I’ve talked about Shada before, mostly around the Big Finish / BBC Eighth Doctor version; now it’s time to consider the 2017 part-animated version (as discussed on BBC Cambridgeshire: Doctor Who: Tom Baker finishes abandoned 1979 Shada serial).
Me and Shada
I wrote an essay on Shada for one of the You and Who books. It’s rather impossible for me to be remotely objective about this particular story for reasons I’ll explain. If you want to skip on past my ramblings, head down to the next sub-heading: The Shada BluRay. Still here? Good!
Shada was made in the autumn 1979 in Cambridge (UK not Massachusetts) and the Emmanuel College used for St Cedds. Cut a long story short, and one year later yours truly starts an undergraduate degree at Downing College Cambridge, just over the road. That makes me the third (that I know of) person connected with Doctor Who to go to my college: other alumni include John Cleese and Terrance Dicks. I’ll let you judge whose contribution is greatest!
So, when I watch this I am immediately taken back to my college days, simple things like Heffers paper bags bring back memories, and I even spent some time in Emmanuel (or Emma as I should call it) over the time I was at college. It’s all familiar from streets to colleges to pubs. How can I not like this story?!
It’s even by Douglas Adams who I spent an afternoon drinking beer with only a week before going to university, a story for another time. Back to the review…
The Shada BluRay
My overriding impression is they actually shot quite a lot of the story. While we have the now familiar rather odd animation we’ve seen elsewhere, to my mind it works a lot better when dropped in here and there rather than having huge sections of animation. The splicing does show how little detail is in much of the animation but for scenes on Skagra’s spaceship (as an example) it captures something of the ’70s for me.
Shada the story
As to the story of Shada itself, Douglas Adams is meant to have felt it not his best work, overlong and not how he’d hoped. I found this review on the Radio Times by Patrick Mulkern who still reviews the show to this day. He finds a lot not to like: Tom Baker returns in Shada but is this lost Doctor Who still a plodder? Pretty damning but he makes some good points.
For me the Cambridge charm leads me to be forgiven, and some of the Lalla / Tom scenes are as good as any. I don’t like the voicing for K9, the students struggle to break trough the story and Skagra looks like an escapee from an episode of The Tomorrow People. Trim out a couple of episodes of stuffing and there’s some good twists and Time Lord backstory to mull over. I suggest it set some patterns Big Finish have echoed in their own work, but that’s probably me being over-pretentious (Moi?!)
I’ll watch it again, and the extras has a Cambridge then and now feature designed with me in mind. Amazon are showing it for a mere £10.99 on BluRay at the moment, a complete bargain, and the rate at which I get through my backlog saves me lots of money as I don’t buy these things new.
Smugness aside, for me Shada has lots of nuggets of interest. What do you think? Let me know!