Shada, a legendary unfinished Doctor Who serial abandoned in 1979 due to a BBC strike, will be available to watch in its entirety soon. The original footage has been remastered and combined with all-new color animation using voices of the original cast, including Tom Baker as the Fourth Doctor and Lalla Ward as his Time Lady companion, Romana.
A recently released trailer shows how the animated sequences combine with the original location and studio recording, which also has been re-cut from original material collected before industrial action halted the production.
With a script by Douglas Adams (The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy), Shada is the story of a retired Time Lord at Cambridge who hides a dangerous artifact that is stolen by an evil alien who seeks to gain access to the secrets of an infamous prison planet called (you guessed it!) Shada.
A VHS of Shada was released in 1992 using Baker’s narration to fill in the gaps (eventually released on DVD), and the BBC released a Flash-animated version of the story in 2003 starring Eighth Doctor Paul McGann alongside Ward, based on a Big Finish audio production they did. A novelized version also has been released.
Baker has called the episode one of his favorites: “I have many fond memories of shooting the location scenes in Cambridge, and it was disappointing not to finish the story in studio,” he told the BBC. “I’m so glad that BBC Worldwide have found a way to bring fans a complete visual version.”
This release was re-edited from hours of raw footage with on-location film at Cambridge scanned into full high-definition quality and digitally remastered; studio footage remains in its original standard definition.
Other “missing” or incomplete stories from Doctor Who‘s classic era have been released with mixed methods, from using “tele-snaps” or on-set photography set against a complete soundtrack where available (as seen with Patrick Troughton’s Wheel in Space), to black-and-white animation to fit the era’s look (as recently seen with Troughton’s Power of the Daleks). Both Wheel and Power are available to stream along with most of the existing classic Who library on the subscription-based BritBox digital service.
Much like other recent reconstructions, such as The Power of the Daleks, the facial animation in Shada isn’t the greatest out there, but it does the job of completing the picture—and K9, the Doctor’s robot dog, seems to shine in this format anyway. (And it’s arguably a more dynamic way to reconstruct these treasures than with still photos.) Beyond the animation, there’s a special surprise for viewers who stick around until the restored Shada‘s closing scene.
Following on the heels of Doctor Who‘s 54th anniversary, November 23, this newest take on Shada went on sale November 24 as a digital release in the UK iTunes Store, with a region-free DVD and Blu-ray set for release December 4; if you Yanks don’t want to order this import version and can wait just a bit longer, a US “Region 1” DVD also goes on sale January 9, according to Amazon. It’s not clear yet when or on what service a digital release outside the UK will be available.
With Jodie Whittaker taking over as the current TARDIS occupant on Christmas Day, such a loving revisitation of Shada is a great way to introduce younger generations to one of classic Doctor Who‘s most fascinating and fun eras.