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It’s a Doc in a box! Our brand new Doctor gets carried away while The Master seemingly gets his plans A and B mixed up

The Doctor is a bit unsteady after his regeneration and needs the help of his three companions, yes THREE companions, to get back to the TARDIS and rest up a bit in the Zero Room: a nice neutral space that’s not troubled by the normal comings-and-goings of the rest of the universe. One small problem, The Master managed to grab Adric before he made it back to the TARDIS and is planning to use his immense mathematical genius (well, he does have that badge after all) to lay yet another trap for The Doctor.

A thwarted attempt at destroying the TARDIS and its crew, by sending them to the point of the Big Bang, leads them on a mission to get Doc to Castrovalva so he can get the nice-and-boring rest he needs to finish his regeneration. Doc still needs all of the help he can get, so Tegan and Nyssa are left having to literally carry the burden of responsibility and get Doc to yet another mountain castle. It’s obviously not going to be plain sailing when some tribal-looking folk show up and cause everyone to get separated. Now the TARDIS crew needs to reunite, find Adric, and work out what cunning plan The Master obviously has up his very well-tailored sleeves.

 

The 15 (!) Listener Minis we received for this episode — Thanks again, Everybody! — will be added below very soon.

Here's what we think of C117 Castrovalva

We rate Doctor Who stories on a scale from 0.0 to 5.0. For context, very few are excellent enough to merit a 5.0 in our minds, and we'd take a 0.0 Doctor Who story over a lot of other, non-Whovian stuff out there.

Leon | @ponken

2.6

Jim | @jimmythewho

2.9

Here's what we think of C117 Castrovalva

We rate Doctor Who stories on a scale from 0.0 to 5.0. For context, very few are excellent enough to merit a 5.0 in our minds, and we'd take a 0.0 Doctor Who story over a lot of other, non-Whovian stuff out there.

Leon | @ponken

2.6

Jim | @jimmythewho

2.9

Here's what you think 16 Responses to “C117 Castrovalva”
  1. Paul Fauber

    Hey guys,

    “More walking through forests than is featured in Lord of the Rings” is A LOT of nature walking. In fact, as I read Fellowship of the Ring, I wondered how the movie would make the wandering in the story interesting.

    Paul Fauber

  2. Steven from Canada

    The Doctor has regenerated but it’s not as simple as a cross dissolve. Doc’s midlife crisis is further complicated when the Master traps Adric in a modern art sculpture and sends the Tardis barrelling to the very beginning of the universe. After that it’s a relaxing couple of episodes on Castrovalva, the planet of peace, textiles and that one M. C. Escher piece (though not the one with the titular name).

    Peter Davison’s debut in the role is pitch perfect with the Doctor being just as uncertain about the new change as the audience certainly was.

    The Doctor echoing his previous incarnation’s mannerisms was a joy to watch, especially with references to old companions

    The focus on the current companions and their character development was a welcome change from the usual Doctor centric stories; though enough of the new Doctor could be seen to solidify his character and endear it to him.

    The final mystery of the true nature of Castrovalva was fascinating and is the kind of trippy that makes the good Doctor Who episodes great.

    Overall this story earns 4 roundel sarcophagi out of 5.

  3. Ed Corbet

    Castrovalva continues straight on from Logopolis and treats us to some funky escape music.

    We witness the worst bluff ever with Adric’s “I’m an alien, it’s fine”.

    They play up that the Doctor’s regeneration may fail and while I assume no one thought the Doctor would die in his first story, it gets him out of the way so that Nyssa and Tegan can nearly get them all killed.

    For someone so bright, does Nyssa really need to look up what hydrogen is? (It’s the Liz Shaw problem again; companions need to ask questions so the Doctor can explain things for the audience, but she’s too smart to actually need to.)

    “And so my petty feud with the Doctor is over.” Did the Master just admit their feud (which he solely perpetuates) is petty? It doesn’t really sell this new Master to viewers if even he admits he’s a loser.

    When we finally arrive on Castrovalva the crew get stalked by giant Ewoks. Their helmets have the quality that only Who can grant something; of simultaneously being awesome, yet totally sucking.

    Having effectively 2 stories in one helps with this serial’s pacing, 4 episodes in Castrovalva itself would have been a bit too much. It introduces a softer (even sweet on occasion) Doctor than we’ve had for the last few years. Having the Doctor being ill for most of the story allowed the companions to shine, but lessened Peter’s ability to establish himself.

    Not memorable, but enjoyable enough.

