nyssa carrying the Doctor to Castrovalva looks lush and beautiful. The soothing score only adds to the charm of these simple yet compelling scenes.

That's how this story is different, it's gentle, relaxed even. The pace is slow but its never dull. After the claustrophobic drama of the first episode and a half the rest sails along calmly yet effectively. The performances are all perfect, after four stories together Davison, Fielding, Sutton and Waterhouse have developed some good, watchable chemistry and the inhabitants of Castrovalva, or at least the few that are warranted strong characterisation are acted superbly. The cliffhangers are all excellent and leave you clinging to the remote to watch the next episode. And even better, Ainley is holding back on the pantomime theatrics and delivers a stunning turn as the wise old man Portreeve (Ainley's non Master roles are both so much better). He can't resist chewing the scenary in episode four but we are so glad that this new TARDIS team is proving so damn good we don't care one jot.

All this and the final scene which is "absolutely splendid!"

So why, after such an inspiring start, did things go rapidly downhill?


A small scale beginning by Tim Roll-Pickering 12/3/03

Peter Davison's time in the series gets off to a good start with this relatively relaxed tale. After the apocalypse that was Logopolis we get a story that takes place on an incredibly small scale and focuses heavily on the individual characters. This is very much in keeping with the new Doctor's charecterisation as being far more down to earth than the all conquering superhuman that his predecessor appeared to be at times.

Christopher H. Bidmead's script is once more full of some strong scientific concepts, most obviously recursion but also the hydrogen inrush and the Zero Room, but the real focus is on charecterisation. The story is very teasing since it isn't until the fourth episode that the Doctor is fully recovered and revealed. Until then we only get glimpses as to what he is like and this leaves the viewer wanting more. With Adric spending most of the story a prisoner of the Master, the real emphasis is on Tegan and Nyssa. Both Janet Fielding and Sarah Sutton give strong performances as their characters seek to come to terms with the events going on around them and ensure that they and the Doctor survive them all. Both Adric and the Master are confined to the sidelines for mush of the story but Matthew Waterhouse and Anthony Ainley make the most of their scenes. Peter Davison has a difficult role, since the Doctor is not quite himself for much of the story and at times appears to be turning out like some of his earlier incarnations, but Davison is successful in doing good impressions of Hartnell, Troughton and Pertwee that don't become in any way laughable, whilst also ensuring that his own portrayal of the Doctor slowly asserts itself.

The first half of the story is set almost entirely aboard the two TARDISes, focusing only on the existing characters with a highly simplistic plot but this allows for the all important character development. Equally well handled is the setting of Castrovalva. The sets are reminiscent of Escher's work, whilst most of the four principle Castrovalvans are characterised well, though Ruther does appear to be surplus to requirements at times. 'Neil Toynay' gives such a good performance as the Portreeve that it was a genuine surprise to me when I first watched the story to discover that this character is in fact the Master in disguise. Bidmead's script is successful in pushing most of the suspicion onto Shadovan and a small amount onto Ruther, luring many viewers into believing that they are an agent of the Master whilst those who try to doubleguess the writer are lured instead towards Mergrave.

Productionwise Castrovalva has some good sets, location work, direction and music but the story is unfortunately let down by the crudity of early 1980s video effects. This is one of a number of tales that would definitely benefit from modern CGI effects given the requirements that some shots have. Fortunately the script handles most of the recursion concepts in the dialogue and so things aren't as bad as they seem. To blame a story for trying something bold and being let down by the contemporary video effects would be unfair, especially when the story should be judged according to its contemporaries. All in all this is a strong debut for the new Doctor that makes the viewer want to come back for more - a critical factor given that the story was seeking to keep the series going after the departure of the longest serving Doctor and in this respect it had a task second only to The Power of the Daleks. 8/10


A Review by Terrence Keenan 16/8/03

One has to wonder whether or not Christopher Bidmead wrote Castrovalva and Logopolis concurrently. Both stories feature TARDIS traps set by the Master. Both feature long TARDIS sequences before arriving into strange worlds. Block Transfer Computations are integral to the plots. And the Doctor deals with his personas -- one ending and one beginning anew.

