Magic Bullet Productions

30 Cool Things about “Castrovalva”
(And 20 Stupid Ones)
(But we're not telling you which is which)
(We're expecting you to work that out for yourselves)

By Alan Stevens and Fiona Moore

Previously published in Celestial Toyroom issue 453/4


1. Halfway through the regeneration between the Watcher and Peter Davison, the Doctor does look remarkably like Spike Milligan.

2. “Castrovalva” is the very first Doctor Who story in the UK to be initially broadcast on a Monday, rather than a Saturday.

3. Things not to say to security personnel escorting you off the premises: “Now, don't be silly, we would like to help you, but we can't just leave the Doctor, something might've gone wrong with his regeneration!”

4. Although Tegan's “take your hands off me, this is official uniform!” also deserves mention just to highlight the woman's peculiar belief that airline stewardesses occupy the highest social position in the world.

5. And she abandons her “official uniform” hat pretty quickly once she gets into the Tardis.

6. Adric receives the least effective pat-down from a security guard in history.

7. Since the Tardis, when travelling, clearly can traverse solid objects, Nyssa's idea that it will eventually crash into something seems rather unsupported by the evidence.

8. Worst Hartnell impersonation ever.

9. “How do we find the index file? Of course, if we had an index file, we could look it up in the index file, under 'index file'!” And we have the crux of the story, right there; the next three and a half episodes can just go hang.

10. And by suggesting approaching the database with recursive logic and inputting “IF” for Index File, Tegan conjures it into being, and the audience accepts it, even though if you think about it, it's completely ridiculous.

11.Following on from that, Tegan then suggests inputting “DS” for Destination Settings, and behold, they get the information they're looking for. This isn't a database, it's wish fulfillment.

12. “Not far now, Brigadier, unless the Ice Warriors get there first!” Evidently referring to a Missing Adventure, since the Brigadier and the Ice Warriors never appeared together in the Pertwee Era.

13. In this story, the Doctor defines his new personality by imprinting, duck-like, on the first new object he sees. Strangely, though, he never dons the Wellington boots seen next to the cricket bat and coat.

14. What's in the crate marked “Handle With Care”? It's evidently not K9 Mark III, since the crate in “A Girl's Best Friend” is completely different.

15. The Adric who enters the Tardis is, of course, a simulation generated under the Master's direction. However, as the Master will later note, he does have some capability for independent action, since he bangs the Zero Room doors to lead the Doctor there.

16. Supported by the fact that he can generate an image of himself in the Zero Room to try and tell Tegan and Nyssa what's happening.

17. The close-up of the Doctor's head as he levitates is actually a reverse shot: it has the question-marks on his shirt collar the wrong way round.

18. The events of the first two episodes are a direct callback to “The Edge of Destruction”, and further suggests that time only comes into existence when our universe does.

19. Having collapsed and hurt his head, the Doctor comes to under a roundel which has fallen open, containing medical supplies. Suggesting that Adric is shaping events in the Tardis with the power of block transfer computation.

20. The book, unfortunately, doesn't pick up on this rather wonderful idea, but puts it down to the “useful coincidences that so often spiced the Doctor's life”.

21.But if you think about it, Castrovalva involves people, stonework, tiles, linen, small children, rubber balls, glassware, and all manner of other things which are real enough for the Doctor, Nyssa and Tegan to interact with, so really, conjuring up a wheelchair is nothing.

22. The Doctor and Ruther's later exchange, “where does this lead?” “Out, sir, if you insist!” takes on a new significance in light of that – since Castrovalva exists as a product of Adric's mind, then someone insisting could actually change the geography of the place.

23. This is the first time Peter Davison says “reverse the polarity of the neutron flow”.

24. Also the first time Tegan says “zap”.

25. “You have to turn the 'if' into a fact”. And another line which sums up the themes of the story.

26. It's worth mentioning that Castrovalva itself only comes into being when the Master's hydrogen-inrush trap failed.

27. Castrovalva happens to be on a planet that's the same colour as Tegan's outfit. And, since the Master didn't create the whole planet, for once this actually is a coincidence.

