Bidmead, Christopher H.


2 out of 5

(1 book)

Doctor Who: Castrovalva

The novelisation of Bidmead's own script for the very first adventure of the Fifth Doctor (Peter Davison).  With the Doctor incapacitated when his regeneration goes awry, Nyssa and Tegan are left to care for him whilst Adric is captured by the Master.  Nyssa and Tegan then have to try to take the Doctor to Castrovalva, a place where his fractured mind can finally pull itself together, but where they risk falling into a deadly trap.

I have often seen 'Castrovalva' referred to as a particularly beloved Fifth Doctor story and I've read some very favourable reviews of this novelisation too.  It is therefore strange to me that I find both the televised version of this story and the prose one to be mind-numbingly boring.  This new (at the time, of course) Doctor spends most of his first adventure utterly useless and barely participating in the story.  This should be the Fifth's opportunity to show who he is and what makes him different from his iconic predecessor (Tom Baker), but we barely get a sense of the Doctor at all.  I couldn't help comparing it to the Tenth Doctor's introduction, 'The Christmas Invasion' (novelised by Jenny T. Colgan) where the Doctor is out of the picture for most of the story but has a triumphant arrival on the scene (Lion King quotes and all) that really establishes him as a character.  There is no such triumphant moment here, reinforcing my already-held belief that the Fifth is the least interesting incarnation of the Doctor.

Spinning off from the problem of the Doctor being incapacitated is the fact that this leaves us with some of the weakest companions in the history of Who.  Nyssa is intelligent and competent but has almost no personality, whilst Tegan has more personality but whose function in the story is little more than to complain about problems and ask obvious questions.  If these two characters had been conflated into one, you might then have the makings of a compelling companion, but as it is their lack of distinction means they're unable to carry the book.

My final note is that the Master's plan is incredible.  By which I mean it is literally not credible.  Anthony Ainlee's incarnation of the Master often fell into campy pantomime villain territory and that's very much the case in this story.  He could give Dr. Evil a run for his money for needlessly elaborate plots to kill the hero.

2 out of 5


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