    2.9

  4. Neil | @neilandrozani

    It’s always fun seeing a new Doc in the previous one’s clothes.

    Tegan and Nyssa don’t even check on the guards outside the Tardis. They just leave them for dead! Bitches!

    I enjoy seeing the depths of the Tardis. That cricket room is gorgeous.

    Davison copes well with the regeneration recovery scenes. He has to do some pretty silly stuff, but he commits to it admirably. It’s fun to watch this very good actor perform with 3 very bad actors!

    Anthony Ainley isn’t the best Master, but he always seems delighted to be there. He does well playing the Portreeve. Some of his future ‘disguises’ are awful but this one is great.

    Wow! That crane shot that reveals the Zero Room. Sexy!

    Love the jungle sound effects added to the exteriors of Castrovalva. Hilarious considering it was shot in Sussex!

    The Castrovalvan hunting costumes are fucking mental! Speaking of the Castrovalvans, I adore them!

    The scene where the Doc gets them to mark places on the map is beautifully performed. In fact, I properly want to hang out with Ruther and Mergrave. We could get grumpy Shardovan really drunk!

    ‘Go on, Shardy! Swing down from the balcony again, you mad fucker!’

    Even the Portreeve might sink a few whiskeys.

    We finish with mad techno music and a haunting shot of the Master being clawed apart. NASTY!

    This story has got me through MANY a hangover. I love how calm and gentle it is. If there’s an afterlife, I hope it’s like Castrovalva.

    Rating – 4.5

    Neil

  5. Kristaps Paddock

    Yeah, there’s stuff to like here, but I just… don’t. I’m sorry to say it, but this is very clearly the least likeable crew the Tardis has ever and will ever have. I keep waiting for Davison to warm up, and he doesn’t – spoiler alert, he won’t. Maybe the Davison era is best understood as being dominated by a permanently brain damaged Doctor. Nyssa is the best thing the Tardis has right now, but Tegan is like nails on a chalkboard, and Adric continues to Adric.

    Every regeneration story is a bit jumbled as people find their footing, but this cast never does. This is not to say the Davison era is shit, and there are things to look forward to, but Castrovalva is best left behind, if you can find your way out of its recursive pathways. Two point eight.

  6. Kieren Evans | @kjevans2

    Hi folks
    So:

    Of all the post-regeneration stories we’ve had so far this one actually focuses on the post-regenerative effects. So, while in a way it suffers from the problem Spearhead From Space does, that the Doctor is out of action for a while, here it is at least for a decent purpose. Seeing the Doctor in a motorised wheelchair is quite funny and is a rare example of the Doctor being very weak. This was actually the second one Davison filmed as they decided to film the next one first so Davison felt a bit more comfortable in the role before doing the post-regeneration stuff.

    It’s Bidmead’s last writing contribution for a little while and generally it works. His penchant for technobabble can be annoying at times but generally it works in this one and helps make the show feel scifi-y. Fiona Cumming has her first outing as director and she does very well. Three more 5th Doctor stories for her to go. Additionally, the music style carries on from Logopolis and helps generate a nice double feature.

    The Master is quite devious in this one with signature Ainley’s laugh all over it. That said, I’m not entirely sure if the depiction of Event One is correct. But that’s too much physics for my chemistry self.

    Also, lol the TARDIS information system so looks like Ceefax.

    All in all, I don’t think there’s anything particularly wrong with this one but I find it a little unfocussed. 3.7/5 Adric torture chambers.

    Cheers
    ———
    Argh, correction: Castrovalva was actually the fourth one filmed and it was due to the script for the original opener being canned close to filming and them having to write a new one. The extra practice myth is partly due to Davison himself

  7. Steven | @steedstylin / @NewToWhoPodcast

    “All beginnings are delightful; the threshold is the place to pause”
    Goethe.

    Long ago, I believed this to be the best Doctor Who story of all time – and for the longest time. I did so because it was a quiet, even neglected story of two best enemies, both of whom were paradoxically new.

    It was a story at first set in the safe sanctity of the TARDIS, even as it hurtled towards imminent destruction, with the Doctor in the midst of their worst post-regenerative crises then yet seen. It thrilled that younger version of this older fan as much for its extended Type 40 interiors and something pinkish-grey called the Zero Room as much as for the threat of the ominously-invoked ‘Event One’, whose drawing proximity was signalled by the distant tolling of the TARDIS’ cloister bell.

    One scene that continues to resonate, transporting me to my first viewing, sees the newly-regenerated Doctor chancing upon a cricket bat, a forgotten dressing room of cricketing paraphernalia, and what would become his signature frock coat.

