"I thought it was a very good script. There was an invisible spaceship. Douglas said ‘Anyone can design a visible spaceship - but to design an invisible spaceship? That takes imagination...’’” - Tom Baker re: Shada author Douglas Adams...
...with a look at BBC Home Entertainment’s newly released three DVD set of Shada, a six-part Baker-era DOCTOR WHO adventure never completed and never transmitted.
Shada is famously scripted by Douglas Adams (HITCHIKER’S GUIDE TO THE GALAXY) and was intended to air January 1980 Alas, a technicians strike blocked the filming of this story for a bit - and when said dispute was resolved, other programing had taken on higher priority at BBC, and the remainder of Shada was abandoned.
A close-up of the Galifreyan book which causes so much trouble when brought to Earth. The idea of Gallifreyan knowledge being so dangerous to lesser civilizations is a nice one...
What footage does exist for the story - which is an surprising amount of material, actually - is bridged here by narration from fourth Doctor Tom Baker, who appears onscreen and weaves these connective fibers from the perspective of his Doctor character. In general, this conceit works quite nicely and moves proceedings along briskly - although some narration for this bridgework is written in an unclear manner which aggravates efforts to keep up, and ultimately pulls viewers from the story.
While it’s difficult to know with absolute certainty how Shada would’ve ended up had its shooting been finished and post-production been fully realized (SO many factors impact our final perception of any television or film title...even down to very last minute decisions), there is more than enough footage present here for viewers to draw a well-informed sense of what Adams’ tale would’ve been like if it had been properly completed. And, my personal sense of the matter is: Shada would’ve emerged as a perfectly serviceable DOCTOR WHO adventure, whose physical execution never fully acquires the pulse of Adams’ storytelling.
This invisible spaceship in a park strongly evokes a similar gag seen in STAR TREK IV: THE VOAYGE HOME six years later.
Shada feels sleepy - even geriatric, at times - but this is principally a criticism of director Pennant Roberts’ pacing more than the story itself. Roberts also directed the Baker-era The Sun Makers (Story #95), one of my personal favorites, but little of that title’s memorable tightness is evident here. Floppiness and sagginess abound in this particular iteration of Shada - a pervasive funk and notable lack of investment emanate from its makers and performers. In Shada, Adams toys with huge WHOverse conceits (Gallifreyan history and personages, for example) - and one would think this factor alone would render Shada more compelling than it ultimately is. But, at the end of the day, even mythological yarns of secret Gallifreyan prison worlds, long-banished Gallifreyan ultra-criminals, and an attempt to create a single universal consciousness can’t shine through the tepid approach through which this episode is presented (too much sitting around, drinking tea and doing nothing).
Shada - the Time Lords' prison world.
Completed or not, Shada is an adventure of fascinating ideas which simply are not intriguingly realized.
My understanding is that the primary version of Shada presented on this new DVD set is the VHS version WHOducer John Nathan-Turner ultimately completed (including procuring a quantity of FX shots generated for said undertaking) and released on VHS in 1992. BBCHE has restored this effort quite wonderfully...the Shada footage herein often looks every bit as good as other DW titles which have been similarly restored. In 2003, Shada was also re-jiggered and presented as an eight Doctor adventure (i.e. Paul McGann) as a Big Finish audio which is available HERE in the US and HERE in the UK. This audo is also presented in this new DVD set along with Flash animation (more below).
Shada VHS Version (1:49:36)
Shada (BBCi/Big Finish Version) - accessible via computer. This is the 8th (McGann) Doctor version of Shada, realized with flash animation. This definitely helps the clarity of of some of the sequences which were confusing when narrated by Baker (I’m referring to his original version, mentioned above) but doesn’t seem to change one’s overall perception of the story. Nonetheless, this is an interesting / alternative way to approach it.
A trailer for the forthcoming DVD release of The Reign of Terror (Hartnell, Story #8) - 1:01
Taken Out Of Time (25:31)
Insight to this ill-fated story’s production, including comments from fourth Doctor Tom Baker, director Pennant Roberts (2005), Ralph Wilton (Production Assistant), Olivia Bazalgette (Director’s Assistant), Les McCallum (assistant Designer),
Strike! Strike! Strike! (27:48)
Presenter Shaun Ley examines unions, strikes, and their impact on/relationship to DOCTOR WHO in general. Very interesting & recommended...
