Doctor Who: Castrovalva Review

DW Castrovalva

Castrovalva is the first story where the plot properly revolves around the after-effects of the regeneration, after the last three were pretty much regular stories with a new actor in the lead role. The story features our new Doctor in a weakened state, physically and mentally, leaving him sidelined for portions of the story (though not as sidelined as Adric!). Castrovalva also features The Master, making it three in a row for Anthony Ainley. So let’s see if this jumble is a fun mix or not!


Adric has been captured by the Master, who is taking advantage of the Doctor’s post-regeneration weakened state to ensnare him in an elaborate trap while his companions Nyssa and Tegan can only watch on in horror…

*spoilers appear from here on out!*

Cast of Characters:

DW Castrovalva 3

Right from the get-go the Fifth Doctor had a lot of companions to deal with…

The Doctor (Peter Davison) – The Doctor’s regeneration is failing and he needs the calming effects of the Zero Room to sooth it. The only problem is that he can’t remember where in the infinite TARDIS he’s put it…

Adric (Matthew Waterhouse) – Adric has little time to process the new Doctor before him as he’s soon captured by The Master and forced to do his bidding…

Nyssa (Sarah Sutton) – Nyssa is still pretty new to the idea of travelling with The Doctor, but her intellect at least allows her to process the idea of regeneration more easily. Piloting the TARDIS on the other hand may be well above her ability…

Tegan (Janet Fielding) – Tegan is still reeling after her plan to become an air stewardess ended in her aunt being killed and her ending up in a time machine with a bunch of human-looking aliens. Given all that, and the fact one “regenerates” into an entirely new body, she’s holding up well!

The Master (Anthony Ainley) – The Master has his new body, but with it came a fresh defeat by his old nemesis The Doctor. That being said, he did at least cause his foe to regenerate, giving him a great opportunity to kick (or kill) him while he’s down…

Shardovan (Derek Waring) – Shardovan is the librarian of Castrovalva, a settlement with a rather dubious past…

Mergrave and Ruther (Michael Sheard and Frank Wylie) – Two more citizens of Castrovalva, a doctor and a hunter (or something along those lines) who aren’t all they seem, whether they know it or not…

Plus more!

The Good:

DW Castrovalva 2

“For some reason, yes I think this’ll work…”

Episode 1 starts with a chase between the Doctor, his companions and the local security, but soon becomes all about the Doctor wandering the TARDIS is a daze, doing impressions and reciting lines of his previous selves, among other odd behaviour. It’s all fun, though the fact The Doctor doesn’t get much better until the very end of the overall story means some of a gags wear a bit thin. After everyone manages to stop The Master pushing the TARDIS into the big bang, they soon arrive at Castrovalva, which is your classic Doctor Who medieval-like society with silly hats.

This is what I really like about the story: it turns out the whole of Castrovalva, from the castle to the people themselves, were all created from nothing via “block transfer computation”, the concept introduced in the previous story that saw the people of Logopolis keep the universe alive via pure mathematics. Now, the idea that if you’re good enough at maths and have the right equipment you can literally create anything out of thin air by reciting the right numbers is a weird concept even for Doctor Who, not to mention a tad overpowered (which is probably why it’s never really used again), but for the purpose of this story it’s fun. The Master created it, though using Adric’s gift with numbers to help him, all to ensnare and eventually kill The Doctor, though boy he takes his time! Classic Master, he just watches on in disguise not doing anything until he gets defeated. Still, can’t blame him too much, his original plan was to force the TARDIS into the big bang, so he did try and just simply kill him to start with…

Scenes at the end where Castrovalva begins to fold in on itself, making people walk out of one door and arrive on the other side of the direction they came from, like an old computer game map, was fun as well, especially when The Doctor tries to explain it to some Castrovalvans and they’re just baffled as they mark their houses and places of business in four different places at the same time. Of course it all ends with The Doctor and companions escaping and The Master being trapped in his own trap. The last shot of The Master being held by a bunch of Castrovalvans as he tried to make it to the door was like something out of a zombie movie, and was a good final shot… for a few stories, before he obviously reappeared!

Although some of the scenes weren’t the most interesting, the relationship between Tegan and Nyssa is well played out, the two bouncing off each other well with the former the sarcastic one, and the latter the level-headed one.

The Bad:

DW Castrovalva 1

“Ha ha ha! This will make a viewers at home happy!”

As the story moved on there were points where it seemed like The Doctor was much better and it was time for him to start acting normally and figure out what’s going on, only for him to immediately fall into weakened nonsense again. It never felt like he really recovered until the very last scene with everyone jogging back to the TARDIS, so four episodes of “he’s recovered! Wait, no he hasn’t!” was a bit much. The story around him was good enough that I don’t mind too much, but it was still annoying at times.

Poor Adric, he spends 95% of this episode strung up in The Master’s TARDIS forced to do his bidding, barely having any lines in general, let alone interacting with the rest of the cast. That’s the problem with having three companions and The Doctor, I guess, though other stories managed it alright.

The Continuity:

DW Castrovalva 4

The Castrovalvan hunting attire is a bit on the conspicuous side…

Beyond literally directly following on from “Logopoplis”, and the audio drama “Psychodrome” being set immediately after this story, there isn’t much to link it. The Doctor does various impressions and references to past Doctors, but nothing specific to a certain story.

The Master would reappear in “Time-Flight”, with no explanation as to how he survived the events of this story, something that would become a regular occurrence for Ainley’s Master…

Overall Thoughts:

Castrovalva is a good story, with some weird concepts and plenty for Tegan and Nyssa to do. The Doctor suffers from being weak and confused for pretty much the whole story, but Ainley’s super-cheesy Master is at least a bit of fun added on top. Overall, it’s the first story to properly use the idea of a post-regeneration crisis, and it’s got some unique ideas elsewhere as well, so you don’t get bored. It’s good, just not great.

4 Star Watch

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