Doctor Who – Scream of the Shalka

Now this is an excellent example of procrastination, or at the very least, my general inability to locate a suitable tuit supply. I seem to have bought this DVD over a year ago, but only got round to watching it on Easter Monday. Even buying it was a buit of a tuit thing, as it was released around six months before I bought it, which is a bit unusual for me and Doctor Who DVDs. And you think that’s bad? This was shown on the BBC website in 2003, and I have no recollection of having seen it at the time. No idea why…

Anyway, what we have here is an anomaly. A bit of wibbly-wobbly, timey-wimeyness that’s dropped in from some parallel world where Doctor Who didn’t return to TV in 2005. A world where the Doctor appeared in semi-animated form on the internet to a small fan audience.

What happened was this: the fortieth anniversary was coming up, and some people thought that something should be done to mark the occasion. And as it was absolutely, utterly, completely and totally certain that the BBC would not ever at all be bringing back the actual TV show under any circumstances whatsoever, after a bit of research into rights, it was agreed that an animated version could be released as a “webcast” on the BBC website. This was a curious notion of episodes being released on a regular schedule to the public, who were mostly using dial-up connections in those days. This put a lot of restrictions on what could be achieved, so the animation ended up being not all that animated…

Anyway, the initial story was made, with Richard E Grant[1] as the Doctor, accompanied by a robot-bodied Master played by Derek Jacobi[2]. It involves a dispirited Doctor, apparently being manipulated by the Time Lords (again), arriving in a small village where Something Nasty is happening underground. Reluctant at first to get involved, he ends up sorting everything out, defeating the Alien Menace and deciding that he quite likes playing this game after all….

And if things had happened differently, this could have continued – as broadband speeds increased, the animation could have improved, loads of writers would have been happy to provide stories, and Richard E Grant would have continued as the Doctor.

But before they’d even finished, The Announcement was made. Contrary to all previous expectations, a new BBC TV series of Doctor Who was to be made, relegating the animated version to a sideline of history and making Richard E Grant not so much the ninth as the 8.5th Doctor. Or a parallel universe version. Or a…. well, not a real Doctor.

And while we wouldn’t want to have missed the last ten years of real, actual, TV Doctor Who, it would be a shame to forget this. It works well within the enforced limitations of bandwidth, tells a story and tells it well, and is definitely worth watching.

Along with the original six episodes, this comes with the usual collection of classic Doctor Who extras – commentary, production subtitles,  and:

Carry on Screaming – the traditional “making of” documentary, with the creators talking about how this came to the internet

The Screaming Sessions – Interviews from 2003 featuring some of the participants

Interweb of Fear – (Did you see what they did there?). A brief history of Doctor Who’s role in the evolving BBC website. Interesting to look back on forgotten bits of the web

So, yes. Good stuff, and well worth adding to your collection.

[1] Later to appear as the embodiment of the Great Intelligence, of course
[2] Later to appear as, err,  the Master, of course