Sunday, 13 September 2009

Doctor Who: Shada

Part One

“One lump or two?”

“Two please.”


For the first time since Underworld, this is a story I haven’t seen (well, I’ve read Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency, but…), leaving only Meglos left. And yet frankly I still don’t feel as though I’ve seen it, as there’s so little left, especially towards the end.

Still, this first episode is largely intact. After my comments on The Horns of Nimon I almost burst out laughing to see yet another story start with a spaceship in deep space. It’s an odd beginning, although the roman numerals on the screen are a nice touch. An then we’re off to Cambridge, where we meet Professor Chronotis, who unaccountably has the TARDIS is his study. I love the way this is left unremarked upon for ages, and then Chronotis just casually remarks that “I think someone must have left it there when I was out.”! We also meet Chris Parsons, clearly a prototype of Richard from Dirk Gently.

We then get the familiar scenes of Romana and the Doctor on the Cam, which seem odd in their original context, but soon they turn up at Chronotis’s college. In a nice touch, the Warden knows the Doctor from many previous visits. The scene with Chronotis in his study is hilarious, as is the notion that a Time Lord can quite easily spends three centuries as a Cambridge don without anybody noticing. We also get the funniest line in all of Doctor Who so far, as Chronotis responds to the Doctor’s mention of hearing a “strange babble of inhuman voices” with “Oh, undergraduates talking to each other, I expect. I’m trying to have it banned.”

The first episode judged on its own is an easy 5/5, in much the same way as City of Death. Sadly, it’s the only episode that’s anywhere near complete.

Part Two

“Two lumps, no sugar.” 

This episode introduces us to a load of brilliant sci-fi concepts of the kind we’d expect from the author of The Pirate Planet. A book that’s -20,000 years old, a sphere that steals minds, Chronotis beating his hearts in Morse code. And the dialogue continues to be great. Sadly, there’s a lot less footage here than there was last episode.

Parts Three to Six
And that’s as far as I can go with the individual episodes, as there’s so little that was filmed for the later episodes. I’m watching the video release with Tom Baker narrating the missing bits, and this works well, but I just don’t end up feeling as though I’ve come anywhere close to seeing Shada. I liked what I saw- lots of great dialogue and great concepts- but I just don’t feel competent to judge things like plot and pacing. I’ll give the story a 4/5 for Alinor, but that’s very provisional as I just don’t feel competent to judge. I’m feeling very much inclined to listen to the Paul McGann audio of this story after the TV Movie

As for Season 17, I’ve already rated it 3/8/5 if Shada’s not included. With Shada it leaps slightly to 3.83/5. But, much as I’ve never been much bothered about what’s “canon” or not, as there’s so little of Shada left I’m not much inclined to think of it as a full Doctor Who story. A shame, as judging by what we’ve got it could have been great.

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