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At Long Last - a Stitched Together Shada on DVD, With Tons of Extras!
on October 23, 2012
Long ago, the Time Lords created Shada, a prison planet specifically to house the worst of the worst, that is, creatures who had tried to conquer the universe. One of those imprisoned was Salyavin, a Time Lord of enormous mental powers and mind control. But don't bother looking for Shada. Its location has been lost in the mists of time. Or not.
The episode starts on the Think Tank space station. Using a device with a strange sphere, great thinkers and scientists share their knowledge, to be accumulated in the sphere. But then one of them, Doctor Skagra, goes megalomaniac. He uses the sphere to drain his colleague's minds and sets out to, well, conquer the universe. But to insure his victory, he needs one last almost all-powerful mind to steal, that of the Time Lord Salyavin. There are rumors that there is one person alive who knows Shada's location, an elderly Time Lord who has retired to Cambridge, Earth, under the name Professor Chronotis. Skagra sets out for Earth.
Fortunately for the universe, The Doctor (Tom Baker), Romana II (Lalla Ward) and K9 also make a visit to Cambridge. Professor Chronotis is the Doctor's old friend, and he's asked the Doctor to visit him and help him find a book he seems to have misplaced. If you call a friend from across time and space to find a book, it may not be an ordinary book.
"Shada" has my favorite Classic doctor and my favorite companion (K9, not Romana!). It was the last series Adams wrote for Dr. Who and it has a lot of goofy humor, such as when Professor Chronotis introduces himself, "I am, I was, I will be Professor Chronotis. Oh dear. We Gallifreyans have never managed to come up with a satisfactory form of grammar to cover these situations."
According to wikipedia, "Adams himself did not regard the story highly and was content for it remain permanently unseen in any form. He once claimed that when he had signed the contract allowing the 1992 [VHS] release, it had been part of a pile of other papers presented to him by his agent to sign and he wasn't fully aware of what he was agreeing to."
"Shada" was meant to be the last episode of Tom Baker's sixth season as the Doctor, and would probably have aired Jan/Feb 1980. About 50% of the episode was filmed; all the outside scenes and the first of three studio sessions. A strike halted production, and afterwards, when they could have restarted, there was no spot for Doctor Who. The studios had to be used for filming Christmas specials.
[Added after my DVD was received and watched:] I have not been a fan of the older cobbled together episodes of Doctor Who, working around missing sections or scenes. But I wasn't as bothered by the "Shada" incompleteness as I thought I'd be. When parts are missing of earlier Doctor Who's, it's generally a whole episode that's gone. With "Shada" however, as the serial's scenes were shot out of sequence, what we're missing is all shots at a certain location (set). As the scenes with those sets are interspersed among all the other scenes, you don't have 20 minutes at a time of missing video. I think Tom Baker's linking narration for these short periods works OK.
This a review of the January 2013 DVD release of "Shada", which is its first time on DVD. The full name of the DVD will be "Shada with More Than 30 Years in the TARDIS". This will be a 3-disc set. The picture and sound are digitally remastered.
DISC 1 -
"Shada VHS Version" (1992, 102 minutes) Video and audio have been digitally remastered for the DVD. Tom Baker narrates an introduction and missing scenes while visiting a museum of Doctor Who. (It's actually recorded at the Museum of the Moving Image, London, which had a special Dr. Who exhibition.) In the introduction, Baker muses, "I was irresistible in those days!". And, "Shada! ... written by Douglas Adams... I thought it was a very good script. There was an invisible space ship. Douglas said, 'Anyone can design a visible spaceship. But to design an invisible spaceship, that needs imagination!' "
Special features on Disc 1:
1. "Shada - BBCi/Big Finish Version" A commentator to this review indicated that this is the radio/webcast version with Paul McGann as the voice of the doctor, and he was correct. This is not viewable on your DVD player, it is computer DVD-ROM content. Unfortunately, I cannot comment on it directly from this disc, as I couldn't get it to work on my (older PC XP) computer.
However, the webcast/radio "Shada", created in 2003, is still available for viewing, sound and animation, as a webcast on bbc co uk. (At least it was of 10/29/12.) This is a 6 episode "Shada" with a slightly altered storyline. The animation is basic, mouths don't move when a character talks, for example. It's more like a narrated storybook. But, it's bright and "well-drawn".
2. Text Info on/off. There isn't a commentary track to "Shada", but the Info Text is entertaining. The "Shada" script was thrown together in 4 days, after Graham Williams, producer, refused, despite weeks of pleading, to approve Douglas Adams original script. The original script called for an alien race to interrupt an England-Australia test match, and steal the Ashes Urn (a very real urn for a real cricket series). It was a "cosmic struggle with the genocidal people of the planet Krikket". ! If this storyline sounds familiar, it's because Adams used it in his 3rd Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy book.
When Skagra's sphere attaches it to someone's head, the script calls it "noodling".
DISC 2 -
1. "Taken Out of Time: The Making and Breaking of Shada" (2012, 25 minutes) Interviewees include Tom Baker (the Doctor, of course), Daniel Hill (plays Chris Parsons, a student of Professor Chronotis), Pennant Roberts (director, from 2005 interview), Ralph Wilton (production assistant), Olivia Bazalgette (production assistant), Vic Meredith (designer), Angus Smith (formerly of the St. John's College Choir).
