Tag Archives: douglas adams

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…

Weight and Stuff Report – 18 November 2017

Weight: 231.3 pounds (16 stone 7.3 pounds, 104.9 kg)
Steps: 6,648

Down again today, such excitement[1]!

No photo trips this weekend – just did a bit of shopping involving towels[2] and some thingies to connect to a thingy that I haven’t actually got yet.[4]

Here’s another one of Hylton Castle:

Hylton Castle

Hylton Castle

Camera: X70
Aperture: ƒ/9
Shutter speed: 1/180s
Focal length: 18.5mm
ISO: 200
Taken: 26 August, 2017
Location: 54° 55.3652′ 0″ N 1° 26.5984′ 0″ W

[1] Well, not really…
[2] So, yes, I really do know where my towel is[3]
[3] Obligatory Douglas Adams reference
[4] Details when the thingy is in my possession


Skagra Lives! Or, Shada is coming!

With all the fun of site creation and site fixing, I didn’t have time to mention this before. But can I just say Woo!! Hoo!! with added  :tigger: ?

Shada is the Great Lost Story of Doctor Who. Not a wiped 60s classic, but a never-completed six-parter from the glorious Tom Baker/Lalla Ward era. And it was written by Douglas Adams, which is enough reason to mourn its non-completion.

It’s been brought to semi-life before – there was an animated version with Paul McGann as the Doctor, and the finished bits were glued together with narration by Tom Baker into something you could sort of watch but was not really satisfying. Both of these appeared on DVD a while ago.

But now there’s some distinctly interesting news. A new complete version is ti be released, with a combination of remastering and animation. The original cast (yes, Tom!!!!) are back doing the voices for the animated bits, they’re working from the original scripts and it’s by the same people who did a good job of the last unexpected release, The Power of the Daleks.

As is usual these days, its first release will be as a download from 24 November, with round shiny things for us old traditionalists following on 4 December, so that’s my Christmas present to me sorted out.

Details and a sample bit of animation here:

Doctor Who TV report

Oh, and I think I’ll add one more  :tigger: for that.

Robert Rankin – They Came and Ate Us – Armageddon II: The B-Movie

Moving along with the Great Robert Rankin Re-read-athon, we come to the second in the Armageddon Trilogy. This was first published by Bloomsbury in 1991, and my trade paperback is well, yes, an actual first edition. If my memory is accurate (and be fair, it’s been a while, I’ve been asleep since then, etc, etc), I got it from a strange thing called a “book club”, which was how we used to buy books by something called “mail order” in those pre-Amazonian days. The club in question did softcover versions of books otherwise available only in more expensive hardbacks. This one must have appealed it me at the time when I saw its description in the quaintly printed monthly (or thereabouts) newsletter thingy. Either that, or it was the monthly (or thereabouts) selection which they’d send to you if you didn’t get around to telling them not to. I suspect the former rather than the latter, but I could be wrong (it’s happened at least once before, I think it was on a Tuesday). But I, as is so often the case, digress. Though it wouldn’t be Losing it without a digression or six, would it?

So, this follows on, more or less, give or take, from Armageddon: The Musical. Following the quite literal deus ex machina ending of that one, the revived earth is a paradise. Our hero Rex Mundi is married to Christeen (twin sister of Jesus christ, edited out of the Bible, best not to ask) and living in profound happiness, so that’s not going to last, is it?

Meanwhile (err, no, not really, but once you start messing around with time travel, the grammar goes to pot, as Douglas Adams pointed out), in 1977, Elvis Presley has faked his death and headed off with Barry the Time Sprout.

And then there’s some fun with Jack Doveston, working on a project to digitise all the more interesting books, who accidentally manages to summon Rex Mundi through time.

And some nicely demonic entities.

And hackers.

And more nonsense than you could shake a shaky thing at.

And chapter headings relating more nonsense about Hugo Rune than anyone would wish to know.

