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5.0 out of 5 stars Going Deeper Into The Recursive Occlusion!, 12 Jun 2014
This review is from: Doctor Who: Castrovalva (Classic Novels) (Audio CD)
I thoroughly enjoyed this novelisation/audiobook of `Doctor Who - Castrovalva', that is the first adventure of the Peter Davison years. Again, this is another richer in-depth experience of a story that begins the new era of `Doctor Who' with such style and quality unlike any other.

`Castrovalva' was novelised by Christopher H. Bidmead, the original author of this tale for the Target Book range. It was published in 1983, a year after the story's initial transmission in 1982. This is Chris' second contribution to the Target range of `Doctor Who'. The book follows on directly from `Doctor Who - Logopolis', his first novel. He provides a much in-depth exploration into the story and the world of Castrovalva describing the ins and outs of recursion and the occlusion to greater detail. Years later, `Castrovalva' the book has been turned into audio by BBC audiobooks and is read by Peter Davison who played the Fifth Doctor in this story at the start of his tenure back in 1982.

This is 4-disc CD set with the four episodes on each disc. There are 12 chapters in the box and three chapters make up for one episode. For Disc 1 contains Chapters 1,2 and 3 making up `Part One'; Disc 2 contains Chapters 4, 5 and 6 making up `Part Two'; Disc 3 contains Chapter 7, 8 and 9 making up `Part Three' and Disc 4 contains Chapters 10, 11 and 12 making up `Part Four'.

I bought the Target novelisation first at the Up-Close Doctor Who exhibition in 2008, which is now no more. I had a happy experience reading this book on holiday in Scotland, and was able to delve deeper into the world of Castrovalva and enjoy Chris' writing and how he tells a story through his use of words and language. It was so intriguing to read this story in a much greater depth. I eventually bought the audiobook with Peter Davison as the narrator for `Castrovalva' at the Regenerations convention in Swansea, 2010. After enjoying listening to 'Doctor Who - Logopolis', I wanted to enjoy a similar experience with `Doctor Who - Castrovalva', and having Peter Davison reading the original novel for audio was a real treat.

I had an opportunity to read `The Fact of Fiction' article on `Castrovalva' in an issue of `Doctor Who Magazine'. I was able to pick up certain points and changes explaining the visualisation behind the story and understanding it clearly better than how I remembering watching `Castrovalva' first time on DVD from the 'New Beginnings' box set. Reading both the novel and `The Fact of Fiction' article gave me a better understanding of the story before actually getting into listening the audiobook with Peter Davison narrating.

The story picks up the action where it left off in `Logopolis' after the Doctor's regeneration. It starts with Adric saying, "He's changing! The Doctor's regenerating!" We then have a dynamic action opening sequence where the Doctor and his companions are escaping from the guards of the Pharos Project before going off into the TARDIS and being observed by the Master in his TARDIS. It was pretty exciting when reading it and certainly exciting with Peter reading the story on audio.

As I've said before, Chris Bidmead writes a delightfully in-depth novelisation of a story that introduces the Fifth Doctor pretty well. His use of language and development of characters in this story is pretty exemplary. I remember from first reading this, I was able to tap into the perspectives of Tegan, Adric and Nyssa when they were experiencing events during this story. Chris does very well in describing the ins and outs of recursive and the Escher structure of Castrovalva, that is pretty mind-boggling and artistically alluring when reading the story. He pretty much sticks the same as the TV story plot and structure throughout this book, with a few additional scenes and certain pieces of dialogue enhanced for better effect in terms of the story.

