‘Bradley’s Basement’s Strange Love’ – ‘Castrovalva’


Tim Bradley:
“Hello everyone!

Here we are in the Zero Room and welcome to the third of the ‘Bradley’s Basement’s Strange Love’ discussion series!

It’s Tim Bradley here and I’m joined by Timelord007 from his Amazon review page…”

Timelord007:
“Hello there! Good to be back!”

Tim Bradley:
“WilliamsFan92 from his own and latest blog…”

WilliamsFan92:
“I’m pleased I could make it, Tim.”

 Tim Bradley:
“And Wolfie from the Divergent Wordsmiths!”

Wolfie:
“Pleasure as always, Tim.”

Tim Bradley:
“And we’re here to celebrate 40 years of the Fifth Doctor in ‘Doctor Who’ and we’re also here to celebrate Peter Davison’s birthday in April. Happy birthday, Peter!”

WilliamsFan92:
“Happy 71st birthday, Peter.” 

Wolfie:
“Happy birthday to Peter Davison! Four decades since the character’s debut. They’ve both come quite a way since that grassy knoll under the Pharos radio tower.”

Timelord007:
“40 years hey? I was 7 when Season 19 aired, which makes me….um…37 plus 10.”

Tim Bradley:
“So, as we discussed ‘The Keeper of Traken’ and ‘Logopolis’ in 2021, it’s only fair that we complete the ‘New Beginnings’ trilogy of ‘Doctor Who’ by talking about the third instalment ‘Castrovalva’, which is of course the opening story of Peter Davison’s first season in ‘Doctor Who’ – Season 19.”

Timelord007:
“The one where he spends nearly two episodes unconscious.”

Tim Bradley:
“Yes! He had an easy time being carried around in that Zero Cabinet by his two companions Nyssa and Tegan.”

Wolfie:
‘Castrovalva’ is also the first story with a new Doctor after seven years of Tom Baker in the role. Seven years! Boggles the mind! As the first broadcasted story of 1982 in the United Kingdom, it’s a rather clean break for a rather different trajectory of ‘Doctor Who’. Ironic, in some respects, given how smoothly it follows ‘Logopolis’. The two stories share a lot of elements that we’ll get into as the discussion goes along.”

WilliamsFan92:
“As good as the Tom Baker era was; I rate the Peter Davison era higher. I personally don’t blame Matthew Waterhouse for being happier working with Peter as opposed to Tom. As badly treated as Tom may have been during Season 18, I think it was unfair of him to take his anger out on Matthew and in Matthew’s own words ‘had his dream of working on ‘Doctor Who’ shattered’.”

Tim Bradley:
“Yeah, I think it’s fair to say everyone had an easier time working with Peter Davison on his first season of ‘Doctor Who’ compared to how everyone worked with Tom Baker on his last season of the show. I imagine the tension levels had been lowered by that point.”

WilliamsFan92:
“I agree with you there, Tim. The relationship between the cast of Season 19 didn’t seem fractious at all.”

Timelord007:
“It’s no secret I adore Tom Baker as the Doctor, but his heart wasn’t in Season 18, due to the behind-the-scenes clashes with producer John Nathan-Turner and script editor Chris Bidmead. Peter Davison came in and gave the show a new zest of energy. A youthful boyish Doctor keen to explore the universe with his friends.”

Wolfie:
“Boyish is a very good way to describe him. Outside of his post-regenerative exhaustion, Peter Davison plays his incarnation as sharp as any of his predecessors. There’s a modesty, but also a sense of impatience. He’s a breathless sort of fellow. Almost like the youth of his body is trying to keep up with the centuries of age he already wears.”

Tim Bradley:
“First off, let’s talk about Season 19 overall. I personally love Season 19. I know it has flaws here and there in terms of plot and character development in certain stories, but I consider Season 19 to be one of my favourite seasons in ‘Doctor Who’ – both classic and new. I also love how the TARDIS team of the Fifth Doctor, Nyssa, Tegan and Adric is developed. Peter Davison, Sarah Sutton, Janet Fielding and Matthew Waterhouse play their characters well in each of the stories of Season 19.

It’s amazing to look back on this season with such fondness, as I was watching the seven stories featured in Season 19 out of order. I didn’t know at the time, back in 2006 when I first started watching Season 19 with ‘Earthshock’ and the other stories after that, that I was going to love the Fifth Doctor TARDIS team characters.”

Timelord007:
“Season 19, for me, is a good one, as I’m reminded of very happy memories at my nan’s on Mondays and Tuesdays, eating sausages and chips in the dark, being scared and watching ‘Doctor Who’ in black and white, as my nan didn’t own a colour TV back then.”

Wolfie:
“It’s very much a season of two halves. Something seized for the ‘Psychodrome’/‘Iterations of I’ duology at Big Finish. We have the sword-and-sandal, high-concept adventures of its earlier half and the more grounded, punishing stories of its second. Because of that split and shift, it’s probably one of the more starkly contrasting seasons of the show. It starts optimistically and ends, well, in the way that it does. As such, it’s got an appealing uniqueness to it.”

WilliamsFan92:
“Season 19 is one of my favourite seasons of ‘Doctor Who’ overall as well. The TV stories were really well done and the Big Finish audios have helped boost that.”

Tim Bradley:
“Regarding ‘Castrovalva’ as an opening story to Season 19, I like it. I found it more enjoyable compared to watching ‘Logopolis’ for the first time on DVD back in 2007. It’s quite complex in certain areas, especially with Christopher H. Bidmead being the writer of the story, but I like how it sets up the Fifth Doctor’s character and how it establishes the relationships between the TARDIS foursome.” 

Timelord007:
“As a story, ‘Castrovalva’ is one I have mixed feelings about, which I’ll get into more as we delve further into the discussion.”

WilliamsFan92:
“I prefer ‘Castrovalva’ over ‘Logopolis’. I found the concepts used in ‘Castrovalva’ easier to follow.”

Wolfie:
“I enjoy ‘Castrovalva’ quite a bit. I mentioned in our ‘Logopolis’ discussion that I look on the two stories as essentially two halves of the same broader story. The Fifth Doctor goes through many of the same plot points. An extended period in the TARDIS, an unusual ‘place of power’, a wider environmental threat, etc. However, there’s a freshness to ‘Castrovalva’ that gives those same occurrences a solid kick of dynamicism. For as sluggish as the Doctor becomes, his power waning, the story itself feels energetic.”

Tim Bradley:
“It’s interesting that ‘Castrovalva’ wasn’t meant to be the opening story for Season 19 of ‘Doctor Who’. Originally, it was going to be a different story called ‘Project: Zeta-Sigma’ by John Flanagan and Andrew McCulloch, the writers of ‘Meglos’. I wonder what Season 19 would’ve been like had it started off with ‘Project Zeta-Sigma’ instead of ‘Castrovalva’.”

Timelord007:
“We’ll never know how that story would’ve played out unless it actually did happen in say another universe. Maybe Big Finish could adapt a ‘Lost Story’ out of it sometime.”

WilliamsFan92:
“I expect Andrew McCulloch’s family would have to give Big Finish permission to adapt the story.”

Wolfie:
“The premise itself is quite a stark difference to what we eventually got in ‘Castrovalva’. It dealt with a sort of interplanetary cold war and the threat of a nuclear exchange. Here’s the synopsis as outlined on A Brief History of Time (Travel):

‘Two hostile planets are verging on war after one planet – that of the Doves – establishes an impregnable defence shield. In retaliation, the planet of the Hawks threatens to fire a super-missile which will destroy their solar system’s sun and annihilate both worlds. This manoeuvre is advocated by Sergo, the Hawks’ chief scientist (or the Master, in later revisions), who secretly wants to use the political instability to allow the Hawk scientists to become the new ruling power’.”

Tim Bradley:
“Thanks, Wolfie, for sharing that information about what ‘Project: Zeta-Sigma’ is like as a story. I personally would like there to be a Big Finish audio adaptation of ‘Project: Zeta-Sigma’ someday. I’m surprised it’s taking a while for Big Finish to get around to adapting it for audio, if they are considering doing it, since Peter, Sarah, Janet and Matthew have done Big Finish audios as a foursome lately.”

Timelord007:
“Yes, I agree. Come on, Mr. Briggs! Get ‘Project: Zeta-Sigma’ adapted for audio so we can hear an alternative ‘Fifth Doctor begins’ story.”

WilliamsFan92:
“I don’t know. Maybe there are other circumstances that are preventing it, such as complexity.”

Wolfie:
“It could be as simple as trouble-finding the script. The outline for ‘The Guardians of Prophecy’ was retrieved from a pen pal of the author who sent her the treatment while they were chatting in the 1980s/1990s. We wouldn’t have gotten ‘Leviathan’ if Paul Finch hadn’t read about the ‘Lost Stories’ in ‘Doctor Who Magazine’. Luck seems to be a major factor in some of these discoveries. Luck and superb timing.”

Tim Bradley:
“Incidentally, I should point out that Season 19 of ‘Doctor Who’ was the first season to not be shown on a Saturday. It was shown on Mondays and Tuesdays instead.” (to Timelord007) “How did you find that experience, Timelord? Was it difficult to adjust to that new viewing time compared to watching Season 18 with Tom Baker on Saturdays?”

Timelord007:
“Nope, we were getting two episodes a week instead of one, so I was very happy.”

Tim Bradley:
“What about you, Wolfie? What was the experience like watching Season 19 for the first time in Australia?”

Wolfie:
“I actually missed a lot of Season 19 when it was being broadcast for the anniversary, so I can’t comment in much detail, unfortunately. I do remember it followed the regular pattern. 6:00pm, Monday to Thursday, right after an episode of ‘Batfink’ or ‘Roger Ramjet’.”

Tim Bradley:
“I suppose nowadays we should be used to that kind of change of scheduling where ‘Doctor Who’ isn’t usually shown on Saturdays. After all, we’ve had Christmas Specials and the Jodie Whittaker era of ‘Doctor Who’ has been shown on Sundays instead of Saturdays in the UK lately. I can only imagine what it was like to see ‘Doctor Who’ on a weekday as opposed to the weekend.”

Timelord007:
“I personally like the Sunday night slot. I think it works wonderfully. It’s something to look forward to.”

WilliamsFan92:
“I have no preference for the day of the week on which ‘Doctor Who’ is shown. Incidentally during my run-through of Season 19, I watched the last three stories as viewers on BBC1 did back in 1982, which was two days a week, albeit on Saturdays and Sundays as opposed to Mondays and Tuesdays.”

Wolfie:
“With the advent of streaming services, the whole concept of a regular televised schedule is kind of going the way of the dodo, isn’t it? We still have it for livestreaming online, but instead of being the norm – as it was – it’s become something of a novelty. Are families available to gather on a weekend anymore? I actually have no idea.

The thing I remember most is the anticipation prior to viewing. Knowing that it’s the first (and if you weren’t diligent with your cassettes, only) time you’ll be able to watch something completely new from the programme. There’s nothing quite like sitting there while Ian Chesterton says, “The Daleks took it [the fluid link] from me. It’s down there somewhere. In the city”, and the screen going blank on the characters’ worried features. It’s a very different experience nowadays with video-on-demand. Makes you think.”


Castrovalva, Escher and Recursion

Tim Bradley:
“Okay, so, before we get into the nature of what the city of Castrovalva is all about, a quick question. How much do you know about M. C. Escher?”

WilliamsFan92:
“Hardly anything, even after watching ‘Castrovalva’.”

Timelord007:
“I know nothing about him.”

Tim Bradley:
“What about you, Wolfie?”

Wolfie:
“Ah… Dutch painter. Passed sometime in the 1970s. I think I might know a bit more about the fellow’s work than the man himself. His was influential surrealist art that relied on tricks in logical perceptions of Euclidean geometry. Using the two-dimensions to transform spaces in ways that three-dimensionally would be impossible.”

Tim Bradley:
“I didn’t know much about Escher until I became more aware of him from watching ‘Castrovalva’. I’m sure I must have seen his geometric drawings at some point in school during art classes, and it’s fascinating how Escher’s influence gets used for this particular story by Mr. Bidmead.”

WilliamsFan92:
“Even though I still don’t know anything about Escher, the way his paintings are used in ‘Castrovalva’ for the set design is stunning.” 

Timelord007:
“This is all going over my head, Escher and his geometric paintings. You may as well change the story’s title to ‘The Escher Conspiracy’.”

Wolfie:
“It’s not often discussed in creative writing outside of prompts, but artwork is a terrific place to gather imagery and generate a story. The Time Lord who appeared to the Doctor in ‘Terror of the Autons’ – suspended in the air in his bowler hat and suit – was taken from a painting whose name an artist completely escapes me, at the moment. It was men in bowler hats falling like raindrops.”

Tim Bradley:
“Do you remember what the painting was called?”

Wolfie:
‘Golconda’ by Magritte, I think. It looks like the right painting.”

Tim Bradley:
“I’ve had a little look at the painting myself. It does appear geometric in contrast to Escher’s geometric drawings. And yes, it has lots of men in bowler hats falling like rain. I can see the connection between that and ‘Terror of the Autons’.”

Wolfie:
“It’s raining men! Get the brollies! Tape up the windows!”

Laughter ensues.

Tim Bradley:
“Another quick question. Who knew anything about recursion before ‘Castrovalva’ came along in your life?”

WilliamsFan92:
“Nothing again. Hahahaha.”

Timelord007:
“Tim, I was like 7 years old when ‘Castrovalva’ came out. All I knew back then was that Santa Claus and the Tooth Fairy were real.”

Tim Bradley:
“Okay. After you watched the story, did you pick up on the theme of recursion many years later?”

Timelord007:
“Nope! I plead blissful ignorance.”

Wolfie:
“I learnt about recursion in philosophy. To understand recursion, you must understand recursion. That was a fun lesson. Circular logic was one of the fallacies discussed and, honestly, it fits the Master’s modus operandi to a tee. I can just see him arguing, “Autocratic power is the essence of control over life. Therefore, control over life is the essence of autocratic power”.” 

Tim Bradley:
“I did study something about recursion when doing one of the modules in my IT course at Cardiff University called Operating Systems. I struggled to understand the concept, but thankfully I got help from someone who explained recursion to me through the use of cheese burgers. And you can tell I’m hungry by this point.” (laughs) 

Timelord007:
“Cheese burgers! Yum, yum! I could eat a couple of cheeseburgers about now.”

WilliamsFan92:
“Like with ‘Logopolis’, I think it’s safe to say that Chris Bidmead poured a lot of research into ‘Castrovalva’ from his knowledge of IT. It has in a way inspired me to use my knowledge of things when writing my own ‘Doctor Who’ stories for my fan-fiction series on my blog. I will of course make sure to incorporate plot and character drama as well as that to improve on how Bidmead writes his stories.” 

Wolfie:
“As the old adage goes, write what you know. Particularly what you’re passionate about. Bidmead seemed rather enthusiastic about this bold, new frontier in computer technology. Enough that it bleeds over quite proficiently into his storytelling. Timely, too. ‘Tron’ would make its debut later in the year and bewilder general audiences with its lingo. Nowadays, in the Information Age, the film seems almost tame with its world-building.”

Tim Bradley:
“It’s actually interesting to think of the notion of a hand drawing another hand which draws another hand and then another hand and so on. I’m pretty sure Issue #400 of ‘Doctor Who Magazine’ had a recursive cover where David Tennant was reading the first issue of the magazine over and over again. If you recall that particular ‘DWM’ issue back in 2008, I think it was.”

