Shada: the maximum-security prison planet of the Time Lords, for those who wanted to conquer the universe. The way to Shada has been long forgotten. But Skagra – wannabe universal conqueror and possessor of a mind-draining sphere – wants to enlist the talents of a very special inmate. The sphere leads him to Cambridge in 1979, and the apartment of Professor Chronotis – a elderly Time Lord, friend to the Doctor and owner of a unique book….
The deeper dive:
- Shada was Adams' third and final script for Doctor Who (he was becoming increasingly busy and famous with The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy). It was also the end of his season-long stint as script editor.
- As was standard, location filming on the episodes was completed some weeks before studio recording began. However, due to a technicians’ strike, only one of the intended three studio blocks could be completed. Despite attempts by incoming producer John Nathan-Turner, Shada proved too expensive to complete and was abandoned.
- If it had been transmitted, it would have marked a number of ‘lasts’: the last use of the 1967 arrangement of the theme, the last use of the ‘time-tunnel’ title sequence from 1973, and the last outing for the Fourth Doctor’s brightly-coloured scarf.
- It was released on home video in 1992 with linking narration by Tom Baker (which is included on this DVD). Big Finish recorded an audio version, featuring the Eighth Doctor in 2005, which BBC online turned into an animated webcast. Most recently, new series writer Gareth Roberts – with the blessing of the Adams estate – novelised the story, which was also recorded as an audiobook.
Being A Girl – Women in Doctor Who examines how the Doctor’s female companions have developed from the childish Susan and buttoned-down Barbara, to the more feisty women of today. Strike! Strike! Strike! tells the fascinating story of the regular bouts of industrial action at the BBC in the sixties and seventies. The Big Finish/BBCi Flash animation of Shada is a nice addition.
Douglas. Adams. As with his earlier Doctor Who offerings (The Pirate Planet and City of Death), Shada is crammed full of the wild ideas and witty dialogue that were his trademark. The completed location work in Cambridge is glorious, placing the Doctor in an academic setting where he looks so comfortable. And Tom Baker’s linking narration from 1992 is delightfully eccentric – delivered in character as the Fourth Doctor.
The bottom line:
The Hitchhiker’s Guide to Doctor Who.