Number : Season 17, serial 6 of 6
Which One : The Tom Baker one which they didn’t finish or broadcast.
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
Written By : Douglas Adams
Produced By : Graeme Williams
First UK Broadcast : Unfinished and unaired – due to BBC strike.
Length : 6 x 25 minute episodes. Intended : 19 January – 23 February 1980
Plot : The Doctor and Romana travel to Cambridge, to visit an old Time Lord 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) Time Lord 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.
Review With Spoilers : Shada (like its namesake planetoid), is the almost mythical and illusive season 17 finale; which was never finished or broadcast. What was filmed; was all of the on-location work in (and around) the city of Cambridge – and some of the interior 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 of the parts which were never commited to film. Eventually, it was released as a DVD – in 2013.
Writer Douglas Adams (Hitchikers), was never happy with the finished script for Shada. However, there is enough here to suggest. 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 Time Lord’s dirty little secret; Shada. Shada is a hidden prison-planetoid, where all of their most dangerous Time Lords enemies were imprisoned. Among these, Salyavin – a Time Lord criminal, who had the power over his victim’s mind.
Dangerous criminal – Skagra, is after the location of Shada to release Salyavin, from his Time Lord 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 – is later revealed as Salyavin; having escaped from Shada and incarcerated himself on Earth for 300 years, working at a prestigious College in Cambridge.
“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 that this is actually the former arch-villain and Time Lord bogeyman; Salyavin.
As Chronotis/Salyavin is not killed, (as the easy way out of this) at the end but survives the encounter. The Doctor is left with an interesting moral-dilemma, about their friendship. Rather than turn Salyavin into to the Time Lords, the Doctor leaves Salyavin on Earth, to carry on retirement.
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 balls, which he unleashes from a carpet bag and uses, 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. The Krarg look the part and their few scenes (which were shot), include the cliffhanger from the end of episode 5; which proved that 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), a animated cartoon version featuring the Fourth Doctor; was produced in 2010. I 2017, Tom Baker returned and shot some new scenes for a part animated, part real-footage version; playing the Doctor again (after an absence of 36 years from the role).
It’s a real shame that Shada was the serial – that never was, due to the BBC strike. It was an interesting and compelling statement on the civilised Time Lord society – with its own crime and punishment problems.
Shada pretty much split the Who fans down the middle, some thought it 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.
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