WilliamsFan92:
“I definitely missed that because I wasn’t into ‘Doctor Who’ back then.” 

Timelord007:
“Recursion, recursion! What’s with science stuff? “Saltare di palo in frasca!” Tim, I could play a drinking game every time you mentioned the word ‘recursion’. I’d be hospitalised with alcohol poisoning though.”

Tim Bradley:
“‘If’ you were hospitalised with alcohol poisoning. Remember, ‘if’ is the most powerful word in the English language.” 😀

Timelord007:
“‘No’ is the most powerful word in the English language. I’ve had that word said to me a lot.”

Wolfie:
“‘I’ is also a strong contender. There’s a lot of power to an ‘I’, as we’ll eventually see in ‘Castrovalva’ itself. Interestingly, recursion (drink!) has been with the series since its first days of broadcast. The howlaround effect used for the first ever title sequence is an example of recursion. The images on the screen being feedback as a result of images on the screen. Even ‘Castrovalva’ itself, imitating the beats of its predecessor ‘Logopolis’, is a form of recursion.”

Tim Bradley:
“Fun fact to mention is that there’s an actual village called Castrovalva in Anversa degli Abruzzi, Italy. And our very own Janet Fielding has visited the real Castrovalva herself according to the ‘Time Trap’ making-of documentary on the ‘Castrovalva’ disc of the Season 19 Blu-ray box set.” 

Wolfie:
“You can visit the hamlet for yourself, thanks to the power of the internet, and, honestly… It looks like Castrovalva. It’s a quiet village in the midst of greenery. Seemingly isolated from nowhere, but quite prominent in the landscape once you spot it.”

Timelord007:
“So Castrovalva does exist in Italy. That’s Amore, Gino D’Acampo, Rosa De Marco, pizza…”

Tim Bradley:
(interjects) “I assume Rosa De Marco was an ‘EastEnders’ character at one time.”

Timelord007:
“And played by Louise Jameson no less. I always hoped she would throw a janis thorn at Phil Mitchell’s head.”

WilliamsFan92:
“I wonder if there’s anywhere in the world called Logopolis. Or Frontios. Or maybe even Traken.”

Tim Bradley:
“Well if you recall WF92, there was a village called Traken in the episode ‘Circular Time: Autumn’. And Stockbridge happens to be a real village in England as well as in the comics of ‘Doctor Who Magazine’ and in the Big Finish audios of ‘Doctor Who’. So anything’s possible whether Logopolis, Frontios and Traken are real places on Earth as well as Castrovalva.” 

WilliamsFan92:
“Oh yes. Thanks for reminding me, Tim. Where would I be without you?”

Tim Bradley:
“Apparently I’m the ‘fount of all knowledge’ according to Sarah Sutton at a ‘Doctor Who’ convention. She must be right.” 😀

Timelord007:
“Tim is like a walking talking Encyclopaedia. He’s the guy you want in your Saturday night pub quiz.”

Tim Bradley:
“Despite the science-fiction elements incorporated by Chris Bidmead, there is a semi-fantasy element to it, especially with the exterior and interior look of Castrovalva. I don’t know if Chris Bidmead had an Italian influence incorporated into the script when he wrote the Castrovalva setting or if that was director Fiona Cumming’s part to play in that aspect of the tale, but it’s fascinating to uncover in the viewing.”

WilliamsFan92:
“I expect Chris Bidmead put the Italian influence into his script for Fiona Cumming to then translate into a set. I didn’t see much of an Italian influence in ‘Logopolis’, so there is a possibility that it was all Cumming’s idea, but then Bidmead was ‘Castrovalva’s creator.”

Timelord007:
“You’ll be saying Gino D’Acampo is the Doctor next.”

Wolfie:
“That aesthetic, deliberate or not, conjures up a rather interesting European Renaissance feel to the proceedings. Castrovalva is a small town of little import, but a source of much culture and an interest in intellectual pursuits. It’s… uncomplicated. Almost Tuscan rustic. The ideal place to rest and recuperate. ‘Ideal’ being the operative word.” 

Tim Bradley:
“The reason why Nyssa and Tegan take the Doctor to Castrovalva is so he can recuperate following his latest regeneration. We know it ends up being a trap for the Doctor set up by the Master, but do you think the ‘dwellings of simplicity’ works in favour for the Doctor in terms of his recovery?”

WilliamsFan92:
“I think it did work in a way, because he soon manages to regain his senses and remembers Adric. It would be nice to have the ‘dwellings of simplicity’ concept used once again to see if it would work when not created by the Master.”

Timelord007:
“Or that the Doctor likes his companions to carry him about because he’s too lazy to walk and fancies a kip.”

Wolfie:
“The concept does turn up again here and there over the Doctor’s travels. Weaponised complacency is used to great effect in ‘The Bookshop at the End of the World’ from the ‘Shadow of the Daleks’ anthologies. Asimov’s ‘The Caves of Steel’ gets a nod by one of the characters where it also plays a part (albeit more thematically, than directly).

Where the Master’s plan failed particularly was that he didn’t anticipate the Doctor’s influence. The Doctor doesn’t have enough energy to act himself, but he does provoke his own form of change in others. The balance, in that last, critical moment, is only tipped by the time-traveller’s insistence to the inhabitants of Castrovalva that something is wrong. He challenges their complacency and, in doing so, breaks free from the time trap.”

Tim Bradley:
“Block transfer computation from ‘Logopolis’ also comes back into play for this story, especially when it turns out Castrovalva was an illusion created by Adric himself when he was placed inside that horrible hydron web by the Master.”

WilliamsFan92:
“There are definitely parallels with computer use in this story where the creation of ‘Castrovalva’ is like the creation of a computer document and Adric is the computer being used by the Master.”

Timelord007:
“It’s an interesting idea a bit ahead of its time though, as the reason audiences switched over to ‘Buck Rogers’ during Season 18 of ‘Doctor Who’ was to see pulpy sci-fi action rather than scientific exploration.”

Wolfie:
“Here’s an interesting thought: Does the second half of ‘Castrovalva’ count as a virtual reality story? The village is simulated by a computer matrix. Its people and projections are with limited awareness like non-playable characters.”

Tim Bradley:
“Moving away from the city of Castrovalva for a bit, have you noticed how much Chris Bidmead loves to use the TARDIS interior corridors a lot in his story, especially for the majority of ‘Part One’ when we’re getting to know the Fifth Doctor and his companions?”

WilliamsFan92:
“I like the corridor scenes in ‘Parts One and Two’ because it has Nyssa and Tegan trying to find, help and care for the Doctor when he is in his regeneration crisis. It’s a vital part of the story in my opinion before we get to Castrovalva.”

Timelord007:
“I liked Peter’s impersonations of previous Doctors during his post traumatic regenerative state in the TARDIS. And did anyone notice the Fourth Doctor’s boots have regenerated into shoes? Bizarre.”

Wolfie:
“In all three of his stories for television, Bidmead has a real fascination for the TARDIS. Here, he uses it much more than as a set piece. He gives it a sense of life and purpose. It feels occupied. Many of its systems, introduced here, feel as though we’ve always known them. The Zero Room, for instance, doesn’t come as a shock, but a natural extension of the time ship and her functions.”

Tim Bradley:
“Yes, ‘Castrovalva’ also introduces us to the Zero Room for the first time in the TV series. I like the Zero Room concept very much, before it got destroyed in the story and before it was resurrected in ‘Renaissance of the Daleks’ and before it was destroyed again (off-screen) by the time we get to ‘Mawdryn Undead’.”

WilliamsFan92:
“The Zero Room is another interesting concept for ‘Doctor Who’. I wonder how long the Doctor had it around for. It would be interesting to know if any of the other Doctors before and after Five used a Zero Room.”

Tim Bradley:
“Actually, I forgot to mention that the Zero Room was used in the story ‘The Invasion of E-Space’ featuring the Fourth Doctor.”

WilliamsFan92:
“Been meaning to listen to that for a while. I wonder if it was created whilst the Doctor was in E-Space because only they had the technology for it.”

Timelord007:
“I’ve spent many hours in the TARDIS Zero Room after enduring hundreds of awful movies and TV shows over the years.”

Wolfie:
“I’ve a pet theory that Zero Rooms are as common on Gallifrey as hospitals are on Earth. There are whole wings in the Capitol, which are just rows upon rows of rooms for convalescent care. It’s interesting that only now in his fifth incarnation that the Doctor feels he requires such a place to heal. I wonder if regenerating under the radio dish at the Pharos Project made the Fifth Doctor more vulnerable to external forces like radio waves, radiation, etc.”

Tim Bradley:
“It’s also intriguing that ‘Castrovalva’ has our TARDIS characters going to Event One, which is essentially the Big Bang. How many times has the Big Bang been revisited in ‘Doctor Who’ in stories like ‘Terminus’, ‘Slipback’ and ‘The Big Bang’ itself!” 😀

WilliamsFan92:
“Wow! That’s more than I thought.”

Timelord007:
‘Event One’! That would’ve made a great ‘Doctor Who’ title! ‘Doctor Who – Event One’ by Tim Bradley.”

Tim Bradley:
“Steady, Timelord. I’m not sure I’m ready to venture into writing a story about the beginning of the universe just yet.” 😀

Wolfie:
“Worth pondering, Tim. Incidentally, a part of me still misses the individual titles and customised openings of early ‘Doctor Who’ stories. Can you imagine? An in-rush of light towards a singular point and then–pow! ‘Castrovalva’ – by Christopher H. Bidmead – ‘Event One’.”

Tim Bradley:
“Yes, it would be interesting to have individual titles for each episode of ‘Doctor Who’ in the 1970s and 1980s to match to some of the ‘Doctor Who’ episodes with individual titles in the early 1960s, the 2000s, the 2010s and 2020s instead of ‘Parts One, Two, Three and Four’ and so on. It would keep the consistency of how things are with ‘Doctor Who’ episodes being listed and such.”


Fiona Cumming

Tim Bradley:
“We’ve talked a lot about the writing side of things concerning ‘Doctor Who’. Let’s talk about the directing side of things for a bit. Now, ‘Castrovalva’ was directed by the late Fiona Cumming. She would later go on to direct ‘Snakedance’, ‘Enlightenment’ and ‘Planet of Fire’. What’s your opinion of Fiona Cumming as a ‘Doctor Who’ director?”

Timelord007:
“She’s good with the material given. It must have been challenging back then in a more male-dominated working environment to get what shots were needed as well as setups. It no doubt opened the door for many upcoming female directors during the 1980s.”

Wolfie:
“I really enjoy her presence on the show. There was a great sense of solidity to her stories. The settings feel seamless. From Castrovalva to Manussa to the Solar Race to Sarn! Her style of directing made the show feel filmic, even on videotape. Had fate taken a different turn, I’d have loved to have seen her back in the late 1980s.”

WilliamsFan92:
“Cumming, I’d say, was really amazing at directing and with the chosen set design for her stories. A lot of the sets in her stories are very detailed. She even directed one of my favourite Fifth Doctor stories – ‘Snakedance’.”

Tim Bradley:
“It’s very interesting how Fiona Cumming ended up being a ‘Doctor Who’ director on Peter Davison’s first story of the show. According to Fiona in a 2006 interview she did, she intended to recruit Tanith Lee, a writer who wrote a ‘Blake’s 7’ episode she directed, to become a writer on ‘Doctor Who’. Sadly that never came through, but she ended up working for John Nathan-Turner as a director for the show.”

WilliamsFan92:
“I don’t know if I’ve seen that ‘Blake’s 7’ episode, Tim. Which one was it?”

Tim Bradley:
‘Sarcophagus’, I believe it was called. It’s been a while since I’ve seen that episode as well as ‘Blake’s 7’ itself, but I vaguely recall that episode being eerie to watch.”

WilliamsFan92:
“I look forward to it then.”

Wolfie:
“I didn’t know about Fiona Cumming trying to get Tanith Lee to write for ‘Doctor Who’. That is a shame. Tanith Lee’s work on ‘Blake’s 7’ are some of my favourite stories from that series. She had a wonderful novelistic style, while still keeping true to the requirements of television. Lee’s first script for them, directed with effortless style by Fiona Cumming, was part of the inspiration for ‘Eden by Annihilation’. Good on her for trying.”

Timelord007:
“Working with JNT, I bet Fiona Cumming had some interesting tales to tell.”

Tim Bradley:
“Not meaning to disrespect Fiona’s directing talents as she comes across as competent enough. But she isn’t a Peter Grimwade or Graeme Harper who are more action-packed directors. They like to drive forward the energy in the story’s action sequences. Fiona Cumming’s directing seems laid-back, especially in the relaxed atmosphere that seems to be present in ‘Castrovalva’ when we actually visit the ‘dwellings of simplicity’.”

Timelord007:
“But don’t you find the tone of the story a more laid-back affair? No invading Daleks or Cybermen. This story is more of an enigma and adds intrigue to what’s going on in and around Castrovalva.”

Wolfie:
“I can see your point, Tim, but I would put that down more to the script itself than strictly the direction. Only last story, Peter Grimwade directed ‘Logopolis’ with the same flair he would ‘Earthshock’, but, to me, ‘Castrovalva’ still feels quicker than ‘Logopolis’ did. These stories have a very slow, very methodical pace to them and a lot of the peril is cerebral. It’s very ‘talky’. When the regeneration begins to fail, we don’t see the Doctor’s body begin to literally fall apart. Instead, we see his mind collapse in on itself; as Peter Davison runs through his predecessors (including some rather fun impressions).”

Tim Bradley:
“Yeah, that’s fair enough. I wasn’t trying to give the impression that ‘Castrovalva’ is slow or anything. I think the story does feel relaxed in the journey to getting to ‘Castrovalva’ when we’re in ‘Part Two’, but by the time we get to ‘Parts Three and Four’, it becomes more interesting, especially with the energy the Doctor has when he and his friends are caught in the recursive occlusion. There’s also energy in the TARDIS scenes during the Event One segments. The modes of relaxation in and out of ‘Castrovalva’ are often at the forefront of my mind when thinking about the story, especially when seeing filming locations such as Buckhurst Park being used in the story.”

Wolfie:
“I think a reason behind that is that we don’t meet any guest characters until ‘Part Three’. There’s very little tension between the Doctor and his companions because everyone is, more or less, on the same page. The threat in ‘Castrovalva’ isn’t the characters or the TARDIS herself, like in ‘The Edge of Destruction’. It’s the ideas and concepts introduced by Bidmead. When we get to Shardovan, the Portreeve and the others, then we get that element of uncertainty.”

WilliamsFan92:
“Every ‘Doctor Who’ director has their own style for the show. Cumming’s style of direction for ‘Castrovalva’ definitely fits the tone, especially as it’s a debut story.”

Tim Bradley:
“I’ll give Fiona Cumming credit. She’s certainly enthusiastic in the artistic sense in terms of how she incorporates Escher’s style of art. This is in terms of how Castrovalva is built as set designs with the walkways, the staircases and the square itself. It’s also evident in the costumes the Castrovalvans wore. And there’s the recursive occlusion, even though some of the special effects of their time can be on the dodgy side.”

Timelord007:
“The 1980s BBC effects equal poor, dodgy visuals. I’ll never understand why the BBC didn’t increase the budget of the show, because it was a ratings hit.”

WilliamsFan92:
“I like the new special effects that you can choose to watch on the Blu-Ray version of the story.”

