Despite the fact that I haven’t quite got round to catching up on all of 2012’s classic Doctor Who releases, I got straight on with the first one of 2013, which like a lot of such things is a bit of a special treat for the fans.
This slipcase contains two things: a lovely documentary and a famously unfinished story that’s had a bit more attention of late. I’ll deal with them in that order.
First up is More than 30 years in the TARDIS. This was a documentary first shown in 1993 (during the odd period when Doctor Who was not being made) for the thirtieth anniversary of the show’s beginning. It was released in an extended version on video the following year, and it’s that extended version that’s on offer here.
And what a lovely thing it is – it covers the origin of Doctor Who, includes numerous interviews, clips, bits of extreme fun with Daleks and Cybermen, and if that wasn’t enough, Douglas Adams is in it. It’s a proper tribute to the show made at a time when it didn’t seem all that likely that it would return, and is as good a run through of the classic series as I’ve ever seen.
Not only that, but there are extras! It’s been treated as any other classic release, so there are production subtitles, a gallery and the usual PDFs of the Radio Times listings. But there’s more!
Remembering Nicholas Courtney – A tribute to the actor who played Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart. There’s an interview, numerous clips and Tom Baker being Tom Baker, which is always good. Nicely done, and essential watching for any fan.
Doctor Who Stories – Peter Purves – Another piece taken from the 2003 Story of Doctor Who in which Peter Purves (who I recall from his years on Blue Peter, of course) talks about his time as a companion.
The Lambert Tapes – Part One – Verity Lambert was the first producer of Doctor Who. In the early 60s it was a major step for a woman, particularly a woman still in her 20s, to be appointed to such a position. In this piece, also recorded for the 2003 Story of Doctor Who, Verity talks about her experiences with the dreaded BBC management of the day.
Those Deadly Divas – A look at the role of the diva (those female characters who are just a wee bit over the top) in the series, featuring Kate O’Mara (who we all recall as the Rani), Camille Coduri (Jackie Tyler) and Tracy-Ann Oberman (Torchwood’s Cyberised Yvonne Hartman). They’re assisted by writers Clayton Hickman and Gareth Roberts. Nicely watchable.
Now that would have made a nice enough release, and I’d have bought it. But what’s this in the slipcase? Is it another DVD? Yes, it’s Shada!
Shada was meant to be the last story in the seventeenth season. After another script proved to be unusable, script editor Douglas Adams, despite being a bit busy with the Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy in various forms, was given special dispensation to be allowed to write a story. What he came up with was a nicely odd piece involving a retired Time Lord, a nicely loony megalomaniac and some Gallifreyan history. Unfortunately, it was scuppered by the politics of the time. The location shooting was done, and one of three studio blocks was done, but the rest ended up being cancelled as a result of strikes. While other stories had ended up not being made at all for various reasons, this was the only one to have a partial existence, which has lent it a certain something or other.
All was not lost, however. For a start, Doug Adams recycled many elements of the story into Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency. An in 1992, the completed bits, with Tom Baker wandering around a museum narrating the missing bits, and a few added visual and sound effects, were put together into a video release. And it’s that release that’s been used as the basis of the DVD. It’s been assembled into the intended six episodes, some of which are quite short due to the amount of missing material, but it more or less hangs together. It’s good fun, with Tom Baker and Lalla Ward on fine form. I enjoyed it, anyway.
Along with the production subtitles and a trailer for the next release, there’s a 2003 animated version of Shada, made for the web. Paul McGann is the Doctor and Lalla Ward is Romana, with original K-9 voice John Leeson replacing David Brierley. This is playable on PC or Mac rather than on your TV. I haven’t watched that yet, so I can’t comment. But there’s even more! YEs, a second DVD of extras:
Taken out of Time – A more or less usual look back at the slightly disturbed making of Shada, with many of the usual suspects including Tom Baker
Now and Then – Comparing the largely unchanged Cambridge locations thirty years on. Really not much has changed…
Strike! Strike! Strike! – How various bits of Doctor Who were affected by strike action over the years. Spearhead from Space was actually improved by it, as the whole thing had to be made on film, which is why it’ll be betting a Blu-Ray HD release later this year…
Being a Girl – the role of women in Doctor Who gets a moderately critical look. Far too many of the companions were written as helpless screamers, something that’s a wee bit different these days…
So, this is a nice release for collectors. Shop around and you should be able to get it for much the same price as a normal single release, so there’s not much reason not to get it if you’re at all interested in classic Doctor Who.
 Which I failed to notice on the menu when I watched it, so I’ll have to watch again
 Is that a word?
 This may sound odd to people used to the way things work these days, but things were different then
 And another bit popped up in a HHGTTG book. As did an idea he had for another Doctor Who story.
 Interestingly, the trailer didn’t mention the most interesting thing about that. So I won’t until it arrives