Tuesday, 1 May 2012

526 Shada Part One

EPISODE: Shada Part One
TRANSMITTED: Unaired (planned for 19th January 1980)
WRITER: Douglas Adams
DIRECTOR: Pennant Roberts
SCRIPT EDITOR: Douglas Adams
PRODUCER: Graham Williams
RATINGS: Unbroadcast
FORMAT: VHS: Doctor Who - Shada

A museum, filled with the Doctor's old foes. An aged Fourth Doctor/Tom Baker wanders around recalling those he beat until he comes across the Krarg, his foe from Shada, the unfinished Doctor Who story.

And thus, to some excruciating late 1980s Doctor Who music, opens the video for Shada. Doctor Who fans are used to dealing with bits of stories, with much of the early years of Doctor Who missing and just solitary episodes of stories remaining. But even the Shada is an odd beast: the six part story that was meant to close Season 17, is unique in that filming was started but aborted after the location work and studio session. What is left is most of the first two episodes and little pieces of the remainder.

So here's what I intend to do: with the video and scriptbook I'll attempt to treat it as a proper story. With the first two episodes, where we'll look at the cast that we get to see onscreen and where the location filming was done. Then at episode 3 we'll look at what went wrong with the production that caused it to be cancelled and in the following episodes look at how Shada has attempted to surface since then....

The introduction itself has an error in it: This wasn't Victoria Burgoyne's first television role. There's also a fabulous joke about Daniel Hill now running a retirement home: the actor was then appearing in Waiting for God, with Horns of the Nimon's Graham Crowden, playing care home manager Harvey Bains.

And if you think these plot summaries look similar to those found for Shada on The Tardis Index File then they are: I pasted them to the Wiki when I discovered there were no plot summary for the individual episodes.

On the Think Tank Space station Doctor Skagra uses a sphere like device to drain the minds of his colleagues and leaves in his spaceship for Earth, leaving an automated quarantine message running. In Cambridge 1979, Professor Chronotis has a visit from one of his students, Chris Parsons, who accidentally leaves with the wrong book. The Doctor & Romana, after enjoying a spot of punting during which they're observed by Skagra & distracted by voices from the sphere he's carrying, visit the professor. Chris discovers that the book is written in a completely alien script. Chronotis reveals to Romana that he is an elderly Time Lord who has retired to Earth and has been living in the same Cambridge rooms for 300 years. The Doctor asks him why he was summoned by him to Cambridge but the Professor can't initially remember, later recalling he needs the Doctor's help finding the book. Chris analyses the book using various instruments which make it smoke and glow. Skagra steals a car and the driver's ability to drive. The Professor reveals the missing book is one he brought back from Gallifrey. Skagra drives out to a field where his spaceship is concealed, invisible from the human eye. The Professor confesses the book he took was The Worshipful and Ancient Law of Gallifrey, which dates back to the time of Rassilon, and is known to have incredible power. Skagra receives word that all is ready from his carrier ship, commanded by a massive Krarg.

Hmmm. Of all the episodes of Shada this is the most complete missing just the two short scenes of Chris analysing the book in the lab, and the closing sequence of Skagra on the bridge of his ship. Some of the pacing feels a bit odd and I don't think that's helped by Keff McCulloch's music and some poor editing of the material: the opening scene just drags and could use a trim (What did the scientists think Skagra was doing when he drained their minds? They've obviously entered whatever experiment he's carried out cooperatively), the stealing a car sequence is just odd with a lingering shot of the retreating car. The Tardis parked in the corner of Chronotis' rooms is handled very oddly indeed, a brief glance from the Professor then it just sits there till Chris sees it and the Professor dismisses it as "someone must have just left it there". Of course he knows the Doctor, and would know what his Tardis looked like, so maybe he's just being dismissive and nonchalant about the oddness. As for oddness..... what on Earth is Skagra wearing and why is nobody in Cambridge giving him funny looks? Deary me!

The "milk, one lump or two" joke used here may be familiar to you. For why see later on in the story.... Equally you may well have seen the punting scene in this episode: it was reused as part of the Five Doctors to cover the absence of Tom Baker. Douglas Adams reuses his earliest published work during this episode too with the joke about the man who has forgotten what word his mind is like (sieve).

The majority of the cast in this story appear in this episode: Playing the lead role of Professor Chronotis is Denis Carey who'll return as the Keeper in The Keeper of Traken and the Old Man in Timelash where he was directed by Pennant Roberts who helms this story. Interestingly Roberts is the only director who works on Doctor Who prior to Season 18 to work on the show again thereafter! The Villainous Skagra is played by Christopher Neame who a few years later would emigrate to America and make a career out of playing villains, usually English, on the American small & large screen. Star Treks, Babylon 5, The Flash and McGyver feature on his CV. One of the scenes not filmed for this episode would have featured one of the Krargs: these would be voiced byJames Coombes, who later plays Paroli in Pennant Roberts's Warriors of the Deep. As to which Krarg it would have been we don't know but two of the names attached to the role are known to us: all my sources name Lionel Sansby, a Passenger in Nightmare of Eden, as one of them but some pages on the Interweb also finger our old friend Harry Fielder as being involved. Playing College porter Wilkin is Gerald Campion who had obtained fame a generation earlier in the Television version of Billy Bunter. Playing Chris Parsons is Daniel Hill. He's appear in Blake's 7's: Sand as Chago before gaining recognition in the sitcoms No Place Like Home and Waiting for God, as mentioned earlier this instalment and during Horns of the Nimon.

Daniel Hill isn't the only cast member from No Place Like Home, where he played the son-in-law Raymond Codd, to have a Doctor Who connection. The father of the family, Arthur Crabtree, is played by William Gaunt who'll pop up in Revelation of the Daleks as Orcini. One son, Nigel Crabtree, is played by a young Martin Clunes very soon after appearing in Snakedance as Lon. The other son, Paul Crabtree, was played by Stephen Watson who we'll shortly see in Full Circle as a Marshman. He made national news when he died, aged 26, while on his honeymoon in Spain, just before the fourth series of No Place Like Home was screened but after most of the episodes had been recorded. Lastly Tracy Crabtree was played by Dee Sadler, who will be in the Greatest Show in The Galaxy as Flowerchild.

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