Shada – 1979 – S17 – E6/6

imageNumber : Season 17, episode 6 of 6

Which One : They didn’t finish it or broadcast it.

Cast : The Doctor : Tom Baker
Romana : Lalla Ward
K9 MK-II : David Brierly (voice)
Skagra : Christopher Neame
Professor Chronotis : Denis Carey
Chris Parsons : Daniel Hill
Clare Keightley : Victoria Burgoyne
Wilkin : Gerald Campion
Dr Caldera : Derek Pollitt
Police Constable : John Hallet
Passenger : David Strong
Voice of the Ship : Shirley Dixon

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Written By : Douglas Adams

Produced By : Graeme Williams

First UK Broadcast : Unfinished and unaired – due to BBC strike.

Length : 6 x 25 minute parts. Intended : 19 January – 23 February 1980

Plot : The Doctor and Romana travel to Cambridge to visit an old Timelord friend of the Doctor – College Professor Chronotis. Also wanting a rendevous with the Chronotis, is the dangerous criminal Skagra who is attempting to find out the location of the almost mythical Timelord prison planetoid; Shada.

Whats good : Interesting concept – what do the Timelords do with their most dangerous enemies? Skagra. Chronotis. Salyavin. The invisible spaceship. Chronotis’s Tardis.

Whats bad : That it was never finished – or broadcast.

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Review With Spoilers : Shada – like its namesake planetoid is the almost now mythical and illusive season 17 finale, which was never finished – or broadcast. What was filmed; all of the on-location work in and around the city of Cambridge and some of the studio work.

But due to a BBC technicians strike, much of the connecting interior work was never filmed and despite attempts to remount it, the project was eventually abandoned. Therefore, season 17 ended – one episode early, with Horns Of Nimon.

Many years later in 1992. What footage remained, was packaged up in a VHS release with Tom Baker doing some narrative bridging scenes, by reading out the parts which were never commited to film. Eventually, it was released as a DVD – in 2013.

Writer Douglas Adams was never happy with the finished script for Shada. However, it remains clear that the finished article would have turned out to be a very good episode of Who – indeed.

Shada represents a thought provoking piece about the uncovering of the Timelord’s dirty little secret; Shada. The prison planetoid where all of their most dangerous enemies were imprisoned. Among these, Salyavin – a Timelord criminal, who had the power over his victims mind.

Dangerous criminal – Skagra, is after the location of Shada to release Salyavin from his Timelord bonds. After stealing the knowledge of a bunch of brilliant scientists, in an experiment called the “Think Tank”, with his floating silver “memory stealing” ball.

Skagra travels to Earth – to Cambridge, to question/torture Professor Chronotis; into revealing – the location of a book the Professor illegally borrowed from the Gallifreyan archives, which will reveal the location of Shada.

The Professor himself is later revealed as Salyavin himself, having escaped from Shada and incarcerated himself on Earth for 300 years, working at a prestigious St Edds College in Cambridge.

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“If Skagra is meddling with time control and time transference, he’s only going to Shada for one particular reason and it is imperative he be stopped!… [when asked – what resides on Shada?] …..It’s not a matter of what, it’s a matter of who!” Chronotis

Its an interesting conundrum for the Doctor, who has befriended Professor Chronotis but has no idea he is actually the former arch-villain and Time-tot bogeyman; Salyavin.

As Chronotis/Salyavin is not dispatched (as the easy way out) at the end but survives the encounter. The Doctor is left with an interesting moral-dilemma about his friend. Rather than turn him into to the Timelords, the Doctor leaves him on Earth to carry on his retirement, shrugging off his friends past crimes.

Christopher Neame is also rather good as main villain Skagra. With his interesting odd look and silver Quentin Crisp dress-sense. He makes a dangerous opponent – with his mind stealing silver ball, which he unleashes from a carpet bag and uses it to steal the knowledge of his victims.

For once aswell, Who gets the man-in-a-suit monster look just right with the towering and powerful looking silicone based lifeforms – The Krarg, who look the part for this and their few scenes (which were shot) including the cliffhanger from the end of part 5 – proved they were useful baddies.

Some of the Cambridge location scenes were later reused in The Five Doctors, due to Tom Baker’s reluctance to take part. Including footage of the Fourth Doctor “punting” down a canal in a gondola.

Big Finish did a new audio version of Shada in 2003, with the Eighth Doctor cast in the part and a cartoon version featuring the Fourth Doctor – was produced in 2010.

It’s a real shame that Shada was the Who episode – that never was, due to the BBC strike. It was an interesting and compelling statement on the civilised Timelord society and its own crime and punishment problems.

Shada pretty much split the Who fans down the middle, some thought it a compelling and brilliant. Others thought it was big pile of Skag-ra. I sit in the former camp.

One thing is agreed, Shada‘s ability to bring fans back is without dispute, whether to attempt a new version of it – audio adventure or cartoon. Or, whether just to witness the curious spectacle of the Who – that literally never was.

🔵🔵🔵🔵⚪ (4/5)

Old Doctor Who


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