Doctor Who #565: Castrovalva Part 3

"If we could cook your memories, Ruther, we would feast indeed."
TECHNICAL SPECS: First aired Jan.11 1982.

IN THIS ONE... The TARDISeers find their way into Castrovalva, but it's far more difficult to leave it.

REVIEW: Castrovalva is a strange and wonderful world based on the works of M.C. Escher, its interior right out of the famous "Relativity" and other "arches and staircases" prints. The simply Mediterranean architecture pays off when the Doctor and his friends try to leave, finding themselves going around in impossible circles. The fractured mirror effect in the cliffhanger is less convincing, but works on a symbolic level. As a set, it's wonderfully large, often shot from a second level. It's a world of personal inertia, where nothing much happens, and most people are quite happy with that. They do seem to have a past, as evidenced in the many historical tomes in its library, the "lost technology" represented by a beautiful tapestry that acts as a scanner into the past, and ancient customs (and dramatic feathered costumes!) which some more adventurous souls are using to hunt wild pig (I hope that roasting pig isn't too intense for the kiddies). The population runs the gamut from old men to little girls, and the Doctor has a charming scene with the latter counting up beyond 3 (a number he seems to have forgotten along with Adric) and it makes his head spin. Very cute. It is a also a world of tall hats.

I describe Castrovalva in such detail because it's what makes Part 4's revelation at once shocking and sad. I won't spoil it here for those who are following along, episode by episode, for the first time. And yet, there are some spoilers I must get into because Part 3 doesn't hide them very well (if it's trying at all). The Portreeve, Castrovalva's wise old leader, has a secret identity, and though his voice is somewhat familiar, I think it's well hidden. But when he takes off his hat and is seen up close, well, it's really quite obvious he's the Master. Maybe if Ainley hadn't played an older man in The Keeper of Traken... Nobody spots it but us, of course, and it still leaves the mystery of just what he's playing at. There's also the matter of his sending Adric to manipulate Nyssa (as a creepy mathematical projection she talks to in a mirror).

And the show really is finding its wit again. The way the Castrovalvans describe themselves, the jab at the tallness of librarians, the ineffectual democratic directions given by the atrium women... Let's hope this level of wordplay isn't to be as intermittent as it was in Season 18.

REWATCHABILITY: Medium-High - It's Part 3 and we're still discovering new and inventive things, which means it was a very good idea to do a whole episode just on the Doctor's regeneration before getting to the alien world.


Mitchell Craig said...

The little girl was Peter's own daughter, Georgia Moffatt, who has since made her own niche in Whostory (winkwinknudgenudge) as the Doctor's clone/daughter. Not to mention the fiance of some minor actor known in Old Blighty as Tennant Something.

Ainley's Master has a tendency to overdo everything for the audience.

Re: your comment on Nyssa in "Castrovalva Part 2": I have a similar hangup about Tegan. But when she and Nyssa are together, they make quite a team. Their friendship is one of the highlights of Peter Davison's tenure.

Siskoid said...

Why didn't I know that? (Or forget it?)

Siskoid said...

Actually, you made a mistake Mitchell! That little girl is Souska John, Caroline John's niece. Still in the Doctor Who family, but that's not little Georgia.


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