Tim Bradley:
“Yes, I like the new CGI effects options on the ‘Doctor Who’ Blu-rays too, especially for ‘Castrovalva’. I prefer to watch those as opposed to the original versions with their original special effects.”

Wolfie:
“The difference reminds me quite a lot of the original ‘Star Trek’ series and their changes on Blu-Ray. We seem to have reached that point in time where the new effects mesh almost imperceptibly with the old footage. Same gist, more polish.”

WilliamsFan92:
“I think the updated special effects work pretty well for all the ‘Doctor Who’ stories that I’ve watched. Do any of you guys think that it always works for ‘Doctor Who’ as well as other TV shows that have had this treatment, such as ‘Star Trek’ and ‘Red Dwarf’?”

Tim Bradley:
“I’d like to think so. The CGI effects options for certain classic ‘Doctor Who’ stories have worked well so far in my opinion, whether it’d be on DVD or Blu-ray.”

WilliamsFan92:
“In 1998, ‘Red Dwarf’ was remastered in its first three seasons in order to bring the series up-to-date and make it more appealing to international broadcasters. Despite being well-received in other countries that were unaware of its remastered status, existing fans reacted negatively and saw the CGI changes not as an improvement. This may also have been down to the fact that the team responsible also trimmed down certain scenes. Plans to remaster later seasons were abandoned due to the negative reception. The remastered versions of Series 1-3 are quite rare to come by, apart from a DVD release known as ‘The Bodysnatcher Collection’, and even that’s out-of-print. The remastered episodes aren’t even on the 2019 ‘Red Dwarf’ Blu-Ray box set.”

Tim Bradley:
“It should be noted that ‘Castrovalva’ was the fourth story in production order of Season 19. ‘Four to Doomsday’ was made first, then ‘The Visitation’ and then ‘Kinda’ before ‘Castrovalva’ came along. I don’t know how Fiona managed to cope with the pressures of recording Peter’s debut story out of production order, but it doesn’t seem to show as far as I’m concerned.”

WilliamsFan92:
“I believe Mark Strickson noted in the ‘Time Trap’ documentary that Fiona had problems with the main characters because of that. However, I agree that it doesn’t show in the finished product, so you’ve got to give her credit.”

Timelord007:
“Yes, the fourth story to be filmed. It explains the continuity error length of Peter Davison’s hair.”

Tim Bradley:
“I like how Fiona established in an interview that she directed cast members like Sarah Sutton and Janet Fielding to tone down the level of their performances in order for their characters to get to know each other rather than pre-empt what they could know about each other from the production order of previous stories. It helps to keep up the consistency and continuity in Season 19.”

WilliamsFan92:
“Not directly related to ‘Castrovalva’, but Janet Fielding noted in ‘The Visitation’ making-of documentary that she mispronounced Mara, meaning that the situation wasn’t perfect. But I don’t see that anywhere else and it has been done before as well as after. Also worthy of note was that Cumming noted about Matthew Waterhouse looking a bit green because of him drinking too much Campari the previous night. I wonder why she allowed filming despite Matthew being ill and then emptying his guts out during the filming of the Doctor and Tegan discussing the TARDIS. And according to the ‘Behind the Sofa’ item of ‘Castrovalva’, the other cast members had a hangover as well. It seems weird that they were allowed to act in that condition. Or maybe I just over-thought it.”

Timelord007:
“I think ‘Castrovalva’ should have been filmed first, because ‘Four To Doomsday’ features a more unsettled Fifth Doctor than a more relaxed version he is later on in this story.”

Wolfie:
“Yeah, an approach they would later adopt for the Sixth Doctor and, credit to Colin Baker, the only production swap was ‘The Two Doctors’ and ‘The Mark of the Rani’ (‘Two’ came first). You can really feel his portrayal evolve between the pair of stories if you swap them around. It’s interesting how blustery the Fifth Doctor is in stories like ‘Four to Doomsday’ and ‘The Visitation’. He manages to be almost acerbic in places. Like his predecessors. Quite different to where he’d eventually (‘eventually’?) settle circa ‘Castrovalva’.”

Tim Bradley:
“As mentioned, as well as the set designs for Castrovalva featured in the story, I liked the locations used for the story. As well as the aforementioned Buckhurst Park used to film the woodland scenes as well as the riverbank scene in the story, I liked the Harrison’s Rocks location in Tunbridge Wells, which was used again in Sarah Sutton’s ‘Myth Makers’ interview in 1986.”

Timelord007:
“This needed location filming. It would’ve been a disaster having Nyssa and Tegan carrying the Doctor’s Zero Cabinet through a CSO forest.”

WilliamsFan92:
“It’s amazing how a normal park on Earth was able to be used as the setting of a planet that is not only not Earth, but also uninhabited as far as we know.”

Wolfie:
“That’s the beauty of heritage listings. Commercial developers fight tooth and claw to tear these places down and butcher the landscape (by hook or crook), but the charities and organisations interested in preserving the spaces persevere.

The unnamed planet also makes a terribly pretty ITV-style image for ‘Doctor Who’. It wouldn’t have looked out of place on something like ‘Robin of Sherwood’. It reminds me a lot of the woodlands of Vancouver in Canada where they filmed ‘Stargate SG-1’. I like a good quarry, but Buckhurst Park really does look like a little patch of paradise as intended.”

Tim Bradley:
“When Fiona Cumming agreed to direct ‘Doctor Who’ stories for JNT, she specifically asked not to be given stories that featured metal monsters like Daleks, Cybermen and such. It’s ironic that ‘Snakedance’ featured a monster in the form of the Mara then, isn’t it?”

WilliamsFan92:
“Ah, but the Mara wasn’t exactly a metal monster, Tim. And as I said earlier, ‘Snakedance’ is one of my favourite Fifth Doctor stories, so she did a stunning job.”

Timelord007:
“Mind you, it’s why Graham Harper was better suited to the action adventures of the show. ‘Castrovalva’ is story-driven and needed a director who could get more drama and emotion from the cast as well as focus on getting to know the new incarnation of the Doctor.”

Wolfie:
“Harper was stunning in how he innovated on his 1980s serials. His ‘Star Cops’ episodes also really pop. He introduced a dynamic element to those stories that wouldn’t become commonplace for another decade or so. He was a pioneer. The mention of ‘Snakedance’, though, reminds me of why Fiona Cumming was an excellent choice.

‘Snakedance’, despite not sharing any cast or crew from the early 1960s, reminds me very keenly of a historical tale from that era. If the name ‘John Lucarotti’ instead of ‘Christopher Bailey’ was transcribed on the titles, I wouldn’t have batted an eyelid. Fiona Cumming brings this fresh-faced Doctor to us with a foundational feel. Classically ‘Who’-ish for a brand new Time Lord.”


Greetings Doctor

Wolfie:
“By chance, I came to ‘Doctor Who’ with a very linear progression, starting with the First Doctor and travelling forward through the years. The most human incarnation – a reputation that is usually given to the Fifth Doctor – was, to me, the Third Doctor – Jon Pertwee. He was the most transparent with his emotions. The most grounded to what we consider very human-like features. Coming to the Fifth Doctor, he was, by comparison, almost child-like. His transparency, as a person, being almost front and centre. It feels terribly creepy when he’s subverted (overpowered by the Mara or another power) as a result. He’s straightforward and trustworthy in a way the Doctor across their incarnations, until this point, simply wasn’t and that’s reflected in his stories for this season.”

Tim Bradley:
“It’s interesting. I’ve found it very easy to write for the Fifth Doctor in my ‘Doctor Who’ stories, both for my blog and for the Divergent Wordsmiths anthologies. It’s interesting when people say that the Fifth Doctor is a very difficult ‘Doctor Who’ incarnation to write for, and that might be true because he comes across as the most straight-forward of the Doctors, which some could describe as being ‘quite bland’.

Personally, I don’t find him difficult to write for. He’s one of the most interesting incarnations out of the lot we’ve had in terms of the actors who have played the Doctor. It’s mostly down to Peter Davison’s performances throughout his seasons on TV and in the Big Finish audios he’s done.”

Timelord007:
“Youthful adventurer: full of energy, excitement and occasional dry sarcasm. For me, the Fifth Doctor was a breath of fresh air and gave the show a new zest of energy.”

WilliamsFan92:
“I think it’s safe to say that the Fifth Doctor offered something quite different to his predecessors. It’s interesting when comparing the TV series to Big Finish. He seems quite young and enthusiastic on TV, whereas at Big Finish he does almost resemble a wise old man trapped in a younger man’s body. I don’t particularly find him difficult to write for, although I’ve had to get more experience of him in order to work out how he should be written when I do it.”

Wolfie:
“I think he’s become easier to write these days than in his initial debut because his Doctor was, comparatively, quite static. You didn’t get the First Doctor’s deliberate decision to become a champion for good, the Third Doctor’s frustration at exile or the Sixth Doctor’s efforts to overcome the worst of his trauma after Androzani.

Having a reliable character known for their inherent goodness, honesty and upright nature is not bad. On the contrary, that can be rather interesting, but unless you’re planning on subverting that – the Fifth Doctor picks up a gun, turns to his companion and says “[I’m going] to kill Davros.” – you’re somewhat stuck.

Nowadays, you can point very specifically to eras of his characterisation and tweak his motives accordingly. Post-‘Planet of Fire’, he’s trying to shake off a genuine melancholia. Pre-‘Earthshock’, he doesn’t have the all-pervading do-or-die attitude he would have after Adric’s death (and can be quite highly-strung at times). It’s still not as stark as later incarnations, but it’s more prominent than it was ever before.”

Tim Bradley:
“In terms of how he’s introduced in ‘Castrovalva’, I really like how Peter Davison’s Doctor is fragile and weak from his recent regeneration at the story’s beginning before he becomes confident and stronger, thanks to the recuperation he had in ‘Castrovalva’. It almost echoes how the Tenth Doctor turned out in ‘The Christmas Invasion’ when he was weak at first before he became stronger towards the end.”

Timelord007:
“It’s certainly the Doctor’s most traumatic regeneration at this point in the show’s history. He does very little in the first two episodes because of how badly his regeneration has affected him. It’s a while before we get a better insight into his incarnation in ‘Part Three’.”

WilliamsFan92:
“I believe this story introduced the idea that a Time Lord’s regeneration can be unstable. This was built on further in the new series and I guess technically the Sixth Doctor.”

Wolfie:
“I see Barry Letts’ influence again. ‘Planet of the Spiders’ gave us a Third Doctor who actually died before he could regenerate. It was only through the intervention of the hermit that the Doctor was able to regenerate into his fourth incarnation at all. As a consequence, the Fourth Doctor was quite erratic in his first story ‘Robot’ (quite scattered and energetic, like the Sixth).

The Fifth Doctor and ‘Castrovalva’ introduce the idea that even a regeneration isn’t necessarily going to fix everything. I think, in these early episodes of the story, we actually lose a chunk of the Fifth Doctor for a while. His predecessors take over to get him to the Zero Room. Nice little nod to the Second Doctor’s talking about himself in the third person for his first story ‘The Power of the Daleks’.

Come ‘The Twin Dilemma’, the problems of renewal in ‘Castrovalva’ seem to have gotten worse. You know, in hindsight, there’s almost an ongoing story there about the Doctor losing control over their ability to regenerate. The process seems to get more and more erratic as they get older.”

Tim Bradley:
“I think Peter must have had the most fun in playing the Doctor for his debut story, since he’s mostly carried out in the Zero Cabinet by Nyssa and Tegan when they make their journey to the ‘dwellings of simplicity’ itself.”

Timelord007:
“Yup, I’ll just lie here for an episode and a half and take a nap while you pair carry me around a forest.”

WilliamsFan92:
“It must have been hard for Nyssa and Tegan to carry him, even though he said he would levitate to make it easier for them. The difficulty shows when the wheelchair that was used by the Doctor in the TARDIS falls into a nearby river when they move the Zero Cabinet off, and poor Nyssa falls in trying to retrieve it.”

Wolfie:
“Even paradise has its ponds. Nice little moment there where Nyssa tries to fix the thing and her tool is full of water. It’s ever-so-subtle foreshadowing of the JNT era’s approach to gimmicky gadgetry like the sonic screwdriver.”

Tim Bradley:
“I find Peter Davison’s performance in the story really good throughout. It’s intriguing that this was the fourth ‘Doctor Who’ story he did in terms of production order. During the making of ‘Four to Doomsday’, ‘The Visitation’ and ‘Kinda’, he was trying to work out who his Doctor was when settling in. He must’ve had a good idea of what his incarnation ended up becoming when performing the character in ‘Castrovalva’.”

Timelord007:
“I like that Peter’s Doctor is a tad naïve and doesn’t quite know all the answers early on. It grounds the character and allows the audience to think that maybe this Doctor won’t always save the day.”

WilliamsFan92:
“Then the out-of-order production must have helped somehow.”

Wolfie:
“Yeah, I’d say that it gave the actors an opportunity to understand their characters. Get to know the texture of them and how to play them with nuance. I don’t think we really look for it, because it feels so natural, but all the characters have a great rapport already. And for Peter Davison, knowing his Doctor already gave him room to homage his predecessors. In big and little ways.”

Tim Bradley:
“Yes, it was fun to see Peter impersonating William Hartnell, Patrick Troughton and Jon Pertwee when he’s with Adric in those TARDIS scenes in ‘Part One’ of the story.”

Timelord007:
“I love those impressions of previous Doctors. It’s a respectful tip of the hat.”

WilliamsFan92:
“I guess that hints back to the idea that this Doctor can be childlike sometimes, or maybe it was just part of his regeneration state.”

Wolfie:
“There’s a very interesting convention recording from the early 1990s with Jon Pertwee and Colin Baker with Michael Jayston – who plays the Valeyard – acting as master of ceremonies for the event. Jayston believed that the Doctor should be ‘childlike’, but not ‘childish’ and there was a crucial difference between the two. I rather like that, as a distinction. There’s childish–which we typically associate with tantrums – and childlike – which is a lot like, say, that little moment of revelation with the Fifth Doctor when he’s trying to count his companions in the town square.”

Tim Bradley:
“It’s also amusing and gripping when the Doctor remembers Adric’s name, with a little help from Souska John, Caroline John’s niece. He then bursts into his Castrovalvan room where Nyssa and Tegan are and he demands to know where Adric is.”

Timelord007:
(mimics Tegan) “Adric! He’s away telling Richard Todd how to act and not look directly into the camera on the ‘Kinda’ set.”

Tim Bradley:
“Oh come on, Timelord. That’s a little bit unfair.”

Laughter ensues.

WilliamsFan92:
“It was lucky the Doctor managed to remember Adric and know how to escape, otherwise they’d have been done for.”

Wolfie:
“Yeah, I’m kind of curious. What do we think is the Master’s endgame here? A ‘final meeting of the Doctor with his Master’, sure, but what does that actually mean in context? It sounds like revenge to me. Payback for the humiliation of ‘Logopolis’ perhaps.”

Tim Bradley:
“Do you think Peter’s Doctor went a bit over-the-top when he said “Recursive occlusion! Someone’s manipulating Castrovalva! WE’RE CAUGHT IN A SPACE-TIME TRAP!” in time for ‘Part Three’s cliffhanger?”

WilliamsFan92:
“Nope.” (laughs)

Timelord007:
“A little OTT, but it’s a new Doctor, so we’ll put it down to post-regenerative trauma.”