Peter Davison was a joy to listen to. He's a really great narrator and does well in narrating the story of `Castrovalva'. This was the first time I heard Peter reading an audiobook and he would go on to read 'Doctor Who - Earthshock' afterwards. He joins in the line of Doctor Who actor-narrators such as his son-in-law, David Tennant. Peter has kept me captivated and into the story throughout without any difficulty, especially since this is his era and he knows how his Doctor began in this story. He does well in narrating the scenes when his Doctor's not around since he pretty much didn't have much to do as the Doctor in this one. I love how he's interpreted the voices for Tegan, Adric and Nyssa since he knows Janet, Matthew and Sarah very well. He does a really good Tegan in putting across her bossiness and Australian accent. He also does a really silky voice of the Master that is so reminiscent of Anthony Ainley. I really enjoyed Peter Davison reading this story and he does well in keeping his audience interested.

Recursion is very strong theme in this story. I did an IT course at Cardiff University, and in one of my modules I learn to learn about the process of recursion which was very confusing. But with the help of a friend who was an IT teacher/lecturer at Newport University, I was able to get an understanding of what recursion is with the use of some examples such as burgers and pizzas. So when revisiting `Castrovalva', I was able to get a much clearer understanding of the concept of recursion. In this book, Chris does well in trying to explain the concept to the reader.

There's some lovely additional dialogue in an extended scene between Nyssa and Tegan when they're trying to search for the index file in the TARDIS data bank and talking about recursion. I like it when Tegan tries to define an ancestor as being from your mother, your mother's mother, your mother's father, your father's mother, your father's father, and so on. It keeps going round and round according to Tegan. I really Bidmead's use of a picture of hand drawing a hand and so on, and it put me in mine of art classes. Art also is a special theme in this story, especially when it comes to the recursive occlusion and the Escher depiction of Castrovalva.

I really like how Chris Bidmead has utilised the Escher theme of describing Castrovalva in his novel for the story. Chris has dedicated this book to Escher, and has delved into the integral workings of the occlusion and depicting how the Doctor, Nyssa and Tegan get trapped and lose their way in the complicated trap the Master has set for them. Some of the descriptions of the Escher Castrovalva workings are very complex and mind-boggling to read and listen to. But it's a unique way to tell a story in utilising a complex work of art with stairs endless going up and down. What Chris does well is emphasising that there's something wrong with the city of Castrovalva and that the Doctor knows and it builds up the tension and drama of something frightening occurring in the story. Although I don't fully understand what Escher's all about and how Castrovalva works, it's by no means invigorating.

I found the scenes where Adric is connected to the haldron web in the Master's TARDIS rather graphic. The piercing into Adric's flesh with the wires is pretty unnerving when reading and listening to it in the story. It emphasises how much Adric suffers when being made to work for the Master and to create Castrovalva using Block Transfer Computation. It explains why Adric was so green at the end of the story. The theme of Block Transfer continues from `Logopolis' in this story. I l found the moment interesting when reading what's going on through Adric's mind in being insecure about the girls and hoping the Doctor will be strong enough from his regeneration at the beginning of the story. It's an interesting side of how Adric's portrayed in terms of his arrogance and immaturity.

I really enjoyed how Nyssa and Tegan's friendship is portrayed in this story, as it works well in both TV and in novel form. I like how Bidmead plays dialogue out between Nyssa and Tegan when trying to escape Event One or on the journey to Castrovalva. Tegan's bossiness is balanced in this story. I especially like the additional moment where Tegan protests to the Portreeve about women doing all the hard work on Castrovalva. It reinforces the `equality' theme between men and women as well the feminist attitudes Tegan/Janet has in `Doctor Who', which Bidmead puts across in the novel very well. I also like Nyssa's calm, reassuring presence in the story, especially when she's working things out and calming Tegan's fieriness. Bidmead treats Nyssa in this story, and I love how he puts across the scientific and compassionate of her character and balances it well.

Even though the Doctor doesn't do much in his first story, Bidmead depicts how he recovers from his regeneration very well. There is a sense of confusion in the Doctor's mind as he tries to figure out who he is and finding his new self. The loss of the Hartnell; Troughton and Pertwee moments in Peter's Doctor both in book and audio as well losing some of the names of the Doctor's previous companions such as Jo and Jamie was a little disappointing. But I like how Bidmead describes the Doctor's confused state and how Peter narrates it in terms of acting and stressing the confusion out in the Doctor's character.

