Castrovalva (Doctor Who)

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Doctor Who serial
Castrovalva (Doctor Who).jpg
Castrovalva begins to fold in on itself
Directed by Fiona Cumming
Written by Christopher H. Bidmead
Script editor Eric Saward
Produced by John Nathan-Turner
Incidental music composer Paddy Kingsland
Production code 5Z
Series Season 19
Length 4 episodes, 25 minutes each
Originally broadcast 4 January–12 January 1982
← Preceded by Followed by →
Logopolis Four to Doomsday
List of Doctor Who serials

Castrovalva is the first serial of the 19th season in the British science fiction television series Doctor Who, which was first broadcast in four twice-weekly parts from 4 January to 12 January 1982. It was the first full serial to feature Peter Davison as the Fifth Doctor. The title is referred to the litograph Castrovalva by M.C. Escher, which depicts the town Castrovalva in the Abruzzo region, Italy.[citation needed]


After his regeneration at the end of Logopolis, the Doctor is still weak, and his companions, Adric, Nyssa, and Tegan take him to his TARDIS. Inside, the Doctor is delirious but asks to be taken to the "Zero Room" that contains Time Lord healing technology to allow him to recover.

Left to wait for the Doctor to recover, Tegan and Nyssa discover a terminal on the TARDIS that describes how to use the machine. They attempt to pilot the TARDIS but find they are travelling rapidly to a preset time and destination, "Event One", the Big Bang, a trap set by the Master. After they are unable to find Adric, the women manage to bring the Doctor out of the Zero Room to the console room in time for him to jettison a quarter of the TARDIS' mass to propel them back to conventional time. They soon discover that the Zero Room was part of the jettisoned mass, so the Doctor with the help of Nyssa builds a temporary coffin-shaped zero cabinet from the zero room's doors. Tegan discovers information on the Dwellings of Simplicity on Castrovalva, an ideal place for the Doctor to recover, and directs the TARDIS there.

Nyssa and Tegan have difficulties in transporting the Doctor on Castrovalva, and become separated from him; the Doctor is captured by warriors protecting the Dwellings, while the women are forced to climb a rocky cliff to reach its entrance. The Doctor is cared for by Shardovan, a librarian, and the elderly Portreeve, before Nyssa and Tegan arrive. After a night's sleep, they discover strange aspects of the Dwellings; if they go out of the city through any of its exits, they find themselves in a particular plaza in the city, and a tapestry in the Doctor's rooms changes and reflects events of the outside world. The Doctor understands that they are trapped in a "recursive occlusion", and the Dwellings are fake. The Portreeve reveals himself as the Master, and shows them Adric, caught in a web-like structure. The Master has been able to use Adric's mathematical genius along with the block-transfer computations of the Logopolians to create the Dwellings as well as alter the TARDIS, creating the terminal on the console that led them here. Realising the true nature of Castrovalva's reality, Shardovan swings from a chandelier into the web and destroys it, freeing Adric and causing the reality of the Dwellings to fall apart. Seeing all is lost, the Master flees to his TARDIS, which was disguised as a fireplace. The Doctor and his companions flee from the city. The Master appears to be trapped and is unable to escape as the city collapses in on itself. As the time travellers return to the TARDIS, the Doctor indicates that he has fully recovered from his regeneration ordeal.


This story is part of a loose arc of three serials featuring the Master. The trilogy began with The Keeper of Traken (1981), continued with Logopolis (1981) and concludes with this story. A repeat of the final moments from Logopolis (1981), featuring Tom Baker regenerating, formed a pre-credits sequence (the first in the programme's history). The incidental music was changed from its original sombre melody to a more upbeat sound. Subsequently The Five Doctors (1983), Time and the Rani (1987) and Remembrance of the Daleks (1988) also featured pre-credits teasers. The pre-credits sequence became a regular occurrence starting with the 2005 series episode "The End of the World".

Near the beginning of this story, the Doctor literally unravels his burgundy scarf (and rips his waistcoat in half). The Doctor is seen to take off a shoe and leave it as a landmark as he made his way through the TARDIS. These are not the same shoes that he wore in Logopolis, which were knee-length buccaneer-style boots (that Tom Baker owned and took with him when he left the show)–the Doctor previously regenerated items of his clothes along with his body at the conclusion of The Tenth Planet, and likewise has different shoes when he arrives newly regenerated in Spearhead from Space.

While he is still disoriented, the Doctor grasps his lapels, adopting the persona of his first incarnation, and addresses Adric as "Brigadier" and "Jamie", and Tegan as "Vicki" and "Jo". He mentions the Ice Warriors and K-9 as if they were present.[2] He also urges Tegan and Nyssa not to "reverse the polarity of the neutron flow" – a catchphrase traditionally associated with his third incarnation, and toys with a recorder, a trademark of his second, whose persona he also briefly adopts by utilizing one of his catchphrases, "when I say run, run". Adric said in Full Circle that he earned a badge for "mathematical excellence". While the Doctor tries counting his companions he can't quite get to "3", and when a girl tells him it's "3" and goes on counting, the Doctor tells her he should give her a "badge for mathematical excellence", and suddenly remembers Adric.