And something approximating to the truth about the Nuclear Holocaust Event of 1999 that led to the mangled future world of the first book.

And a guest appearance from Pooley and Omally, heroes of the Brentford Trilogy!

And more characters complaining about not getting better parts!

Indeed, it’s pretty much at this point that Robert settles down (well, more doesn’t settle down, really) into the deranged self-referential style that we all know and love. Great and very silly fun, which made my journey to Birmingham much more enjoyable.

Robert Rankin – East of Ealing

And here we are with the third book in the legendary[1] Brentford Trilogy, as my great Robert Rankin Re-read-athon creaks along. First published in 1984, this involves yet more apocalyptic goings-on in the famous[2] London borough. Readers who survived the experience of The Brentford Triangle may be either relieved or confused to find that there are no signs of the devastation and destruction[3] that occurred in that book. Well, confusion s part of the Rankin package, so you’ll just have to get used to it. Has some cosmic reset button been pressed, or is it, as Douglas Adams might have said, just life[4]? It’s probably best not to think about such matters and just get on with the story. Oh, and you’d better get used to pun-loaded titles. There will be more…

Everything appears to be being taken over by a company calling itself Latienos & Romiith. They appear to be behind the scheme to abolish actual cash and label everyone with barcodes, which as is correctly pointed out, have eighteen bars split into three groups of six. Six Six Six, even. And yes, these marks are indeed placed on either the right hand or the forehead, which comes as a Revelation[5] to our heroes Pooley and Omally, especially after Pooley manages to win an almost incalculable fortune from his six-horse accumulator bet, and when he’s taken the huge amount of money to the bank, finds the only way he can get at it is via his new barcode.

Now that might be bad enough, but there’s also the little matter of the enormous Latienos and Romiith building springing up in Brentford. And the forcefield thingy separating the borough from the outside world. And people being replaced by evil robotic replicas. And, as they say, much more, not least Sherlock Holmes, who’s prematurely, if usefully, revived from suspended animation.

Much madness follows, with the inventive Norman coming up with his own replica and a time machine of the H G Wells variety, which might come in handy…

The whole thing is utterly bonkers, as you might expect. And if the ending has you saying “eh? what? how? when? whither? whence?”, you won’t be alone.

According to I, Robert, after this book, both he and his editor were shown the door by the then publisher on grounds of low sales. Shocking.

[1] Must be, it says so on the cover
[2] It’s got all these books written about it!
[3] Decimation optional
[4] Don’t talk to me about life, etc
[5] Sorry[6], had to be done
[6] Not.

For Who the Bell Tolls – David Marsh

David Marsh is an editor of some variety on the Guardian, edits the paper’s Mind Your Language blog, and is generally responsible for the @GuardianStyle Twitter feed, both of which are good fun for anyone who enjoys the use and abuse of language.

He’s now published a book (parts of which have previously appeared on the blog) about English grammar and style. It’s written in a light, humorous style and is a lot of fun, particularly when he quotes some of the more extreme examples of linguistic abuse. He also has the good taste to quote Douglas Adams and Terry Pratchett, which earns him several million bonus points.

He’s nicely opinionated and has little patience with some of the more pompous forms of communication:

You don’t need to know that ‘this is he’ is an example of the predicate nominative to be all to aware that someone who uses it to answer the phone is going to sound like a twerp.

And in a chapter on easily (or not so easily) confused words, he offers this useful definition:

fayre A fete worse than death

David has fun with political language and the bizarre form of communication used by train companies. Though he seems to have missed the odd one where the thing you’re sitting in[1] isn’t a train. Oh no, it’s a service.  And those places where you get on or off the, err, service aren’t stations, they’re station stops.

Anyway, this is good stuff, and well worth reading. Have a look at the blog and the Twitter feed to get a feel for his style if you’re not sure.

[1] Assuming you can get a seat, that is…

Star Trek: The Next Generation Season 4 Blu-Ray

Having started to get seriously good in Season Three, this was the year in which ST:TNG settled down into being the show many of us recall with affection.