I'm not that all enamored with Logopolis. It's a confusing, meandering story only saved by Tom Baker's brilliant performance.

Castrovalva suffers from a similar problem. Peter Davison gets hamstrung by plot machination that force him to (badly) immitate his predecessors and and act loopy for the first half of the story. It's only in episodes three and four where he shines. Matthew Waterhouse is forced into the whiner role. Adric is the Master's bitch and more of a plot catalyst than a character. The less said of Sara Sutton and Janet Fielding as Nyssa and Tegan, respectively, the better.

The fun is in the last two episodes. Michael Sheard's Mergrave and Derek Waring's Cleese-esque Shardovan are wonderful. Anthony Ainley shows some restraint and acting chops as the Portreeve. Unfortunately, his Master would make Joan Collins proud is terms of ham and scenery-chewing.

The plot consists of two attempts of the Master to kill the Doctor -- ready to implement the moment the Doctor regenerates. One involves sending the TARDIS back to Event One. The other involves a trap tied into the Doctor's uunstable regeneration. It's a bit much, if you ask me. The bit with event one is more of a holding pattern in order for Bidmead to have some fun in the TARDIS and establish limits for the ship.

Where Castrovalva succeeds is in the little bits. Davison's interaction with the little girl. Explaining the Occlusion to Mergrave and Ruther. All the moments with Shardovan. These are the moments which raise Castrovalva above its story and performance problems. Castrovalva is, in the final analysis, a problematic story with some brilliant little bits. A story with a stronger second half than its opening.


A Review by Will Berridge 12/9/03

Personally speaking, I often tend to find post-regeneration stories a bit difficult to get through. Until the Doctor has finished with usual personality crisis, fans always tend to feel insecure, hoping he'll soon start doing Doctorish things and start saving the universe again, so they can return to their viewing with the trend of the previous Doctors' eras relatively unchanged. And by the time he does get round to saving the universe again, so much focus and attention has been placed on his antics at the start that the remainder of the story comes across as unimportant, almost an afterthought. Spearhead from Space, Robot, The Twin Dilemna and Time and the Rani certainly suffer from this. In the last 3 cases, I suspect it may be because the writers in question weren't inspired by the lesser plot space their story was to receive to come up with a particularly brilliant script. 100,000 BC, though not technically a post regeneration story, has difficulties for similar reasons. Power of the Daleks gets away with it by merit of having two more episodes to flesh out the plot. But Castrovalva takes an entirely different approach to that of the others, one later adopted by the Telemovie. Instead of just having the Doctor struggle into his new body for the first episode or two, it centres the entire plot around what he admits is going to be a particularly difficult regeneration, and the struggle of his new self to survive against the fiend who caused him to enter it. This gives a much more satisfying overall balance to the story.

Unfortunately, whilst the Doctor/Master conflict is a central aspect, these two Time Lords seem to have a far less interesting relationship as adversaries than Pertwee and Delgado's versions. Previously, there had seemed to be something between the two, a remnant of their one-time friendship at Prydon academy, some grudging respect, perhaps, maybe just the fact they were two of the same race cast out into an alien universe. Delgado's charm and gentlemanly exterior, singularly lacking in Ainley's master, helped a quasi-friendship develop. But Davison's Doctor just sees the Master as simply another blandly deranged and evil villain, which Ainley acts him as. We see the disappointing effects of this in the final conflict, where the Doctor rather unimaginatively tells his ancient foe 'Alright, Master, it's me you want, let the others go', a line which simply made me wince. I'm sure neither Pertwee, nor any of the others, for that matter, addressed him directly as 'Master' before. The Master at this point is behaving like some second rate gangster, snarling at Nyssa 'don't try and make a fool out of me' when she points out something about Zero structures, which, as a Time Lord, he really should know. The pantomine laughs he delivers at the end of every scene don't really help, either.