    The incidental score of that short, pleasant cutaway by Paddy Kingsland – excellent throughout – is especially memorable, and helps to define a certain sense of optimism and endless possibilities ahead for this new Doctor, finding joy in simple things like a game whose preamble to its rules indicates that it should be played “not only within its Laws but also within the Spirit”; an overarching principle for the character of this utterly decent – utterly English – Fifth Doctor.

  8. David E

    I have to say the Davison era is a part of Who I know almost nothing about.

    So I’m going to be reading the novelisation before watching each one.

    What do you do when you have too many companions? Have one of them captured almost straight away.

    Why does the Master have that weird raised platform just so he can go up a couple of feet to talk to Adric? It’s in the bloody book as well!

    I can’t say I find all the stuff in the steamy TARDIS all that interesting, but when they get to Castrovalva I fall in love with this story. The music, the atmosphere, it’s great. It’d be bloody amazing to go there for a couple of weeks, kick back and spend some time with Mergrave and Shardovan.

    You really get the sense that the production team have been waiting for Tom Baker to sod off so they can put their own stamp on the series. I think they get off to a great start, even if bits of it don’t make sense. It’s got some interesting things to say about the nature of existence and that bit at the end where the Castrovalvans are tearing at the Master is chilling.

    “You made us man of evil, but we are free!”

    4.8

    P.S if there was any classic Who that Drew should watch it should be Kinda. I predict it’ll be right up his alley.

  9. Peter Zunitch

    In an effort to review differently this time, I’m taking a page from WBW and will explain how much I love Castrovalva… by ripping it apart.

    Flight attendants are the first to admit they are NOT pilots. “IF”, as in “if you tell me one more contrived allegory I’m gonna beat you”. Peter Davison is so good at not being the doctor that he can’t even find himself (such great dialog). I have a zero room, it has a throne and I use it for hangovers. The medical wing needs to better secure it’s psychic wheelchairs. 20 years and WHO still has no f-ing clue about the difference between the galaxy and the universe. The hunting party look like they should have tellies on their tubbies.

    From now on, any time I see a character and think “he looks familiar”, I’ll know it’s the Master. We know the castle is a fake, it has more than 5 people in it. The end reveal with Adric would have been so much better if they hadn’t spoiled it 13 times before the curtain is torn down. Zero cabinets melt standing up, not laying down. Recursive Technobabble is so 1982. Castrovalva is a dumb name for a castle gone fractured mirror.

    This story falls victim to the same weaknesses as many regen. Eps. It is not the best, but I don’t care. Every time I enjoy it for what it is. That’s right, it’s a 3 minute plot in a 4 part story. 3.1

  10. Derek Moore

    Dearest Whovians,

    I am so excited for this new chapter in Classic Who-vianism! I started watching Doctor Who in the states during the fifth doctor’s run, so Peter Davison always will be my childhood doctor. I definitely look upon this era with rose colored Cricket-glasses. Little things I had forgotten came back when I watched Castrovalva after many years this week. For example, how cool would it be to have your own background organ/synthesizer music everywhere you walked? I love the fact that background music is everywhere and everywhen for the fifth doctor.

    That being said, I mean typed, there are other pet peeves about this era I had conveniently forgotten. Such as the tendency for someone to speak a line, the camera pauses and switches to someone else, who then pauses and speaks another line, and this goes on forever. And the Master is so obsessed with puzzling the Doctor to death rather than killing him outright, I half expected the Master to try to kill the Doctor by confusing him with a giant Ken-Ken puzzle.

    Flaws and all, this is a fun episode and Peter Davison is great as a much more empathetic and kind-hearted Doctor. Is Castrovalva real? Who cares! It’s fun! 3.8 out of 5 fun-filled starts collapsing upon themselves with incidental background music.

    Sincerely,

    Derek Moore

  11. Tracey from America | @yecartniatnouf

    Hey podcasters! It’s been a while, but Doc five is kinda my favorite, so here I am. I’d like to start us off with a question. Did you give away my theme song while I was gone???
    (Eyeroll)
    Oh well. Anyway,
    OMG Castrovalva! I love the massive weirdness that is this serial. The TARDIS travelers become lost within an MC Escher picture. It’s fantastical, it’s beautiful, it’s weird…although, it’s annoying that it was all invented by a combination of Adric’s and the Master’s imagination. I guess this means one of them is directly responsible for that stick of celery the Doc is going to hang onto?
    There’s some nice transitional Doctor stuff Davison does: the scarf unraveling as the Doctor sheds his old self, his reaction to non-curly hair, and his imitations of past Doctors.
    Companion stuff:
    Teagan is confident and resourceful.
    I’m not a fan of Lumpy Space Princess. She’s kinda boring here.
    There’s Adric trying to fight the Master, while being tortured. And I bet you all still hate him. He’s doing his best guys, he’s doing his best!
    In the end the Master is his own worst enemy. He made a town with geography so weird, even the townspeople *he made* got suspicious.

