Doctor Who – Shada (New version)

I mentioned this when it was announced, and now I’ve had time to watch it[1], I’ll have to witter about it in the usual Losing it way.

In the usual way, there are several editions on offer – I opted for the limited edition Steelbook, which quite apart from coming in an attractive metal container, has a third disk of stuff. Depending on how you look at those things, that extra disk may or may not be worth the extra.

Main feature

OK, let’s start with the first disk, the thing we’ve all been waiting for since 1979: the completed version of Shada. If you’re not familiar with the sad story of how the last story of the 1970s was never completed, I gave a brief account of it when I talked about the previous DVD release a few years back. More on that previous release later.

What we have here is as complete a recreation of what was originally intended by writer Douglas Adams as we’re ever likely to get. The previously released completed bits have been blended with animation (from the same people who recreated The Power of the Daleks), with the original cast, led by Tom Baker as the Doctor and Lalla Ward as Romana, providing the voices. Some visual effects have been added to the original material, and there are some bits where the sets have been recreated, including a lovely bit at the end which I’m not going to tell you about, because it’s so nice, that it’s better kept as a surprise.

And it all works pretty well – this is, after all, a Douglas Adams script, and is full of the expected humour, silliness and ideas. The animation style is simple (we’re not talking modern 3D renders here!), but it works well with the source material and the characters look enough like the real actors for the changes of scene not to be too jarring – unlike previous recreations, where it’s been whole episodes recreated, in Shada’s case we have fun bits where one one side of a door the characters are animated, and when they enter the room, they’re “real”. But so long as you can suspend your “huh” reflex, it’s not really much stranger than the switch between film and video often seen in TV shows of the period.

The animators have dropped in some nice fan-pleasing touches (if you look carefully, you’ll spot a book with the title “Zaphod – My Stories”), and it’s all good fun. Like most six-parters, it’s maybe a bit longer than it really needs to be, but we can forgive that, I think. Less forgivable is the fact that it’s been presented as a single feature rather than in proper episode format, which feels a bit wrong, somehow.

There’s a commentary available, which I haven’t heard yet, so I won’t talk about it other than noting it’s there.

The main feature is well worth your attention, whether you go for the round shiny thing or download.

Extras – Disk 2

Hmmm, a bit of a mixed bag here with some old and some new bits:

Taken out of time – this look back at the incomplete making of Shada was included with the previous release.

Now and then – the traditional look at locations featured and how they’ve changed. This is also a repeat from the previous release

Strike! Strike! Strike! – A previously released documentary from 2012 talking about  the effect of strike action on various Doctor Who stories (not always detrimental, for instance an ITV strike gave the quite splendid City of Death a record audience)

Studio Sessions – Raw footage from the 1979 studio recordings. This sort of thing is probably fascinating to people who are fascinated by this sort of thing, but I’ve never found similar ones all that interesting. This is no exception, I’m afraid.

Dialogue Sessions – Tom Baker and other cast members in the recording studio for the newly created material. Worth a look.

Studio Shooting – More behind the scenes stuff, this time from the material specially created for this new edition.

Model Filming – A bit of background on the nw model work

Deleted Scenes – A couple of bit cut for reasons of timing (which is the kind of thing that would have happened if the original version had been completed).

Title Sequence Film – For the purposes of Shada, the title sequence from the period was remastered in HD from the  original film negatives. This item shows the results and the raw transfers.

Live Action Reference Footage – to make the animation more authentic, some scenes were acted out in format of green screen for digital capture.

Photo galleries – two of these, one covering the 1979 production and one the 2017 work.

There is also some computer accessible material, which I’ll need to get a Blu-ray drive to see, so that may not happen for a while.

Extras – Disk 3

Only available in the limited edition, this has two items.

1992 VHS Compilation  – this is how Shada was first presented. The original footage was linked with narration by Tom Baker. This is the same material that was used on the previous DVD release, so if you have that already, you may consider this optional

Shada 2003 Webcast – this started life as a Big Finish audio play. What they did was adapt the story to feature the Paul McGann Doctor, who makes an unauthorised  return to Gallifrey to collect President Romana so they can complete some unfinished business, the business in question being Shada. Apart from that change, the rest of it follows the original script quite closely. This was turned into a “webcast” (a curious notion of putting things online for a limited time, or something like that, I forget) with the kind of animation that would work on the slow internet connections that most people had back then. This was previously made available in formats that needed a computer to play (I did, once), but here it’s been given the proper treatment so you can enjoy it on your TV. And, despite the limitations of the animation (nobody’s mouth appears to move…), it’s distinctly watchable. Again, if you’ve got the earlier release, or you’ve got a copy of the webcast, you’ll possibly consider this optional, but it was nice to see it on TV.

Overall, a very nice release – the short notice of its release made it a pleasant surprise. I’m hoping that we’ll see more recreations of missing episodes now that the animation seems to have been sorted out nicely.