It's a pity, because whilst Ainley is generally quite hopeless in this one, what we see of Davison when he is doing Doctor no. 5 (and the impressions, for what it's worth, are quite amusing), is altogether more promising. The Castrovalvan citadel, modelled as a giant Escher painting, seems quite the ideal location for him to bound about frantically in, and apart from his typical relentless energy, we also see his flair for manic wit, with lines like 'that's democracy for you', and (to 'the solution') 'oh, my little friend, if only you were!'. Of the companions, only Nyssa manages not to irritate, and fortunately Castrovalva turns out to be an adventure where the plot situation brings her more to the fore, with the Doctor often incapacitated. It's a mercy she and not Adric or Tegan ended up with the 'we're heading towards the biggest explosion in history!' line at the end of episode, as such an eventuality would indubitably have ruined an enthralling cliffhanger.

The excellence of the plotting is what makes the last couple of episodes, as we slowly come to realise that the idyllic paradise of Castrovalva is little more than a block transformation. But one thing that doesn't change between Ainley and Delgado's Master is that both form plots which are dastardly but over-intricate- why does the Master wait till the Doctor is inside an impenetrable cabinet till he goes for him? It's almost like he's thinking 'well I spent all this bloody time writing a fabricated 500 year history, so I'm going to make you fall for it before you die!'.

Nevertheless, it allows Bidmead, always keen to get more genuine science into DW scripts, to bring up fascinating concepts like recursion, a theme throughout the story, which leads to another fantastic cliffhanger, this time for Episode 3. He also investigates the TARDIS quite a bit, creating (and then disposing of) the Zero Room, and further establishing that the machine has a mind of its own linked symbiotically to the Doctor, as it provides him with medicine and a wheelchair when he is in need.

One good subversion of expectation is that we are drawn for no particularly logical reason (he looks a bit shifty, and Tegan doesn't like him, he's dressed in Black) is the villain behind it all, rather than the old and benevolent Portreeve (dressed in white). Shardovan then goes on to save the day in a triumph for free will. The Master's other creations in Castrovalva are imbued with enough character and geniality evoke a sense of tragedy when it is established they were never real people, and come to disappear.

Castrovalva makes quite a fresh diversion from typical DW runarounds, and the plots the Master have devised make for quite an exciting little story, which only at the final confrontation genuinely disappoints. 7/10


What a strange one this is? by Steve Cassidy 26/8/04

I could almost admire it. I certainly enjoyed it - but for some strange reason it didn't rock my world. I will never get the "Oh I must put Castrovalva on tonight" feeling. And I only procured it because I had to stay in on a Friday night due to an early start the next day and I loathe Big Brother. I wanted to blot that piece of loathstome ooze from my television and found myself on my way home stopping at the video/DVD exchange in Notting Hill. Not the greatest selection mainly made up of returned Leisure Hives by those who had acquired the DVD. So it was a straight choice between Nightmare of Eden and Castrovalva. I remember Castrovalva in those heady days of 1981 when we all watched to see the new Doctor generate - it was seven years since the last regeneration and it was quite an event.

And I do remember it from 1981. Our family were Tom fans (although dad went on about this obscure figure called Patrick Troughton) and the three boys would moan and drag their feet if they were still with mum in the shops at 5.30pm on a Saturday. For me Dr Who will forever be associated with mugs of warm tea, long dark cold nights, a metal dog who said "affirmative" alot, bacon butties and a tall curly-haired man with a long winding scarf. And then it all changed...

