Saturday, 21 September 2013


A new Doctor at last - Peter Davison
So at long last we have a new Doctor. Peter Davison appears on screen properly as the Doctor for the first time in ‘Castrovalva’, however this is in fact the fourth story that he has recorded. The second story chronologically, ‘Four to Doomsday’, was the first recorded and he has much shorter hair in that one.
Again, Christopher H. Bidmead has written the story, and sadly it makes less sense than Logopolis. I can’t say I was very taken with the tale. It’s not very exciting, it’s a concept piece perhaps, and as the opening story to a new Doctor it was a very poor choice. Doctor Who at this point moved to a twice-weekly slot over two nights a week, the first day-shift the programme has experienced. Although Season 17 rated its socks off, the ratings for Season 18 were as bad as the series had seen in 12 years, and as an overall season I think the lowest average.
The Doctor tries to prevent the destruction of the TARDIS.
Quite a shift from the (admittedly aided by strikes at ITV) ratings of Season 17 which contained ‘City of Death’, the highest rated story of all time, at around 17 million for one episode. In contrast 4-6 million was more the norm for season 18, season 19 saw those figures pretty much double in the new time slot.
BUT I digress, again. Christopher H. Bidmead comes across as being very full of himself on the DVDs, and quite frankly I don’t know why. He had a vision for the show, but after only one year became the outgoing script editor in favour of Antony Root. He still had given himself the power by writing Tom Baker’s last tale and Peter Davison’s first. ‘Castrovalva’ continues from where Logopolis left us, the Master is still hanging around.
It’s a story of two halves – the first is completely centred around the TARDIS and the Doctor’s failing regeneration, the second in the land of Castrovalva. Note that this story, like Logopolis, has an ambiguous sounding name based on a location of the story.
The Doctor arrives in Castrovalva.

Not since the heady days of William Hartnell had the production team decided to use the TARDIS so much, or explore it so heavily. They needn’t have bothered. It’s white and uninteresting and apart from the odd room it’s mostly corridors. The Doctor seeks refuge in the zero room, which is a nice idea and it doesn’t look too bad. The whole TARDIS should have been that soft pink colour, might have looked better!
Communicating to Castrovalvans isn't so easy.
The Master has set a trap, using a projection of Adric (I think) to set the co-ordinates for ‘Event One’, the hydrogen in-rush which began the Universe, he hopes to destroy the Doctor that way. Adric is stuck in a web for most of the story, in the Master’s TARDIS creating things, and several projections of himself that run around and do stuff. With the regeneration failing, this was not the wisest choice by Bidmead because Nyssa and Tegan are left trying to help the Doctor but they haven’t reallyhad much of a relationship with him beforehand, there’s no history. In fact, Tegan isn’t even a willing companion at all. Narratively it would have made more sense for Nyssa to be trapped in the web, I believe.
There’s not a lot of action until part four. Part One starts a bit lively as they are chased to the TARDIS, but then it’s wandering through corridors mostly. Oh, big finish. More time in the TARDIS in episode two, but eventually they arrive on Castrovalva after some awful dialogues about Index Files which really is squirm material. Not the actors’ fault – Janet Fielding and Sarah Sutton do a great job delivering Bidmead’s wordy scientific rubbish. The rest of the episode is them wandering through the forest towards Castrovalva, a citadel atop some rocks.
The Master finally decides it's time to kill the Doctor.
Episode Three and the Doctor starts to recover, they are taken in to Castrovalva, we meet a whole bunch of other characters, something is wrong, build, episode end. Episode four they work out that Castrovalva is suffering from ‘recursion’, obviously Bidmead’s favourite word of the day he thought he would turn into a story. Turns out one of the people from Castrovalva – the Portrieve, is in fact the Master! Anthony Ainley starts to camp it up a bit. ‘Castrovalva’ was all a plan to, as far as I can see, catch the Doctor and destroy him, which disguised at the Portrieve the Master had plenty of chances to do.
Suddenly the people of Castrovalva, also created as part of this plot by the Master, realise he’s bad and attack him. Behind a tapestry we find Adric and the web! The Doctor pulls Adric out and the run away, to find recursion really taking hold of Castrovalva now. They have a lot of difficulty in working out how to get out! Luckily Adric created the place and he can see the way out. The Master is not so lucky and is still inside when the citadel disappears.
Space folds in on itself. Like so.
All that to just kill the Doctor? Because the ‘Event One’ thing didn’t work? Bah! Rubbish utter rubbish. It’s the first story of a new Doctor, you don’t want to spend most of the time working out what’s going on, you want to see what the new guy has to offer. And Peter Davison is a little in consistent to be honest. However, he’s just regenerated and it’s all within the bounds of what could be. Cast-wise it’s strong. It’s just so pointless! It’s not very engaging and quite boring at times to be honest. As a first story, I would have preferred to see a bit of action, and get to see more of Peter Davison as he takes the reins.


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