Doctor Who: Shada/More Than 30 Years in the TARDIS
Directors - Pennant Roberts
Cast - Tom Baker, Lalla Ward
Country of Origin - U.K.
Discs - 3
Distributor - BBC Worldwide
Reviewer - Scott MacDonald
Date - 02/02/13
The Serial (4/5)
Shada finds the Fourth Doctor (Tom Baker) with Romana II (Lalla Ward) visiting an old Time Lord friend Professor Chronotis at Cambridge University during the 1970's. Recently, Chronotis sent out a distress call to the Doctor, but due to his failing memory cannot remember why he sent it out in the first place. Chronotis, did however, recently lend out a piece of Time Lord history to another Professor at the University believing it to be a book on Carbon Dating.
It turns out this books has a great deal of power, and holds the secret to the whereabouts of the Time Lords prison planet, Shada. It turns out that soon after the Doctors arrival, another alien visitor, Skagra, arrives in Cambridge having traveled across the cosmos seeking the book for his own evil plans. The Doctor must find a way to retrieve and protect the book, before Skagra can gain retrieve it, and use it for his own nefarious ends.
Doctor Who throughout it's original 26 year run is well known for it's many tragic content losses. The most obvious of which is the loss of hundreds of episodes due to a BBC which forced the erasure of the master tapes that contained many 1960's and 1970's episodes. This process caused the loss of a good majority of the 2nd Doctor's (Patrick Troughton) run on the show, and a good deal of the 1st Doctor's as well. Since the advent of home video the BBC, and fans have scrambled the four corners of the globe searching for any existing elements for those episodes.
We then comes to Shada, another significant loss that occurred in the late 70's. It is the ONLY Doctor Who story to actually go before cameras, and not see completion. It was a Douglas Adams scripted serial that was meant to close out series 17, and due to a production strike at the BBC roughly 60% of the serial was shot, leaving the rest incomplete. Although it was rumored that John Nathan-Turner wanted to complete the serial during the next season or later, those rumors never came to fruition, and for over a decade the Shada footage remained shelved.
In that time there would be 3 additional Doctor's and the show would end it's historic 26 year run. In 1992 Tom Baker was brought back in, not to shoot the additional footage, he had changed to much in the intervening years for that to be the case, but to provide a sort of narration between the existing footage. What would surface would have Tom as the Doctor, discussing his various exploits, and his lost adventure Shada. It's not exactly an ideal situation, but in the end I'd rather have more Doctor Who than less, and it does get the job done in an oddly entertaining manner.
If the name Douglas Adams means anything to you (and if you're reading this, it really really should), you should definitely have a good idea of what you are in for with Shada. Doctor Who in the Graham Williams era was starting to move away from the dark, gothic atmosphere of the stories presented by his predecessor Philip Hinchcliffe, and into more family friendly and comedic territory. The Williamís era presented the eccentric Time Lord as more of a slightly oddball comic figure than he did in the past, and the combination of this change, with Douglas Adams as script editor indeed hammers it home.
The script for Shada, and in turn Tom Baker's performance is played more on the eccentric/comedic side than in recent years which works well for both the character and the story. Shada was intended to be broadcast as a six part adventure, and it is presented as such in here, however, due to the narration taking up whole sequences many episodes after the first run a much shorter length than the rest, and as such does not suffer from the typical fatigue many 6 episode Doctor Who serials tend to suffer from.
For a story with such a trouble history, Shada is certainly a joy to watch even in this compromised format. There was a completed fan animation done last year with the existing footage integrated, but since that may never see the light of day. That leaves this release of Shada as the best opportunity to see the only incomplete Doctor Who serial, with Tom Baker in the lead role.
As usual the cats over at the Doctor Who Restoration Team have done a more than admirable job at bringing Shada to DVD. The serial has been presented in a 1:33:1 full frame aspect ratio preserving the format of it's original broadcast. For the most part the transfer looks clean, and detail is very nice. The exterior sequences (such as the bike chase) do have a tendency to look a little bit soft when compared to the rest. I do chalk this up to a mix of production related consequences, and the way the material was kept over the years, and not so much the transfer itself.
The audio on the disc has been presented in a completely solid Dolby Digital mono track in English with optional subtitles. The dialogue throughout is clean and clear. I personally had no problems hearing anything on the track, and did not detect any audio issues such as pops, cracks, or hissing.
Many fans looking to buy this set might look at the prospect of a half-completed serial finished with narration, and consider passing. The extras, however, is where the set truly shines. The first disc contains a trivia track that has various tidbits about the serial. It also contains as a DVD-Rom extra a flash animated version of Shada with Paul McGann (8th Doctor) opposite Lalla Ward returning as Romana.
The 2nd Disc is where the majority of the extras are related to Shada are, and it kicks off with Taken Out of Time: The Making and Breaking of Shada. This is a great little documentary featuring Tom Baker, Daniel Hill, Pennant Roberts, and more who discuss the making, and unraveling of the legendary Doctor Who serial. We then have another edition of Now and Then this one specific to the locations of Shada, showing them as they were in the 70's, and how they exist now. We then have quite an interesting 30 minute documentary hosted by Louise Jameson called Being a Girl which goes into detail about some of the actresses who played companions on the show, and how they were portrayed. A nice historical piece called Strike! Strike! Strike! is also on the disc, and goes into detail about the strike that derailed the production of Shada. This disc is rounded off by a Shada Still gallery.
The third disc in the set contains the documentary More Than 30 Years in the TARDIS. A comprehensive documentary made in 1993 to celebrate 30 years of Doctor Who. It is an absolute treat of a documentary, and longtime fans of the show are going to want this on DVD. It interviews all the surviving Doctors up until 1993, cast and crew, and even takes some time to go into the Dalek movies featuring Peter Cushing. The Third Disc also includes The Lambert Tapes part 1, the first part of an interview with the first series producer Verity Lambert. We then get Doctor Who Stories Peter Purves, a 13 minute long interview with the actor who played Steven Taylor in the 60's. There is also Those Deadly Divas this features interviews with Kate O'Mara, Camille Coduri and Tracy Ann Oberman, and discusses their respective roles on Doctor Who throughout the years. We have a 26 minute retrospective called Remembering Nicholas Courtney which pays homage to the man who throughout the many years Doctor Who was on the air played Brigadier Alastair Gordon Lethbridge-Stewart. The disc is rounded off by a More Than 30 Years in the TARDIS Still Gallery.
Doctor Who - Shada/More Than 30 Years in the TARDIS is a fun release featuring the only serial in Doctor Who history to never be finished, and coupled it with the comprehensive documentary More Than 30 Years in the TARDIS, and an overwhelming amount of extras. I would have preferred a version completed by animation included on the disc, but the VHS version from 1992 does work nicely. Regardless this release comes HIGHLY RECOMMENDED for a fun story made to work even though it shouldn't, and the enormity of the release itself.