Being a Girl (30:09)
A look at female impact on DOCTOR WHO, and BBC as a whole. Presented by Louise Jameson (fourth Doctor companion Leela).
Photo Gallery (4:47)
More that Thirty Years in the TARDIS (1 hour, 28 minutes)
A lovely documentary marking the 30th anniversary of DOCTOR WHO. It’s 20 years old (we’re now going into DW’s 50th year), but its assessment of the show from that point in history is still hugely meaningful.
-- Remembering Nicholas Courtney (25:59)
Presented by Michael McCanus
-- DOCTOR WHO Stories: Peter Purves (13:31)
-- The Lambert Tapes Part 1 (10:36)
Verity Lambert, one of WHO’s critical and driving forces in the early years of DOCTOR WHO, discusses her time on the show.
--Those Deadly Divas (22:38)
A look at DOCTOR WHO’s more challenging women, including perspective from Kate O’Mara (Rani in ), Camille Codouri (Jackie Tyler - Rose’s mom), Gareth Roberts (WHO scribe), Tracy Ann Oberman (Yvonne Hartman - Torchwood operative), and more...
Photo Gallery (6:03) - devoted to the making of the More Than Thirty Years In The TARDIS Special mentioned above.
All and all, this is a very, very fully realized DVD set whose extras sometimes shine far more brightly than the episode it is chiefly devoted to. Recommended.
[Season / Series Seven Docbacks - MOST RECENT DOCBACK IS HIGHLIGHTED]
[SEASON / SERIES SIX DOCBACKS]
"The Doctor, The Widow and the Wardrobe" (2011 Christmas Special)
[RETRO-WHO DOCBACKS ]
"An Unearthly Child" (Story #1)
"The Daleks" (Story #2)
"The Edge of Destruction" (Story #3)
"Marco Polo" (Story #4)
"The Keys of Marinus" (Story #5)
"The Aztecs" (Story #6)
"The Sensorites" (Story #7)
"The Sensorites" (Story #7 - full DVD release)
"The Reign of Terror" (Story #8)
"Planet of Giants" (Story #9)
"Planet of Giants" (Story #9, full DVD release)
"The Dalek Invasion of Earth" (Story #10)
"The Rescue" (Story #11)
"The Romans" (Story #12)
"The Crusade" (Story #14)
"The Space Museum" (Story #15)
"The Chase" (Story #16)
"The Time Meddler" (Story #17)
"Galaxy 4" (Story #18)
"Mission to the Unkonwn" (Story #19)
"The Myth Makers" (Story #20)
"The Gunfighters" (Story #25)
"The Tomb of the Cybermen" (Story #37)
"The Mind Robber" (Story #45)
"The Krotons" (Story #47)
"The Seeds of Death" (Story #48)
"Spearhead from Space" (Story #51)
"The Abassadors of Death" (Story #53)
"The Claws of Axos" (Story #57)
"The Colony in Space" (Story #58)
"The Daemons" (Story #59)
"Day of the Daleks" (Story #60) + Preview of the DotD Special Edition
"The Three Doctors" (Story #65)
"Carnival of Monsters" (Story #66)
"Death to the Daleks" (Story #72)
"The Claws of Axos" (Story #77)
"The Robots of Death" (Story #90)
"The Talons of Weng-Chiang" (Story #91)
"The Sun Makers" (Story #95)
"The City of Death" (Story #105)
"Nightmare of Eden" (Story #107)
"Kinda" (Story #118)
"Snakedance" (Story #125)
"The Five Doctors" (Story #129)
"The Awakening" (Story #131)
"Frontios" (Story #132)
"Resurrection of the Daleks" (Story #134)
"The Caves of Androzani" (Story #136)
"Vengeance on Varos" (Story #138)
"Time and the Rani" (Story #144)
"Paradise Towers" (Story #145) + New WHOvian Documentary / Newsbits
"Dragonfire" (Story #147)
"The Happiness Patrol" (Story #149)
"The Greatest Show in the Galaxy" (Story #151)
"Doctor Who: The Movie" (aka TVM) - McGann)
Merrick's Personal Journey With The Doctor (How Merrick Got Hooked On DOCTOR WHO)
"The Crash of the Elysium" (Manchester version - interactive DOCTOR WHO adventure)
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