Castrovalva is a serial in the British science fiction television series Doctor Who, which was first broadcast in four twice-weekly parts from January 4 to January 12, 1982

It was the first full serial to feature Peter Davison in the starring role. Tom Baker makes his final appearance as the Doctor in the teaser before the opening credits, which reprised the ending of his final story, Logopolis.


The freshly regenerated Doctor is in a vulnerable state, and the Master has escaped after the events of Logopolis. His regeneration failing, the Doctor and his companions go to the city of Castrovalva to let him recover, but a trap waits for them there.


Following his regeneration, the Doctor and his companions return to the TARDIS avoiding the radio telescope’s security guards. Just before they can depart, Adric is seemingly attacked by the Master's TARDIS, currently disguised as a Corinthian column. Adric is brought into the TARDIS which then dematerialises. The Doctor acts oddly due to the after effects of his regeneration and asks to be taken to the "Zero Room" — Time Lord healing technology. In his delirium, the Doctor makes various comments about previous companions such as the recently departed Romana.

Meanwhile, without the Doctor to pilot the ship, Tegan investigates the TARDIS's controls and finds a computer system which gives her instructions on how to fly it. She notices that their preset destination is listed as hydrogen inrush — Event One.

Having found a new costume — a cricketer's outfit — the Doctor enters the Zero Room. After giving instructions to Nyssa and Tegan, they see an image of Adric who has been trapped in a web structure by the Master. As the TARDIS travellers find themselves being drawn into the event marking the creation of the galaxy, the Master appears to them on the TARDIS scanner to gloat at their imminent demise. The Doctor emerges from the Zero Room and by jettisoning 25% of the TARDIS’s rooms manages to save them from destruction, however one of the ejected rooms was the Zero Room. Meanwhile, the Master reveals to the trapped Adric that he has a further trap set for the Doctor. Tegan searches the TARDIS computer systems and finds a place named the Dwellings of Simplicity on Castrovalva which will be a suitable place for the Doctor to recover from his regeneration.

The companions make a cabinet from the remains of the Zero Room. Upon arriving at Castrovalva, they carry the coffin-like cabinet containing the Doctor out of the TARDIS and start to search for the Dwellings. Soon they spy a figure wearing brightly coloured armour, so they hide the box. On returning to the box however, they find the Doctor has vanished…

Nyssa and Tegan follow a trail of blood and find a citadel. They see the Doctor ahead but he is surrounded by warriors who take him into the city, leaving the girls to ascend the high rocky walls.

In the fictional city, the Doctor is questioned by Shardovan the librarian. Unable to answer their questions he is given a room, where he is then visited by the elderly Portreeve. Nyssa and Tegan arrive in the city and meet Shardovan. During the night, Adric is seen lurking in the Doctor’s room. The next day, an image of Adric appears in a mirror to Nyssa, who warns her about the Master being in Castrovalva. He is actually still trapped in the Master's TARDIS.

The Doctor wakes up and is shown a magnificent tapestry by the Portreeve. The tapestry depicts scenes as they happen in the outside world. The Doctor soon realises that Adric is missing and sets out off to find him, but as they search the city of Castrovalva they keep finding themselves in the same courtyard.

Nyssa says it is as if space was folded in on itself, and the Doctor agrees. The Doctor looks out of the window he says that they are caught in a recursive occlusion. Someone is manipulating Castrovalva — they are caught in a space-time trap.

The Doctor questions two of Castovalva's inhabitants, Mergrave and Ruther, whether they are able to see the folding. When asked to show the position of his shop on a map, Mergrave indicates its position in four different places. Ruther does the same when asked to show where the Portreeve’s house is. But, because they are part of Castrovalva, they cannot see that there is something wrong. The Doctor also realises that the history books of Castrovalva are all fakes — they appear to be 500 years old but chronicle events up to the present day.

The Doctor creates a ruse by filling the Zero Room cabinet with the history books and has the cabinet taken to the Portreeve. As the Doctor breaks into the Portreeve’s house, the Portreeve reveals himself to be the Master, and that it is he who has created the town of Castrovalva. Even its presence in the TARDIS computers was a trap created by the Master. Ruther and Mergrave confront the Master and the tapestry reveals its true power, that of Adric trapped in the web. The power to create comes from block-transfer computations, using Adric's mathematical genius.

Realising the true nature of Castrovalva's reality, Shardovan swings from a chandelier into the web, destroying it. The Master, seeing all is lost, flees to his TARDIS which was disguised as a fireplace. The Doctor and his companions flee from the city, but the Master appears to be trapped, unable to escape as the city collapses in on itself.

The Doctor is now fully recovered from his regeneration.

Cast notes

  • Features a guest appearance by Michael Sheard. See also Celebrity appearances in Doctor Who.
  • In order to keep the Master's disguise hidden, in episode 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.


  • 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. Fans sometimes refer to the trilogy as "The Return of the Master"; this name was initially slated for the DVD set of the trilogy. Eventually, however, the trilogy was released as "New Beginnings".
  • 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 Fifth Doctor literally unravels the Fourth Doctor's famous scarf (and rips the waistcoat the Fourth Doctor wore in half). The Fifth 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 worn by the Fourth Doctor in Logopolis, who wore knee-length buccaneer-style boots in that serial – 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 Fifth 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. He also urges Tegan and Nyssa not to "reverse the polarity of the neutron flow" – a catchphrase traditionally associated with the Third Doctor – and toys with a recorder, a trademark of the Second Doctor, whose persona he also briefly adopts.
  • The Doctor eats celery with gusto in Castrovalva, proclaiming it as a definite symbol of civilisation. He attaches a stick to his lapel and wears one hereafter (see also The Visitation, Enlightenment and The Caves of Androzani).
  • In Time-Flight, Nyssa said that she'd wished they knew about the feature the Doctor activated in the TARDIS back in this episode. That feature was to shift the interior of the ship so it would be on flat ground, no matter how the TARDIS was when it landed.


  • 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.
  • For this story, the series was shifted from its traditional Saturday early evening transmission to a twice-weekly (Monday and Tuesday) slot. However, the format change was not well promoted, with the result that many regular viewers missed the second episode.
  • Episode 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 Series 26. In the 1996 TV film, no credit was actually given for the Eighth Doctor (although the Seventh Doctor was called the "Old Doctor", albeit not in the onscreen credits). However, for the first season of the 2005 revival, the credit reverted back 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, Matthew was vomiting behind a tree. The other actors, to their credit, continued acting despite it so the take could be used.

Outside references

  • 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.

In print

A novelisation of this serial, written by Christopher H. Bidmead, was published by Target Books in March 1983. Despite being the first story of the Fifth Doctor era, it was not the first novelisation of the era to be published.

Broadcast, VHS and DVD releases

  • This story 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 29th 2007 as part of a "Return of the Master" trilogy alongside The Keeper of Traken and Logopolis.
  • The DVD contains a commentary provided by actors Peter Davison and Janet Fielding with writer Christopher H. Bidmead and director Fiona Cumming. Other extras included "Being Doctor Who" : Peter Davison discusses how he approached playing the Doctor. "Directing Castrovalva" : Fiona Cumming talks about directing this story. "The Crowded TARDIS" : A look at the increase in the TARDIS crew. "Swap Shop & Blue Peter" : Peter Davison interviewed on these two programmes. Deleted Scenes. Theme Music Video. Music Only Option. Radio Times Billings. The Doctor Who Annual 1982. BBC Enterprises Literature & a Photo Gallery.


External links


Target novelisation

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