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Shada (Doctor Who)

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Written by  Douglas Adams
Series  Season 17
Author  Gareth Roberts
4.2/5 Goodreads

Production code  5M
Originally published  15 March 2012
Script editor  Douglas Adams
Shada (Doctor Who) mindlessonescomwpcontentuploads201210shadajpg

Directed by  Pennant Roberts (original)
Produced by  Graham Williams (original) John Nathan-Turner (video)
Length  Incomplete (original) 6 episodes, 25 minutes each (intended)
Director  Pennant Roberts (original)
Producers  Graham Williams (original), John Nathan-Turner (video)
Incidental music composers  Dudley Simpson (unused score), Keff McCulloch (video)
Similar  The Doctor books, Other books

Review of shada

Shada is an unaired serial of the British science fiction television series Doctor Who. It was intended to be the final serial of the 1979–80 season (season 17), but was never completed due to strike action at the BBC during filming. In 1992, its recorded footage was released on video using linking narration by Tom Baker, who played the Doctor in the serial, to complete the story.


The script, with adaptations, was later produced by Big Finish Productions as an audio play, with animation and was made available on BBCi and the BBC website in 2003. This version saw Paul McGann take on the role of the Doctor, with Lalla Ward reprising her role as Romana, with an otherwise different cast.

A novelisation of the story written by Gareth Roberts, returning the action to the Fourth Doctor and Romana, was released in March 2012.


The story revolves around the planet Shada, on which the Time Lords have constructed a high security prison for some of the Universe's most dangerous criminals. Skagra, a flawed genius from the planet Dronoid, wishes to create a "Universal Mind" in which all the pooled knowledge of the universe's greatest criminals would be placed at his disposal and with which he intends to take control of the Universe. Skagra wants to go to Shada to extract the knowledge of the criminals who have been imprisoned there. Unfortunately for Skagra, knowledge of the location of Shada has been deliberately hidden by the Time Lords, but Skagra discovers that there is a Time Lord living on Earth in the twentieth century who may hold the key to its location. This Time Lord is masquerading as a professor at St. Cedd's College, Cambridge and calling himself Professor Chronotis. Sensing danger, Chronotis calls for the assistance of his old friend and protégé, the Doctor. The story climaxes in a battle for control of the Universal Mind.


In an unfilmed scene in Episode 5, a listing of prisoners kept on Shada included a Dalek, a Cyberman, and a Zygon. In 1983, clips from Shada were used in The Five Doctors, the 20th-anniversary special. Tom Baker, the fourth actor to play the Doctor, had declined to appear in the special, and the plot was reworked to explain the events in the clips. The later audio drama version of Shada, featuring the Eighth Doctor, asserts that the manipulation of time seen in The Five Doctors prevented the original version of events from occurring, which meant that Skagra was never defeated and the Eighth Doctor had to return to that time to rectify the problem.

Original television version

The original story, as written by Adams, was scheduled to be six episodes. Location filming in Cambridge and the first of three studio sessions at BBC Television Centre were completed as scheduled; however, when the scheduled second studio block was due to start, it fell foul of a long-running technicians' dispute at the BBC. The strike was over by the time rehearsals began for the third recording session, but this was lost to higher-priority Christmas programming. Attempts were made by new producer John Nathan-Turner to remount the story, but for various reasons it never happened and the production was formally dropped in June 1980. It is estimated that only 50% of the story was filmed.

Nathan-Turner was eventually able to complete the story (so far as was possible) by commissioning new effects shots and a score, and having Tom Baker record linking material to cover the missing scenes, creating six shortened episodes of between 14 and 22 minutes each. These were given a 111-minute VHS release in 1992.

Paul Cornell, Martin Day, and Keith Topping gave the serial a mixed review in The Discontinuity Guide (1995), saying; "'I dunno, nowadays they'll publish anything.' Infamous because it was never completed, it was for a long time stated that 'Shada' would have been the highlight of the seventeenth season. What was filmed doesn't quite encourage such optimism. It's a very cheap looking story, and there are lashings of bad puns and dull comedy, including three takes on the 'One lump or two? ... Sugar?' joke. Against that, the basic plot is interesting – almost justifying its six episodes, which is rare – and the Cambridge scenes, though stilted, are well executed. It's hugely flawed, but it's a shame that this one was clobbered by a strike and 'The Creature from the Pit' wasn't."

Douglas Adams had originally presented an entirely different idea for the final six-part story of the season, only to have it rejected by producer Graham Williams. Adams deliberately did not work on a replacement, believing that time pressures would eventually require his original idea to be used, but in the event he was forced to write a new story, which became Shada, very quickly at the last minute. He had a very low opinion of the finished script and was content for it to remain permanently unseen in any form. He once claimed that when he had signed the contract allowing the 1992 release, it had been part of a pile of other papers presented to him by his agent to sign and he wasn't fully aware of what he was agreeing to.

Graham Williams had intended this story to be a discussion about the death penalty, specifically how a civilisation like the Time Lords would deal with the issue, and how they treat their prisoners.

Cast notes

Denis Carey was subsequently cast as the eponymous Keeper in Tom Baker's penultimate story, The Keeper of Traken, and also appeared as the Borad's avatar in Timelash.


