Saturday, 7 February 2015

Story 116 - Castrovalva

In which the newly regenerated Doctor has to be kept out of the hands of the Pharos Project security guards. Adric diverts the guards' attention and Tegan and Nyssa manage to get him into the TARDIS. The Master's ship materialises briefly and sends out beams of energy - which cause the guards to collapse. Tegan and Nyssa momentarily lose sight of Adric - obscured by the Master's TARDIS - but he joins them once the Master departs. The Doctor has wandered off into the depths of the ship, and Adric goes after him. Tegan and Nyssa, meanwhile, search the data-banks to look for a way to help the Doctor. He is seriously confused, speaking like his previous persona and mentioning earlier companions. He discards his old costume and adopts a new one taken from the ship's cricket pavilion. Nyssa helps him to a chamber known as the Zero Room, which is a negative space where no technology can interfere with his healing. Adric disappears after setting the ship's course. Tegan and Nyssa glimpse a brief image of him in the Zero Room, held captive somewhere and trying to warn them. The ship begins to get hotter and hotter, and they realise that they have been sent hurtling back through time on a course that will destroy them in Event One - the explosive beginning of the Universe.

The Doctor rallies long enough to help them escape - jettisoning 25% of the ship's mass to provide the thrust needed to break free. The Master has been observing this from his own TARDIS where he holds Adric prisoner. He is manipulating the boy's mathematical skills - and the block transfer computations of the Logopolitans - and had created a solid image of Adric to set the destructive course co-ordinates. The Master is not too upset that this has not worked, as he has a much more devious back-up scheme prepared... It transpires that the Zero Room was part of the ship that has been jettisoned, so a makeshift cabinet has to be created from its doors - which have some of the same properties. Tegan then finds a reference in the data-banks to "dwellings of simplicity" which can do the same job as the Zero Room. One of these is a place called Castrovalva. She sets the co-ordinates to take them there. Castrovalva proves to be a verdant planet, much like Earth but lacking in any advanced technology. When the ship materialises, Tegan and Nyssa carry the Doctor towards what appears to be a hilltop citadel. They are forced to leave the cabinet hidden for a time whilst they scout ahead, but on their return find it empty. There are traces of blood, but these turn out to have been left by a hunting party from the citadel. The Doctor, still in a confused state, is making his own way there. He is taken into the citadel by the hunting party - who prove to be benign humanoids. Tegan and Nyssa manage to join him later.

They meet the leader of the community - the elderly Portreeve - and the librarian, Shardovan. At one point Nyssa sees another image of Adric, again trying to warn her. Shardovan's library proves to be devoid of any books that might help Nyssa understand what has happened to the Doctor, but she does borrow a history of Castrovalva. The next day, a recovering Doctor decides to read these volumes, and makes a startling discovery... Later, the Portreeve shows him a strange tapestry which can change to show images of the very recent past. The Doctor soon discovers that Castrovalva seems to be folding in on itself. He starts to see the geography jumbled up. Different paths which lead out of the main square always lead back into it, no matter which way you go. He had earlier discovered that the history books of this place, supposedly written in ancient times, are all in Shardovan's handwriting. He, of all the Castrovalvans, has sensed the truth of this place. It has no history. When the Doctor and Shardovan confront the Portreeve, he proves to be the Master in disguise. Adric is held captive in a power matrix behind the tapestry - being forced to create this place and its inhabitants from block transfer computation. It is all an elaborate spatial trap. Shardovan sacrifices himself to free Adric. As Castrovalva  collapses, Adric is able to lead the Doctor, Tegan and Nyssa to safety, whilst the Master is caught up in his own trap. The Doctor reveals that the information which Tegan and Nyssa had found in the data-banks was all false - put there by the Master - and Tegan is disgruntled to learn that she never actually piloted the ship at all.

This four part story was written by outgoing script editor Christopher Hamilton Bidmead, and was broadcast between the 4th and 12th January, 1981. It opens Season 19 and is the first adventure for the Fifth Doctor, Peter Davison.
It is the first ever story to have a pre-credits sequence - a curtailed version of the regeneration, with one of the lines being allocated to a totally different companion, and a different musical score.
Please note those transmission dates. It was decided that this season would leave the hallowed Saturday evening slot and go out on week nights instead - initially Mondays and Tuesdays. Doctor Who would therefore only be on air for a quarter of the year instead of for 6 months. Despite coming from there, and distinctly remembering seeing this at the time, Scotland got to watch the first episode at 5.30pm on January 4th, whilst the rest of the country had to wait until 6.55 that evening.
(I honestly can't remember seeing it quite so early, so it might have been the very first episode I never actually saw on broadcast, but instead viewed utilising the amazing new VHS machine that my dad had bought).
Bidmead had left at the end of his 12 month contract, and he was joined by Barry Letts, as it was felt that JNT could proceed with the producership on his own now. Bidmead was initially replaced by Anthony Root, for a few months only, and then by Eric Saward. As this was actually the fourth story which Davison filmed, it was Saward who script edited it.
It has often been stated that the reason Davison made this story so far into his first season was because the production team wanted him to be comfortable in the role before being seen by the public for the first time. There may be a slight grain of truth in this, but it is more likely the fact that the intended season opener was in a bit of a crisis.
Bidmead had really liked Meglos (says a lot really) and had commissioned Andrew McCulloch and John Flanagan to come up with another story which might write out the Fourth Doctor. (A South American "lost world" story by former producer Philip Hinchcliffe was also available that could do the same job but it was not pursued. It has since become a Big Finish audio. As you would expect.).
Project Zeta-Sigma was the story McCulloch and Flanagan came up with, and it just wasn't working. It was decided to hold it back for further work, and to then become Davison's first adventure instead - and so Bidmead had written Logopolis. With Four To Doomsday already in production, Project Zeta-Sigma still had serious problems, and so the decision was finally made to scrap it and Bidmead stepped in to write Castrovalva himself in its stead.
He uses elements of his last story - the block transfer computations - and the most obvious visual influence are those enigmatic illustrations by Escher (one of which just happens to be called "Castrovalva").
Directing a story for the first time is Fiona Cumming, whose earliest credit on the show had been as the AFM on The Massacre.