Wolfie:
“Fiona Cumming was apparently rather fond of a baroque performance. I rather like to think that the unsaid line after his outburst is “REALLY? RIGHT NOW?!!!” There’s sensory overstimulation and then there’s whatever’s going on outside in that square.”

Tim Bradley:
“I liked it when Peter’s Doctor worked out the puzzle with Megrave’s help, even challenging him and Ruther, when drawing a map of ‘Castrovalva’ on the back of a mirror.”

Timelord007:
“Those scenes reflect that the Doctor may look youthful in appearance, but he still possesses the intellect of his previous incarnations.”

WilliamsFan92:
“It’s certainly clever of the Doctor to get the Castrovalvians to notice the flaws in its construction as the recursive occlusion closes in.”

Wolfie:
“It’s one of my favourite parts of the story actually. The Doctor’s modus operandi is typically walking in and disassembling tinpot regimes and mad schemes. When ‘Part Four’ kicks off, the Doctor is trying to solve the mystery of Castrovalva, as he would any other troubled society. However, not once, I think, in the course of those challenges, does the Doctor insist that the Castrovalvans themselves aren’t real. Their environment may not be, but the people themselves are treated as quite genuine.”

Tim Bradley:
“I enjoyed the Doctor’s scenes with Shardovan when trying to work out who created Castrovalva and how to outwit the Master unawares when climbing up a wall and breaking into an upstairs window.”

Timelord007:
“I like that Christopher Bidmead focused on the Fifth Doctor’s super quick intelligence in these scenes. It shows that the Doctor’s finally recovering from his regeneration and coming into his own with his new incarnation.”

WilliamsFan92:
“The Doctor certainly did well to figure out that Shardovan wasn’t responsible, despite Shardovan hinting that he was.”

Wolfie:
“There’s a touch of Agatha Christie to the whole idea of Shardovan. I wonder if what caught the Doctor’s attention was that the historian was a bit too perfect as a candidate. There’s a beautiful bit of poetry in the fact that the Castrovalvans engineered to play decoy to the Master was created – by the Master – to be inadvertently the most intelligent and discerning of the lot. Ego strikes again. There’s also a good narrative reason for Shardovan to be the shiftiest of the Castrovalvans. He knows that the visitor and the two strangers with him may have something to do with what’s happening to his people’s history.”

Tim Bradley:
“Before I forget, Peter Davison is known for hating celery, despite having to wear one on his lapel for most of the ‘Doctor Who’ stories he’s in. When Peter’s Doctor says “Definitely civilisation!” and he bites into a celery, you can tell how much he’s ‘enjoying’ the celery when he bites into it and gives a disdainful look on his face, right? It always makes me laugh whenever I see that.” 😀

Timelord007:
“Ugh, the things actors must suffer for their art.”

WilliamsFan92:
“I take it the celery wasn’t Peter’s idea then.”

Tim Bradley:
“No, that was actually John Nathan-Turner’s idea. He wanted something to match Tom Baker’s scarf with Peter Davison’s Doctor and he thought a stick of celery would be a good idea. Personally, I think the cricketing outfit was more than enough to identify with Peter Davison’s Doctor, as the celery idea was rather weak in execution and it doesn’t get addressed much until ‘The Caves of Androzani’. Even then, it’s barely used to help Peri recover from spectrox toxaemia.”

WilliamsFan92:
“The celery never bothered me, even if it isn’t talked about much on-screen.”

Wolfie:
“Honestly, in terms of little quirks to give each Doctor – the walking stick, the scarf, the cat badges, the recorder, the umbrella, the cars – I like the stick of celery a lot. It’s enjoyably understated and I like the subtle gag in ‘Enlightenment’ where he replaces it for another piece of celery from an equally ‘unreal’ table setting.

You know what’s barely been explored in other stories, though? The Doctor’s allergy to praxis gases. Regardless of incarnation, we don’t get much mileage out of that little explanation from ‘Androzani’. We actually get more from his aspirin allergy (a Time Lord thing), which nearly kills him quite a few times.”


Tegan the Coordinator

Tim Bradley:
“I really like how Chris Bidmead defines certain roles for the Fifth Doctor’s companions when he’s in the Zero Room with Nyssa and Tegan. He identifies Tegan as the coordinator, Nyssa as the one with the technical skill and understanding, and Adric as the navigator. In many respects, it sets up what the Fifth Doctor TARDIS team are going to be like for the rest of Season 19. I like that set-up.”

WilliamsFan92:
“I must admit that I never remembered those roles for the rest of Season 19 because they were never really discussed.”

Timelord007:
“This story at least gives Tegan more to do than moan and complain like she did in ‘Logopolis’. We finally start to see the character settle down and begin building a friendship with Nyssa.”

Wolfie:
“The set-up is quite nice. It’s formal without being forced. That said, I don’t think they quite follow through with it for the rest of the season. Here, though, during those first two episodes – Tegan and Nyssa function very much like Ian and Barbara did way back in 1963. They’re our anchor to the Doctor and his world. Ordinary people, swept up in circumstances, not necessarily beyond their understanding, but certainly beyond their familiarity.”

Tim Bradley:
“I like how Tegan is written in ‘Castrovalva’. It goes without saying since Chris Bidmead introduced her in ‘Logopolis’. But I feel she’s calmer, more resourceful and less argumentative compared to how I’ve seen her in the other ‘Doctor Who’ TV stories she’s in.”

Timelord007:
“Yeah, I agree, Tim. I much prefer Tegan as a character in this story. I’m glad she’s less argumentative and her resolve is helping Nyssa.”

WilliamsFan92:
“Just goes to show that Chris Bidmead might have envisioned Tegan to be more than what she was in the rest of her tenure. But I still regard her highly.”

Tim Bradley:
“Some of the scenes Tegan has with Nyssa in the TARDIS are very well-done, especially when they’re getting to know each other and they’re becoming friends whilst helping the Doctor through his post-regeneration trauma. It showcases how different the two girls are in terms of personality, yet they still become best friends all the same.”

Wolfie:
“There’s a lot of discussion about the role of a companion in respect to the audience. The Doctor as the established fan and the companion as the casual viewer, that sort of thing. I think it’s a lot more fluid than that myself, however. You could make the argument that Tegan and Nyssa together make for nice counterparts to the casual television viewer and sci-fi fan, respectively. On the one hand, Tegan’s not au fait with what’s going on, but she’s doing her best to understand. On the other hand, Nyssa is largely aware of how her surroundings work, but she’s stumped on the why. Together, they complement one another quite well.”

Timelord007:
“Tegan is great in this story, but sadly other writers made her unlikable at times in various stories, which is a shame because the character here is much better written and far more likeable.”

WilliamsFan92:
“Those scenes really set up Nyssa and Tegan’s friendship well. I could see their friendship starting right from the moment they first met on ‘Logopolis’.”

Tim Bradley:
“It’s very amusing when Tegan seems confident about piloting the TARDIS herself to Castrovalva and she manages to land the police box ship on the planet, even if it’s not to CAA standard. This must come from Tegan’s eagerness to travel and fly in planes, especially when she used to be on her dad’s farm in Australia.”

WilliamsFan92:
“It was very clever of Tegan when she thought she’d actually fully used her piloting skills to land the TARDIS, even if she is actually a stewardess and not a pilot. It’s just a shame that the Doctor tells her in the final scene that the TARDIS was pre-programmed to land on the planet where ‘Castrovalva’ had been created.”

Timelord007:
“Still, beginner’s luck, I guess.”

Laughter ensues.

Wolfie:
“I like how awkward the whole process was without the Doctor at the helm. It really does feel like it takes effort to pilot the ship. I like that a lot.”

Tim Bradley:
“Considering what the rest of Tegan’s story is going to be in Season 19, do you think she would’ve preferred travelling in the TARDIS rather than wanting to go back to Heathrow Airport? Or if she did want to go back, do you think it would’ve been better if she enjoyed the scenic route rather than get grumpy as she often did in certain stories of the season later on?”

Wolfie:
“It’s tricky to say. As much as it’s not directly addressed on television, Tegan’s aunt was murdered only a few days ago, at most, circa ‘Castrovalva’. I do wonder if part of her desire to return to Heathrow was to give herself room to grieve that loss.

Travelling with the Doctor, there often isn’t that much space to deal with the emotional costs of stepping in and out of a warzone on a weekly, if not daily basis. Her later grumpiness – I read it as bitterness over Vanessa, Adric and quite a number of other people who ended up dying on the Doctor’s travels.

For her final story, ‘Resurrection of the Daleks’, it doesn’t feel strange for her to give her reasons as “A lot of people died today. I think I’m sick of it.” Mind you, what I find most interesting is the Doctor and Turlough bundle themselves into the TARDIS…and Tegan comes back. To see the ship off or reconsider her options, it’s not clear, but I think she did want to be there in the end. Not under those circumstances though.”

WilliamsFan92:
“I feel that Tegan is often criticised for being whiny, bolshy and critical of the Doctor which I find to be very unfair. Was she whiny, yes, but I find her to be nowhere near as whiny as some fans make her out to be. Being a fan of Tegan can be quite frustrating at times, even if she is a popular companion. I know Tim and Timelord won’t see it that way compared to me, but I feel as though Tegan is a better companion than some people give her credit for.”

Timelord007:
“This is a key factor as to why Tegan isn’t my favourite Fifth Doctor companion, as I mentioned each writer changes the character’s moods and behaviour, so we never know if we’re getting a helpful and resourceful character or a moaning and moody “I want to go home” companion.”

Tim Bradley:
“It’s fortunate that Tegan came up with the idea of simply putting in the initials ‘I’ and ‘F’ for ‘Index File’ in the TARDIS’ data bank when looking up information about what the TARDIS’ destination setting is, isn’t it?”

WilliamsFan92:
“Tegan’s cleverness shone once again.”

Timelord007:
“Or it’s just Chris Bidmead wanting to write an easy explanation.”

Laughter ensues.

Wolfie:
“Oh, hey. I think it might be an in-joke for programmers. For many of the computer languages, you use conditionals which consist of conditional statements such as ‘then’, ‘else’ and…’if’. ‘If’ is one of the fundamental building blocks for fabricating code.”

Tim Bradley:
“It’s also a relief that Tegan didn’t have to wear that Air Australia hat for most of the story. And at least she got to take her jacket off when things were heating up in the TARDIS on its approach to Event One.”

Timelord007:
“Yes, she did. You’d think being Australian, she’d be used to the heat.”

WilliamsFan92:
“Just because she might be used to heat due to her being Australian, doesn’t mean she would have worn multiple layers for it.”

Wolfie:
(laughs) “Sorry, I have to laugh. Growing up in Brisbane, you’re absolutely right. I’m used to the heat, but I utterly despise having to walk around in it. It’s often humid. Any chance to dress (safely, because the sun’s a killer here) for summer, you take. I’m now wondering if Event One is a dry heat or a damp heat.”

Tim Bradley:
“Interesting to hear that from an Australian such as your good self, Wolfie.”

Wolfie:
“Thanks, Tim, I appreciate that. Side note: I looked up Air Australia. It does exist and was headquartered in Brisbane, but it was first established in 1991. About ten years later. Historically appropriate alternatives, flying in and from Australia, for 1981/82 would have probably been QANTAS for international flights or Ansett for domestic travel within Australia.” 

Tim Bradley:
“Tegan must have enjoyed that staring contest she had with Shardovan when confronting him, as she and Nyssa took the Doctor’s Zero Cabinet out of his Castrovalvan quarters in ‘Part Four’ of the story.”

Wolfie:
“Her intuition is pretty good here. It’s a conspiracy, as she suspects. The only difference is that the Castrovalvans themselves aren’t in on it.”

Timelord007:
“It’s the battle of the stare-downs! Place your bets!”

WilliamsFan92:
“Tegan’s determination is sometimes really well-thought out.”


Nyssa with the Technical Skill and Understanding

Tim Bradley:
“I always get an amount of joy whenever I see or hear Sarah Sutton as Nyssa in ‘Doctor Who’. But back then, when I first saw ‘Castrovalva’ on DVD in early 2007, I was still getting to know who Nyssa was and I wasn’t the instant fan of her and Sarah that I would become years later. It was when ‘Black Orchid’ came along for me in 2008 that I became an instant fan.”

Timelord007:
“I remember watching ‘Black Orchid’ upon transmission and found it quite spooky, especially as my first viewing was in black-and-white.”

WilliamsFan92:
“Back in 2019 when I was growing up as a ‘Doctor Who’ fan, I longed to watch more of the Fifth Doctor era, including Nyssa. To start, the closest thing I had was fanfiction. After a while, I was finally able to purchase Season 19 on Blu-Ray and watch more of Nyssa. I’m happy that she is now my joint favourite companion.”

Wolfie:
“In terms of introductions, Nyssa was a bit unusual for me, as I was largely aware of most companions on television before I learnt about them on audio. With Nyssa, I think my first major impression of her would have come from stories like ‘The Mutant Phase’ or ‘Primeval’. The Big Finish audio dramas where she and the Doctor operated solo. Her connection with him reminded me a little bit of Susan. There was an almost familial aspect to how he and Nyssa approached their friendship.”

Tim Bradley:
“In my opinion, Nyssa/Sarah is often overlooked as a ‘Doctor Who’ companion compared to Tegan. I really like how the Big Finish audios have expanded her character in various ways compared to how the TV series have depicted her. It’s nice she’s more than just the girl ‘with the technical skill and understanding’ as she’s often remembered for. It’s clear that she has heart and soul and isn’t cold as many may interpret her for.”

Timelord007:
“Nyssa is my favourite Fifth Doctor companion. She’s likeable, selfless, resourceful, and cares about helping others.”

WilliamsFan92:
“I suppose there could be an element of truth in what you’ve said, Tim. I’ve enjoyed Nyssa on TV and audio, the latter of which has greatly expanded her character. She’s definitely a selfless and likeable character in general, even though there are occasions where I’ve felt she’s been portrayed as otherwise such as in ‘Madquake’. But I still think Nyssa is a really good model for a ‘Doctor Who’ companion.”

Wolfie:
“Nyssa marks the first of three companions that the Fifth Doctor would travel with on television who originated from beyond the Earth. She continues the tradition of characters like Romana and K-9, while paving the way for Turlough and Kamelion. Funnily enough though, I don’t tend to think of Nyssa as an ‘alien’ companion. Not immediately. Her Trakenite background is much like the Auron telepath Cally from ‘Blake’s 7’. You have to dig down a little before it becomes readily apparent.”

Tim Bradley:
“I really like how practical Nyssa gets when trying to work out a solution, especially when she’s the calming presence before Tegan during the Doctor’s post-regeneration and the collision with Event One. It’s also nice that Nyssa’s the voice of reason, even in bizarre situations with the Event One crisis and the mystery of Castrovalva being unveiled.”

Timelord007:
“Nyssa is the most rational one of the Fifth Doctor companions. Calm yet encouraging! Sarah’s performances always ground the character with believability.”

Wolfie:
“She’s very grounded in general, yeah. It’s very rare to see Nyssa panic in a dire situation. The only instance I can really think of in this season is ‘The Visitation’ where Tegan and Adric are shot by ‘Death’ in the wine cellar.”

WilliamsFan92:
“I’ve seen a lot of Nyssa being calm in situations regardless of how extreme they are. I am usually surprised by this, but then again I suppose it is in her nature.”

