Thursday, 4 January 2018

Dr Who — Season 17, Serial 6: Shada

4th January, 2018.

You know, I’m having a … mixed kind of day off, today.

Remember me saying I’d had a internal hard drive I’d wanted rid of?

I’d replaced a two terabyte internal drive — one used for storage in an extra drive bay — with a four terabyte one.

And initially tried selling the old one at the Brentwood branch of CeX.

They couldn’t take it.

The store’s hard drive enclosure, the device they used to check hard drives people were selling to them?

Had failed.

Not exactly reassuring.   And not repaired or replaced, when I looked in there, yesterday.

Which got me thinking, this morning, that a different branch of the company would take a perfectly serviceable, second hand hard drive.

So … ?   With enough money in hand to get a train ticket to Romford?   I went to the Romford branch, and sold it to them.

That, twenty quid in my pocket and my first and only McDonalds for a few years?

Left me feeling a bit better about the whole experience.


That’s not why I’m writing, though.

No, I’ve had a night off.

And something else for Christmas.

You’ve realised — by now — I’m a long time fan of the British TV show, Dr Who: since childhood, in point of fact.

Like many fans?

I knew about the lost episodes the show’s generated.

Those that — like many Patrick Troughton and William Hartnell stories — were junked after airing.

Or, in the case of one Tom Baker story?

One that filming had started on … 

But, due to industrial action, never completed.


You’re right.

I got a blu-ray copy of the famed, Douglas Adams penned, Shada, for Christmas.


Was my first chance to watch the serial that’s every fan’s been waiting to watch, for the past thirty-eight years.


The story opens with a pre-title teaser: five men are attached to an array of couches, an array that lets a sixth man — Skagra (Christopher Neame) — slowly drain their living minds.

And escape: leaving the remaining men as a group of vegetables.

The scenes moves to Cambridge, where student, Chris Parsons (Daniel Hill) is visiting Professor Chronotis (Dennis Carey*) to borrow a book or two about particle physics.

Little realising the book he mistakenly takes?   Is an ancient book of Gallifreyan law that Chronotis — a Timelord retired to Earth, and being visited by the Fourth Doctor (Tom Baker) and Romana (Lalla Ward.) — filched on leaving Gallifrey.

What Chronotis, the Doctor, Romana and Chris don’t realise?

Is that the book reveals the location of Shada, the Timelords ultra-secure prison.

And the last known location of Timelord criminal, Salyavin.

Someone Skagra really is eager to meet …


Now … 

Hmm … 

Was that worth the wait … ?

You know, I’m not REALLY sure.

I think I’m like a lot of Dr Who fans, my age: curious to see what turned out to be Douglas Adams’ last script for the show, keen to see if it matched Pirate Planet and City of Death.

Having seen it?

I’m not sure that it does: I think both Pirate Planet and City of Death were both far better paced.

Although, frankly?

I think that’s a function of the editing.

You see, with Shada never having been finished?

It’s been reconstructed a few times.

Once, back in the early 1990s: with Tom Baker himself, narrating the missing sections.

Various webcasts, novelisations and audio dramas have been done: and Douglas Adams, himself, re-used parts of the story for Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency

And, in 2017 — just in time for Christmas — the blu-ray version I was given: with the missing parts done as animations, and newly recorded audio provided by the original cast.

My issue?

The pacing is awful: and I think the editing’s the problem.

For this release, the BBC having stitched together all six episodes of Shada into one two hour, eighteen minute movie: you don’t, from what I could see, have the option to watch it as six, individual, episodes.


I think the pacing of this version of Shada suffers as a result.

I’m also thinking this.

I’ve now, like many fans, seen Shada.

I’m pleased to have seen it in something approaching the way it should have been.

And, no doubt … 

Will be watching again: warts and all.

It’s not perfect.

But it’ll do.

Viva Shada.

*        Carey later appears as the Keeper, in The Keeper of Kraken.

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