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24 September 2014

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Production Code: 5Z

First Transmitted

1 - 04/01/1982 18:55

2 - 05/01/1982 19:00

3 - 11/01/1982 18:55

4 - 12/01/1982 19:05


The newly regenerated Doctor escapes with his companions back to the TARDIS. Suffering from post-regeneration trauma, he only narrowly manages to save the ship from destruction as it plunges back to Event One, the hydrogen in-rush that preceded the creation of the universe.

He then seeks sanctuary in the peaceful domain of Castrovalva, only to discover that it is an illusory, dimensionally paradoxical trap set for him by the Master with the unwilling aid of a kidnapped Adric. The Doctor eventually wins the day by enlisting the help of the Castrovalvan people who, although also part of the Master's creation, are nevertheless able to exercise free will.

Episode Endings

The TARDIS is heading back in time toward the hydrogen inrush that created the universe. The air is getting hotter and hotter and the ship starts to buck and shudder. The Master appears on the scanner screen and bids Tegan and Nyssa farewell forever.

Nyssa and Tegan are carrying the Doctor toward the city Castrovalva in the zero cabinet - a box made out of the doors of the TARDIS's now jettisoned zero room (a healing environment). They see Castrovalva perched on a rocky mountain ahead and hide the cabinet while they go to try to find a way in. When they return, they find blood on the ground, and the Doctor missing.

The Doctor, Tegan and Nyssa decide to leave Castrovalva. They traverse some walkways but arrive back in the main square from which they left. The Doctor is affected by the spatial disturbance and they go back to his room, intending to return him to the zero cabinet. When they get there, they discover that the cabinet has gone. The Doctor, seeing an impossibly fragmented view of Castrovalva through the window, realises that they are caught in a space/time trap.

The Doctor and his friends make their way back to the TARDIS. Tegan is disappointed that she was not, after all, responsible for piloting the TARDIS to Castrovalva - it was all down to the Master. The Doctor, contemplating his regeneration, comments that, whoever he feels like, it is absolutely splendid.


The work of Dutch artist M.C. Escher (set design, concepts of recursion and the title).

Jorge Luis Borges, especially Tlon, Uqbar, Orbis Tertius.

Tennyson's The Lady of Shalott.

Dialogue Triumphs

Tegan : "If... My dad used to say that "if" was the most powerful word in the English language"

Shardovan : [To the Master.] "You made us, man of evil. But we are free!"

The Doctor : [Finds a medicine bottle labelled 'the solution'] "Oh my little friend, if only you were!"

The Doctor : [Asks a group of women the quickest way out of town. They all point in different directions] "That's democracy for you."

Shardovan : [Is asked by the Doctor if he sees the 'spatial anomaly' of Castrovalva.] "With my eyes, no, but in my philosophy..."

Dialogue Disasters

Nyssa : "I know so little about telebiogenesis."

Double Entendre

Tegan : "All right, enormous thrust!"


The new Doctor wears glasses to read. In an area of the TARDIS that Nyssa thinks 'hasn't been used for centuries' is the Zero Room ('An isolated place cut off from the rest of the universe'), used by Time Lords after difficult regenerations. The Doctor says that there is a polygonal Zero Room under the Junior Senate block on Gallifrey.

The Doctor can levitate inside the Zero Room (and in the Zero cabinet made from the doors of the room after it is part of the 25 per cent of the TARDIS jettisoned to escape Event One). The TARDIS has a room full of cricketing memorabilia (see Four to Doomsday).

The Cloister Bell is heard again as the TARDIS heads backwards in time towards the beginning of the universe. The automatic systems override is situated behind a removable roundel. The TARDIS databanks state that Castrovalva is in Andromeda, a planet in the Phylox series, but as with many elements, including Tegan's ability to land the TARDIS, these are later revealed to have been part of the Master's plan.

The Doctor sees a stick of celery and declares 'definitely civilisation' and, at the end of the story pins an unreal sprig to his lapel. [Since his Enlightenment replacement is also unreal, this is why they don't wilt.]


The Pharos Project, Sussex (ambulance insignia); Castrovalva.



Tom Baker appears in the pre-titles sequence, in the reprise from Logopolis Part Four, but uncredited. This is the first story on which the Doctor is credited as 'The Doctor' on the closing credits. Previously the credit has always read either 'Dr. Who' or 'Doctor Who'.

A pre-titles sequence in part one reprises the ending of Logopolis, in shortened and redubbed form and with slightly rescored incidental music to give it a more up-beat quality.

New opening and closing title sequences are used, similar to the previous season's and again designed by Sid Sutton but this time incorporating Peter Davison's face in place of Tom Baker's.