Tim Bradley:
“A thing I’ve noticed about Nyssa is how she changed out of her Trakenite fairy skirt into practical wearing trousers and shoes compared to Tegan who still wore her air hostess uniform and high heels. Oh and Nyssa lost her cardigan and tiara along the way.”

Timelord007:
“Bit daft that Tegan still wears her heels when she has to carry the Doctor’s casket. Nyssa shows practicality in changing her attire.”

Wolfie:
“The heels thing really bugs me. It shows up in all sorts of places, and not just ‘Doctor Who’. I actually had a little cheer when a guest character in ‘The Man from U.N.C.L.E.’ was allowed to stop and take off her impractical shoes so she could run more effectively. I’ve a tendency to write people in boots and sneakers as a result. It’s got to be hell on their calf muscles after a while. No reason you can’t face off against the latest grotesque in comfortable shoes.”

WilliamsFan92:
“I must admit to finding it a bit weird that Nyssa didn’t notice that she lost her tiara. Or maybe she did and just didn’t care. But regardless, I like Nyssa’s costume for the rest of Season 19.”

Wolfie:
“Oh, I see what you mean. Her little hair comb gets caught on a tree and left there. Tegan doesn’t even comment on it when it flips back in her face. I suppose that fits with Nyssa though. It’s just a thing.”

Tim Bradley:
“Also Nyssa fell into a river and pulled a funny face. I know I should feel sorry for Sarah/Nyssa in that moment, but I couldn’t help laugh at that.” 😀

Timelord007:
“Maybe her expression was unintentional, but her reaction was hilarious.”

WilliamsFan92:
“Never mind getting wet and dirty, there could be something dangerous lurking in it. At least that’s what Janet Fielding said because she requested the removal of a scene where Tegan lies on her stomach and has a drink from the river whilst Nyssa repairs the Doctor’s wheelchair. Janet said she wanted it removed because she was the daughter of a marine biologist and therefore knew what could be in that river. Was Janet’s dad a marine biologist or is my memory a bit off?”

Tim Bradley:
“I think he was a parasitologist according to a webpage I read. Not sure if the two are the same thing. You’d have to check on the ‘Time Trap’ making-of documentary in the Season 19 Blu-ray box set to be sure.”

WilliamsFan92:
“Thank you once again, Tim.”

Wolfie:
“Cheers, Tim. It also suits the pragmatism of a lot of companions from those early years as well. Cycle back, once again, to the 1960s and a casual swig from a pool would’ve gained you hands and a throat scalded by acid (in the cases of Marinus and Vortis). It’s part of the efficiency of storytelling, but I’m a bit surprised, at times, that we don’t see the Doctor use a litmus test on their surroundings to suss out the deadly from the harmless. Then again, I suppose what works for one planet is dramatically different from another.”

Tim Bradley:
“When Nyssa says “I know so little about telebiogenesis”, I’m like “You and me both, Nyssa.” I’m sure Sarah felt the same when she said that line of dialogue in the story.” 😀

Timelord007:
“Who writes daft lines like “I know so little about telebiogenesis”? Oh, that’s right! Christopher H. Bidmead.”

WilliamsFan92:
“One occasion where Nyssa is reflective of Sarah. I’m not saying that to insult her of course, but she does have a habit of insulting her own intelligence I’ve noticed.”

Wolfie:
“She’s very humble. The word ‘telebiogenesis’ is a bit of an odd compound noun. ‘Tele-‘ to transmit, although, in science fiction it’s far more to do with the mind. ‘Bio-‘ – involving organic biology. ‘Genesis’ – to create. In context, resting in the ‘dwellings of simplicity’ in Castrovalva, I think Nyssa believes that the Doctor is pulling himself back together on a biological level through sheer mental willpower. Interestingly, although she’s not familiar with the concept, she does seem to have heard about it.”

Tim Bradley:
“It’s interesting that Nyssa is the one who sees Adric in the mirror when she, Tegan and the Doctor are in ‘Castrovalva’. I wonder if there’s more of an emotional connection between Nyssa and Adric by this point, considering they teamed up with each other in ‘The Keeper of Traken’ and they’re more or less the same age as each other. The latent telepathic abilities that Nyssa would later demonstrate in ‘Time-Flight’ might have something to do with it too.”

Timelord007:
“I always thought there was more to Nyssa and her telepathic abilities, which were never fully expanded upon in the TV series.”

WilliamsFan92:
“The relationship between Nyssa and Adric works because of the fact that they are both the same age. I liked the chemistry they shared in ‘The Visitation’ as well as ‘The Dark River’. I felt it was a bit strained in ‘Four to Doomsday’ though.”

Wolfie:
“To be fair to the characters, I don’t think anyone was getting along particularly well in ‘Four to Doomsday’. It’s a small scene, but it helps set up Nyssa as a confidante to Adric in ‘The Visitation’ and ‘Earthshock’. He seems the most settled in her presence, which I put down to their personalities meshing, but also Nyssa seems to have a calming effect on those around her. It seems to be part of her nature. It almost makes you wonder what she would have been like with other more bombastic incarnations long-term, like the Fourth Doctor.”

Tim Bradley:
“I like it when Nyssa’s very apologetic in that moment when the Doctor demands to know where Adric is and she was told not to tell. It goes to show how kind-hearted Nyssa is and it’s Sarah’s performance shining through. I like those moments, especially when they seem to be so rare in ‘Doctor Who’.”

WilliamsFan92:
“The Doctor was very understanding then because he knew it wasn’t her fault. This is something that I feel the Fifth Doctor doesn’t do sometimes.”

Wolfie:
“He gets better at it with time, I think. If we follow the general idea that each companion has a formative effect on their Doctor, I think that’s in no small part down to Nyssa’s influence. He becomes a much more mediating presence over time and takes over that role, in certain respects, with later incarnations like Peri and Erimem. In fact, it’s interesting to see some of the dynamics where he doesn’t have a buffer or is able to act as one, such as with Turlough. He becomes noticeably sharper with his tongue around others (and not just his companions).”

Timelord007:
“Nyssa’s a great character who definitely wasn’t done justice on TV. Thankfully Big Finish have since remedied this and wrote some excellent stories for her character. Like ‘Winter For The Adept’! Hey, Tim?” (laughs)

Tim Bradley:
(grits teeth) “I told you not to remind me of that audio drama. You know my issues with that particular audio story!”

Timelord007:
(laughs; teases) “I thought it was one of your favourites, Tim.”

WilliamsFan92:
“I know that Nyssa acts out of character in that story. But were the other parts of the story good or not so much and that’s why you didn’t like it?”

Tim Bradley:
“I think ‘Winter For The Adept’ could’ve been a decent ‘Doctor Who’ story with the interesting ideas it had if Nyssa was written in character. I feel she wasn’t written in character when Andrew Cartmel wrote for her in that story. Sarah felt the same way when she was interviewed for the ‘Wine & Dine’ interview series, stating ‘they (Big Finish) got all this wrong’ and that she sounds more like Tegan than Nyssa.”

WilliamsFan92:
“I also remember you saying that Nyssa acts a bit snobbishly in ‘Hexagora’.”

Tim Bradley:
“That’s strictly not true. What I said in my ‘Hexagora’ review was that Sarah said Nyssa is a snob in character terms, but I disagreed with that. I even wrote an article asking the question of whether Nyssa is a snob or not and I believed she wasn’t. I’ve also shared with Sarah Sutton that I didn’t think Nyssa was a snob when I saw her at the ‘Timey Wimey 1’ convention in Brighton back in November 2014.”

WilliamsFan92:
“Really! I’m shocked she thought Nyssa was a snob in that story.”

Tim Bradley:
“Incidentally, I quite like ‘Hexagora’ and I think Sarah Sutton/Nyssa is good in that.”

Wolfie:
“This may come as a shock to you, Tim old chap, but I actually really like ‘Winter for the Adept’.” (grins wickedly)

Tim Bradley:
(smirks) “That’s fine, Wolfie. I won’t hold that against you. I’m pleased you enjoyed that story.”

Wolfie:
“Thanks. We all have our favourites. I think it’s a terrific story from Andrew Cartmel that’s boosted by some truly fabulous atmosphere. We get a guest appearance from Londo Mollari of ‘Babylon 5’, India Fisher makes her debut and the music is part of that exquisite suite from Russell Stone. All that said, I agree with you about Nyssa. She sounds a lot more like Benny from the ‘Virgin New Adventures’ books of ‘Doctor Who’, who is far more done with the Doctor’s shenanigans after a certain point than Nyssa is. Although I love the discussion about the pews where the Doctor tells her their name and she doesn’t believe him.”

Tim Bradley:
“Honestly, I think I would’ve liked ‘Winter For The Adept’ if it wasn’t for the out-of-character writing of Nyssa, as the rest of the story does seem like it could be pretty enjoyable.”

Wolfie:
“Yeah, I talked about litmus tests earlier. ‘Winter For the Adept’ does a good job for determining some of Nyssa’s fundamental traits as a character. She’s typically stoic, even-tempered until more than sufficiently provoked, and fairly egalitarian with her opinions. She’s content to let other people have their views unless they’re inherently damaging to the situation. ‘Primeval’ is a great example of where she loses her temper and becomes noticeably confrontational, but in a very Nyssa way. It’s the hypocrisy of her own ancestors that gets her riled. Consequently, she feels she has licence to interfere directly.”

Tim Bradley:
“Going back to ‘Castrovalva’, I also like that moment of defiance Nyssa has when the Master demands her to open the Doctor’s Zero Cabinet in the Portreeve’s quarters. It’s one of the rare occasions where Nyssa and the Master get to interact with each other, considering he murdered her father. I felt for Nyssa when she was shoved aside by the Master. Also, I believe Sarah had an itchy nose that day, according to the DVD info-text commentary.” 😀

Timelord007:
“It’s a good scene, but I always felt they never utilised the Nyssa/Master connection to its full potential. I’d liked a story where the Master tricked Nyssa into thinking Tremas was a part of him and Nyssa foolishly helped him. I think it would’ve made an excellent emotional adventure in dealing with losing a parent and the lengths we’d all go to bring them back.”

Tim Bradley:
“Actually, to be fair, it was sort-of handled in a manner like that in the ‘Killing Time’ episode Nyssa was in, even though that Master was played by Sir Derek Jacobi, not Anthony Ainley.”

Timelord007:
“Yeah, but we shouldn’t have had to wait 40 years for that. Although, that was a great episode featuring the War Master and Nyssa. And brilliantly acted between Sir Derek Jacobi and Sarah Sutton.”

WilliamsFan92:
“I’m not sure if Nyssa’s naivety is a good thing or a bad thing. In stories like ‘Logopolis’ and ‘Feast of Fear’, she was at least being possessed.”

Wolfie:
“Well, here’s an interesting question for everyone. Something to ponder. Is it solely naivety (i.e. a lack of worldly experience) on Nyssa’s part or is there more to it than that?

We hear the Sixth Doctor discuss with his companion, Peri about the idea of goodness and evil as tangible forces in ‘The Guardians of Prophecy’. An extension of the Keeper’s demonstration to the Fourth Doctor and Adric in ‘The Keeper of Traken’. These two forces being a manifestation of psi-powers like telepathy and so on. The Melkur were rendered harmless by the atmosphere of ‘goodness’ in the Traken Union and turned into harmless statues.

Raising a child in an environment like that, is Nyssa’s apparent naivety simply the product of a background where good thoughts and intentions really did banish away evil (at least, mythologically speaking)? If so, is her outlook her way of holding onto what little of home is left?”

Tim Bradley:
“Very intriguing questions to ponder on, Wolfie.”


Adric the Navigator

Tim Bradley:
“Poor Adric. He doesn’t have a good time in this story compared to the previous two stories he was in. What with being hauled up to the Master’s hydron web; creating traps for the Doctor, including Castrovalva; and forced to do the Master’s bidding. I’m surprised he didn’t end up becoming the next Spider-Man with being hauled up to that hydron web.” 😀

Timelord007:
“Adric: he can’t seem to catch a break. Captured, webbed and forced to set traps against his will. Poor chap.”

WilliamsFan92:
“The Master really tortured him throughout. Especially when Adric witnessed what at first seemed to be the death of his companions during Event One.”

Wolfie:
“It’s an extremely painful looking apparatus. Matthew Waterhouse does a rather good job of making the whole experience look horribly unpleasant. I do wonder if this set-up – being used against his will to harm his fellow travellers – later contributes to his feeling like an outsider by the time of ‘Earthshock’.”

Tim Bradley:
“It’s funny. For a while I thought Adric was in the TARDIS when Nyssa and Tegan brought him in after the Master’s TARDIS dematerialised following the attack on the Pharos Project guards on Earth. I didn’t realise that Adric was a projection…a hologram if you will…or is it Block Transfer Computation we’re talking here?…when he was inside the TARDIS with Nyssa and Tegan and following the Doctor around in the TARDIS corridors. Incredible that the Master managed to hook up Adric quickly to that hydron web before his TARDIS dematerialised in order for his plans to be set in motion.”

Timelord007:
“A hologram made of Block Transfer Computation. This is where my head starts to hurt, as the techno-twaddle kicks in.”

Wolfie:
“Now, I know that we’re supposed to interpret these scenes between the Master and Adric to be aboard the Master’s TARDIS, but – here’s a radical thought – what if they’re not? What if they’re actually on the planet where Castrovalva will be formed and the Master is engineering the Doctor’s death from afar? I rather like the idea that the Master was creating Castrovalva anyway, his own private kingdom, and only turned it against his old adversary when the Doctor, Nyssa and Tegan survived Event One.”

WilliamsFan92:
“To be honest, I always thought they were on the planet where Castrovalva was created rather than the Master’s TARDIS. I suppose they might have been there if the Master managed to get a scanner screen.”

Tim Bradley:
“We don’t even know if the city and the planet are both called Castrovalva like Tegan seemed to suggest in the story. The planet could’ve had a different name compared to Castrovalva city.”

WilliamsFan92:
“I’m pretty sure it was confirmed somewhere or somehow that the planet isn’t called Castrovalva.”

Tim Bradley:
“Compared to Nyssa and Tegan, Adric doesn’t spend a lot of time with Peter Davison’s Doctor compared to when he spent time with Tom Baker’s Doctor in ‘The Keeper of Traken’ and ‘Logopolis’. I do wonder if the strain between Adric and the Doctor in their relationship started here or directly after ‘Castrovalva’ before we move into ‘Psychodrome’, ‘Cold Fusion’ and the rest of Season 19. There has to be a starting point somewhere and I think this might be where it all started for Adric.”

Timelord007:
“To be fair, the Doctor doesn’t spend much time with any of the companions that much. He’s in a casket for an episode and a half and then not fully firing on all cylinders until the last 10 minutes.”

WilliamsFan92:
“Their strained relationship may have been more down to the fact that the Doctor had regenerated since Adric had grown quite fond of the Fourth Doctor.”

Wolfie:
“This points to a problem that will later become a bit more apparent as Season 19 progresses. At least, on television. ‘Castrovalva’ sets the stage for how the three companions are used and it’s not unusual this season for someone to be waylaid for storytelling purposes. For ‘Castrovalva’, it’ll be Adric’s turn to take a reduced role and ‘Four to Doomsday’ will trap Tegan in the TARDIS for an extended period. However, very commonly, it will end up being Nyssa. ‘The Visitation’ and ‘Earthshock’ relegate her similarly aboard the TARDIS and ‘Kinda’ removes her entirely, sleeping off the worst of her sickness from the end of ‘Four to Doomsday’ in the delta-wave augmenter.”