    Rating: a fish turning into a bird

  12. Nick aka The Doctor

    Castrovalva marks the beginning of the downturn in classic who for me. On its own it is a good story and Davisons era is better than what comes after it. We begin from the end of Logopolis and get to see Tegan razzing around in an ambulance. Adric, as befits him, takes up with the Master, slimy toad. The companions seem to take regeneration quite well and help the Davison doctor recover from his regeneration.

    They do a good job carrying the story in the first half before the Castrovalva segment. There is some genuine peril with the event 1 scenario and Adric being trapped by the Master, and Davison eventually snaps into action to win the day. I love the Escher like Castrovalva, the concept of the zero room and Davison is genuinely a good actor. This marks the end of a trilogy of the master, Traken, block transfer and lots of change in the TARDIS and does a good job. Plus Ainley is great. 3.4 for me.

    Cheers!
    Nick

  13. Tanz Sixfingers | @Tanz6fingers

    While the Doctor recovers from his regeneration, the Master captures Adric and uses him and his mathematical skills to try to finish off the Doctor. The first part centers around the Doctor trying to stabilize his metabolism while Tegan and Nyssa try to figure out how to fly the TARDIS. The Doctor cycles through flashes of personality traits of his previous incarnations, including speaking the names of past companions, as though showing his brain has reset and is rebooting, loading the old information into a newer model.

    The cliffhanger at the end of part one is good, showing the TARDIS and crew are headed for imminent destruction by time travelling backward into the big bang. This is averted by using the Architectural Configuration Control first used in the previous story, Logopolis. Unfortunately this means the Zero Room, which the Doctor needs to stabilize himself, was jettisoned, so they must now find an alternative place for the Doctor to recover. So Adric, under the influence of the Master, sets the coordinates for Castrovalva, which is the Master’s backup plan for killing the Doctor. The rest of the story revolves around the Doctor recovering his wits enough to realize Castrovalva is a trap, before the master springs it.

    This story, like its predecessor, was written by Christopher H. Bidmead, who (like Kit Pedler) fits a lot of math and science ideas into his stories, and is also the direct and immediate sequel to Logopolis. It is the only time where the Doctor regenerates in the middle of a story line, where both stories share the same location, companions, and enemy. We are also treated to more rooms within the TARDIS, and get a better idea of its vast size (the Doctor unravels his 11 foot scarf to use as a guide to get back to the console room, and its still not long enough).

    Nyssa and Tegan get some screen time, and begin to develop more as characters. The Doctor spends a lot of time dazed and confused, but this is normal for a regeneration story, and he doesn’t really come into his own in this story.

    There is no threat of world or universal destruction (which is terribly overdone), just the Master trying to kill the Doctor, so that makes for a nice change. The Master most likely escapes in his TARDIS (“The Master leaves nothing to chance”), but the recursion from the collapse of the Castrovalva city is sure to have had some ill effect on it.

    I like the subtle humour in it, like when the Doctor is wandering around the TARDIS, and asks Adric if he has ever been to Alzarious, to which Adric replies, “I was born there.” The Doctor then says, “Oh. Small universe.” (since E-space was literally a pocket universe).

    There is a small editing error toward the end of the last part, as the TARDIS team are jogging back to the TARDIS. In the background, you can see a white horse fence along the road they were jogging. Neither the road nor the fence were evident when Nyssa and Tegan carried the Doctor out of the TARDIS on their arrival.

    Rating: 3.7 because it was a pleasure to watch, but a little slow in places.

  14. Andy Parkinson | @caffreys71

    Peter Davison’s first outing as The Doctor is a very strange introduction it is, to borrow a cricketing analogy, a tale of two innings. Struggling after his regeneration the early parts of the story are mainly The Doctor being largely incapacitated or being lugged around in a box. Meanwhile, The Master, having captured Adric sets about trying to destroy the Doctor not once, but twice!

    It’s not until the second half of the story that the Doc regains his faculties and with the help of some Castrovalvans gets to the bottom of the mystery, unmask the Master and save Adric (unfortunately!)

