Doctor Who: Castrovalva

More restrained and subtle acting from Anthony Ainley
"Don't you understand? The regeneration is failing!"

When he took over the role, Peter Davison was the youngest actor to play Doctor at the time, being an adolescent 29. I wasn’t around back then, but I believe a lot of fans complained that he was too young and that the BBC should get this teenager off their show. Hmmm, fans, eh? They never change.

Despite my strong dislike of the cricketer costume (a sentiment shared by the man himself, who thought it was too designed for someone like the Doctor), I’ve always been fond of Davison's baby-faced Doctor. Unlike his predecessors, there's a youthful energy and vulnerability to this Doctor that makes him the most human incarnation so far. I like the idea of the Doctor's regeneration going wonky, but it's a shame that all it results in is Davison looking worried while wandering the corridors of the TARDIS as the Doctor goes through a post-regeneration daze, adopting the personas of his previous incarnation and mistaking his current companions for previous ones.

As much as I like Davison's Doctor, I find his d├ębut story to be one of the series’ most boring and tedious tales. 'Castrovalva' is another trademark case of Chris Bidmead being more interested in showing off how clever he can be rather than how good the story can be. The first big problem is that there simply isn't enough story material for four episodes. When they're not struggling to work out how to fly the TARDIS or avoiding the big bang, Tegan and Nyssa seem to take forever carrying the Doctor through the woods to Castrovalva.

And then there's the Master's entire scheme. None of it makes a lick of sense. His trap is ridiculously elaborate and requires some pretty big coincidences to work. He would’ve been pretty screwed if Tegan and Nyssa had decided to take the ailing Doctor to Ibiza instead. On the plus side Adric spends the majority of the runtime being tortured by the Master. Goes to show we’ve misjudged the villainous Time Lord. He’s not so bad after all.

Notes and Quotes

--The Doctor isn't the only one who gets a new look, Nyssa also gets a new costume.

--Everyone seems okay with the fact that the Doctor has just changed his face. I'd at least expect Tegan, who is new to all of this and knows nothing of Time Lords, to be more freaked out.

--If those costumes were meant to be inconspicuous, they're not doing a very good job:

--Who called the ambulance at the start of episode 1? It just shows up out of the blue.

--Although the first to air, this was actually the fourth story to be recorded this season. The original planned debut story, 'Project Zeta Sigma' by John Flanagan and Andrew McCulloch, proved unworkable and a replacement had to be commissioned.

--In order to hide the fact that it was the Master all along, the role of the Portreeve was credited to Neil Toynay, an anagram of Tony Ainley. Didn't work though, because it is blindingly obvious that Ainley is playing the Portreeve.

--Matthew Waterhouse got drunk the night before filming the final scene and had a hangover. When the cameras were filming The Doctor and Tegan talking, he was vomiting behind a tree. The other actors continued acting so that would be the take that was used.

The Doctor: "That's the trouble with regeneration. You never quite know what you're going to get."

The Doctor: "Which is the quickest way out of here? (everyone point in different directions.) Yes. Well, that's democracy for you. Come on."

The Doctor: "There is something we're all overlooking."
Nyssa: "Yes? What, Doctor?"
The Doctor: "I don't know. I'm overlooking it too."

Two out of four zero rooms.
Mark Greig has been writing for Doux Reviews since 2011. More Mark Greig.

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