Tim Bradley:
“And of course, let’s not forget that Matthew Waterhouse wasn’t feeling very well after he drank Campari the previous night when they shot the location scenes featuring Adric the following day. I feel sorry for Matthew that he felt sick that day, but perhaps he should’ve known to hold his liquor, especially when working on ‘Doctor Who’ for a location shoot.”

Timelord007:
“Ah, the glorious misadventures of youth. We’ve all been there. I ended up in a farmer’s field once in the middle of the night. Pitch black to hearing the terrifying bellows of what I thought was a bull. Let’s just say I ran faster than Usain Bolt that night. I ran faster than a locomotive.”

WilliamsFan92:
“Blame Janet Fielding for it. At least that’s what Peter or Matthew said.”

Laughter ensues.

Wolfie:
“There is such a thing as recreational drinking in Australia. I’m not a fan, personally, but it is (or was?) part of the culture. I’ve done a Google search, and Campari’s regarded as a pretty posh drink, actually. A liqueur ‘obtained from the infusion of herbs and fruit’. Including small orange-like fruits and a Caribbean shrub that flowers.

For those of you at home, should you find yourself (or selves) in this condition: a solid hangover remedy involves rehydration and a solid meal with lots of zinc. Scrambled eggs and bacon are ideal. I say meal as, depending on how much is imbibed, the next morning may pass you by like an express train.”

Tim Bradley:
“Thanks for the remedy, Wolfie.

I found it funny when Peter Davison, Janet Fielding, Chris Bidmead and Fiona Cumming were laughing and making fun of Matthew/Adric being sick and he had to climb up the TARDIS to get inside. Peter was going “Oh look at him, look at him, look at him” and Chris remarked how it adds a new dimension to the story.” 😀

WilliamsFan92:
“Again, I do find it weird that he was allowed to act in that condition. Am I the only one or do any of you guys see what I’m getting at?”

Wolfie:
“A job’s a job, I expect. There’s so much going on with these sorts of productions, I’ve a feeling it got waved off with a bit of bravado. Mind you, it adds another layer to the Doctor’s “Well done, Adric!”, after they jog to their marks in that final scene. All that jostling… Eugh, it can’t have been good for the nausea.”

Timelord007:
“The message is simple. Don’t get drunk the night before climbing into a TARDIS.”

Laughter ensues.

Tim Bradley:
“There are times where I think ‘the Matthew getting drunk story’ might have been exaggerated over the years in the telling. Much like how ‘the Matthew/Richard Todd story’ has been exaggerated over the years in the telling. Matthew himself has confirmed it happened in interviews and especially on a 1986 ‘Doctor Who’ panel in one of the ‘Myth Makers’ features featuring Peter Davison’s TARDIS team. But people like Peter and Janet might have gone overboard with it when sharing it.” 😀

WilliamsFan92:
“I probably am overthinking it then, especially since apparently the other cast members had a bit of a hangover as well. Then again and going back to ‘Red Dwarf’, Craig Charles said that he would sometimes attend episode recordings with a hangover.”

Timelord007:
“The teasing can be a little too much at times. It can come across as belittling Matthew. We’ve all done silly things. Nobody’s perfect. But a joke can sometimes be taken so far that it ceases to be funny.”

Wolfie:
“It’d be interesting to track down his autobiography and hear some of the stories from his angle.”

Tim Bradley:
“I’m sure it’s mentioned in Matthew Waterhouse’s ‘Blue Box Boy’ memoirs somewhere.

At least it does explain why Adric looked poorly at the end of ‘Castrovalva’. Not just with being tortured after being hung up in the hydron web by the Master.” 😀

Timelord007:
“I bet Matthew learnt his lesson and didn’t get drunk again when he did ‘Doctor Who’ location filming again.”

WilliamsFan92:
“It was clever of him to replicate how he felt on the location shoot when in studio, assuming he didn’t drink too much the night before then as well.”

Wolfie:
“How much was a bottle of Campari in the early 1980s, I wonder?”

Tim Bradley:
“Just on a side note, if Adric never died or got blown up in ‘Earthshock’, do you think he might have grown up and ended up in a lot of bars on various space stations and planets in the future had he left the Doctor for some reason? I think it’d be very funny to imagine that.”

Timelord007:
“No, I actually like to think he’d left with Nyssa, as I found their characters shared a Greek tragedy with losing their families. Their intellect complimented each other with Adric’s mathematical skills and with Nyssa’s scientific skills.”

Wolfie:
“You know, I can actually see Adric at a wine tasting. That’s not an altogether bizarre image for me. Sampling the bouquet of vintages at a zero-gravity vineyard on Proxima-12. I wouldn’t have been surprised if Adric, had he lived, would have ended up working as someone’s accountant or been a key member of a cutting-edge research project.

In an alternate timeline, I can see two possibilities. Potentially three. He leaves with Nyssa in ‘Terminus’ to help together with the plight of the Lazars. Alternatively, having missed his opportunity and regretting it, he decides to remain on Frontios and follow Nyssa’s example. Help a society heal itself and rebuild. As a third possibility, Adric seems like one of those few companions whose natural trajectory flows towards Gallifrey. Maybe he replaces Damon in an alternative version of ‘Arc of Infinity’?”

WilliamsFan92:
“Ahem! May I remind you about ‘The Boy That Time Forgot’?”

Tim Bradley:
“Oh yeah. Thanks for reminding us, WF92. That’s one of the Fifth Doctor and Nyssa audios between ‘Time-Flight’ and ‘Arc of Infinity’, and it’s the second of the first ‘Thomas Brewster’ trilogy.”  (to WF92) “Have you heard that one yet by the way, WF92?”

WilliamsFan92:
“Not yet.”

Timelord007:
“What’s that about ‘The Boy That Time Forgot’? It’s a parallel universe or ‘Unbound’ story. It never happened!”

Tim Bradley:
“I actually quite like ‘The Boy That Time Forgot’. I know fans hate it (something that came as a surprise to me), but I have a soft spot for it.”

Wolfie:
“I didn’t mind it too much, although I can’t really remember a lot about it. The first ‘Brewster’ trilogy is an early example of trying to broaden the Fifth Doctor’s tenure in the same manner as was done with Erimem post-‘Planet of Fire’.

Brewster, Hannah, an older Adric… There’s something about the gap between ‘Time-Flight’ and ‘Arc of Infinity’ specifically, that really pushes against new companions for extended periods. Maybe it’s the proximity to ‘Earthshock’? There’s a period after ‘The Trial of a Time Lord’ where the Sixth Doctor just cannot have nice things? Maybe it’s similar.

Regardless, Matthew Waterhouse does a solid job of trying to give Adric as much substance as is possible in ‘Castrovalva’. The character may exist as a straightforward plot device here. A cog in the machine. But the danger isn’t dulled by his presence.”


The Master

Tim Bradley:
“Once again, Anthony Ainley continues to impress us with his performance as the Master in this ‘Doctor Who’ adventure, following on from ‘The Keeper of Traken’ and ‘Logopolis’. This was like the fourth time I’d seen him in ‘Doctor Who’ when watching the DVDs in 2007.”

Wolfie:
“In his second full-length appearance of what will turn out to be an 8-year tenure in the classic series.”

Timelord007:
“He was the Master I grew up with, so Anthony Ainley’s performances in the role fill me with happy nostalgic memories.”

WilliamsFan92:
“I like his Master just as much as the incarnation played by Roger Delgado. It’s no surprise that they got Anthony back to appear as the Master for the rest of the classic series, including the last ever one.”

Tim Bradley:
“I’m not sure if I’ve mentioned this before, but I’ve heard arguments that Anthony Ainley’s Master became rather pantomime as his appearances in ‘Doctor Who’ progressed. I don’t find that a problem, as Anthony Ainley is always enjoyable as the Master, whether it ends up being pantomime or not. This story demonstrates the Master’s cruelness, especially when he’s torturing Adric in his TARDIS and trapping the Doctor in both Event One and Castrovalva.”

Timelord007:
“Is it pantomime or poor writing and/or direction? An actor interprets what’s on the page or takes direction on how to pitch the role and that’s what I think happened to Ainley’s Master. It’s different writers and directors with their own ideas of the character.”

Wolfie:
“Contrast this performance with Ainley’s in ‘The King’s Demons’, where the Doctor and the Master are duelling over Kamelion in the king’s chambers, he’s actually quite visceral. The motivation of this particular Master is a key factor in his portrayal. If we go back to Roger Delgado’s incarnation, his schemes were very much in spite of the Doctor rather than because of him. Peter Pratt’s Master factored in the Doctor as part of his schemes, but his focus was still very much on broader things. The same is true of Geoffrey Beevers’ interpretation on Traken with the Source.

Once we reach ‘Castrovalva’, Ainley’s Master seems to revolve very much around the Doctor and remain largely true for the remainder of his tenure. As was mentioned in our ‘Logopolis’ discussion, this is very much a version of the Master who revels in his destruction. He’s positively gleeful with his plans and takes great pleasure in outwitting the Doctor, as much as trying to kill him. ‘Castrovalva’ is the first definitive step in that direction.”

WilliamsFan92:
“Ainley definitely played the Master perfectly. Looking back on it, he was a bit more despicable than other incarnations, even though they deliberately caused death as well. I don’t believe any other incarnation has gone so far as to nearly destroy the whole universe.”

Tim Bradley:
“Considering that this story is right after ‘Logopolis’, the Master must have been pretty quick-thinking to come up with these plans involving diverting the Doctor’s TARDIS towards Event One and creating the world of Castrovalva with Adric’s unwilling help. Then again, he is a Time Lord after all and he’s the Doctor’s equal in terms of being his opponent in the series.”

Timelord007:
“The Master is a cunning genius, so I suspect he always had a Plan B in mind.”

Wolfie:
“Just like the Doctor with the Zero Room, really. I suppose the Master is a peer of his, in the traditional sense of the word. One of the Doctor’s own.

So much so that we’ve now had a twin regeneration story back-to-back. ‘Logopolis’ and ‘Castrovalva’ for the Doctor. ‘The Keeper of Traken’ and ‘Logopolis’ for the Master. It’s not entirely clear how the Master absorbed Tremas’ body, but the effect is not too dissimilar to the Doctor’s own Watcher. The lines between the two Time Lords blur quite a bit here.”

WilliamsFan92:
“He was very clever in outwitting the Pharos Project guards after climbing down from the radio telescope to get to his TARDIS. I was quite shocked when he stunned the guards and possibly killed them, though there’s no proof that they died.”

Tim Bradley:
“For the most part, we see the Master in his TARDIS with Adric in ‘Parts One, Two and Three’ of the story. It’s only until ‘Part Four’ that he makes his presence known in Castrovalva and he ‘unmasks’ himself (so to speak) to everyone.”

Timelord007:
“What’s a Master story without an unmasking reveal? Pity they sidelined this idea in later stories.”

Wolfie:
“It works well here in ‘Castrovalva’, but it feels forced in some of the later stories. ‘Time-Flight’ being the most egregious, I think (although that scarecrow in ‘The Mark of the Rani’ is certainly up there). I prefer it when it comes up organically, a la Delgado’s various disguises.”

WilliamsFan92:
“I feel that some of his reveals post-‘Castrovalva’ worked well, even when he wasn’t in disguise to start off with.”

Tim Bradley:
“Talking about what Timelord mentioned and perhaps spoiling the plot a little bit, the Portreeve is arguably the best disguise the Anthony Ainley Master has had in ‘Doctor Who’. I was completely surprised by it when I watched ‘Castrovalva’ for the first time on DVD. It’s a contrast to Sir Gilles Estram in ‘The King’s Demons’, which was noticeably him and possibly the reason why people argue Ainley’s Master became pantomime later on in the series.”

Timelord007:
“Yep, I was fooled by his disguise in ‘Castrovalva’. When I re-watched the VHS copy that I owned in the 1990s, I didn’t remember that part or become suspicious about the Portreeve being the Master in disguise.”

WilliamsFan92:
“I didn’t notice it the first time I watched the story. On my second viewing, I definitely grasped it.”

Wolfie:
“It’s honestly a terrific moment. Anticipated or not. The Doctor, allegedly at his weakest in the Zero Cabinet, discovers that the benefactor of this small town is, in reality, one of his oldest and cruellest of enemies. It also makes perfect logical sense for him to shuck the Portreeve’s guise at this moment. He wants to build up that sense of helplessness in the Doctor before he kills him.”

Tim Bradley:
“The Master was always going to be the villain in the Fifth Doctor’s opening story of ‘Doctor Who’, even when ‘Project: Zeta-Sigma’ was commissioned. It’s interesting that Anthony Ainley’s Master is one of the Fifth Doctor’s recurring villains in his era compared to appearing in the Sixth and Seventh Doctor eras and a contrast to Roger Delgado’s Master in the Third Doctor era.”

WilliamsFan92:
“The Ainley Master never appeared during Season 19B or any Big Finish audios, even prior to Ainley’s death. I suppose this could have been down to Ainley declining to do them or that the Big Finish team couldn’t find a story that would incorporate him. The Ainley Master will appear a few times when I write my series of stories featuring the Fifth Doctor.”

Timelord007:
“I always enjoyed the Master’s appearances. As a child, I knew when he appeared in a story, it was going to spell big trouble for the Doctor.”

Wolfie:
“He’s an interesting choice of villain to cut one’s teeth on, as it were. Before the Daleks, Cybermen, Omega, Sontarans or anything else, the JNT era chose the Master as its first returning adversary. Someone familiar to shepherd through the transition from Tom Baker to Peter Davison in much the same way as the Daleks from William Hartnell to Patrick Troughton.”

Tim Bradley:
“It’s interesting that the third story of the ‘New Beginnings’ trilogy featuring ‘the return of the Master’ is the opening story of a season, as usually that would be reserved for the finale slot of a season. I think the progression of the Doctor and his companions coming up against the Master in those three stories has worked out well in the narrative sense, hasn’t it?”

Timelord007:
“From the chillingly scary emaciated Master to the charming, cruel vileness of the new body Master, the transition worked brilliantly and is a highlight of the series.”

WilliamsFan92:
“It worked better than other cases such as ‘The Twin Dilemma’ put at the end of Season 21.”

Wolfie:
“Well, Season 21, if you’re looking at it thematically, ends with ‘The Caves of Androzani’. After beginning the season with a massacre, the Fifth Doctor finally gets to beat the odds and save someone from an otherwise sure death. Saving Peri is his own personal redemption for Adric’s death, Tegan’s revulsion and the many other losses he couldn’t prevent. ‘The Twin Dilemma’ sits rather awkwardly as the start of another arc we’d not get to see continue for another season.

In contrast, the ‘New Beginnings’ trilogy works, I think, because Season 18 has set us up for this structure already. We’ve had the three stories of ‘The E-Space Trilogy’ to prime us as an audience. The first story surprises (‘Full Circle’/‘The Keeper of Traken’), the second story develops (‘State of Decay’/‘Logopolis’) and the third story concludes (‘Warriors’ Gate’/‘Castrovalva’). If the Sixth Doctor continued in the same vein, we might have gotten (excluding one Fifth Doctor story) a season perhaps ending with a trilogy of ‘The Caves of Androzani’, ‘The Twin Dilemma’ and ‘Attack of the Cybermen’. With ‘Vengeance on Varos’ kicking off Season 22.”

