THIS STORY TAKES
AFTER THE TV STORY
"LOGOPOLIS" AND PRIOR
TO THE NOVEL "COLD
'NEW BEGINNINGS' DVD
BOX SET (BBCDVD1331)
RELEASED IN JANUARY
THE DOCTOR DEFEATS
THE MASTER'S PLANS TO
HOLD THE UNIVERSE TO
RANSOM, BUT AT A
REGENERATES. THE TIME
CLUTCHES, BUT THE
FAILING, AND ADRIC
GOES MISSING IN THE
DEPTHS OF THE TARDIS.
ONLY NYSSA AND TEGAN
CAN SAVE THE DAY,
STEERING THE TIMESHIP
TOWARDS THE CITY
RENOWNED FOR ITS
EVIL LURKS AT THE
HEART oF THIS RURAL
4TH JANUARY 1982 - 12TH JANUARY 1982
“Castrovalva” is definitely the weakest of the three stories released in the “New Beginnings” DVD box set, but even so, it still has much to offer most fans. It brings the epic twelve-part ‘Return of the Master’ arc to a satisfying (albeit inevitably anti-climactic) conclusion and
sees the sonic screwdriver used in groundbreaking fashion as an… um… screwdriver. A note of caution though: non-fans and more casual viewers may not be impressed with this one – my missus certainly was not! I think the horrendously cheesy scenes of Tegan driving the ambulance with god-awful eighties electro-music in the background put her off from the start…
From the admittedly skewed perspective of a fan though, the first two episodes of this story are thoroughly entertaining. The first (and certainly most memorable) pre-title sequence of the classic series reprises the epic regeneration scene from “Logopolis”, and then a title sequence and a change of hair colour later, and the fifth Doctor and his companions are running from the Pharos Project guards back to the TARDIS to begin the Peter Davison era in style.
“Who are you, stranger?”
“That’s the strangest thing of all. I’m not quite sure.”
“Oh, I admire a man with an open mind.”
For me, Davison immediately impresses; his impersonations of the previous Doctors as the regeneration begins to fail are brilliant – I particularly love his Troughton. I also appreciate a lot of the little touches thrown in to the mix by writer Christopher H Bidmead – we have the symbolic unravelling of the scarf, corridors that actually match (they had learned their lesson after “The Invasion of Time”, it seems) and of course the infamous Zero Room. Yes, it is all very fannish, very indulgent stuff – but it is a regeneration story, and if we are honest, that is what we want!
For me, it is about half way through the second episode where “Castrovalva” ceases to be a brilliant story and starts to become a fairly average one. As soon as the TARDIS crashes down in the woods, it is downhill from there really. Do not get me wrong – I do find the theme of ‘if’ and ‘recursion’ fascinating, but I also think that Bidmead over-eggs the pudding a little bit with all the Adric / Hadron Web / Block Transfer Computation stuff.
Another criticism I have of “Castrovalva” is that all three of the companions seem to take the regeneration very much in their stride. Even though they witnessed the change, I would have expected that Tegan at least would have taken a little bit of convincing.
The more fan-pleasing elements aside, the best thing about “Castrovalva” is Anthony Ainley. It seems that the new Master has rediscovered his penchant for disguise, and arguably Ainley is far more convincing when in disguise than even the late great Roger Delgado was. His Portreeve in this story, as well as Sir Gilles Estram, Kalid, and the whole host of others that would follow later are often a bit more difficult to spot than many of the rubber-faced original Master’s aliases. As himself, Ainley’s Master is a perhaps a little too camp for my liking, but nevertheless he maintains that indelible sense of style that Delgado’s original had in spates.
In terms of the special features on offer, sadly “Castrovalva” does let the side down a bit. I am not a fan of DVDs that contain a multitude of fiddly, insubstantial extras as opposed to, for example, one 60-minute documentary and unfortunately “Castrovalva” suffers especially badly from this. “Being Doctor Who”, “Directing Castrovalva”, and “The Crowded TARDIS” are all respectable little 10-minute featurettes, but they are not on par with anything on either of the other two “New Beginnings” discs. The Blue Peter clip is not anything remarkable either, but at least there are a few laughs to be had on the Swap Shop clip when Peter Davison gets a call from a kid called Peter Davison! It is even funnier when you consider that Peter Davison is not even actually called Peter Davison… his name is Peter Moffett! I also found good old Noel Edmonds amusing - when Davison tries to talk about his ITV series Holding The Fort, Edmonds will not let him speak!
However, the commentary is much better. Davison, Bidmead, Janet Fielding (Tegan), and director Fiona Cumming are all on board to share their interesting reminiscences about making the story. There is a wonderful bit where they are discussing how horrendous the question marks on the Doctor’s costume are, and Fielding ejaculates, surprisingly profoundly, “they’re recursion.” Hows about that, then?
Copyright © E.G. Wolverson 2007
E.G. Wolverson has asserted his right under the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act, 1988 to be identified as the author of this work.
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