The Doctor affixes a stick of Castrovalvan (and therefore, presumably, illusory) celery to his lapel.


We have a mean free path tracker, a referential differencer, a three micron beam wedge, the science of telebiogenesis and recursive occlusion. Ambient complexity is alleged to be the cause of many failures of regeneration.


As with his first regeneration, the metamorphosis in the Doctor's body also has an effect on his clothes (the Doctor's boots becoming shoes).

The TARDIS is parked in a different field from that seen in Logopolis.

The security guards up on the radio telescope never come down.

The security guards chasing the companions change between seasons.

Nyssa and Tegan's handbags appear on the console, not having been there in Logopolis.

When the Doctor levitates in the Zero Room his coat tails levitate too, and his collar question marks are reversed.

The camera wobbles when Mergrave and Ruther go to see what caused the noise.

In the very last scene a fence is visible on the deserted planet.

Fashion Victim

The Castrovalvan silly hats competition.

Adric should have 'adjusted his clothing' before being put into the web.

Cast & Crew


The Doctor - Peter Davison

Adric - Matthew Waterhouse

Nyssa - Sarah Sutton

Tegan - Janet Fielding

Child - Souska John

Head of Security - Dallas Cavell

Mergrave - Michael Sheard

Portreeve - Neil Toynay

Ruther - Frank Wylie

Shardovan - Derek Waring

The Master - Anthony Ainley 'Neil Toynay' is an anagram of 'Tony Ainley'. This was the second time in the series' history that a pseudonym had been used for an actor in order to conceal a plot twist (the first instance having occurred on season two's The Rescue)


Director - Fiona Cumming

Assistant Floor Manager - Renny Tasker

Costumes - Odile Dicks-Mireaux

Designer - Janet Budden

Film Cameraman - John Baker

Film Editor - Mike Houghton

Film Editor - Robin Jackman

Incidental Music - Paddy Kingsland

Make-Up - Marion Richards

Producer - John Nathan-Turner

Production Assistant - Olivia Cripps

Production Associate - Angela Smith

Script Editor - Eric Saward

Special Sounds - Dick Mills

Studio Lighting - Ron Bristow

Studio Sound - Laurie Taylor

Title Music - Ron Grainer and the BBC Radiophonic Workshop, arranged by Peter Howell

Visual Effects - Simon McDonald

Writer - Christopher H Bidmead

Bottom Line - from The Discontinuity Guide

'A perfect example of recursion. And recursion is what we're up against!' There are many moments of magic in Castrovalva (a child teaching the Doctor that three follows two, Shardovan sacrificing himself). It's everything you could possibly want from a post-regeneration story, re-establishing the series with a splash of 'hard' science fiction and much poetry.

Analysis - from Doctor Who, the Television Companion

'The nine-day Doctor Who story is with us,' wrote Peter G Lovelady in Shada 8 in 1981, 'with new times, new titles and a new Doctor.' The series' new twice-weekly transmission pattern undeniably had a very considerable impact on the way in which it was perceived by contemporary viewers. It meant that each story was effectively over in half the time that it would have been previously, and that the relative importance of the cliffhanger endings to odd-numbered episodes was diminished as the next instalment could be seen a mere twenty-four hours later, rather than the following week as had been traditional.

Even more significantly, it meant that the season as a whole would be over and done with within the space of a mere three months, rather than six as in the recent past, giving it far less opportunity to make an impact and maintain Doctor Who's profile as a familiar fixture on the British television landscape. This was just the first of a succession of scheduling changes that the series would suffer during the eighties - a problem with which it had never really been troubled in the past - arguably with very negative consequences in terms of its popularity and, ultimately, its longevity.

Castrovalva itself has been well received by most reviewers. 'Thankfully Doctor Who is a [series] that is always discovering and experimenting, but never more so than when the reign of a new Doctor begins,' commented Robert Craker in TARDIS Volume 7 Number 1, dated March/April 1982. 'Tom Baker's debut story was quite a disappointment, but Castrovalva was definitely not that. It was brim-full of original ideas and pleasant surprises.'

In fact, the ideas underlying the story, although original in Doctor Who terms, were largely inspired by the works of Dutch illustrator M C Escher, whose lithographs of impossible architecture and twisted geometry formed the basis for the design of the city of Castrovalva. (Escher actually created a picture called Castrovalva, showing a walled city atop a mountain). Although a bold endeavour on the production team's part, the challenge of replicating such illusions on screen was unfortunately an overly demanding one for the series to meet.