Tim Bradley:
“The story ends with the Master getting crushed by the Castrovalvans piling on him.” (teases) And I’m sure we’ll never ever see him again, right?” 😀

WilliamsFan92:
“Oh, I wish.” (laughs maniacally)

Wolfie:
“He’s deaded, ‘e is. Riven beyond repair. Compacted beyond convenience. Dead as a bag of hammers. As a box of frogs. As a… A… Oh, there he is.”

Timelord007:
“The Master joined the World Championship Wrestling on Castrovalva. He’ll be okay.”


The Castrovalvans

Tim Bradley:
“Now let’s talk a bit about the Castrovalvans themselves, particularly the three main talking Castrovalvans, including Frank Wylie as Ruther, Derek Waring as Shardovan and Michael Sheard as Mergrave.”

Timelord007:
“Michael Sheard again?! Blimey! Is that six appearances in classic ‘Doctor Who’ and one Big Finish audio drama?”

Tim Bradley:
“Yep, that’s him. And even though the characters these three actors play aren’t real people and they were merely creations in the Master’s trap for the Doctor, I thought they were well-written and well-performed by the actors to make me think they were real people for a bit. I didn’t think for a moment they weren’t real when I saw this story for the first time on DVD.”

Wolfie:
“Yes, they’ve a great deal more reality to them than the Master gave them credit for. When the Doctor decides to leave Castrovalva, Mergrave seems genuinely dismayed. Not for any reason malevolent, but simply because he’d prefer their visitor remain until he was fully recovered. He has a genuine sense of compassion to him, which lends this benign nature to Castrovalva itself. It actually feels more peaceful than the purported paradise of Traken. There are no guards in Castrovalva. No signs of police, military or anything warlike outside of the historical garb donned when they leave the city.”

WilliamsFan92:
“It is sad that they weren’t real people, and even sadder when they perished at the end, especially considering that the population consists of at least one child. The main three are very well-written, although the washer women were rather silly.”

Tim Bradley:
“Essentially, Ruther is like a ‘bank clerk’ of a character, Mergrave is the physician and Shardovan is the librarian. It’s interesting how these characters are set up and unaware of the recursive occlusion that’s going on in Castrovalva whilst the Doctor, Nyssa and Tegan are pretty aware of it. Also interesting is how Shardovan is set up as a potential bad guy, considering he’s a shifty character at first and is often ‘shadowy’ if you pardon the word. It’s one of those occasions where Chris Bidmead’s writing works quite well.”

WilliamsFan92:
“Shardovan certainly made it seem like he was the one pulling all the strings, before making a noble sacrifice in rebellion against his creator. Ruther and Mergrave were also clearly smart enough when the Doctor showed them the flaws in Castrovalva.”

Wolfie:
“Shardovan’s malevolence, oddly enough, seems to stem from his agency. He has a will and a drive that seems to step outside of ordinary Castrovalvan society. The story doesn’t paint him necessarily as an outcast, but he’s definitely an outlier. He doesn’t participate in the hunt, he takes a personal interest in the strangers, and deliberately tries to alter their course when they attempt to leave.

We think, from the TARDIS team’s perspective, because he might have something to do with what’s happening to Castrovalva. In reality, he believes exactly the same way. That they have something to do with what’s wrong. So, ironically, Shardovan has much more in common with the visitors than he does with his own people. He, like them, can see the gaps in the structure.”

Timelord007:
“The Master’s creations in Castrovalva are a clever idea. And I was completely fooled by the clever twist that these were never real people.”

Tim Bradley:
“Also interesting is how we’re introduced to Ruther and Mergrave when they and other Castrovalvans are hunting in the wilds of the forest. It’s a contrast when they seem civilised and friendly compared to being slightly aggressive. I wonder if omitting the hunting aspect of the Castrovalvans would’ve made a difference, despite being used as a plot point in the story.”

Wolfie:
“I think removing it would’ve tipped the writer’s hand a bit too early. The Castrovalvans can’t be too perfect, otherwise the audience would twig that something was up. It also gives them a rational reason for being out in the forest to begin with. The hunting parties remind me a little of historical reenactment societies. Getting dressed up to step back in time.”

Timelord007:
“I like it. Showing the hunting adds a more primitive nature. Despite their calming personalities, they still have a bloodlust.”

WilliamsFan92:
“It was rather tense when the Doctor was brought into Castrovalva and it was then ordered for a fire to be lit. Interestingly enough, apart from Ruther, Mergrave, Shardovan and the Portreeve, I don’t believe we saw any other men in Castrovalva.”

Tim Bradley:
“Yeah, that’s true. You’d think the Master would’ve thought through the Castrovalvan population thoroughly by adding equal amounts of men, women and children in it.

I can’t say much about Frank Wylie and Derek Waring as actors, but Michael Sheard has had his fair share of credits in ‘Doctor Who’. As well as ‘Castrovalva’, he’s been in ‘The Ark’, ‘The Mind of Evil’, ‘Pyramids of Mars’, ‘The Invisible Enemy’ and ‘Remembrance of the Daleks’. And he’s been in the Big Finish audio ‘The Stones of Venice’ with Paul McGann.”

Timelord007:
“I think the three actors played their parts well for what the script demanded of them.”

WilliamsFan92:
“Michael Sheard of course had more experience with sci-fi when he played Admiral Ozzel in ‘The Empire Strikes Back’.”

Wolfie:
“Looking at many of those roles, Michael Sheard has a habit of playing doomed characters and I can’t help but think of his work as Lawrence Scarman from ‘Pyramids of Mars’. It’s probably one of ‘Doctor Who’s most visceral tragedies. The fate of the Scarman brothers.

We get the archetypal scene of one character trying to convince another to turn away, to return from their possession and reclaim their individuality. “You are Marcus Scarman, Professor of Archaeology, Fellow of All Souls, Member of the Royal Society…” And the Doctor and Sarah Jane find Lawrence strangled to death by his brother’s corpse.

It hits so much harder given how likeable Sheard portrays Lawrence. He’s really quite charming and, like Mergrave, benign. Mergrave’s sacrifice at the end of ‘Castrovalva’ feels quite genuine to his character and his arc. The Master created a society that the Doctor would find sympathetic and, in turn, is sympathetic to the Doctor. It’s fitting that Mergrave’s final act is to deliberately choose to stop the Master.”

Tim Bradley:
“I liked it in ‘Part Four’ where the Doctor asked Mergave to draw a map of Castrovalva on the back of a mirror, and eventually Mergrave drew four pharmacies when in actual fact he has one. It’s interesting how the Doctor attempts to break the conditioning of the occlusion on characters like Mergrave and Ruther, and they didn’t realise they positioned things on a map more than once.”

Timelord007:
“This part got a little confusing when I first saw it as a child. But seeing it now that I’m older, it’s a great idea.”

Wolfie:
“And the story does a good job of showing the changes, once the Doctor’s…” (realises) “Oh!”

Tim Bradley:
“What is it?”

Wolfie:
“I just realised. It’s a form of hypnosis. Classic to the Master. When their mesmerism is broken, it continues to have knock-on effects. There’s a good moment, very understated, where they both come to see the Master for who he is, i.e. not the Portreeve. It’s subtle, but the Master seems vaguely amused by the fact that their filtered perceptions are beginning to break down. It’s nice foreshadowing.”

WilliamsFan92:
“It was good that the Doctor managed to get through to Ruther and Mergrave in particular, before they later saw through the Master’s deception at the climax. If I’m allowed to say it like this, I’d like to think that the Doctor has a BS detector, and a lot of villains he meets, especially the Master, can be full of it.”

Wolfie:
“It’s what makes the byplay between the Doctor and an adversary so interesting. Jon Pertwee and Roger Delgado, to use one example, had gorgeous little scenes together where the Doctor and the Master both think the other is full of nonsense. Something which, when the veil falls and they become earnest, like in ‘Colony In Space’, adds an extra dimension to those interactions.”

Tim Bradley:
“I don’t know if it’s me, but there seems to be a sense of hilarity when Shardovan goes “You made us, man of evil! But we are free!” I don’t get why people would laugh at that moment, especially in the DVD audio commentary with Peter Davison, Janet Fielding, Chris Bidmead and Fiona Cumming.

It’s supposed to be a defining heroic moment for Shardovan before self-sacrificing himself. Does it come across as camp? Is that what’s going on?”

Wolfie:
“It might be the ride on the chandelier down into the hydron web. It’s a good line though, and the performance sells it for me.”

Timelord007:
“I didn’t think it came across as camp. Maybe the wine was in full flow.”

WilliamsFan92:
“It was better than this line from Tegan. “All right, enormous thrust!”.”

Tim Bradley:
“Or even Nyssa’s line of “His adrenaline’s normalising. It was helping to bridge the synapses.”.”

Laughter ensues.

Tim Bradley:
“There is a sense of anti-feminism in Castrovalva. As WF92 mentioned earlier, the Castrovalvan women come across as silly and giggly at times and they’re often doing the washing, mainly clothes, in the Castrovalvan square. Granted none of the Castrovalvan women speak in this story, apart from the little girl who talks to the Doctor if you want to count her. I wonder if they’re even allowed to speak. There’s also a moment in the Target novelization where Tegan expresses her disgruntlement about the women’s place in Castrovalva whilst she, Nyssa and the Doctor have had breakfast with the Portreeve. Mergrave himself protests when he and Ruther are being escorted out of the Doctor’s quarters and ‘being treated this way’ ‘by a woman’.”

Wolfie:
“I agree. There’s an element of dismissiveness to how the Castrovalvans treat their women. Given how the construct is formulated by the Master, I wonder if he’s deliberately weaponised those attitudes, so the inhabitants are obstinate to the Doctor’s companions. He shoves Nyssa away (quite violently), ignoring her when she tries to offer an explanation on the Zero Cabinet. In contrast, ‘Castrovalva’ the story does a good job of providing agency to both Tegan and Nyssa. When the Doctor or Adric fumble, the pair are there to take up the slack and it’s only down to their resolve, in the critical moment, that the TARDIS survives Event One at all.”

Timelord007:
“I didn’t find the female supporting characters particularly well-written and the giggling got annoying very quickly.”

WilliamsFan92:
“That probably overrides the fact that the population of men is lower than the female population of Castrovalva.”

Tim Bradley:
“I found it rather weird when all the Castrovalvans were gathered outside the Doctor’s quarters and they were joining in the procession of the Doctor (supposedly) being carried in the Zero Cabinet to the Portreeve’s house. It was like some big special event for them. I suppose not a lot of things happen for the Castrovalvans in their ‘dwellings of simplicity’.” 😀

Timelord007:
“This part lost me. It seemed the script became a bit surrealistic. I still don’t get it.”

WilliamsFan92:
“Probably haven’t got the same manners or social behaviours as we do.”

Wolfie:
“Very funereal. I suspect the curiosity surrounding him comes from the cliffhanger to ‘Part Three’. He’s standing in the window, ‘above’ the square, when he shouts out, “We’re caught in a space-time trap!” Quite a desperate and frightened moment from the visitor to Castrovalva.”


The Portreeve

Tim Bradley:
“Now let’s talk about the Portreeve, played by Neil Toynay. Surprisingly, this is Neil Toynay’s only acting credit. Hmm. I wonder what happened to him.” 😀

Wolfie:
“I hear his hearts were always really in public speaking.”

WilliamsFan92:
“I bet he was Anthony Ainley from a parallel universe.”

Timelord007:
“Heard he became a green grocer and was tragically shot in a drive by fruiting.”

Tim Bradley:
(laughs) “It’s funny. Beforehand, an anagram had been used to cover up the fact that Anthony Ainley was playing the Master in ‘Doctor Who’, which was ‘Tremas’, the name of Nyssa’s father in ‘The Keeper of Traken’. This is the second time an anagram gets used involving Anthony Ainley’s Master and it’s to cover up that he’s playing the Master in disguise within Castrovalva’s walls.”

WilliamsFan92:
“It was of course used again for ‘Time-Flight’ with Leon Ny Taiy when the Master was disguised as Kalid.”

Wolfie:
“The anagrammatic reveal became enough of a production trademark that Robert Holmes borrowed while naming his characters for ‘The Two Doctors’. Androgum was ‘gourmand’, Dastari was ‘a TARDIS’, and so on.”

Timelord007:
(jokingly) “Neil Toynay is really Anthony Ainley?! Well, I never knew that!”

Laughter ensues.

Tim Bradley:
“When I watched ‘Castrovalva’ for the first time on DVD, I had no idea the Portreeve was actually the Master in disguise. It came as quite a shock when the Portreeve finally revealed himself to be the Master in ‘Doctor Who’. He’d been such a kind old gentleman beforehand and he was the like the mayor of Castrovalva. Incidentally ‘Portreeve’ is an old English word for mayor. It’s the story’s way of giving you a false sense of security that makes the Master’s reveal in ‘Part Four’ rewarding.”

Timelord007:
“It was a good reveal and I didn’t see the twist upon first watch. A bit like I didn’t notice the anti-drug message in ‘Nightmare of Eden’ on the first watch! Hey, Tim?”

Tim Bradley:
“Alright, Timelord. No need to brag about it.”

Laughter ensues.

WilliamsFan92:
“I’m amazed that I was convinced on both my first and second viewings.”

Wolfie:
“I enjoy waiting for the other shoe to drop on repeat viewings. It turns from a mystery into a suspense story.”

Tim Bradley:
“I would have to talk to the Portreeve about his dress sense though. I mean, I know the Castrovalans look weird in their costumes, but the Portreeve is an interesting case. For one thing, is he wearing two hats in the story? It looks like he’s wearing two hats to me. Matching the level of Basil Fawlty in ‘The Builders’ from ‘Fawlty Towers’, I think.” 😀

Wolfie:
“Two hats means twice the power, you see.”

Timelord007:
“Where’s Gok Wan’s fashion advice when you need it?”

WilliamsFan92:
“Castrovalva does have a weird way of designing things.”

Tim Bradley:
“When the Portreeve revealed himself to be the Master in ‘Part Four’, there’s a moment where Mergrave and Ruther see the transformation occur. I’m surprised they weren’t oblivious to it and just took it as normal as they took the recursive occlusion as normal at first. I mean, it took a while for one of them to finally say “You are not the Portreeve!”.”

Timelord007:
“Maybe they already knew he was the Master or that he had a controlling influence on them via hypnosis.”

WilliamsFan92:
“It’s simply proof that the Master is cleverer than we may think, as he managed to create the Castrovalvans to be more naive than humans would be, so that it would help himself.”

Wolfie:
“Part of the Doctor’s influence again, I think. They both have the look of two people who see the change, but don’t know what it actually means. To them, with no broader context of the Master, it looks like the Portreeve has aged a significant number of years backward. If not been replaced with a different face entirely.”

Tim Bradley:
“Do you think Mergrave and Ruther had become really scared by this point when they realised their benevolent leader wasn’t who they thought he was and what he turned out to be, especially with being so ‘masterful’ and trying to break into the Doctor’s Zero Cabinet? Do you think they became really confused as well, as this was beyond their depth?”

Timelord007:
“Well, I don’t know, because I always thought they were under the Master’s control.”

Wolfie:
“Shardovan ultimately believed that the Master created Castrovalva. Imagine coming face-to-face with your creator, the entity which gave you life, history and purpose, and discovering him to be self-serving, vicious and cruel. A murderer, too. In how he wipes away Ruther without a second thought. That’s a lot to take in all at once. Whether you’re us or the Castrovalvans who may have been literally born yesterday.”

