Monday 5 December 2011

Doctor Who: Castrovalva, by Christopher H. Bidmead, read by Peter Davison – reviewed by Stephen Theaker

In the fifth Doctor’s first full adventure, he’s accompanied by Tegan and Nyssa; Adric is in the clutches of the rejuvenated Master. The Doctor’s fourth regeneration has not gone at all well, and he needs to rest. The recuperative properties of the zero room lost to a brush with the big bang, the Tardis heads for peculiar Castrovalva – which ultimately proves to be another of the Master’s traps.

Like Bidmead’s previous story, Logopolis, Castrovalva plays with lots of clever ideas: the zero room, recursion, Escher’s artwork and entropy. The original broadcast of the television version was, for a child, quite mind-blowing (and, years later, helped me get my head around first year philosophy). Freed from budgetary constrictions, the audio version achieves moments of real grandeur. Freed from acting constrictions, Adric, Tegan and Nyssa become almost three-dimensional.

There are also some very nice phrases – believing the Doctor dead in the Big Bang, the Master feels “deep intestinal satisfactions” – and lots of nice continuity touches. It’s perhaps a little humourless, some of the light touches that Davison brought to his on-screen performance not coming through on CD – he sometimes sounds as if he has a cold – but these things don’t spoil it. Castrovalva has its share of pompous and silly moments, but remains a surprisingly stimulating adventure.

Doctor Who: Castrovalva, by Christopher H. Bidmead, read by Peter Davison. BBC Audio, 4xCD, 4 hours. This review originally appeared in BFS Journal #4.

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