[1] Nice way to pass a Sunday…

James Lovegrove – Sherlock Holmes and the Miskatonic Monstrosities

It’s a little under a year since I read the first in the Cthulhu Casebooks trilogy, Sherlock Holmes and the Shadwell Shadows, and here we are with the follow-up. Editor James Lovegrove provides a useful introduction to Watson’s manuscript, and answers some of the questions that have arisen since the publication of the first book. Apparently, some people have suggested that Lovegrove actually wrote the book himself and just made up the story of how the typescripts came into his possession.   He denies this, of course, and points out that this second volume is so much in the style of two of Watson’s original novels[1], and including as it does a manuscript from a second writer, that such a feat of imitation would be far beyond his skills. Well, I’m convinced, anyway…

Anyway, Holmes and Watson are involved in more danger involving deeply unpleasant nasties including a Nightgaunt, and the usual levels of misdirection and mystery. While trapped and anticipating a fate including a very unpleasant death, they’re able to read a manuscript very much in the manner of the noted historian HP Lovecraft, involving a trip along the Miskatonic River that leads to Very Bad Things, and explains much that has been happening in London.

And finally, all is revealed, and the real cause behind all the horrors is made clear. So nice to meet old fiends, err friends…

It’s an absorbing tale, but is it true? Is it an elaborate hoax on the part of Lovegrove or some unknown party? Was Watson losing his marbles late in life?  Did HP Lovecraft make it all up and fake it as a Watson narrative? We may never know. But perhaps the forthcoming third volume will provide more clues.

[1] For such we must describe them if these newly revealed stories are to be believed, not the authentic accounts that we’ve always assumed them to be.

Weight and Stuff Report – 17 December 2017

Weight: 227.1 pounds (16 stone 3.1 pounds, 103 kg)
Steps: Very few

No change today, so it seems to be a slightly longer-running anomalous wossname than I expected.

Quiet day today, getting the washing done and not a lot else, so there.

Here’s a view of the coast at Whitley Bay. I always think beaches are much more appealing when they’re almost deserted

Noth Sea Coast

Noth Sea Coast

Camera: X70
Aperture: ƒ/10
Shutter speed: 1/140s
Focal length: 18.5mm
ISO: 200
Taken: 16 December, 2017

Weight and Stuff Report – 16 December 2017

Weight: 227.1 pounds (16 stone 3.1 pounds, 103 kg)
Steps: 8,389

Well, that’s an unusually large drop today, probably a temporary wossname or anomalous thingy, or something.

As I hadn’t slept well on Thursday night, I was feeling tired enough after the excitement (well, the food was nice) of the office party to go to bed before 9pm. Well, I was trying to, when the doorbell rang. By the time I got downstairs, there was nobody there….

I thought nothing of it until this morning, when I was returning from an especially early Tesco trip (home before 9am) and noticed that some delightful person had wrenched the bell push off the door. Well, they’d removed the body of it, and snapped part of the backplate, which was firmly attached with double-sided sticky pad thingies. Presumably that was why the bell rang…  This has happened before, a few years ago. On that occasion, they took my neighbour’s as well. I can only guess that the person or persons who think destroying doorbells only goes for homes where there aren’t any visible lights on. So, I had to buy a new one, which was annoying.

Before I bought a new doorbell, I took myself to Whitley Bay, for a nice (cold) walk along the coast. I had planned to go as far as the lighthouse at St Mary’s Island, but when I got to the turning, I found there was more black ice than I like to walk on, so I stopped, and got the next bus back to Newcastle. And bought a doorbell, mutter.

Here’s some of the more visible ice that was around today. This stuff, I don’t mind. It’s the invisible bits I hate…



Camera: X70
Aperture: ƒ/2.8
Shutter speed: 1/240s
Focal length: 18.5mm
ISO: 200
Taken: 16 December, 2017


Weight and Stuff Report – 15 December 2017

Weight: 231.1 pounds (16 stone 7.1 pounds, 104.8 kg)
Steps: 1,713

Up a bit today…

Had the office party this afternoon, in the course of which I had some food and in a shocking development, didn’t drink very much at all. In an even more shocking development, I was home by 4:30pm.

Here’s another view of HMS Trincomalee

HMS Trincomalee

HMS Trincomalee

Camera: X70
Aperture: ƒ/9
Shutter speed: 1/200s
Focal length: 18.5mm
ISO: 200
Taken: 9 December, 2017

Weight and Stuff Report – 14 December 2017

Weight: 230 pounds (16 stone 6 pounds, 104.3 kg)
Steps: 2,282

No change today…

Here’s one of the larger floaty thingies[1] in Hartlepool Marina.

Not Seaquest

Not Seaquest

Camera: X70
Aperture: ƒ/10
Shutter speed: 1/105s
Focal length: 18.5mm
ISO: 200
Taken: 9 December, 2017

[1] Ships, boats, I’m never quite sure what the distinction is, so I’ll go with “floaty thingies”