The Doctor eats celery with gusto in Castrovalva, proclaiming it as a definite symbol of civilisation. At the end of the adventure he attaches a stick to his lapel and wears one hereafter (see also The Visitation, Enlightenment and The Caves of Androzani). In the later story Time-Flight, Nyssa says that she wishes they had known in this episode[clarification needed] about the feature the Doctor activates in the TARDIS to shift the interior of the ship so it would be on flat ground, no matter how the TARDIS was when it landed.


Episode Title Run time Original air date UK viewers
(millions) [3]
1 "Part One" 24:14 4 January 1982 (1982-01-04) 9.1
2 "Part Two" 24:13 5 January 1982 (1982-01-05) 8.6
3 "Part Three" 23:35 11 January 1982 (1982-01-11) 10.2
4 "Part Four" 24:12 12 January 1982 (1982-01-12) 10.4

The working title for this story was The Visitor. This story was the first story aired which featured Peter Davison as the Fifth Doctor. However, it was the fourth story to be recorded as the original planned debut story, Project Zeta Sigma by John Flanagan and Andrew McCulloch, proved unworkable and a replacement had to be commissioned. John Nathan-Turner took advantage of this to give Davison the chance to have a firm idea of how he wanted to play the role before recording the regeneration story.

Part 1 of this story is notable for being the first episode in Doctor Who history to credit the title character as "The Doctor", rather than "Doctor Who". The credit would remain as "The Doctor" until the series' cancellation in 1989, at the end of Season 26. In the 1996 TV film, no credit was actually given for the Eighth Doctor (although the Seventh Doctor was called the "Old Doctor" in the onscreen credits). For the first season of the 2005 revival, the credit reverted to "Doctor Who". The title became "The Doctor" again in "The Christmas Invasion" at the request of new star David Tennant.

For the final scene, the script called for Adric to look "pallid" as he was still recovering from the effects of imprisonment by the Master. According to the commentary on the DVD, this was accidentally achieved by Matthew Waterhouse, who had a hangover from the night before from drinking too much Campari. Whilst the cameras were filming the Doctor and Tegan in conversation about who landed the TARDIS, Waterhouse was vomiting behind a tree. The other actors continued acting despite it so the take could be used.

For this story, the series was shifted from its traditional Saturday early evening transmission to a twice-weekly (Monday and Tuesday) slot.

Cast notes[edit]

In order to keep the Master's disguise hidden, in part 3 the role of the Portreeve was credited to "Neil Toynay", an anagram of "Tony Ainley". Director Fiona Cumming's husband Ian Fraser, later a production manager on Doctor Who, came up with the idea.[4] Michael Sheard had previously appeared in The Ark, The Mind of Evil, Pyramids of Mars and The Invisible Enemy, and would subsequently appear in Remembrance of the Daleks.

Outside references[edit]

Castrovalva is the name of an early lithograph by the Dutch graphic artist M. C. Escher, and the design of the city in this serial reflects the impossible nature of many of Escher's later works. The story centres on the mathematical principle of recursion, a concept portrayed in much of Escher's artwork. Escher's lithograph depicts a town in Italy atop a steep slope, a setting similar to that of The Curse of Peladon, but there is nothing in the print itself to suggest the paradoxes of this story.

"Event One" appears to be a reference to the Big Bang – the creation of the universe. However, it is repeatedly described in this story as "the creation of the galaxy", which is believed to be a quiet, tranquil coalescing of hydrogen predating the first stars rather than a dramatic cosmic event.

Commercial releases[edit]

In print[edit]

Doctor Who Castrovalva.jpg
Author Christopher H. Bidmead
Series Doctor Who book:
Target novelisations
Release number
Publisher Target Books
Publication date
16 June 1983
ISBN 0-426-19326-1

A novelisation of this serial, written by Christopher H. Bidmead, was published by Target Books in March 1983.

An unabridged reading of the novelisation by Christopher H. Bidmead was released on CD on 4 March 2010 by BBC Audiobooks.

Home media[edit]

Castrovalva was released on VHS in March 1992. The cover, by Andrew Skilleter, in part drew upon the Escher print Relativity. The serial was released on DVD in the New Beginnings boxset on January 29, 2007 as part of a "Return of the Master" trilogy alongside The Keeper of Traken and Logopolis. The serial was released in issue 47 of the Doctor Who DVD Files, published 20 October 2010.


  1. ^ From the Doctor Who Magazine series overview, in issue 407 (pp26-29). The Discontinuity Guide, which counts the unbroadcast serial Shada, lists this as story number 117. Region 1 DVD releases follow The Discontinuity Guide numbering system.
  2. ^
  3. ^ "Ratings Guide". Doctor Who News. Retrieved 28 May 2017. 
  4. ^ Peter Davison, Janet Fielding, Christopher H. Bidmead, Fiona Cumming (2007-06-05). Doctor Who – Castrovalva (Episode 117) (DVD commentary). BBC Warner. 

External links[edit]


Target novelisation[edit]