The BBC's electronic effects technology was not really up to the task, and - although the visualisation of Castrovalva's ultimate demise is certainly passable, and quite an achievement for the time - it is no surprise to find that the Escher influences are confined for the most part to the story's plot and dialogue, with many references to 'recursive occlusion' and space folding back on itself. This concerned Ian K McLachlan, as he explained in the same issue of TARDIS: 'I wonder if it was not too cerebral for the audience. Would it not perhaps have been better to have started with a more traditional monster story to grab the casual viewer?'

Also problematic in terms of Castrovalva's general appeal is the fact that much of the action of the first two episodes is confined to the Doctor's TARDIS, with the Doctor himself either acting bizarrely or being completely incapacitated. It is instructive to contrast this with the approach taken in previous 'post regeneration' stories. Castrovalva certainly lacks anything with the audience pulling power of the Daleks, as seen in Patrick Troughton's debut adventure; and while the Jon Pertwee and Tom Baker Doctors had both been seen to be incapacitated at the outset, there were at the same time other plot threads - involving UNIT with the Autons and the K1 robot respectively - running in parallel. In Castrovalva, on the other hand, the focus is exclusively on the plight of the Doctor and his companions.

Another factor not helping matters is that the story carries on directly from where Logopolis left off and cannot be fully appreciated without a knowledge of what has gone before - or at least of who the Master is and of what he hopes to achieve. (It is just as well that Logopolis was repeated in November/December 1981, giving viewers a chance to catch up.) This incarnation of the Doctor's evil nemesis is nothing if not persistent, and this gives rise to something of an anomaly in the plotting of Castrovalva.

The Master had no way of knowing that the Doctor would survive his fall from the radio telescope at the end of Logopolis, and yet he is already prepared at the beginning of this sequel to kidnap Adric and trap him within a web of power. Using Adric's mathematical skills, he then causes the Doctor's TARDIS to travel back to the very start of the universe, where he fully expects the Doctor to be destroyed - hence the end of Part One. Even as the TARDIS veers away from Event One, however, Tegan discovers yet another trap - a reference to Castrovalva (a fictional construct by the Master) - planted in the TARDIS's index file. This tends to suggest that the Master actually expects each of his plans to fail, arguably diminishing the threat posed by the character.

Things improve considerably in the second half of the story, when the Doctor and his companions finally reach Castrovalva. The characters there are well written and acted, and special praise must go to Anthony Ainley for his performance as the Portreeve, which is so convincing that many viewers at the time failed to spot that this was actually the Master in disguise - although admittedly many others found it obvious. The sets and costumes, too, are excellent, being both distinctive and very much in keeping with the slightly 'fairy tale' quality of the city.

Perhaps the greatest legacy of Castrovalva is that, although it was not the first of the Peter Davison stories to be made, it effectively sets the scene for the remainder of his era. This was noted by Alec Charles in Aggedor Issue 5 in 1983: 'Castrovalva... set down strict guidelines [including] the overdone Master and his rather too obvious disguises; the two "new" companions and the Doctor's reactions to them ("You, Tegan, have it in you to be a fine co-ordinator, keeping us all together during the healing time; Nyssa, of course, has the technical skills and understanding"); and, of course, the new Doctor.'

Davison is excellent as the Doctor throughout this adventure. He manages to bring his own identity to the character while at the same time giving nods to his predecessors - most obviously in the early scenes in which he does brief impressions of some of them as the Doctor suffers 'regeneration trauma'. The literal unravelling of the fourth Doctor's trademark scarf is also a nice touch. On the downside, the regular outfit chosen for the new Doctor is simply awful. Following a trend set in season eighteen, it is very obviously a designed costume, almost a uniform, rather than - as had previously been the case - an eccentric collection of otherwise largely unremarkable clothes that one might conceivably be able to pick up in a charity shop or a jumble sale.

The same approach is reflected in the new companions' similarly uniform-like costumes which, with rare exceptions, they wear in every story regardless of the circumstances. This 'costuming' of the regular characters removes a lot of their individuality and believability as people, and inevitably makes the Doctor in particular stand out from the crowd, whereas in the past he has been able to blend in.

All in all, though, Castrovalva makes a good start to the fifth Doctor's era.

< LogopolisFifth DoctorFour to Doomsday >

This episode guide is made up of the text of The Discontinuity Guide by Paul Cornell, Martin Day and Keith Topping, and Doctor Who: The Television Companion by David J. Howe and Stephen James Walker.

The Discontinuity Guide © Paul Cornell, Martin Day and Keith Topping 1995.
Doctor Who: The Television Companion © David J Howe and Stephen James Walker 1998, 2003.

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