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…

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