In our family we have been talking about Doctor Who a lot recently, spurred on by his return in 2005 and the fact that I have returned to the fold after 23 years. There have been lots of discussion about why we left the series (the notorious scene in Kinda with Adric and Tegan tearing into each other comes up a lot) but the general discourse seemed to be that Castrovalva passed muster. From a twelve year old's view Castrovalva was OK, it didn't set me alight - no Daleks, Cybermen or man-eating monster - all the things a 12 year old loves (heck, I enjoyed the Nimon when they first appeared). But I would watch the new Doctor Who and see how it progresses after all it had been seven years since the previous regeneration and I certainly didn't remember that. Although this twelve year old embraced Peter Davison the companions were not so fortunate. The rumblings were there. It would take a few more stories for Buck Rogers in the 21st Century to be more attractive then then Adric, Nyssa and Tegan. Perhaps the following story would be better? Unfortunately next was Four to Doomsday.

So how is Castrovalva to an adult?

I watched it again after 23 years through the eyes of a person in their mid-thirties - and it is enjoyable, it will never topple Seeds of Doom as the greatest Who story of all time, but it is OK. That seems to be the word with Castrovalva - OK. No one seems to get overexcited about it, while at the same time no one seems to damn it to oblivion. The usual mutterings against Castrovalva seem to be that it is a little on the slow side - slow? Castrovalva? surely not? If you thought Nyssa pushing the sonic destructor across the floor of the TARDIS in The Visitation was tedious, wait until you get to episode two with her and Tegan carrying a BBC props box through nettles and ferns for ten minutes. It's so boring you'll want to eat your own hands...

But there is lots to recommend Castrovalva. Just with many of the JNT early adventures the production design is exquisite. No twelve year old would recognise the inspiration of Escher for the city of Castrovalva. The Dutch artist's drawings of interweaving corridors, descending/ascending stairs and weird angles make an interesting Who location. And the set designers and decoraters really excelled themselves here. Everything looks 18th century Dutch even down to the costumes of the peasant women with their winged hats, there is a touch of the fairytale about Castrovalva. There is a lovely scene where they are cooking a whole pig on a spit in the central square and the firelight flickers off the walls. Peter Davison just sits on a bench, catches his breath and enjoys the moment just like everyone else. "It must be nice to have a break from all the excitement you have been telling us about..." says Ruther. Yes, for one adventure it is. The audience is resting along with the Doctor.

Chistopher Bidmead wrote the script and while I'll never admit to him being my favourite Who writer (too humourless) he does a good job. But then he relishes the opportunity to introduce a new Doctor on his terms and the effects of the regeneration encompass three of the four episodes. The first episode is uneven and suffers from the fact that it takes place entirely in the TARDIS. Gone is the usual - land on planet, explore and introduce denizens of planet, reveal the menace at the cliffhanger. We now have a realistic yet uninteresting situation of what the companions would do if the Doctor is incapacitated. At least what two of them would do, Adric - by lucky chance - is kidnapped and forced to stand legs akimbo in the Masters TARDIS. No don't read anything into that, the poor mite is lucky to be out of it as we have twenty minutes of Tegan and Nyssa flapping and punching buttons following the DIY fly-the-TARDIS manual. Now, there is nothing wrong with this and to be frank we get to know more about the two girls then we ever did before but it isn't very exciting. Even when they are dragged back to 'Event One' and the creation of the universe I was sitting there thinking - oh yeah, that don't impress me much...

In fact the story for me didn't really take off until episode three and we are presented with the fascinating world of Castrovalva. This utopian dreamworld, as we all worked out, was nothing more then a creation by the Master. But it was such a good creation with its own pecking order, history and some wonderfully Pratchettesque characters in Shardovan, Mergrave and Ruther. There was something of a Dickensian cariacature about each of them - the aloof librarian, the fastidious castellan and the cautious apothecary. The fact that each character undergoes a kind of metamorphosis and realises that their lives are illusions and they are nothing but playthings for this evil man is terrific. And it is the anger at this injustice which powers the final ten minutes of the film. The lynching of the Master in the tunnels by the Castrovalvans is strong stuff.

