Six Smart Women Discussing Doctor Who

verityepisode118It’s another old-school first! This time, it’s the first episode directed by Fiona Cumming (though not her first association with Doctor Who), as well as the first Fifth Doctor episode. There’s A Lot of fun to be had. And yes, sometimes there’s a quote so good you just have to give up on shoehorning the DW ep title into the podcast ep title.

What do you think about “Castrovalva”? Do you love the script and direction and acting and everything else all the time? Or did you get bored with the tromping through the forest? Let us know in the comments!


Also covered:

Bonus links:
Verity! won a Parsec Award! (As did Uncanny Magazine Podcast and The Incomparable)
The Fangirl’s Guide to the Galaxy: A Handbook for Girl Geeks
The astronaut mansplainer
Companion Piece: Women Celebrate the Humans, Aliens and Tin Dogs of Doctor Who
Toby Hadoke’s Who’s Round – interview with Fiona Cumming

Download or listen now (runtime 1:05:51) 

Comments on: "118 – Washing Clothes in Adriclandia" (10)

  1. I ❤ Castrovalva. I think in it we get a gimpse of the TARDIS team we could/should have had in the 19th season. Everyone (even Adric) is a part of the story, and there's a maturity to the relationships. Tegan pericularly has characterisation written beyond getting angry about Heathrow, and she and Nyssa are a great combination. Perhaps this is because the team had already filmed several stories together – but equally, perhaps if this story had been developed first we might have seen more of these relationships in subsequent stories. Bidmead also remembers to give Nyssa things to do! As well as the fairy dress, remember that she loses her tiara in the forest too on a branch – RIP tiara. I grew up with the Davison era so I like all these characters a lot, but I think they're often at their strongest here.

  2. Reblogged this on Confessions of a Curator, Editor, Geek and commented:

    New Verity! We talk about Castrovalva. 🙂

  3. For info, the Big Finish /Tony Hadoke / Fiona Cumming interview is available for download or listen without registration at

    Other podcasts for free & simple download are reachable via

  4. I always attributed the bright explosive regenerations of the potion from The Night of the Doctor completely changing him up.

  5. David Thiel said:

    My first time watching “Castrovalva” was also my very first time watching “Doctor Who” with an audience. Officially, it was a convention called Panopticon West, but it was being run in concert with the 1982 Chicago Comicon. Guests were Sarah Sutton, Anthony Ainley, JN-T and Terrance Dicks. The hotel was old, the A/C was overloaded, and the crowded hallway was full of be-scarved fans sweating buckets. That hallway was where I learned about the mass junking of episodes.

    Watching “Castrovalva” with a crowd was an amazing experience. Not only had none of us seen it–Season 19 had just wrapped up in the UK–but it was the immediate continuation of “Logopolis,” which would have premiered in Chicago the previous December.

    What struck me at the time was the sense of urgency and the relentlessness of the Master’s attacks on the Doctor and his friends. The first episode’s cliffhanger saw the TARDIS plummeting into the Big Bang itself! Even with all the walking and climbing, it felt tense to me because I knew that the Master was still around, setting another trap. That dimensional trap itself was a mind-blower, as was the sudden revelation of Anthony Ainley, hiding in plain sight the whole time!

    I’ve always been a Tegan fan, so it was nice to hear her getting credit for her resourcefulness in this story. Even if she was being spoon-fed much of the information that brought the TARDIS to Castrovalva, she still had to make the intuitive connections.

    Great story, great podcast, makes me want to watch it again!

  6. It’s not relevant today, and I don’t think it shows in the production, but it’s worth noting that another ‘first’ for Castrovalva is that it was the first Dr Who to be shown in the UK away from Saturdays. In fact, it was shown over two weeks on Monday/Tuesday evenings. Moving to a weekday was a huge cultural change, but it also affected the pacing of stories. Not only did this mean that stories this season were over much more quickly, it also meant that time waiting to resolve the cliffhangers from odd-numbered episodes was only a day, as opposed to 6 days for even-numbered episodes. The odd-numbered episodes’ cliffhangers still had impact, but it was lessened a bit by knowing that they were going to be resolved the next day.

  7. James M said:

    Prior to this Fiona Cumming had directed two episodes of Blake’s 7, the second of which, Sarcophagus, was written by Tanieth Lee, a woman.

  8. I saw this live on first UK broadcast.

    Looking at the regenerations to date, we had had:

    1-2: the first one ever, but basically fairly calm
    2-3: forced and disorientating
    3-4: pretty close to 1-2, really

    I think this was the first time that regeneration had been turned into an EVENT (under the fannish hand of Ian Levine?) rather than a narrative convention to be skated over as quickly as possible – compare the departure of Sarah Jane. (The Five Faces of Doctor Who, a rebroadcast of An Unearthly Child, The Krotons, Carnival of Monsters, The Three Doctors, and Logopolis, had happened about a month earlier.) Something that became very obvious when I did my rewatch-in-order a few years ago was that this regeneration sequence was also the show’s first-ever cold open.

    This was where I thought the big de-powering of Nyssa started. JN-T had said that he found competent characters uninteresting, and he’d rather have people who couldn’t simply bypass common problems: that was one of his reasons for breaking up the Doctor-Romana-K9 team (and later for getting rid of the sonic screwdriver), and after this point Nyssa gets much less to do. I see the costume change, especially losing the tiara, as a part of that. A simple cross-country move now leads to loss of equipment, and a soaking! She starts her run as a smart scientist; she ends it mostly as Peril Monkey #2. Black Orchid and Terminus, the stories that are supposed to be dedicated to her, serve her least well of all.

    It’s worth bearing in mind that this was a relatively short-notice replacement for Flanagan/McCulloch’s “Project Zeta-Sigma” (various titles; see A Brief History of Time (Travel) for more).

    The Master has a mute button for Adric and he doesn’t use it all the time. And what’s his Master’s motivation? Back in the day he was trying to rule Earth, and killing the Doctor was a side effect; but for this Master, killing the Doctor is a primary goal. And that last-episode revelation that everything had been set up by the Master makes him look terribly incompetent: even with all the cards up his sleeve, he never managed to get very far.

  9. I was 8 when I saw this first, and I wasn’t too bothered by it. In fact, I remember being excited, probably because it was the first time I would see “new” Doctor Who instead of familiar reruns (every weeknight on ABC). The nature of the reruns probably also contributed to my lack of concern for Tom Baker – after all, I could be fairly certain of seeing him again sometime soon. I couldn’t imagine a world without Doctor Who every night after dinner. :/

  10. Peter said:

    Loved your latest eppy but…How could you discuss Castrovalva and never once mention the (sumptuous, evocative, amazing) incidental music?? One of the best-scored DW stories of all time!

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