WilliamsFan92:
“I assume the Master was kind to them whilst he was the Portreeve, up until he revealed his true identity to them.”

Tim Bradley:
“Here’s a thought. What if Castrovalva had been allowed to continue and not disintegrate like it did in ‘Part Four’? I know it was partly Adric’s creation, but what if the Castrovalvans turned out to be more intelligent than the Master anticipated. If Shardovan managed to survive, he could’ve been the next Portreeve instead of the Master. Things might be more peaceful and reassuring, especially with the Castrovalvans developing their own history and not something that’s been ‘purported’ in their already established chronicles in their library.”

Wolfie:
“It’s honestly a rather tantalising ‘Unbound’ idea. There’s an alternate fate reserved for the Eleventh Doctor in a comic called ‘Four Doctors’, where unlike his other selves, he’s content to simply rest out his life with River Song. One of the companions notes that it doesn’t seem so awful, but he points out that the whole universe is falling apart and he’s just letting it happen. Sat on his sofa. Far more terrible because he’s pretending it isn’t happening.

What if the Master had just left the Doctor without his little prompts? Stopped Nyssa and Tegan getting into Castrovalva and let him become a part of the ‘dwellings of simplicity’ and…drift away. It’s the ultimate prison, really. The village from ‘The Prisoner’. Only, the Doctor doesn’t know he’s a prisoner. When Castrovalva does eventually come into contact with the outside, again, would this new Doctor – or whoever he’d become – want to leave?”

Timelord007:
“Does the Target novel add anything new to this plot arc?”

Tim Bradley:
“I don’t think so. At least, I don’t recall anything new added as to what the fate of Castrovalva and the Castrovalvans were. Chris Bidmead more-or-less stuck to what he wrote in his scripts for the ‘Castrovalva’ novelization, despite adding in embellishments here and there.”

WilliamsFan92:
“That’s a really interesting thought. It would have been nice to see Castrovalva become a force for good as opposed to evil. It’s kind of a shame that it didn’t turn out that way.”

Tim Bradley:
“One more thing about the Portreeve. Do you think it would’ve been better to cast a different actor to play the Porteeve instead of Anthony Ainley before he revealed himself to be Anthony Ainley as the Master? As much as the make-up was convincing and Anthony Ainley had me fooled that he was the Master in disguise, I wonder if a different actor playing the Porteeve instead of Anthony Ainley would’ve made a difference.”

Timelord007:
“No, because the reveal that it’s Ainley playing the character makes the twist more rewarding than cutting to another actor who then reveals himself to be the Master.”

WilliamsFan92:
“Ainley was fine for me in the role.”

Wolfie:
“I think it’s alright with the Portreeve. That’s a fair enough disguise to throw a little doubt on the viewer. In other appearances though, I would’ve rather liked to see one of the guest characters (Professor Hayter in ‘Time-Flight’, for instance) tear off their features to reveal the Master. We kind-of got that in ‘Planet of Fire’ and it worked rather effectively.

There is one tactic which I wish they’d followed up on during this Master’s tenure. They missed a trick by not casting Anthony Ainley as another guest character, in heavy make-up, and then having someone else pull off the mask to reveal the Master (also played by Ainley), who kills that character. I’ve a head canon for ‘Colony In Space’ that the unseen Spanish ambassador, briefly investigated by UNIT, is also played by Roger Delgado.”


Final Verdict

Tim Bradley:
“So, to wrap up, how do we rate ‘Castrovalva’ as the opening story to Peter Davison’s tenure in ‘Doctor Who’ as well as the opening story to Season 19? Do we rate it highly or do we think it’s alright? I know people can be divided over Chris Bidmead as a writer and script editor, but I think this is one of his best efforts.”

Timelord007:
“I would rate this story a 7 out of 10. It’s good when the Doctor gets involved with the actual story, but to have the Doctor sealed in a casket for an episode and a half in his debut story, I think was a mistake as we don’t get to know this new incarnation until the last episode of the story.”

WilliamsFan92:
“8 out of 10. I think the story did well in introducing the new Doctor, even though he wasn’t a proper part of the story until the second half. At least we have ‘Psychodrome’ to fill in that gap.”

Wolfie:
“As the opening story to the Fifth Doctor, it does a lot of good work. It’s probably the most simpatico in terms of style and initial tone with what the series will attempt to do over Peter Davison’s three years. Much more than the Fourth Doctor’s ‘Robot’ or the Sixth Doctor’s ‘The Twin Dilemma’. ‘Castrovalva’ does a good job establishing a status quo among the Doctor and companions – even if the series wouldn’t necessarily hold to its strict make-up – and revisits the TARDIS and an unusual civilisation with equal pace and measure. I think it does quite well. It’s not necessarily the serial I’d point to as the regeneration story, but it’s definitely one to stop and take notes from for many good reasons.”

Tim Bradley:
“In my review for ‘Castrovalva’, I rated this story an 8 out of 10 and it still applies here. I personally like ‘Castrovalva’ as a ‘Doctor Who’ adventure. I enjoyed it more than ‘Logopolis’ and it’s interesting how Chris Bidmead depicts the Fifth Doctor in terms of his beginnings following his recent regeneration. It’s also nice to see how Nyssa and Tegan get to develop as characters and become friends with each other. Mind you, it’s a shame that Adric was absent from the Doctor’s company when he was wired up to the hydron web by the Master. The concepts featured in ‘Castrovalva’ both in the TARDIS and in the ‘dwellings of simplicity’ are also fascinating.”

Wolfie:
“Every regeneration story is a soft reboot in one manner or another. After seven years of Tom Baker, the Fifth Doctor comes to us as worn-out, confused and failing from his regeneration. Honestly, for the time, that’s a pretty bold concept. The idea that this fresh-faced youthful incarnation is immediately on the back foot. The serial handles it well by giving us moments like in the Zero Room where we get, well…the Fifth Doctor as we’d eventually come to know him. Calm, considerate, if not all-knowing, engaged and engaging. All at the 17-minute mark of ‘Part One’, that’s rather good. Aside from poor Adric, this is also a rather good showing of Nyssa and Tegan for reasons we’ve already covered in this ‘Strange Love’. You can see why people have become nostalgic for this period of the show.”

Timelord007:
“I do like the scenes featuring Nyssa and Tegan bonding with each other and becoming friends, but again I must stress the Doctor should have remained a constant throughout.”

WilliamsFan92:
“I agree that ‘Castrovalva’ is an improvement over ‘Logopolis’. It established the relationship between my two favourite companions, and Chris Bidmead utilised the concept here to a stronger effect than in the previous story.”

Tim Bradley:
“I had to re-watch ‘Castrovalva’ a number of times in order to understand it and the Target novelization/audiobook helped in that regard too. But it wasn’t to the same extent in trying to understand ‘Logopolis’ as a ‘Doctor Who’ story as I found it baffling when watching it on DVD for the first time back in 2007. Not so with ‘Castrovalva’, as most of it was quite straightforward to me.”

Wolfie:
“This will be a thing with Bidmead’s scripts. I think his most straightforward is ‘Frontios’ in that the central conceit is quite visceral rather than intellectual. “Frontios buries its own dead.” That’s quite chilling. Here, in ‘Castrovalva’, we’re a world or two away from that with problems that vex on a mathematical, rather than an immediate moral level. Unlike ‘Logopolis’ however, the characters are at the forefront here. We can cling tightly to the TARDIS crew as they attempt to unravel the traps, puzzles and snares of a world closing in around them. Wherever the ideas boggle, these characters can step into the breach and offer something rather human.”

Timelord007:
“It’s a difficult story to understand in parts, but there is some clever storytelling and some unique ideas to be found here.”

WilliamsFan92:
“I too had to watch ‘Castrovalva’ a second time to understand it better. The story was good anyway and deserving of an 8 out of 10 from me, which places it in the middle of my Season 19 ranking.”

Tim Bradley:
“The happiest I can take away from ‘Castrovalva’ is that it and the rest of Season 19 have been re-released on Blu-ray. I get to enjoy the Blu-ray extras that aren’t on the DVD releases, including the ‘Time Trap’ making-of documentary, which is wonderful in featuring Peter Davison, Sarah Sutton, Janet Fielding and Matthew Waterhouse, as they’re being guided by Mark Strickson revisiting the ‘Castrovalva’ locations and sharing what it was like to make the story. The ‘Behind the Sofa’ item is also very entertaining, featuring Peter, Sarah, Janet and Matthew as well as Mark Strickson and Sophie Aldred.

What outstanding happy thing you can take away from checking out ‘Castrovalva’ as a ‘Doctor Who’ story?”

Timelord007:
“For me, it’s an exciting new start to a new era for the show with a new Doctor, ready to explore the universe!”

Tim Bradley:
“At your nan’s house of course.” 😀

Timelord007:
(feeling nostalgic) “Nan’s house in 1982: eating sausages and chips with a can of Pepsi Cola whilst watching ‘Doctor Who’ were, for me, the best of times.”

Wolfie:
“Bless. That sounds like a lovely memory. For me, I think it was discovering an era that I’d overlooked during my initial viewing. That’s something I love about ‘Doctor Who’, there’s no cut-and-dried hard boundary for the stories. Even now, there’s always something new to find out and discover. I suppose that’s the spirit of adventure, eh?”

WilliamsFan92:
“I’d like to take a leaf out of Janet Fielding’s book and watch ‘Doctor Who’ and other things whilst under a blanket. That’s along with watching ‘Black Orchid’, ‘Earthshock’ and ‘Time-Flight’ as two episodes a week, as they were transmitted back in 1982.”

Tim Bradley:
“Well, thanks again you three for joining me on another ‘Strange Love’ discussion on another ‘Doctor Who’ story.”

WilliamsFan92:
“My pleasure, Tim. I’d like to discuss a non-Nyssa ‘Doctor Who’ story in the future. ‘The Dæmons’ is high on my list for a discussion.”

Timelord007:
“I’m semi-retired from writing reviews, but it’s always a pleasure to return and participate in these discussions, which showcase four different opinions on a ‘Doctor Who’ story.”

Wolfie:
“Ditto and likewise from me. Always a thrill to be a part of these ‘Strange Loves’. I enjoy working with everyone enormously.”

Tim Bradley:
“I’m sure we’ll do another one of these in future – I personally would like to do one on ‘Black Orchid’ for Sarah Sutton’s birthday before Christmas this year. Whether that will happen, we’ll have to wait and see.”

Wolfie:
“Yes, in this great tempest of 2022, with the sea buffeting and the world spinning like a top, it’d be nice to visit Cranleigh Hall. It’s a fairly unusual serial for its era. One worth exploring.”

Timelord007:
“Ah! Another excellent ‘Doctor Who’ story! Say ‘when’ and I’m in.”

WilliamsFan92:
“I wish I had a TARDIS so that I could travel to when we get to start the ‘Black Orchid’ discussion.”

Tim Bradley:
“There’s also the 1989 ‘Batman’ discussion that I’ve been meaning for us to do but just haven’t got around to. There’s so much to do and so little time to do it, isn’t there?”

Timelord007:
“You kinda quoted the Joker from 1989 ‘Batman’ there, Tim.”

Tim Bradley:
“You know, you’re right there. I didn’t even know I was doing it. 😀 I even watched the film recently.”

Timelord007:
“Oh I have a lot to say about 1989 ‘Batman’ and how it nearly ruined my parents’ holiday upon release, but that’s for another time.”

WilliamsFan92:
“I think it’s a good idea to discuss something that has nothing to do with ‘Doctor Who’. Say when and I’ll be right there.”

Wolfie:
“Funnily enough, superheroes have never really been my thing, but I think some of DC’s more unusual retinue – Swamp Thing, Sandman, Hellblazer, Black Orchid (not the ‘Doctor Who’ story, the DC superhero character of course) – alongside Alan Moore, and the ‘Spider-Verse’ stories are winning me over to those original pages. It’d be interesting to see what comic book heroes looked like at the end of the Cold War.”

WilliamsFan92:
“On a side note, I have been thinking of hosting my own ‘Strange Love’ discussions in the future. What they’ll be on, I’m not sure. But I’ll think of something.”

Tim Bradley:
“Sounds goods, WF92.

Anyway, Happy Birthday again to Peter Davison and many thanks to all of you who’ve been reading our discussions on the ‘New Beginnings’ trilogy of ‘Doctor Who’ so far. We hope you’ve enjoyed them.”

Timelord007:
“Happy Birthday, Peter Davison, and thank you for the excellent nostalgic memories I have about Season 19. They remind me of simpler, happier times.”

Wolfie:
“Happy birthday, Peter. Here’s to a 40-year legacy of the wanderer in space and time. The end and a new beginning, but not necessarily in that order. It’s absolutely splendid.”

WilliamsFan92:
“Happy birthday, Peter. May you continue to play the Fifth Doctor for the rest of your days.”

Tim Bradley:
“Bye for now!”

Timelord007:
“Bye!”

Wolfie:
“Bye, all!”

WilliamsFan92:
“Bye!”

Tim, Timelord007, Wolfie and WilliamsFan92 wave goodbye.

4 thoughts on “‘Bradley’s Basement’s Strange Love’ – ‘Castrovalva’

  1. Timelord 007

    Wow, when you put it all together this is a HUGE in-depth look at the story with four opinions each with their own valid points.

    This was a enjoyable experience despite the fact i wasn’t in the best of health mentally since my father passed away from covid so it is great to reminisce & be reminded of seeing this adventure as a child when my life was simpler, the power of nostalgia eh it’s a wonderful thing.

    Liked by 2 people

    Reply
    1. Tim Bradley Post author

      Hi Simon,

      Very pleased you took part in the ‘Castrovalva’ discussion. Many thanks for your contributions. Glad this provided you a distraction from real world events and helped you through your mental health.

      Incidentally, I’ve reviewed ‘Ravagers’, the first of the Ninth Doctor audio adventures by Big Finish with Christopher Eccleston on my blog.

      Many thanks again.

      Tim 🙂

      Like

      Reply
  2. Williams Fan 92

    Hi Tim.

    That was awesome! I had a blast taking part in this discussion with you, Timelord and Wolfie. I hope to revisit ‘Castrovalva’ later this year on my blog, both the tv version, and the Target novelisation/audiobook.

    Just a quick question. How do you get our profile pictures uploaded onto the pages for these discussions, as well as when you have us do cameos? I’m asking because I’d like to do cameos on my blog in the future.

    P.s. are you at all interested in anime? And if there was a ‘Doctor Who’ anime, would you watch it.

    Take care, WF92.

    Liked by 1 person

    Reply
    1. Tim Bradley Post author

      Hi WF92,

      Glad you enjoyed taking part in this discussion. Thanks for taking part. Hope you enjoy revisting ‘Castrovalva’ via the TV story and the Target novelization/audiobook.

      With the profile pics, I copied/saved as the avatar pics for you and Wolfie from the DU forum. Timelord sent me a pic of himself a while back when we did cameos and reviews before I invited you, Wolfie and Whiskeybrewer to join in and take part in reviews and cameos on my blog.

      I don’t really watch anime. It’s not really my thing. The closest I’ve seen to an anime is six episodes of ‘Headmasters Transformers’ which was done in Japan and had an English dub. I wouldn’t say no to checking out the ‘Sonic the Hedgehog’ OVA movie. And I don’t mind checking out a ‘Doctor Who’ anime so long as it’s connected to the TV series.

      Many thanks,

      Tim 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      Reply

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