DOCTOR WHO DVD: SHADA
RELEASED: 7TH JANUARY 2013
Shada. If you are a mega Doctor Who fan (I'm midway between mega and casual) then you will have heard of Shada. The legendary lost story by Douglas Adams. I myself have heard of it for the past five years, thanks to the wondrous invention of the internet. And over the years, my interest in it piqued more and more. And even over the last year, I found myself mystified by its uniqueness as being the only 'truly' lost story. Over the last five years, I have seen it via webcast, audio drama and more recently the fantastic adaptation by Gareth Roberts. Yet I have been denied a chance to see the actual original footage recorded before the annual strikes. Now, my wish has finally come true…
The main feature of the DVD is the original recorded footage from October-November 1979 with missing links recorded with Tom Baker, originally released in 1992. Which, I have to say, is great. I know it's not the version everyone wanted for many reasons, which I will delve into later, but for a fan like myself, who will take anything properly made for Doctor Who, even if it's terrible (The Twin Dilemma being the fan's case in point) with a pinch of salt and enjoy it. Whilst we have to hear Tom every five minutes or so, he makes it sound a bit unique. He decides to tell it in character as the Doctor, so it makes the transition between narration and footage that little less bumpy. Meanwhile his performance in the show itself is spot on, sometimes serious, sometimes comical, and Romana is still on top form, taking the authority when the Doctor has popped out for a bike ride. But on a side note, this was the first story that I heard David Brierly's performance as the voice of K-9. Coming from a fan who firmly believes John Lesson is the quintessential voice of the tin dog, David's voice is good enough as a replacement, but you know it's different. Especially in Episode 2, when K-9 is meant to be delievering the sad and sombre line "The ********* is dead," he says it in a slightly chirpy voice. (Not to worry, the stars aren't bad language; I'm just preventing a spoiler for those who have not seen, heard or read it yet.)
Denis Caery's performance as the Professor is top quality, as are Daniel Hill and Victoria Burgoyne. But the highlight of the supporting cast, Christopher Neame, without a doubt. His performance as Skagra is just masterfully brilliant, as Skagra is a different kind of villain. He doesn't plot, he plans. He remains cool in the face of a problem with said plan and rectifies a way around it. The only time when he turns to the clichéd Doctor Who villain is his last scene when, trapped in the brig by an insane computer, he loses it, shouting and pleading to be released. Another interesting note is the music. I think it's all right but, OH how the people hate it. Well, I say hate, they do say it's more bearable than the composer's (Keff McCulloch) other works. For me, it fits and the highlight (if you wish to call it a highlight) is the cues used when The Doctor and Chris are being threatened by the newly formed Krarg (which I have to say is a good monster).
After industrial action effectively killed the show, Adams used some elements of this story, particularly Professor Chronotis, in his novel Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency, and the surviving footage found its way into the Five Doctors to loophole Tom Baker's absence from the story. Despite its cannibalisation, it still remains a good story and a must see for a Doctor Who, or indeed a Douglas Adams, fan.
2003 WEBCAST VERSION
THANK YOU BBC!!!! THANK YOU!!!!!! If the last few words didn't tell you, I adore this version, second only to the novel. This version, in fact is what introduced me to Shada in the first place. Despite it looking like a motion comic, the voice acting in it is absolutely fantastic. And only later in my life did I realise how fantastic. Andrew Sachs completely obliterates his Manuel typecast in a performance which bests Christopher Neame. Cold and calculating, he is a far cry from the Barcelonan waiter we are used to. The audio is great, with the visuals making it that little bit better. Despite being only able to watch it on a computer, it triumphs over its online counterpart by weaving all the chapters in each episode together, meaning you just press play and you don't raise a finger for another half hour. Sadly the only downside with this is that it doesn't have a play all function. But the pros outweigh that one con.
Taken Out Of Time: absolutely fantastic. Being the only documentary taking pride of place in a DVD trailer, this lives up to its fantastic expectations. Tom, Daniel and the crew revisiting the highs and lows of making the story and eventually their reactions to the strike, lock-out and eventual cancellation of Shada are enlightening and entertaining. Chris Chapman, you have excelled yourself.
Strike, Strike, Strike! : The occasional subject documentary has reared its head again and has brought us a good one. Showcasing the history of Doctor Who's relationship with union strikes from an incident with William Hartnell's dressed to a one day strike threatening 2011's The Doctor, the Widow and the Wardrobe, it's an educational half hour of a subject that made or broke the world at the time. An illuminative ride through television history.
Being a Girl: the only oddity on the disc, but still very good. An informative look at the role of the female gender on screen and behind the scenes in Doctor Who from the sixties to the present day, it's a good look at what has changed, most times for the better, sometimes for the worst, in one of the major aspects, not only of Doctor Who, but of television itself.
Others: As with all recent releases, we have the obligatory Now and Then feature, looking at the changes in locations in time, the production subtitles, which are very well worth a look at, and the photo gallery. And of course, the Coming Soon trailer.
Sadly, due to the unique nature of the story, we are denied the chance of a look at the Radio Times listings. Or are we? If you look inside the pamphlet inside the case, you will have the chance to see what could have been.
As a Douglas Adams fan as well as a Doctor Who fan, this release has taken pride of place on my shelf and is a good look at what Doctor Who's most successful ever series could have ended with if it wasn't for the powers that be.