Shada

DVD NTSC
Region 1

DVD PAL
Region 2 U.K.
VHS Video
NTSC
PAL
(Doctor Who Story No. 109, starring Tom Baker)
  • written by Douglas Adams
  • directed by Pennant Roberts
  • produced by Graham Williams
  • music by Keff McCulloch
  • 6 episodes planned to be 25 minutes each - unfinished and never broadcast
Story: The Doctor, Romana, and K9 pay a visit to an old Time Lord friend living under the alias of Professor Chronotis at Cambridge university. What Time Lord secrets are contained in the lost book that the Professor asks the Doctor to help him find and return to Gallifrey before it's too late? Who is the mysterious Skagra who travels the galaxy with an ominous floating ball constantly at his side? And why do people hear a babble of inhuman voices whenever he comes near?

During the aborted making of this story, only the outdoor location filming and the first of three studio sessions were completed. The story was not scored until the mid-1990's, when the existing footage with added special effects was linked together with narration by Tom Baker and released on VHS video. The story has never been shown on or syndicated for broadcast television.


DVD Packages include:

  • "Shada" - now digitally remastered: the version from the VHS release (109 min.) with existing footage linked by narration from Tom Baker.
  • "Taken Out of Time" making-of documentary (25 min.), with Tom Baker (The Doctor), Daniel Hill (Chris Parsons), director Pennant Roberts,
    production manager Ralph Wilton, production assistant Olivia Bazalgette, and design assistant Les McCullum.
  • "Now and Then" location featurette (12 min.)
  • "Strike! Strike! Strike!" (27 min.) detailing the internal BBC politics leading to the cancellation of Shada's production slots as well as other programs that were affected over the years. With actress Nicola Bryant (Peri), actor/director Paul Seed (The Graff Vynda-K), union-rep Gary Russell, and others....
  • Pop-up Production Note Subtitles
  • Photo Gallery
  • "Shada - Flash Version" on DVD-ROM (165 MegaBytes), starring Paul McGann

  • "More Than 30 Years in the TARDIS" 1995 documentary (87 min.)
  • "Remembering Nicholas Courtney" (who played the Brigadier, but does not appear in "Shada", 26 min.)
  • Featurette on Peter Purves (Steven Taylor) who does not appear in "Shada" (13 min.)
  • 2003 "Story of Dr. Who" interview of producer Verity Lambert, who had nothing to do with "Shada". (10 min.)
    (Part two of this is on the "Planet of Giants" DVD.)
  • featurette about being female in Doctor Who (29 min.)
  • "Those Deadly Divas" (22 min.) with Kate O'Mara (The Rani), Camille Coduri (Jackie Tyler) and Tracey Ann Oberman (Yvonne Hartman).
  • Easter Egg

Buyers' Guide Review

by Martin Izsak

(A more in-depth analysis, containing "SPOILERS" and intended for those who have already seen the program, can be accessed here.)


I've seen two different forms of the incomplete Tom Baker story "Shada", and feel compelled to rank them both differently within season seventeen. BBC Video's abbreviated release of the footage on VHS tape (or now again on DVD) with added music and effects, along with some extra links narrated by Tom Baker, only tells the story adequately enough to rank it fourth in the season.

However, there is an earlier VHS reconstruction of Shada, which I believe was created privately by archivist Ian Levine before trading amongst fans caused a copy to land in my lap around 1990 or 1991. While presenting the footage in a much more rough and raw state, the story itself remains much more complete thanks to the full length text drawn from the rehearsal scripts to fill in all the missing scenes. The finished effect makes it feel as though you have switched to reading the novelization each time a scene is missing, which really is the next best way to enjoy a Doctor Who story. Douglas Adams' writing clearly appears far more balanced and interesting in this form, reminding one why he became such a celebrated writer.

Then of course there is a 3rd version, which IS included on the DVD, starring Eighth Doctor Paul McGann who never really had a proper era of his own. I can't say I'm excited about that. "Shada" is a Tom Baker story, belonging to this precise point in the show's chronology, and I wouldn't know how to invest in it emotionally any other way.

Rumour is that Ian Levine spearheaded yet another more recent attempt to reconstruct this story, which was rejected by the makers of this DVD. I have no idea how legitimate their reasons may have been, but I can't say I'm motivated to buy what they did put out on DVD. I've already got both "Shada" and "More Than 30 Years in the TARDIS" on VHS. Ideally, even if Levine's new version wasn't usable, the next best thing should have been to remake Levine's older text version with a bigger font and some background music, and let the viewer choose between that and the Baker narration as is often done with optional CGI effects sequences on other Doctor Who DVD releases. This is a great opportunity lost.... at least until some kind of double-dipping Special Edition Ultra-Definition Pink-ray with digital cyber brainload comes along.