  • The Doctor – Paul McGann (Eighth Doctor)
  • Romana II – Lalla Ward
  • K9 Mk. II – John Leeson
  • Skagra – Andrew Sachs
  • Professor Chronotis – James Fox
  • Chris Parsons – Sean Biggerstaff
  • Clare Keightley – Susannah Harker
  • Wilkin – Melvyn Hayes
  • Dr Caldera – Barnaby Edwards
  • Motorist/Constable – Stuart Crossman
  • The Ship – Hannah Gordon
  • Think Tank Voice – Nicholas Pegg
  • Broadcast date: 10 December 2005

    In 2003, the BBC commissioned Big Finish Productions to remake Shada as an audio play which was then webcast in six episodic segments, accompanied by limited Flash animation, on the BBC website using illustrations provided by comic strip artist Lee Sullivan. The play starred Paul McGann as the Eighth Doctor and Lalla Ward as Romana. The audio play was also broadcast on digital radio station BBC 7, on 10 December 2005 (as a 212-hour omnibus), and was repeated in six parts as the opening story to the Eighth Doctor's summer season which began on 16 July 2006.

    Tom Baker was originally approached to reprise the role of the Doctor, but declined. The Eighth Doctor was then substituted and the story reworked accordingly. Portions of the Big Finish version were reworked by Gary Russell to make the story fit into Doctor Who continuity. This included a new introduction, and a new explanation for the Fourth Doctor and Romana being "taken out of time" during the events of The Five Doctors; the Eighth Doctor has come to collect Romana and K9 because he has begun to have a feeling that there was something they should have done at that time. When Skagra is investigating the Doctor, clips from three other Big Finish productions can be heard, exclusively on the CD version – The Fires of Vulcan, The Marian Conspiracy and Phantasmagoria. The original serial was to have used clips from The Pirate Planet, The Power of Kroll, The Creature from the Pit, The Androids of Tara, Destiny of the Daleks, and City of Death.

    Outside references

    In Episode 2 of the webcast version, when Chris is in his lab showing Clare the book, a vending machine-like object in the background is labelled "Nutrimat", a reference to a similar device in Adams' The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. Two other references are a sequence where Skagra steals a Ford Prefect and when images of Hitchhiker's Guide characters appear as inmates on Shada itself.

    Levine animated version

    In 2010, Ian Levine funded an unofficial project to complete the original Shada story using animation and the original voice actors, minus Tom Baker and David Brierley, to complete the parts of the story that were never filmed. John Leeson would replace Brierley as the voice of K9, and Paul Jones would replace Tom Baker as the Doctor. The completed story was finished in late 2011 and announced by Levine, via his Twitter account, on 8 September 2011. J. R. Southall, writer for the science fiction magazine Starburst, reviewed Levine's completed version and scored it 10 out of 10 in an article published on 15 September 2011. The completed Levine version appeared on torrent sites over two years later, on 12 October 2013.

    In print

    Elements of the story were reused by Adams for his novel Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency, in particular the character of Professor Chronotis who possesses a time machine. Adams did not allow Shada, or any of his other Doctor Who stories, to be novelised by Target Books. It is, therefore, one of only five serials from the 1963–1989 series not to be novelised by Target – along with Adams' other stories The Pirate Planet and City of Death, plus Eric Saward's two Dalek stories (Resurrection of the Daleks and Revelation of the Daleks).

    A six-part adaptation of the story by Jonathan V Way appeared in issues 13–18 of Cosmic Masque, the Doctor Who Appreciation Society's fiction magazine. Adams granted permission for the adaptation on condition that it was never published in collected form.

    BBC Books published a novelisation of this serial on 15 March 2012, written by Gareth Roberts. Roberts has drawn on the latest versions of the scripts available, as well as adding new material of his own to "fix" various plotholes and unanswered questions. Nicholas Pegg, in his review of the book for Doctor Who Magazine heartily praised it, calling it a "successful duet".

    Audio book

    Lalla Ward delivered an 11hr 30min unabridged reading of the Gareth Roberts novelisation for AudioGo; joining her, voicing K9, was John Leeson. The audio recording was released on 15 March 2012 and is available for download or on 10 CDs (CD ISBN 978-1-4458-6763-2, Download ISBN 9781445867656). Vanessa Bishop reviewed it favourably for Doctor Who Magazine, singling out Simon E Power's sound design for special praise.

    Home media

    The original television version of Shada was released in 1992 on VHS and featured linking narration by Tom Baker and was accompanied by a facsimile of a version of Douglas Adams's script (except in North America). The release was discontinued in the UK in 1996.

    The webcast version (originally broadcast via BBCi's "Red Button") remains available from the BBC Doctor Who "classic series" website, and an expanded audio-only version is available for purchase on CD from Big Finish. This expanded version was the one broadcast on BBC7.

    On 7 January 2013, the 1992 VHS version of the story along with the 2003 BBCi/Big Finish version were released on DVD as part of The Legacy Collection. The set also contained the 1994 documentary More Than Thirty Years in the TARDIS.


    Shada (Doctor Who) Wikipedia