And what about the Master? Well, he was always a pantomine villain - and once you start down that road it is very difficult to stop. Anthony Ainley plays him with his usual relish, even helping the Doctor escape at the beginning, and all leading up to a double trap set for the Time Lord. I have no problems with this, if he has schemes let them be big ones. If I have one quibble then perhaps his first meeting with Davison isn't as strong as it should have been. Memories were still fresh of the terrific sparring of Tom Baker and Ainley in Logopolis. The Davison Doctor/Master confrontation never really gets out of first gear. And Davison? Well, he knows he has big shoes to follow and throws himself into it body and soul. He really is a superb actor in this and manages the physical and mental changes for such an adventure. For example when he relapses in Castrovalva and Tegan and Nyssa take him back to his room. He blurts out his orders, not really knowing what he is saying and you can almost see the pain and confusion in Davison's eyes. The physical acting is also superb with him nearly being so weak he struggles to turn around a mirror. The other regulars are OK - Adric is kidnapped by the Master and we almost get a 'MATTHEW WATERHOUSE IN ACTING SHOCK' headline. Nyssa is as capable as ever and Tegan hasn't yet spiralled down into whinging hell - that would begin in the next adventure. There was one scene with Tegan which cracked me up - "This history of Castrovalva is really interesting.." she states after reading one volume. Who are you kidding luv? You were just looking at the pictures...

On the whole Castrovalva is an enjoyable start to the Fifth Doctor's tenure. In many ways it exemplifies what is to come - gentle cerebral plots rather then 'the base under siege' idiom or Hinchcliffe gothic horror. And at the moment, at the start of his reign, this is fine. But as things progress it proves not to be so addictive as the past. For a script and production this adventure does very well. Castrovalva wins you over on charm alone....


A Brilliant Start by Jonathan Middleton 9/8/06

Castrovalva is arguably one of the most important stories in the show's history. Given that it replaced Tom Baker as the Doctor after seven years, it was make or break for the production team. If they failed it would be a disaster. Thankfully they succeeded with a brilliant casting coup, Peter Davison successfully replacing Tom Baker by doing the best thing: doing the complete opposite. Blessed with an excellent script from Christopher H. Bidmead, the Fifth Doctor successfully comes onto our screens.

From the word go, Davison creates his Doctor. His impressions of his past incarnations are spot-on. He manages to make his Doctor different from Tom Baker yet at the same time retains the Doctorish qualities making the viewers at home accept this Doctor. Janet Fielding is very good as Tegan. One of the things I like about this story is that it portrays her as someone hot-headed rather than bad tempered and grouchy, who reacts to situations and, thanks to good direction, is fairly likeable. Sarah Sutton is again good as Nyssa, making a contrast to Tegan. Where Tegan reacts, Nyssa calculates and is calm throughout all the problems in the TARDIS. Waterhouse delivers his best performance during his time with Davison, managing to put one last competent performance during his tenure.

The underrated Anthony Ainley is good as the Master, managing to convey why this Master was good because he isn't trying to take over the universe, he's trying to destroy the Doctor at a stage where he's at his most vulnerable, preparing to create a town just to kill him. Also excellent is his performance as the Portreeve, showing his full range as an actor not only thanks to some excellent makeup and good writing but it comes as a surprise when the nice, kind old man is revealed to be The Master. Derek Waring is also excellent as Shardovan and thanks to some clever writing Bidmead makes us think that it is Shardovan who is the Master not the Portreeve. Michael Sheard is his dependable self as Mergrave, making him a kind and gentle man who sacrifices himself to save the Doctor. Frank Wylie is good as Ruther, developing him as a fussy man who is for most of the time utterly baffled by what's going on. Dallas Cavell is his dependable self as the Head of Security. Souska John is all right in a small part.

Fiona Cumming was one of the best directors of the eighties managing to make Castrovalva a stylish story. Adric appearing in the zero room, Tegan and Nyssa escaping from the hydrogen inrush, the location work of Tegan and Nyssa carrying the Doctor, Ruther's POV, The cliffhanger to part two, the war party approaching Castrovalva, the cliffhanger to part three, the Castrovalvans carrying the zero cabinet, the break up of Castrovalva and the Master being pulled back and being torn apart by the Castrovalvans.