    Likes

    As the Doctor is struggling with his regeneration, he calls his companions by past companions’ names and he impersonates his previous incarnations

    Castrovalva’s layout seems to be based on the artwork Relativity by Dutch artist M. C. Escher

    In a neat twist, rather than have an anagram of the Master, they instead list the actor playing The Portreeve as Neil Toynay (Tony Ainley)

    Beefs

    The Master plans to destroy the TARDIS and its passengers in Event One, but just in case he’s got Castrovalva lined up as a second trap. The Master is SHIT at plans. Fresh from nearly destroying the universe by meddling with Logopolis, he now has a plan that he’s not sure will work so has to have a back-up. If your masterplan is Castrovalva then go with that and stop fucking about with Event One!

    How can the Master alter his appearance at will all of a sudden? Is that a thing now? In his Delgado days he’d simply have worn a mask.

    The journey from TARDIS to Castrovalva is too long! Also, after the Doc goes in the door slams shut – how do Tegan and Nyssa then get in?

    What are those helmets the hunter’s wear? They look like peanut M&Ms!!

    More inept guards at the Pharos project. Tegan and Nyssa manage to steal the ambulance, drive about 50 yards and manage to get themselves and the Doc in to the TARDIS before anyone can catch them!

    Overall, it’s a confusing story with yet more meaningless technobabble and a mish-mash of plot lines. I like that Nyssa and Tegan get lots to do though, and Peter Davison (when conscious) does a decent job of playing The Doctor. Adric actually does ok in this story and is almost heroic by fighting the Master’s plans. However, as an introduction to the new Doctor it’s nowhere near as good as say Spearhead From Space.

    I award this story 3.0 pointless platforms that raise the master 2 feet for no reason out of 5

  15. Paul Waring | @pwaring

    Castrovalva is a bit unusual as far as first stories go, in that the Doctor is out of action for much of the first two episodes. Whilst there is a plot reason for this, it feels like a strange choice to give a new Doctor less screen time (compare with Robot where Tom Baker is raring to go from the first scene). Another thing that strikes me is that this is a very different TARDIS team to the ones we have seen previously, in that it’s big (three companions is unusual), young, and all of the actors are fairly new to the series.

    Given the limited screen time for the Doctor, the Master sort of ends up being the main character. I like the way the Portreeve is for the most part shot from a distance, making it less obvious than some of the Master’s other disguises. The illusion disappears the first time you get a close-up of his face, but since this is just before the “big reveal” it doesn’t matter too much. The end for the Master, trapped in his own creation, feels like poetic justice.

    There are a few funny moments, including Adric seeming to rather enjoy being tied up in a web, Nyssa patronisingly explaining how the zero room works to the Master, and Davison’s impression of the First Doctor.

    Overall, Castrovalva has some interesting ideas, but a slow start means it doesn’t really get going until the third episode. 3/5

  16. Michael Ridgway | @bad_movie_club

    Likes:

    • Episode Four! Holy moly. Trippy Black Lodge weirdness, bait-and-switch twists (I genuinely did not see the Master’s disguise), the sacrifices of a bunch of likeable characters, and the Bosch painting ‘ending’ (yeah, right!) of the Master.
    • Castrovalvan Hats, particularly The Portreeve’s double hat.
    • “That’s democracy for you”.
    • TARDIS Teletext is back. Bamboozle quiz please.

    Beefs:

    • Episodes 1-3, basically until they enter Castrovalva. (Yawn)…Opps, did I miss anything? Nope, okay (snore).
    • “What are all these women doing here? Is it a holiday?” Oh dear.
    • “The Master leaves nothing to chance,” erm, apart from all the stuff he left to chance, resulting in him literally being torn apart by a make-believe mob. Like the dumb 500 year old history books that were up to date. And the unopenable Zero Box – if your futuristic ray gun didn’t work, scraping the sides with a fire poker is fairly futile. Wee on it – see if that works.

    Summary: Regeneration opener stories have a tendency to be pants, with exceptions – including, of course, the Seventh’s Doctor’s Time and the Rani, which gets 5/5 Platinum*. Episode 4 drags this opener up to mediocre.

    Rating: 2.3/5 planetary gender equality rating for Castrovalva (way above Saudi Arabia but still disappointing). What activity were the women even doing in the square? Washing / mending clothes?

    *As we creep towards the Seventh Doctor era, I have taken the liberty of designing you a new rating system, given that every McCoy story is obviously 5/5, to distinguish between the astounding from the merely truly amazing. You’re welcome. My consultancy fee of $1million is in the post.

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