DVD Review: Doctor Who, “Shada” (1979)


“Shada” is an infamous Doctor Who episode from the Tom Baker era that was never finished due to a strike that shut down production. Well, back in 1992 they finished it, sort of, and released it on VHS. When the story reached a point where the missing material should be inserted the episode cuts to Tom Baker who narrates what should have been filmed. It has now reached DVD. This is the exact same transfer with no alterations.

The plot revolves around the Time Lords prison planet, Shada, and an alien named Skaggra (Christopher Neame) with delusions of grandeur. To be the center of the universe this Skaggra needs a certain talented prisoner to help him. Well, maybe not help him. He just needs his mind and he can go off and rule all of known existence. It’s a nifty plot and I was in to it until Baker’s narration took over. With what he was describing and from what was filmed this could have been a really good story. It’s just the narration pulled me out every time they cut to him. At any rate, at least now us Whovians can see what was completed and what was intended.

The full frame VHS transfer was quite good, and I had no problems with the audio. “Shada” is a three-disc collection, and on the first disc you get the episodes, all six, which can be played separately or all at once. As with other Doctor Who DVDs, there is a factoid track that can be optioned.

Disc #2: ‘Taken Out Of Time’ (25:23) is a nice making of “Shada” featurette that covers its inception and its unexpected shut down due to strikes. I was amazed at how old Tom Baker has gotten.

‘Now And Then’ (12:34) covers the locations that were filmed and how the look today. Some of them don’t look any different.

‘Strike! Strike! Strike!’ (27:41) basically covers not just the strike that killed this particular episode but the history of strikes that were so common place in the UK when it came to TV productions, and movies.

‘Being A Girl’ (29:57) explores the role of women in the Whovian universe, from the earliest days of Doc Who right up to the present and how their characters and roles have evolved.

Finally we finish off the disc with a Shada Photo Gallery, and English subtitles for all the featurettes.

Disc #3: The main highlight here is the mid-90s documentary, ‘More Than 30 Years In The Tardis’ (1:27:46): Narrated by Nicholas Courtney (Played Brigadier Alistair Gordon Lethbridge-Stewart Lethbridge in the show) it’s divided up into three chapters—Doctor Who And The Daleks, Monsters And Companions, Laughter And Tears: Behind The Scenes—and covers a lot of ground, more than 30 years of it, with interviews by some of the surviving cast members and the people who worked on the show behind the scenes.

‘Remembering Nicholas Courtney (25:51): An interview, partly done in 2003 and 2012, with the actor who played U.N.I.T’s Brigadier, who managed to make appearances in show all the way through to the final doctor’s era, Sylvestor McCoy. His long time friend and biographer, Michael McManus, conducts the interview. Tom Baker even shows up in the 2003 portion. Apparently he and Courtney became good friends after they met.

‘Doctor Who Stories—Peter Purves’ (13:24): A 2003 interview with the actor who was in the William Hartnell era. Interesting factoid: the show killed his career for a while after he left it.

‘The Lambert Tapes—Part One’ (10:37):  An interview with one of founding members who was on the ground floor of Doctor Who’s creation. She was producer of the show from 1963-1965, and this 2003 interview chronicles the ups and downs she went through as one being the first woman producer in the BBC.

‘Those Deadly Divas’ (22:28): Is an overview of some of the more memorable female villains to populate the Whovian universe.

Rounding out the disc is a Photo Gallery (6:03) of behind-the-scenes on the doc ‘More Than 30 Years In The Tardis,’ PDF Materials (Radio Times Listings) and English subtitles for all the featurettes and the documentary.

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