Tom Baker says, "Going to Cambridge to shoot a film was so much more interesting than going to yet another quarry."
Dan Hill and Olivia Bazalgette met on "Shada", married two years later, and are still married.
We hear of the serendipity which brought the St. John's College Choir to their spot of belated fame on "Shada". Unfortunately, the choir did not know the name of the episode which was being shot, nor did they hear of the news of cancellation. So for months they'd watch the first episode of each Dr. Who series, waiting for the one to take place in Cambridge and see their spot. Of course, it didn't happen.
2. "Shada: Now & Then" (2012, 12 minutes) "Shada" locations, how they look now compared to how they looked in clips taken from the 1979 filming. When it comes to Cambridge and the nearby village of Grantchester, not much changed.
3. "Strike! Strike! Strike!" (new, 27 minutes) Commentators include Tony Lennon (ex-president of BECTU union), Lord Addington (Liberal democratic peer), Nicola Bryant (actress who played Peri Brown), Richard Martin (director), Gary Russell (script editor and union rep), John Miles (from an interview in Dr. Who Magazine), Barry Letts (producer), Derrick Sherwin (producer), Peter Purves (played Steven Taylor), Paul Seed (director and actor) and, yes, Margaret Thatcher! Well, part of a 1979 speech.
Presenter Shaun Ley, with just a hint of a smile, says, "No doubt infuriated by the cancellation of 'Shada', the new Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher, declared war on the trade unions."
4. "Being a Girl" (new, 30 minutes) Narrated by Louise Jameson (played Leela), this covers women behind the scenes as well as in front of the camera in Dr. Who. The prime commentator is Samira Ahmed, journalist and broadcaster. I hadn't really thought about it, but it's pointed out that Paul Gann's movie was the beginning of the Doctor's change from considering female companions sidekicks to flirting/love interests.
5. Photo Gallery
6. Subtitles on/off in English
DISC 3 -
1. "More Than 30 Years in the TARDIS" (1995, 87 minutes) This was previously released on VHS. This is a very enjoyable documentary, many outtakes from Dr. Who as well as TV news and interview shows. There are appearances by Doctors and Companions and Producers and Script Editors, including the two Peter Cushing movies.
Verity Lambert, the very first Doctor Who producer, remembers that the head of BBC Drama, who had thought up the basis of the Dr. Who series, was furious with the second episode "The Daleks". He'd previously told her that "he didn't want any BEMs, which is short of Bug-Eyed Monsters. And he considered the Daleks to be the epitome of BEMs".
This is worth watching just to see the two commercials, starring Lalla Ward and Tom Baker, for Prime Computers.
The documentary ends with a cut of the best voiceover by Sylvester McCoy, which explains why so many of us love Dr. Who: "There are worlds out there, where the sky is burning, where the sea's asleep and the rivers dream. People made of smoke and cities made of song. Somewhere there is danger. Somewhere there's injustice. Somewhere there's tea getting cold. Come on Ace! We've got work to do!"
2. "Remembering Nicholas Courtney" (new, 26 minutes) Courtney played UNIT Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart. He passed away in February 2011. This special is moderated by Michael McManus, friend and Courtney's biographer. Courtney says that his favorite Dr. Who episode was "Inferno", because "It's very nice playing nasty people."
3. "Doctor Who Stories - Peter Purves" (new, 13 minutes) Purves played Dr Who companion Steven Taylor in 10 Dr. Who series starring William Hartnell. The first was "The Chase" (1965, which was companions Barbara and Ian's last series) and the last was "The Savages" (1966). The Purves interview took place in 2003, and this special has lots of clips from Dr. Who as well as his later stint on "Blue Peter", a children's show.
4. "The Lambert Tapes - Part 1" (2003, 10 minutes) Verity Lambert's interview was originally recorded for "The Story of Doctor Who" in 2003. Part 2 of "The Lambert Tapes" is an extra on the Sept 2012 DVD of the Doctor Who serial "Planet of Giants". Lambert was Dr. Who's first producer. She produced the first 19 William Hartnell episodes, from "An Unearthly Child" (1963, the very 1st Dr. Who) through "Mission to the Unknown" (1965). Lambert passed away in 2007.
5. "Those Deadly Divas" (22 minutes) The primary commentators are Kate O'Mara, Camille Coduri and Tracy Ann Oberman. O'Mara played The Rani in two Classic Doctor Who episodes. Coduri was the inimitable Jackie Tyler, Rose's mum, beginning with the very first episode of the revived Doctor Who, "Rose" (2005, starring Chris Eccleston as the 9th Doctor). Oberman portrayed Yvonne Hartman, the Torchwood Exec who ignored the Doctor to her peril (2007). But there's references to lots of other Divas in Dr. Who, such as Madame Kara in "Revelation of the Daleks" (1985) and Lucy Saxon in "The Sound of Drums" and "Last of the Time Lords" (2007).
6. Photo Gallery of the shooting of "More Than 30 Years in the TARDIS"
13. Easter Egg
14. PDF materials: Radio Times Listings
15. Production Note Subtitles