28. Comparing the angles of various rooms in various scenes, it becomes obvious that the corridor outside the Zero Room tilts in a completely different direction to the rest of the Tardis when it lands.

29. Since a Zero Cabinet can be made from what's left of the Zero Room, evidently its healing properties are in its walls.

30. The plant-life on Castrovalva aren't above stealing Nyssa's gold hair ornament.

31. There's a Leeds-based rock band called Castrovalva, although Wikipedia says they're M.C. Escher fans rather than Doctor Who fans.

32. Their last album at the time of writing was called You're Not In Hell, You're in Purgatory My Friend. Make of that what you will.

33. The location used for the exterior of the city, Harrison's Rocks, was last seen in “The Mind Robber”. Which is appropriate, on a number of levels.

34. If you read the book, or the infotext, you learn that the bit where the Doctor climbs up Harrison's Rocks while Nyssa and Tegan shout “Doctor” was meant to be a trigger for the Doctor's memories of hanging off the Pharos Project radio telescope. It doesn't really read onscreen.

35. The hunters' costumes make sense as a form of camouflage, and protection against head injury and bad weather. However, the benefits are somewhat reduced by the huge, obvious and unwieldy feather crowns on top of the helmets.

36. “If we had a three micron beam wedge though –” Nyssa says, on the subject of how to open the door. It's a good thing Tegan's not very sarcastic, or she might have replied with, “yes, and if we had a T-34 tank...”

37. “If they knew I was abroad, they would press me to this feast”, says the Portreeve. Yes, it's still funny.

38. Who throws down the rope ladder for Nyssa and Tegan? Presumably the Portreeve, but you do have to think about it.

39. The jump-cut from the Master in his Tardis, to the Portreeve talking to the Doctor, is a deviation from JNT's usual style, but, consequently, makes the revelation that the Master and the Portreeve are the same person more of a surprise.

40. Normally we think special effects should be left as they were originally conceived. However, the tapestry, and the Escher effects at the end of Parts Three and Four, really could benefit from a modern CGI remake.

41.“Only an occasion, like your visit, disturbs the cycles enough to register on our tapestry”. Making it directly analogous to the Matrix on Gallifrey as described in “The Deadly Assassin”.

42. Tegan's rather stilted “the history of Castrovalva is fascinating!” as the Doctor bursts into the room in a panic seems like a bizarre and unnatural reaction, unless you read it as her blurting something as a distraction to stop him from asking where Adric is.

43. “Because your perception is part of it, you cannot see it”. And that's the flipside of recursion. If you perceive it, it exists, but because it exists, you can't unperceive it.

44. “Why are all these women here? Is it a holiday?” Let's just think about what that says about holidays on Castrovalva for a minute… then again, it is the imaginary creation of a teenage boy.

45. “The history of Castrovalva”. “What, all thirty volumes?” Seriously, who talks like this?

46. The novelisation has the Master say that he has been in Castrovalva, “lying in ambush for five hundred years, waiting for this moment”. So, the Master went back five hundred years prior to the point when he directed the Tardis to land, created the town, then hung about for half a millennium waiting for the Doctor to turn up? And Adric is now five hundred years old? No wonder the line was cut.

47. Also completely unnecessary, since, with block transfer computation, the town can just be created 500 years old.

48. And, finally, after having constructed this whole convoluted scheme, the only thing the Master wants to achieve is just to shoot the Doctor. He could have had Adric conjure up a squadron of Daleks with half the effort.

49. This story also reveals that the Master himself has become a recursive occlusion, constructing overelaborate plans, waiting around for centuries, falling into his own trap, and donning bizarre disguises, for the simple reason that that's just what he does, and the audience simply accepts without stopping to think about whether it actually makes any sense.

50.The Master survives this incident, which suggests that the Doctor is in fact wrong about what will happen when Castrovalva collapses, and the Master was actually just left sitting on the barren hillside afterwards.


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