The Doctor's witty exchanges of dialogue in the middle episodes are only given their due in the text version. This version also adds so much to the concepts that are explored in the later four episodes, where character motivations, goals, and scientific/philosophical concepts are fleshed out and made real, the dialogue painting pictures with words. Where Robert Holmes and Terrance Dicks used to do this to describe actions and events that they couldn't possibly afford to put on screen, Adams is using it instead to describe intangible ideas that even advanced CGI and post production couldn't hope to realise. He proves to be ahead of his time again.

The story is not without its share of problems. The Krargs are one of them, but I'll save the discussion of them for the in-depth analysis version of this review, since too many spoilers would come out here.

Christopher Neame's Skagra does not really have a chance to shine during the existing footage, but his role seems to get more interesting in other portions of the script. One can, however, see more of Neame's villainy in the second season opener of "Sliders", titled "Into the Mystic" (Sliders story no. 10), or as a Sith Lord in the PC video game "Star Wars Jedi Knight: Dark Forces II". Denis Carey was able to complete nearly all of his scenes as Professor Chronotis, easily the most memorable and beloved of his performances on both Doctor Who and Blake's 7. The humorous Time Lord Chronotis reminds me very much of Patrick Troughton's Doctor, and has a similar appeal. Shada's existing footage shines brightest while developing professor Chronotis and the legends of Gallifrey.

Chris Parsons and Clare Keightly seem to work best while fulfilling the traditional companion role, and when they can put their considerable university educations to good use. They don't work quite as well when responding to the unknown - either with too much misplaced emotion, or bland philosophy, or, as happened in the previous story, they need to catch up with the audience. A little too much screen time is spent convincing laymen that science fiction ideas are an intergalactic reality.

The location filming at Cambridge is a lot of fun in itself, and highly memorable, seeming to cement the Doctor's growing popularity with young adults and university students. It's a wonder that they hadn't thought to set a story there before... or since!

Only entering post-production over a decade after it was shot has allowed the task of musical scoring to escape Dudley Simpson's monopoly and land in freelance composer Keff McCulloch's lap instead, making the incidental backing of this story far different from the usual season seventeen fare. The score sounds and works best when traditional sounding instruments like the flute come to the fore. Many scenes get a new boost with music added, such as the moment where a mid-cue switch to low piano notes adds a wonderful underlying menace to Skagra's first conversation with the porter Wilkin. But in other scenes, the music actually seems to be sapping atmosphere out of the story, and a wavering synthetic instrument in the foreground seems to be what spoils it most for me. When all is said and done, there is a lot to enjoy from this story musically.


I think that in a version with both the existing footage completed with effects and music, and the full text & dialogue of all missing scenes included, "Shada" can actually beat "Destiny of the Daleks" (story no. 104) in the season rankings and give "City of Death" (story no. 105) a good run for its money. It is a true crime that the 2013 DVD doesn't really do anything to get us any closer to that than we were before.

Had "Shada" actually been properly completed (as in shooting the whole thing with the actors in 1979), it could have beaten "City of Death" and been in contention for best story of the season. But, if you've only got the BBC VHS Video or DVD with abbreviated links narrated by Tom Baker, don't expect it to be quite as wonderful. A bit too much of the essential story just isn't there.



Season Seventeen Rankings:

Best Story:

  • Nightmare of Eden
  • (Shada with full text)
  • City of Death
  • Destiny of the Daleks
  • Shada with narrated links
  • The Creature From the Pit
  • The Horns of Nimon

Best Writer:

  1. Bob Baker
  2. Douglas Adams (& Graham Williams)
  3. Terry Nation
  4. David Fisher
  5. Anthony Read

Best Laser Effects:

  1. Destiny of the Daleks
  2. The Horns of Nimon
  3. Nightmare of Eden
  4. The Creature From the Pit

Best Director:

  1. Michael Hayes
  2. Pennant Roberts
  3. Ken Grieve
  4. Alan Bromly (with Graham Williams and Colin Mapson)
  5. Christopher Barry
  6. Kenny McBain

Best Music: (all Dudley Simpson except "Shada")

  1. City of Death
  2. Nightmare of Eden
  3. The Creature From the Pit
  4. The Horns of Nimon
  5. Shada
  6. Destiny of the Daleks

The version of the footage with effects, music, and narrated links by Tom Baker is available on DVD and VHS video:
DVD NTSC Region 1
for the North American market:
in the U.S.
in Canada
DVD PAL Region 2
for the U.K.
VHS Video
NTSC for North America
PAL for the U.K.
VHS version contains:
intro (3 min.)
Part One (22 min.)
Part Two (18 min.)
Part Three (17 min.)
Part Four (18 min.)
Part Five (14 min.)
Part Six (17 min.)

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Read the Buyers' Guide Review for the next story: "The Leisure Hive"



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