Moving on form the more traditional monster/alien/thingy of the week format, the show spent more time developing the characters, and the relationships between them, making things more interesting. There were, however, lots of monsters/aliens/thingies to contend with as well.

After picking up the cliffhanger in The Best of Both Worlds Part II[1], which was a tricky one, as Picard had been Borgified, the creators took the quite unusual step of taking an episode to explore the consequences. In Family, Picard visits his estranged brother, and contemplates leaving Star Fleet. We also meet Worf’s comedy adoptive human parents. Staying with the family theme, Brothers gives Brent Spiner a chance to shine, as he plays Data, his “evil brother”  Lore and their father/creator Doctor Noonian Soong.

Welsey finally gets some decent dialogue and a decent part in his last episode as a regular cast member, Final Mission. The Enterprise crew come up against an alleged demonic entity in Devil’s Due, and there’s an intriguing puzzle in Clues.

The annoying Q returns in QPID, which does give Worf one of the best comedy lines

Sir, I protest! I am not a merry man!

The season ends with another cliffhanger in Redemption, Part I.  Civil war is brewing in the Klingon Empire, and Worf has a chance to regain his family’s honour. He also gets to put on a different uniform. Has he left the Enterprise for good? Find out in the next Blu-ray set!

And there’s much more. Some excellent episodes, which still stand up two decades on. As before, the restoration is superb, with everything looking better than it did the first time around.

Special features include the Mission Logs from the DVD releases and some new material.

  • In conversation: The Star Trek Art Department – this reunites people who worked on ST:TNG, Deep Space Nine and Voyager for a chat. It went on rather longer than I found interesting, but that might just be me.
  • Relativity: The Family Saga of Star Trek: The Next Generation – two new pieces with the original cast talking about this period in the show, including Wil Wheaton talking about why he left when he did. Good stuff, and it’s nice to see them all haivng such positive views on the work they did a long time ago.

There are also some deleted scenes and the moderately traditional gag reel.


[1] Note: the writers of that thought that getting out of the cliffhanger would be an SEP[2], and were slightly worried when they found it was actually their problem
[2] Someone Else’s Problem (thank you, Douglas Adams)

CrashPlan gives me a warm fuzzy moment

I use CrashPlan because it’s a nicely reliable service at a price I find quite acceptable. The fact that it’s run by a company called Code Forty Two, who did indeed take that name from where you might guess[1], is a bonus. It’s nice doing business with people who have good taste in literature.

So it wasn’t altogether surprising to see them mention Douglas Adams’ birthday, and that Google Doodle I mentioned this morning. Not surprising, but very pleasing. These are the kind of guys I’m very happy to pay to look after my data.

Happy Birthday, Douglas Adams | The Code 42 CrashPlan Blog.

[1] And if you don’t know that, you haven’t been paying attention

Google remembers Douglas Adams

OK, I have to say that this is the best Google Doodle ever. In honour of what, in a properly run universe, would have been the 61st birthday of Douglas Adams, they’ve created this:

Life, the universe and everything

Life, the universe and everything

You need to head to Google while it’s there and have a play. Clicking on the keypad of the Guide will make animations appear on its screen. Various other bits move and make noises, and clicking on the doors will reveal an old friend. Lovely.

If you’re reading this in the future, you should can find it here in Google’s Doodle archive. If you’re reading this in the past, please leave next week’s lottery numbers in a comment.

Doctor Who: The Legacy Collection

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[1], 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[2] 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.[3] 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[4]. 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[5], 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.

[1] Which I failed to notice on the menu when I watched it, so I’ll have to watch again
[2] Is that a word?
[3] This may sound odd to people used to the way things work these days, but things were different then
[4] And another bit popped up in a HHGTTG book. As did an idea he had for another Doctor Who story.
[5] Interestingly, the trailer didn’t mention the most interesting thing about that. So I won’t until it arrives