Paddy Kingsland's music on the other hand isn't. I'm not saying it's bad, it's very good with some very gentle serene themes being played with some heavy music but it's the dire chase music in part one which always annoys m. It's embarrassing and cringeworthy but the rest of his music is on the whole fine with me and demonstrates his abilities as a composer.

Janet Budden's designs are wonderful. Castrovalva itself is a breathtaking design, not only being well-lit but well-designed, managing to make this a convincing and real town with wonderful Escher-inspired designs and architecture. It makes this stunning design truly breathtaking.

Odile Dicks Meraux's costumes aren't so good. The Castrovalvans wear ridiculous costumes with ludicrous hats and they frankly look just ridiculous and look terrible with bad colours and Castrovalva's costumes are just terrible and go down as some of the worst in the show's history.

So then on the whole a good, well-written story. Bidmead has learnt to scale down after the problems with Logopolis and has managed to create a good story and an excellent new Doctor in the shape of Peter Davison.

9/10 (A well-written adventure with some good writing, acting, directing and music apart from dire costumes)


A Review by Jonathan Norton 21/3/07

I remember when this was first broadcast, it got a lot of attention as the start of new era in DW. My local newspaper ran a regular page for a few weeks gauging viewer response to the new Doctor. And it was... lukewarm. It was commented that he seemed dozy and ineffectual and that not much was going on.

Which is quite true. By re-examining the whole business of what "regeneration" meant, Chris Bidmead did a great job of reconsidering one of the traditions of the show... trouble was, it didn't make very exciting viewing, at the moment when there was a bigger-than-usual audience available to be bowled over.

The story itself is based around a fantastic idea, but it's not one that gets given enough room. There is a problem that we don't even reach Castrovalva till the end of episode 2, and don't get into it till the next episode, so there isn't much time to get used to the city itself before it all has to be wound up, illusions exposed, etc. The attempt at misdirection (setting up Shardovan as the possible baddie, but then exposing Portreeve instead) doesn't surprise because there isn't time for Shardovan to do anything very suspicious.

The trouble is with the whole "Event One" rigmarole in episodes 1 and 2, which should have been cut so that we could get to Castrovalva by the end of episode 1, and then get full value out of the fascinating idea of a city that behaves like an Escher drawing. Instead, the end of episode 3 has no great impact because we haven't come to feel the sheer strangeness of Castrovalva itself - in contrast with the utter weirdness of Warriors Gate, another great story that Bidmead had a hand in.

I like the stories Bidmead worked on; he had some great and fresh ambitions for the show. One quibble I would raise is the way he is referred to as bringing in "hard science" into the show. He didn't. He brought in some terms from the then-new field of computer science (all the business about "central registers" and "machine code" and "bubble memory" in Logopplis - stuff you could get from any computer-hobbyist magazine at the time) which fits with his later career as a journalist in that field. But all the rest of his scripts are the usual Who technobabble that the cast could have improvised in the studio. Incidentally the plot line about thermodynamics in Logopolis makes no sense at all, since linking our universe with others merely makes a larger closed system, so the problem of heat death would only be deferred. An infinity of universes would have to be connected to make a difference. Equally the Big Bang was NOT "an inrush of hydrogen", as there was no hydrogen formed until after it occurred, and the TARDIS corridors should not be filled with fumes (if they are meant to be hydrogen, they should be invisible, although their buildup should have caused a chemical explosion)... and so on.

But that doesn't matter, unless you want to bang on about the "hard science" that wasn't really there. I love the Bidmead period and Castrovalva should have been its crowning achievement, but I think the potential was diffused and opportunities wasted. It should have been edited into something tighter, more claustrophobic. Maybe Adric should have been replaced with an android copy. Maybe the Master shouldn't have been in it at all. But Castrovalva itself remains a truly great idea.