Bidmead loves exploring more corridors of the TARDIS and puts it to good use. He introduces and describes the Zero Room pretty well in the story as well as the architectural configuration when deleting and jettisoning rooms of the TARDIS. The tension is built in how Nyssa and Tegan jettison the rooms and wonder if they'll jettison the console room in the process.

The paradise of Castrovalva is very soothing to read in the story at first and puts you under a false sense of security. I enjoyed reading and listening to the Italian-like atmosphere of Castrovalva and how the characters of Ruther, Mergrave, Shardovan and the Portreeve are portrayed. I like how Bidmead describes Shardovan's suspicions of `The Condensed Chronicle of Castrovalva' which provides the clue that the `Dwellings of Simplicity' are not what they seem.

The background music and sounds for this audiobook sound the same as the music and sounds used for the `Doctor Who -Logopolis' audiobook. This is because both stories are in a continuous vein and BBC Audiobook decided to use the same music and sounds for both `Logopolis' and `Castrovalva' since they're linked together and written by the same author. This was rather nice in terms of continuity.

`Doctor Who - Castrovalva' is a great read and listen. I enjoyed carrying on from `Doctor Who - Logopolis'; reading Chris' unique in-depth exploration of `Castrovalva' and listening to Peter Davison's narration of the continuing story. Indeed I've enjoyed experiencing re-telling of these classic `Doctor Who' stories from the Fifth Doctor era including this one and others like 'Doctor Who and the Visitation' and 'Doctor Who - Black Orchid'. All we need is `Four To Doomsday'; `Kinda' and `Time-Flight' to complete Season 19 in novel form. I hope that will happen soon as I've enjoyed these audiobooks of the Target novelizations.
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Showing 1-3 of 3 posts in this discussion
Initial post: 13 Jun 2014 02:23:38 BDT
Last edited by the author on 13 Jun 2014 02:24:52 BDT
Timelord-007 says:
Tim, I'm disappointed as theres know "I met Chris Bidmead at a convention & discussed Castrovalva reference", Only joking lol.

This is a great review Tim as your review explains this is more in-depth than the episodes shown on tv.

I remember seeing this on tv in a state of shock that the vet from All Creatures Great & Small had become Doctor Who & it took a while to adjust as I knew nothing about the Doctor being able to regenerate.

This is such a great in-depth review with several great points, Bidmead story is a enjoyable adventure to say the least & the Masters reveal came as a shock to me.

Peter Davison narrates this well & is a enjoyable audiobook, I remember hearing this over two nights in the dark in my bedroom relaxed feeling the tension & atmosphere unfold from the story I always hear Doctor Who in the dark as it gives the story's a sense of atmosphere I feel.

Great review Tim, I've reviewed Cobwebs my friend if you'd like to read my review.



In reply to an earlier post on 13 Jun 2014 06:56:50 BDT
Tim Bradley says:
Thanks for this timelord. I've yet to meet Chris Bidmead if he ever attends a convention I go to. Ha, ha.

Glad you enjoyed this review, timelord. This novel does delves deep into the world of 'Castrovalva'.

I first saw Peter in 'All Creatures Great and Small', so I was wondering whether I was going to take him seriously being a vet. But it grew on me and Peter surpassed my expectations definitely and has become one of my favourite Doctors.

I find it very refreshing experincing more of the story in novel/audio form and it's great we can hear these audiobooks to do that as I enjoyed 'Castrovalva' very much.

Thanks for your comments, timelord. Really appreciate it.


In reply to an earlier post on 16 Jun 2014 19:52:53 BDT
Timelord-007 says:
Added several Big finish reviews my friend Cobwebs, Dalek Contract,Final Phase & the Seventh Doctor lost storys.
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