A couple of the cast had already been booked for the abandoned story. Michael Sheard makes his fifth Doctor Who appearance, as the physician Mergrave. Shardovan is played by Derek Waring - best known for a recurring role in Z-Cars as well as a sitcom he starred in alongside Judy Cornwell (Paradise Towers) - Moody and Pegg.
To (rather laughingly) disguise the fact that the Portreeve was the disguised Master, the character was credited in Part Three as "Neil Toynay".
[It's an anagram. Work it out for yourselves. Should take you all of three seconds. This won't be the last we see of this anagrammatic nonsense when the Master is involved].
Funny thing is, they show the Master as being behind everything right from the first five minutes. He even says he has this other trap lined up. There's a crude effort to make out that Shardovan is the villain - he dresses in black whilst all the other Castrovalvans are in light pastel shades. Were we really supposed to think that he was the Master, when there was someone looking (and sounding) exactly like Anthony Ainley in a white beard standing in the same shot?
Episode endings are:
  1. As the Master gloats from afar, the TARDIS hurtles towards the biggest bang in history...
  2. Nyssa and Tegan open the cabinet that was created from the Zero Room doors, and find that the Doctor has vanished...
  3. The Castrovalvans can't see it, but the citadel is folding in on itself and the Doctor realises that he is caught in a dimensional trap...
  4. The Doctor informs his companions that the information in the data-banks was faked by the Master, and that Tegan is not the great TARDIS pilot that she thought she was...

Overall, a rather low key start to the Fifth Doctor's tenure. Davison charms from the outset. After seven years of Tom, this is the only way they could really have gone with the character. The rot has already set in with this new Master, however.
Things you might like to know:
  • Yes, the Master... Just when did all these plans behind plans get hatched, considering that these last three stories are supposed to follow directly one after 'tother? Why is he creating traps that he knows might fail? He is on Traken waiting to usurp the Keepership. Then he manages to home in on the Doctor going to materialise around a police box to help repair his chameleon circuit. Then he knows he's off to Logopolis so hitches a ride with the intention of shutting it down until they tell him its great secret. Then he decides to blackmail the entire Universe. Then he creates a fake Adric to send the TARDIS back to be destroyed in the Big Bang. Then he has Adric create Castrovalva. That drumming noise must be getting louder....
  • Memo to Master - pick one good plan and make it airtight.
  • And why does Anthony Ainley overact so much in Part Four? "MY WEBBBBBB!!!!" Actually, I know the answer to this. Because JNT encouraged him to...
  • Matthew Waterhouse dresses to the left.
  • He was notoriously very drunk one night during the location shoot and had to throw up behind a tree whilst the scene of them all running back to the TARDIS at the end was filmed. The cleaned up DVD actually highlights his rather green face, if you take a look, and you see him disappear...
  • Matthew Waterhouse likes (or at least liked) Campari...
  • The speaking-role security guard went to Dallas Cavell. He first appeared in the programme way, way back as the greedy road works supervisor in The Reign of Terror. His most significant role (in that it lasted more than one episode) was as Sir James Quinlan in Ambassadors of Death.  JNT liked him, and cast him as one of the Ugly Sisters in his Who related pantomimes.
  • The little Castrovalvan girl who teaches the Doctor how to count up to three was played by ex-companion actress Caroline John's niece (Souska John. Her dad Nicholas was a long running PA on the show).
  • The first story where clothes really become costumes. The new Doctor's is particularly bad. A beige uniform for what will turn out to be a mostly beige Doctor. No cricket team would ever have a costume like this - certainly not in the Edwardian era. Then there's the even more prominent question marks on the shirt collar. The Castrovalvan costumes take us right back to the heady days of the Dulcians in their dresses. (And I'm thinking particularly of the blokes here). At least JNT relents and allows Nyssa to change into some more practical troo's.
  • Keep an eye on those question marks. They'll show you when a particular shot got reversed so that they are the wrong way round.
  • Celery. Need I say more?
  • Tom Baker died with his boots on. Peter Davison wakes up with his shoes on. Says a lot, really. Not unusual and not necessarily a continuity error. Pat Troughton's costume mirrors Hartnell's - but has also changed.
  • Other continuity issues: the colour of the Doctor's hair, and the ambulance coming from a different county.
  • Award for worst "Extras" acting ever - that scene with the gossips outside the Doctor's room when Mergrave is asking them to hush. Quite literally painful to watch.

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